April 2, 2015 Chiricahua Mountains, Arizona

Chiricahuas
Chiricahuas

Exploring the Chiricahuas

After an afternoon and night of being not so gently rocked in the motorhome ( my impression of this area is that it tends to get a little breezy ), I loaded up the Prius and headed west towards Portal to see how far up in the mountains my no clearance vehicle could climb.

As always, click on any image for a larger, sharper version.

Chiricahua Dawn
Chiricahua Dawn

Just a beautiful blue sky morning as I drove west on Route 533 ( Portal Road ) towards the small town of Portal, Arizona, reported to be a birding hotspot.

Chiricahuas Afternoon
Chiricahuas Afternoon

( Just throwing in this image taken on my way home in the afternoon, from pretty much the exact same spot, to show the atmospheric changes over 7 hours of climbing around in the mountains. Very different sky, still an absolutely gorgeous day ! )

Chiricahuas
Chiricahuas

Turns out the town of Portal is really just an assortment of small buildings scattered over several miles along Portal Road. A few lodges here and there, a small Post Office and Library located at the end of a short dead end street. I as yet have not discovered where folks around here shop for groceries or even fill their gas tanks. I seem to be a long ways from anywhere out here.

Heading Into the Chiricahuas
Heading Into the Chiricahuas

Stunningly dramatic scenery as you drive along this road and start heading up into the Chiricahua Mountains.

Rugged Chiricahuas
Rugged Chiricahuas
Rugged Country
Rugged Country

The terrain suddenly gets quite vertical on both sides of the road as you start the climb.

Rugged Country
Rugged Country

The road slowly passes through a canyon following the edge of a stream with a lot of evidence of some pretty serious flood damage. The canyon walls are steep and one side is bathed in the morning sunlight …

Fallen "rocks"
Fallen “rocks”

… while the other is in deep shade. These interesting “rocks”, obviously fallen from above for they don’t resemble anything in their immediate surroundings, are gigantic. Just look at the trees behind them probably 80 – 100 feet tall. This is some very dramatic country ! The flood damage has actually closed a couple of the side roads and campgrounds here.

Rugged Chiricahuas
Rugged Chiricahuas
Rugged Country
Rugged Country

You have to notice the oaks and pines in these images to begin to grasp the sheer verticallity and height of these canyon walls.

After exiting the narrow canyon, I stopped at the Southwest Research Station and checked out their hummingbird feeding area and saw my first Blue Throat, one of the largest of the North American hummingbirds. For some reason, all the nectar feeders here are protected by what all but looks like sheep fence cages making photography impossible.

Since the gravel road to this point was in pretty good shape I decided to continue on up the Mountain Road and see how far I could make it towards Rustler Park, located at 9000′ elevation. Though the road got a little rough in places, and you do have to ford a couple streams, the Prius had little trouble handing the road all the way to Rustler Park. A forest fire blew through the campground at Rustler park, and what once must have been a very pretty campground nestled in tall pines, now looks like a barren, charred war zone. While the burned pines remain standing on the slopes above the campground, all the trees have been chopped down within the campground for obvious safey concerns, leaving  only chewed up blackened earth throughout the grounds.

9000' Turkeys
9000′ Turkeys
9000' Turkey
9000′ Turkey

On my way back down the road from the campground, I was a little surprised to see two foraging wild turkeys picking their way through the woods at 9000′ elevation, must be a pretty hardy race of turkeys.

The View from 8000 Feet
The View from 8000 Feet

As I headed back down the mountain, I took this one shot to show the potential grand vistas that would be seen from this road if only there wasn’t so much air pollution killing such distant views, something I have noticed seems to be prevalent everywhere I have been in Arizona. What a shame.

Arizona Cloudscape
Arizona Cloudscape

Back on a much lower elevation, there was a very different look to the skies as I headed back to my campsite at Rusty’s RV Park. I took the dogs with me today to give them a change of scenery and tomorrow I plan to head back into the mountains without them so I can hike a few of the trails and perhaps get some bird shots.

