Unexpected lifers

On our last morning staying in Oak Creek Canyon we resolved to try for a couple of species that I’d pretty much expected to miss by this stage of the trip. The previous afternoon we’d nursed the luxury car along an unmade road for a couple of miles and actually found a Crissal Thrasher. Encouraged by the progress and later surprised to find out later how far we’d got, we decided to try for Grey Vireo and Scott’s Oriole, said to be present around one of the tanks (water storage areas). We’d actually made it to just about one of these areas on our exploratory trip, and all without bending the metal or shredding those fancy, low-profile tires.

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It was a dawn start and we picked our way along, accompanied by the ping, ping of stone on metal. There were more birds in evidence as we progressed but they were not what we were after so we made no stops. We got to the parking area, just a wider bit of track really, and started to walk the trail. During the day the off-road people, you can rent anything in Sedona of that nature, roar around these ‘wilderness’ road screwing up the eco-system but hey, it’s fun and makes a dollar.

We started to hear the vireo straight away and then found a pair hopping around a bush, the vegetation on the trail was more abundant, even lush (for the desert) but not so difficult that we couldn’t see the birds. I managed one shot of the vireo, a bit obscured but not bad. We also saw an oriole shaped bird twice, distantly but heading our general direction.

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A bit of judicious playback and the oriole flew our way albeit always with the sun behind it. I’ve been asked several times why the birds always seem to land with the sun behind them making it a nightmare for a photograph, if not viewing. The answer is simple. They want a good look at you in the same way that you are seeking a good look at them.

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In less than an hour we’d seen two lifers, enjoyed watching the desert wake up and still had time to get back before breakfast began and we had to depart. The drive back to the real road was easier than before, it’s an illusion I’m sure, and as we eased along a Roadrunner popped up the bank and crossed the road. There was a certain irony to this. Back at Hacienda del Desierto Derek and Joan had been ambling along at their aged pace when a Roadrunner crossed their path. I looked hard for one for the trip list but lucked out and Derek was determined not to let me forget it. Now we’d got one and it was an Arizona tick too, and yes of course I keep a state list for any state I visit.

Now it was time to hit the road, we had a day to get south to Anthem, our overnight hotel before the flight back to QC. To fill the time we decided to visit a place called Tuzigoot, some sort of footings for some old buildings now a state park. It would occupy some time for the non-birders although Sandra would be keen too, and I could bird the general area.

It was hot when we got there and the parking lot, though quite bushy, seemed empty. The group went off to do their looking and I wandered around a bit. I found a leaking pipe that was tempting in a few birds, a Rock Wren liked it and a couple of Black-throated Sparrows visited too. We were back up to 38°C by the time the fossils and Sandra returned. It had been better than expected and the footings got a thumbs-up while I was happy to have waved the camera at a couple more bird species.

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Rock Wren – they don’t differentiate between natural and fashioned rock faces.

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Black-throated Sparrow – always a stunner.


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