Wintering in Arizona 2016-2017
November 6, 2016 I've been traveling since last
Wednesday, the first night I stayed at Spring Creek north of Pierre for some
astrophotography. I spent a night at Bear Butte State Park, then onto Sydney, NE
and then La Junta, CO. I'm now at Bosque del Apache NWR in New Mexico, where the
bird photography will start. Nothing much of interest has happened yet. I posted
a couple of photos from the astrophotography session at the
November 7, 2016 Birding at Bosque del Apache NWR today. There are maybe a thousand Sandhill Cranes here, some Snow Geese, lots of Northern Pintails and other ducks. There is one leucistic Sandhill Crane again, I really think it is the same one that I've seen several years in a row now. There is always just one. There has been quite a bit of rain recently, so there are more wildflowers to look at (and more mosquitoes than I've ever seen here too). Butterflies are out, but too windy today for flower and butterfly photography. I didn't do much photography, just looked. I always have to take another shot of a Sagebrush Sparrow though. See photo at LINK. Updated this afternoon with photos of a Crissal Thrasher.
November 10, 2016 I'm in Ajo now, camped out on the
BLM land near Darby Well. Very dry again this year. Hearing a Western
Screech-Owl near camp again, even though I'm in a new spot. I'll post some
photos of the new campsite tomorrow.
November 11, 2016 Today I just stayed around camp, doing maintenance, taking a few short hikes, and a little photography. There aren't many other RV'ers around here yet, but toward evening a big camping van pulled in just a few hundred feet away, so I have neighbors now. I talked to them a bit, I think they are German tourists, but kind of hard to understand. I put a couple of photos at the LINK.
November 12, 2016 Had a pretty good day, started early (4 AM). I put some new photos at the LINK.
November 13, 2016 Birded at the golf course and the thicket this morning. Highlights were Green-tailed Towhee and more Red-naped Sapsuckers. The sapsuckers are feeding on palm berries. I put some photos at the LINK.
November 16, 2016 Cooled down a bit today and looks like cooler weather for the next week or so. It is so dry there aren't many birds in the desert, everything is in town or at the golf course. Maybe the cold weather moving in up north will bring some birds down here. I don't have any new photos to post, so I'm going to post three versions of the Orion Nebula. Hopefully someone out there is looking and can tell me what they think. See LINK.
November 17, 2016 Clear skies and a moon rising a few hours after sunset tonight, so I tried a new target, the Sculptor Galaxy. A couple of photos at the LINK. Rain in the forecast for Monday!
November 18, 2016 Birded the golf course again. Not
much new except for a Prairie Falcon. Sapsuckers are cooperative for
photography. Looks like another clear night coming up, so expect a post later
tonight with some type of astrophotography. I will put all of today's photos at
November 20, 2016 Some good birding today, first Vermilion Flycatchers of the fall (2 males), one male Mountain Bluebird and one male Townsend's Warbler, all at the golf course. Now, an area of rain is moving in from the west, I am hoping for a good soaking rain tonight. I put some photos at the LINK.
November 22, 2016 The rain didn't amount to much, maybe .1 inch. It sure did make a difference in night time dew though, everything is soaked this morning. I did some imaging last night but had to quit by midnight because of the heavy dew getting all over my equipment. I put a couple of new images at the LINK. If you already looked at this link, look again, I added a photo.
November 23, 2016 Witnessed and photographed some interesting interesting interaction between a sapsucker and some Tarantula Hawks. The sapsucker at first appeared to be a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, but in some of my photos I can see it has some characteristics of Red-naped as well, so apparently it is another hybrid. I put some photos at the LINK.
November 24, 2016 Up late again last night. I am trying out my new astrophotography mount, I've named it the Monster. It is big, a Losmandy G-11. Total weight about 100 lbs. It is like a piece of granite compared to the Astrotrac, which was pretty wobbly when supporting the 500 f4 lens. The Astrotrac will still work fine for shorter focal lengths, but the G-11 is amazing with my 500 f4. I had a little trouble the first night out but I have the bugs worked out (I hope) and last night I got some pretty good images. Some photos at the LINK.
November 25, 2016 Up late again. I think I will need to sleep tonight. I waited till 11 PM for the Rosette Nebula get high enough in the eastern sky, this is the first time I've imaged that nebula, I need to put more time into it later this winter. I put some photos at the LINK.
November 26, 2016 Went back to check on the sapsucker and its battle with the Tarantula Hawks. It isn't doing well. I put some photos at the LINK.
November 30, 2016 Up late last night. A few clouds passing by early in the night but mostly clear and no moon. I put some new photos at the LINK.
December 1, 2016 Last night I tried using the 500mm with the 1.4 teleconverter for 700mm focal length. This reduces my light intake by a factor of 2, since it is at f5.6 instead of f4. In addition, at that focal length I can't do very well with one minute exposures, so I opted for 30 seconds, so that also reduces light intake. But, the good thing is I can take some decent images of things that are very small. I put a few new photos at the LINK.
December 4, 2016 The moon is getting bigger and brighter early in the evening, but last night it set a little after 9 PM. I tried a new target and a couple of old ones. Photos at the LINK.
December 6, 2016 Birding continues to be slow. Now the moon is getting brighter, but I did get up at 2 AM to try for some galaxies. Had some good sky at first then hazy high clouds moved in. I put a few photos from the last couple of days at the LINK. The first winter meeting of the Cabeza Prieta Natural History Association is tonight, so I guess I'll go.
December 9, 2016 Hiked in Alamo Canyon
yesterday. It is dry, no water. Consequently, few birds. I did see an
interesting insect. Last night I got up at 3 AM and photographed M51. I put some
images at the LINK.
December 10, 2016 Went hiking in the Little Ajo Mountains. Finally found a place with some butterflies, though nothing too exciting. It was fun photographing them. Found some Desert Bighorn tracks too, near a small tank of water. Might have to go look for them again, I still haven't seen one. I put some images at the LINK.
December 11, 2016 Spent the day out on Pipeline Road. I thought that maybe it had rained more out there this summer during the monsoon season, but not much evidence of it. Only a few sparrows seen, including a Sagebrush Sparrow. Found a patch of flowers in a wash that was attracting some butterflies. The desert really needs some rain. I put a few new photos at the LINK.
December 14, 2016 Took a trip over to the Santa Cruz flats. There were reports of lots of Crested Caracaras, a Rufous-backed Robin and a Ruddy Ground-Dove. Found all three, the Ruddy Ground-Dove was a life bird. Was a pretty good day till I got back and found out someone had broke into the Scamp and stole most of my food, my Buck Folding Hunter knife, and a my best flashlight. Whoever it was only took what was useful, leaving my little TV and laptop computer. Apparently some hungry illegals. They broke out a screen, and pried open the roof vent, which is where they apparently gained entry. Could have been worse, I guess. I put some photos at the LINK.
December 21, 2016 I've been busy with CBC's. Finally got the last one done yesterday. On the Ajo CBC I finally found my first Gray Vireo for this winter. Also relocated the Western Screech-Owl that has been living by my old campsite for at least 3 years. I moved the Scamp into a county campground near Ajo, where I don't as much concern about break-ins. Now, rain is moving and it looks like good rains for the next few days. I put a few new photos at the LINK.
December 23, 2016 Weather forecast for tomorrow is a windy day with heavy rain. The rain will be good. Tonight, it was clear and calm, so I tried the Witch Head Nebula in Orion. I posted a photo at the LINK.
December 26, 2016 Ended up with around 1/2 inch of rain. Last night it got cold, a heavy dew froze onto everything. I was up till 11 PM imaging but had to quit because the dew was covering the lens. Looks like I might have two more nights good for imaging before the next storm system rolls in with more rain, I hope. I put some recent photos at the LINK.
December 27, 2016 Last night was pretty good, although I think the atmosphere was a little unsettled. I was hoping to get out tonight too, but clouds have rolled in. I put some new images at the LINK.
December 30, 2016 No new astro photos, clouds every night. Unfortunately for me, this cloudy weather is occurring during the new moon. Yesterday I hiked in a canyon in the Little Ajo Mountains. Not much to see, but I did get some photos of Rock Wrens. More rain in the forecast for this weekend. I put a couple of photos at the LINK. Today's update: A couple of nights ago I saw a small animal in the dark, cat-sized, but could not get a good look. I suspected a Kit Fox. Tonight, with the help of some canned cat food, I was able to verify that. I put some images at the LINK.
December 31, 2016 Today I went hiking in Copper Canyon in the Cabeza Prieta NWR. Did not see anything worth photographing but got a nice hike. This evening, I put out some more cat food and this time I had two Kit Fox. One is bigger, I assume the male. I put more Kit Fox images at the LINK. I think I will be asleep long before midnight, but Happy New Year to whoever is reading this.
January 5, 2017 Weather has been kind of gloomy until today. Went on a field trip with the Cabeza Prieta Natural History Association today. We went to Dripping Springs and the Dripping Springs Mine in Organ Pipe National Monument. Didn't see much but had a good hike. Last night I took some more Kit Fox photos, see LINK.
January 7, 2017 Last night was clear so I got up at 2 AM to do some shooting. I imaged M 101, the Pinwheel Galaxy. I've done this galaxy before but not with the Losmandy G11. The stability this mount provides really improves the detail. I put a photo at the LINK.
January 8, 2017 Today I came across a fresh road-killed desert cottontail, so what to do with it? See the LINK.
January 10, 2017 Today I made the trip to Buckeye to stock up on groceries at Walmart. There have been some good birds reported in that area, so left early to see if I could find some. I put a few photos at the LINK.
January 17, 2017 Today I went up to the Buckeye area to try for some birds being recently reported. At the Glendale Recharge Ponds, a Long-tailed Duck was present but not very cooperative. It stayed out quite a ways. This evening, I set up the Astrotrac for some wide-field astrophotography. I put a few photos at the LINK. Looks like a period of wet and rainy weather coming. The spring flowers should be fantastic this year.
January 18, 2017 It looked like one more good night before the rains set in, so I set up the Astrotrac and the Ziess 135 mm lens. Sometimes, everything seems to work. This may be my favorite astrophotography image so far. A photo at the LINK.
January 21, 2017 A nice rain last night. Today it was very windy, but it cleared and the wind died down by sundown, so I set up the Astrotrac again. This time I imaged the Monoceros region, taking in the Cone Nebula, Rosette Nebula, and lots of space in between. I put the image at the LINK.
January 23, 2017 Last night was supposed to be cloudy and windy according to the weather forecast, but it was clear as a bell until around 11 PM, so I set up the Astrotrac again for some widefield imaging. I also put out some food for the Kit Fox, which is a regular visitor every night, but I think I have enough photos of Kit Fox by now! I put a couple of new images at the LINK. Here's an astrophoto story. For some time I've been trying to find the Iris Nebula in Cepheus but have not been successful. A few weeks ago, I thought I had it, but when I stacked and processed the images, it just didn't look right. In fact, it didn't look like anything in Stellarium. I just figured it was the Iris Nebula and that it is too faint for my equipment, so more or less gave up on it. Yesterday I was looking at some other images on NASA's website, and there it was, the one I thought was the Iris Nebula was there. It is the Ghost Nebula, also known as vdB 141 or Sh2-136. And then I found out that is is only degree or so from the Iris. So, I was close, but not close enough. I will try again. Here's photo of the Ghost Nebula.
January 24, 2017 Tonight I tried for one of the toughest targets in the sky, the Spaghetti Nebula. This is a very faint but large supernova remnant between Taurus and Auriga. I wasn't even sure if I had it the frame until I stacked and processed 80 one minute exposures. It was pretty exciting to see it come out of the dark. I need to take more images of this nebula. I put a photo at the LINK.
January 26, 2017 In case anyone is wondering why all the widefield astrophotography lately, I had to send the Losmandy G11 in for some repair work. I have been having trouble getting consistent results and usually had to delete a lot of images because of double stars. Well, I discovered that the motor/gear box that turns the RA worm drive was bent. It must have happened when it was shipped to me. Anyway, I sent it back and Losmandy repaired it free of charge. Last night I tried it out, it is working perfectly now. It was cold too, my thermometer said 28F this morning. I put a few new images at the LINK.
January 27, 2017 Last night started out looking good until about 10 PM. Then high clouds came rolling in. I got an hour in on the Bubble Nebula prior to that, waited for the clouds to clear, then tried some galaxies in Leo. It was getting cold by then and dew starting to form, so I called it a night. I put a couple of new images at the LINK.
January 28, 2017 Another night under the stars. It started out pretty windy but then it calmed down and the sky was perfectly clear. And I found the Iris Nebula. Seems like it should be easy but sometimes it is difficult to find something I can't see and is very small in a field of view of only 2.5 degrees of sky. I put a few new images at the LINK. I think it is about time to get back to birding and some bird photography, maybe a trip east next week.
January 29, 2017 Up late again. I took more images of the Iris Nebula and added them to the ones from the previous night. I waited up until 1 AM for the Needle Galaxy to rise high enough in the east and I wasn't disappointed. I put some new images at the LINK.
January 30, 2017 Guess what I did last night? More
photos at the LINK.
February 2, 2017. Happy Birthday Mom! I posted a few images from the last few nights at the LINK. Too cloudy tonight to do anything and moon is getting brighter. Time for some birding.
February 5, 2017 I walked up Alamo Canyon as far as I could go on Friday. Hardly any birds to be found. Despite the rains, not much for flowers and butterflies either. Yesterday Vic and Donna Fondy called, we met for supper. It was good to talk with them, they are birding their way across the south, headed for the Salton Sea. I've been getting up early in the morning after the moon sets to try for some astrophotography, Friday night nothing went right, I ended up deleting just about everything. Last night was much better, I got more data for some old targets and tried a new one. I put some images at the LINK.
February 13, 2017 I haven't been posting much because nothing much is happening. Some bird migration is picking up, but nothing too interesting has shown up yet. The full moon has put a damper in my astrophotography. Weather has turned unsettled again. Last night thunderstorms with lots of lightning but little rain came through. Today it was hazy and humid. I decided to take a hike up to the top of Cardigan Peak, near Ajo. I put a few photos at the LINK. Now moving back to a new moon period and hopefully the sky will stay clear for more astrophotography.
February 17, 2017 A big storm system is moving in, very windy today. It looks good for some significant rain here tomorrow and tomorrow night. Wildflowers are already starting to show up, saw the first Mexican Poppy yesterday. I posted a few new photos at the LINK.
February 21, 2017 Last night I did some more night sky imaging. I tried for some comets and had better luck. I put a few new images at the LINK. We ended up with nearly an inch of rain from the last storm system.
February 22, 2017 Went to Buckeye today and stocked up at Walmart. I left early and stopped at Thrasher Corner, where I saw more Bendire's Thrashers in a few hours than I have seen total in my life. Got some nice photos too. Also, a Le Conte's Thrasher but it was too wary for photos. A good number of Sage Thrashers were present too. I put a couple of photos at the LINK.
February 25, 2017 Yesterday I drove up to the Hat Mountain area. Lots of Mexican Poppies and other flowers are blooming and it looks like lots more to come. More rain in the forecast for Monday too. Last night I was up late again, found another comet and a few other things. I put some new images at the LINK.
February 27, 2017 Had a busy night last night. Up
late, waiting for M13, the great cluster in Hercules to rise. I haven't had much
interest in star clusters up till now, but that is starting to change. I put
some new images at the LINK.
March 1, 2017 Another night, more photos. I put some at the LINK.
March 3, 2017 Today, I hiked up to the top of Cardigan Peak again. More butterflies are showing up, I saw my first California Patch of the year. Today the air was clear enough to see Baboquivari Peak, which is about 120 miles SE of here. I put some new astro photos at the LINK.
March 4, 2017 Got up at 3 AM so I could image the Rho Ophiuchi region in the constellation Ophiuchus. I did this last winter but had less than "stellar" results. It wasn't bad but what I got this time is much better. Now the core of the Milky Way is rising in the early morning, so if I can get up early before the moon starts getting full again, I will have some new things to show. I put a new image at the LINK.
March 6, 2017 Got up at 2 AM, a little earlier, to try for the Great Cluster in Hercules again, this time higher in the sky. I had some electrical problems at first that took awhile to solve, then I finally go to do some shooting. I also tried a few targets lower, probably too low for really good results, but not too bad. I put a few new images at the LINK.
March 7, 2017 Got up at 3 AM. Moon is getting
closer to full and setting later. I got about 1.5 hours of shooting time last
night. I put a few photos at the LINK.
March 8, 2017 Spent the day in Alamo Canyon. There is finally water in the arroyo about a mile in. I guess it takes a long time for the rainwater to move through the stream bed, because it hasn't rained for a few weeks and the last time I was there it was dry. Anyway, running water and pools of water were there. And with that, more flowers and birds. Saw some migrant warblers and got a lifer lizard. I put a few images at the LINK.
March 10, 2017 Starting to get kind of hot here. Around 90 F. today. It isn't too bad as long as it doesn't get hotter! The air is very dry. More birds showing up, today had my first Lucy's Warblers of the spring. I put a couple of photos at the LINK.
March 12, 2017 Got up early this morning and went to Alamo Canyon. I got there an hour before sunrise, and it didn't take long before I heard a male Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl tooting, then a female called. So, I think there must be a nest cavity nearby. Unfortunately, they quit calling before I could locate them for photos. I will have to go back. Also saw my FOS Scott's Orioles, no photos of them either. I put a few photos from today at the LINK.
March 18, 2017 I moved my camp to a shady place in
an arroyo near Darby Well. This is near the oId campsite where I was burglarized
earlier in the winter, so I don't leave it unattended for long. But, I has
gotten too hot to sit out in the open sun. I would leave and go east but still
want to do some astrophotography and look for the Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl. It is
supposed to cool down next week. I put a few new photos at the
March 20, 2017 I moved back to the county campground. One more day of hot weather then a big cool down. The warm nights are bringing out lot of insects. Last night I had some small mantids on the windows of the Scamp, eating other insects. I put a couple of new photos at the LINK.
March 22, 2017 It has been a busy few days. I started doing some blacklighting at night for nocturnal insects. I have far too many photos of nocturnal insects to post here and I don't even know what most are. I will have to post them on BugGuide.net to get some ID's. Not much for astrophotography but I did have a good opportunity last night to get a comet, galaxy and a planetary nebula all in one image. I posted some new images at the LINK.
March 23, 2017 Snakes are out. Almost stepped on a Western Diamondback. It was silent and not moving. I put a few photos at the LINK.
March 25, 2017 Weather here is perfect. Sunny, warm days, cool nights. Hiked in Alamo Canyon again yesterday. Saw a first of spring Hooded Oriole. I photographed some more galaxies a couple of nights ago. I put a few new images at the LINK.
March 26, 2017 Happy Birthday Ted! