Looking down

I said it before and I’ll say it again, the Grand Canyon is too big to get a handle on. You arrive at the rim, guided in by well signed routes to well-appointed parking lots and there it is, vast and truly beautiful. You take your photos, you move to different vantage points take some more and then you move on, done.

This time we entered a different way arriving first at some tower thing, did a 20 odd mile scenic drive with stops to the main bit on the south and then got out when the crowds and heat became equally oppressive. In the interim we saw lots of angles, lots of rocks and, for the purposes of a birding blog, a few birds. The thing that struck me this time was, what did the first western settler think when they first saw it? The locals already knew about it so took the time to ride around it, but for a settler rolling up on that edge for the first time it must have seemed utterly incomprehensible – why was this huge hole there and how would they get around it?

Nowadays the Grand Canyon is a National icon. A treasure where tourists can come to see, spend, pose, and wonder. Some come just to add it to their list of things seen, which is fair enough. Others come to feed their souls, to watch the dawn break over the canyon and press pause on their lives for a short while. We didn’t fancy the dawn experience, too much cheesecloth is bad for perspective and, because of the fire regulations, the hippies can’t even burn joss sticks these days, although you can get an app. No, our visit was as a typical tourist but even so, was good to see the Grand Canyon again and for the last time too I expect.

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The heat of the day made the birding difficult, but I tried anyway. I was hoping for Pinyon Jay, but when I asked one of the rangers for advice on where to look for them you’d have thought I’d stamped on her puppy, wasn’t the canyon enough? I did get Juniper Titmouse, but with a measure of luck as Sandra had found one when I wandered off to look and it was still there when we went back. I also enjoyed seeing and hearing yet another form of Dark-eyed Junco, a species so diverse it surely deserves closer attention from taxonomists. The canyon juncos (good name, I’ll offer it up for use) look so different from those lower down, higher up, further north and further west, more so than most empids.

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Plumbeous Vireo – a pair lead me on a merry chase and I had to be on my mettle to keep up, until one landed plumb in front of me and I got this snap in what seems to be an unnatural pose.

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Juniper Titmouse – I don’t know what it had been up to but it looked ragged. Perhaps it had roosted downwind of a hippy gathering and shared their exhalations!

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Canyon Junco – see it’s starting to stick as a name now.

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Hairy Woodpecker – interior form, not as black as Pacific, not as much white as eastern and get that eyebrow flare.

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Interior form of White-breasted Nuthatch, I hear a three way split is pending.

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