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March 24, 2015 Sierra Vista, Arizona

Acorn Woodpecker
Acorn Woodpecker

Drawn Back to the Birds at Ash Canyon B & B

Rising early, once again I headed south to the Ash Canyon B & B to see if any new birds had yet arrived. I arrived around 7:30 AM on yet another beautiful, warm, blue sky Arizona day.

Ash Canyon B & B Driveway
Ash Canyon B & B Driveway

Don’t let the driveway scare you, the B & B is located just a short distance off Route 92. You turn west on Turkey Track Road off 92 and follow it out until it ends about a quarter mile in at this simply incredible bird viewing venue.

As always, click on any image for a larger, sharper version.

Ash Canyon B & B
Ash Canyon B & B

You will see the sign as you come to the gated end of the gravel drive.

Ash Canyon B & B Gateway to the birds
Ash Canyon B & B Gateway to the birds

Parking spaces for birders are clearly delineated and a collection jar hangs on the back side of the wrought iron gate. Be sure to drop your $5 in the jar, although there is nothing to stop you from adding a donation of any size to your price of admission, I’m sure you will agree it is well worth the price.

Ash Canyon B & B Hummingbird Garden
Ash Canyon B & B Hummingbird Garden

Just inside the gate there is a hummingbird garden with flowers and feeders to attract the many different species of hummingbirds found here as well as butterflies. Unfortunately for me on this trip, since it turns out that I am a little early for the big show, Mary Jo hasn’t yet hung all the nectar feeders ( since the hummers aren’t here just yet and the nectar feeders have to be changed and cleaned very few days ).

Ash Canyon B & B The Veranda
Ash Canyon B & B The Veranda

Mary Jo keeps a library of books for identifying birds and more, as well as a small refrigerator with drinks, on the shaded veranda. This area gives viewers a chance to get  out of the sun and I am sure is quite welcome a little later on in the season.

Ash Canyon B & B Morning Birdwatchers
Ash Canyon B & B Morning Birdwatchers

When I usually arrive, early around 8 AM, I generally have had this area to myself, but by late morning, it tends to fill up a little. On this particular day, there happened to be a delightful group from England here admiring North American birds. I have always been a sucker for the British accents and got a kick out of chatting with these friendly bird watchers.

Ash Canyon B & B The Veranda Afternoon Shade
Ash Canyon B & B The Veranda Afternoon Shade

Some of these folks shifted over to the veranda in the afternoon. As you can see from these two images there are plenty of chairs around, all with a great view of the many feeders Mary Jo keeps filled with food. On all three occasions I have been here this spring, Mary Jo has been out with her guests, providing identifications of the many species of birds and animals drawn in here. She is incredibly knowledgeable, as well as friendly and accommodating to all. If you look closely at the first image, you will notice a woman who just happens to have a parrot perched on her shoulder, and that woman would, of course, be Mary Jo.

She tells me that the best time to be here is mid-April through mid-May, as the yard fills with the arrivals of birds that nest in the area as well as all kinds of migrants that stop here on their way farther north to take advantage of the bounty that Mary Jo provides. She stocks this feeding area year round and has been doing so for twenty years. In late August, after the monsoons, and through September is also a peak viewing period, when the surrounding area is lush with new green growth and many of the migrants are heading back south. Now I have missed both of these prime time periods and am still blown away with the number and variety of birds here, as well as with the comfortable and friendly atmosphere of the Ash Canyon B & B.  There is a wealth of information on her website, so please go and check it out.

Wild Turkey
Wild Turkey

There was a new arrival here today, a male wild turkey ( Gould’s subspecies ). He wasn’t the least bit shy and wandered in only 20 or 30 feet from a crowd of admirers.

Wild Turkey
Wild Turkey

Quite neat to be able to see such a colorful beautiful/ugly bird at such a close range.

Scott's Oriole
Scott’s Oriole

There seemed to be more Scott’s Orioles here today, although the Hooded and Audubon Orioles still haven’t made an appearance.

Scott's Oriole
Scott’s Oriole
Immature Scott's Oriole
Immature Scott’s Oriole

A few immature Scott’s were mixed in with several mature males.

Immature Scott's Oriole
Immature Scott’s Oriole
Bewick's Wren
Bewick’s Wren

Though not very colorful, this tiny Bewick’s Wren was one of my personal favorites …

Bewick's Wren
Bewick’s Wren

… lots of attitude for a small guy, and very active.

Bewick's Wren
Bewick’s Wren
Red-shafted Northern Flicker
Red-shafted Northern Flicker

The outstanding Red-shafted Northern Flicker made another appearance.

Acorn Woodpecker
Acorn Woodpecker
Acorn Woodpecker
Acorn Woodpecker

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Acorn Woodpeckers were constantly flying in and out, along with Gila and Ladderback Woodpeckers.

Mexican Jay
Mexican Jay

The large Mexican Jays were once again present in large numbers.

Gambel's Quail
Gambel’s Quail

Gambel’s Quail were here along with other ground feeders such as several species of sparrows  ( Lincoln, Rufous Crowned, Chipping, and others ) ….

Dark eyed Junco
Dark eyed Junco

…Dark-eyed Juncos ..

Canyon Towhee
Canyon Towhee

… and Canyon Towhees.

Curve-billed Thrasher
Curve-billed Thrasher

Curve-billed Thrasher,

Orange-crowned Warbler
Orange-crowned Warbler

Orange-crowned Warbler and Yellow-rumped Warblers were present.

Broad-billed Hummingbird
Broad-billed Hummingbird

And lastly, although the crowd has yet to arrive, there were Broad-billed, as well as Magnificent, Black-chinned, and Rufous Hummingbirds here today. I truly wish I did not have to start heading north so soon, I would love to stay for the arrival of all the spring birds, but Oregon and Alaska await !

Broad-billed Hummingbird
Broad-billed Hummingbird

 

Broad-billed Hummingbird
Broad-billed Hummingbird

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March 27, 2014 S. Llano River State Park

Strutting Turkeys
Strutting Turkeys

Finally Some Strutting Tom Turkeys!

Awoke to the usual grey, solid overcast morning, but strangely enough, still no rain. Appears Texas is capable of experiencing an extended drought yet also never seeing the sun, in the winter at least. Was wakened from a sound sleep twice last night by the exceptionally vocal deer in the campground, they let out a vocalization like that of a screaming eagle, probably in response to some perceived threat.

As always, click on any image for a larger, sharper version.

Strutting Turkey
Strutting Turkey
Strutting Turkey
Strutting Turkey
Displaying turkey
Displaying turkey
Displaying turkey
Displaying turkey

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Decided to do a road trip north of the park but had my plans changed when I finally ran into some strutting Tom Turkeys on the park road. I had about five minutes with them before a motorhome scared them off the side of the road and sent them running out of range. I turned around and travelled the park road back and forth hoping to see them again, but no such luck.

Wild turkeys
Trouble ahead!
Retreating Turkey
Retreating Turkey
Strutting Turkey
Strutting Turkey

 

 

 

 

 

 

During my time with the turkeys, the sun came out and the temperature started to climb. I stopped at the office to check the forecast and it called for sunny skies and temps in the upper 80’s! With good weather finally here, I decided to stay in the park and do some shooting from the blinds.

Female cardinal bathing
Female cardinal bathing
Northern cardinal bathing
Northern cardinal bathing

These Northern Cardinals really put some effort into their baths.

Chipping sparrow bath
Chipping sparrow bath

As does the Chipping Sparrow.

Lark sparrow
Lark sparrow

The Lark Sparrow was a new bird for me.

Black capped vireo
Black capped vireo

As was this Black-capped Vireo, a federally endangered bird with a sharply declining population due to habitat loss and brown headed cowbird nest parasitism.

Lesser goldfinch
Lesser goldfinch

Another new bird for me was this Lesser Goldfinch, not yet quite displaying the vivid demarcation of yellow and black that will be visible in a few more weeks.

Carolina wren
Carolina wren

Yet another new bird for me was this Carolina Wren, darting in and out so fast as to be almost impossible to catch.

Cedar waxwing
Cedar waxwing
Cedar waxwing
Cedar waxwing

Also making an appearance at the water feature in the Acorn Blind was one of my favorite birds, the Cedar Waxwing.

Audubon warbler
Audubon warbler

Another bird showing up regularly was this Audubon Warbler.

Bathing Inca doves
Bathing Inca doves

I got a kick  out of this Inca Dove going submarine while it’s mate tried to figure out what it was doing.

Inca doves huddling for warmth
Inca dove

These Inca Doves have colorful red/orange wing feathers on the underside and topside of their wings that only show in flight – or if they are trying to dry themselves after a bath.

Inca doves huddling for warmth
Inca dove
Inca doves huddling for warmth
Inca dove

 

 

 

 

 

Serengetti in Texas
Serengetti in Texas

Along the park entrance road there is large high fenced enclosure that gets you to thinking you have arrived on the Serengeti Plains of Africa.

Strutting Turkey
Strutting Turkey
Strutting Turkey
Strutting Turkey
Cedar waxwing
Cedar waxwing

 

 

 

 

Lark sparrow
Lark sparrow

 

 

 

 

Another Neighbor From Hell

A very large motorhome pulled into the space next to me today. This space is at least 100 feet away but there is nothing between us but grass. A really nice, new 45’ Class A. Just a little after it got dark, I had made a drink after concluding a long conversation with my other next door neighbors, and was getting ready to go sit under the stars for a while. One of the nice things about this park is the absence of road or site lighting, you can really enjoy the night sky here when it is clear. Just as I was about to step out the door, a flash of light hit, that I assumed must be a car going through. It wasn’t. The new neighbor had turned on his outside spotlights, THREE high intensity spots on the driver’s side of the coach ( turns out there are three more on the passenger’s side too ), front, mid section, and back, all pointing directly out at the neighbor’s site. And when I say they were bright, I mean I could read a book on my sight, over 100 feet away, with the light from his unit. I went over and knocked on their door to see if I could get them to turn them off so I could sit outside and enjoy a gorgeous starry night, but even though their car was there and the TV was on, no one would answer the door. This was only about 7:30, so I don’t know what they were doing, but they wouldn’t answer the door for the campground host either a few minutes later when I enlisted his help to get the spotlights turned off. So, I had no choice but to go inside, pull all the shades and watch TV instead of the stars. About 9:30, they finally turned the lights off. About 11PM, just after I went to bed, they turned them back on. Nice folks!

August 5, 2013 Turtle River State Park, North Dakota

Stay Another Day

Weather turned very grey yesterday afternoon and continues so this morning. Had planned to venture on across N. Dakota today, but since I have good internet coverage here and I really prefer traveling across new country with nice weather, I decided to renew my site here at Turtle River S. P. and work on the blog and give the dogs a much needed bath today and will hit the road tomorrow with better weather in the forecast.

Big Sky over N. Dakota Wheat Field
Big Sky over N. Dakota Wheat Field

Sun came out around 2 but stuck with the plan and got the motorhome housekeeping done and processed all images taken to date, including a couple more Cedar Waxwings I snuck out to the entrance to get today.

Turtle River Turkey
Turtle River Turkey
Turtle River Turkey
Turtle River Turkey

 

 

 

 

 

Also got a couple of quick shots of a visitor to the campsite across from me. In addition to the birds in the park, I also saw several does with fawns along the river early each morning. Really a very pleasant place to stay.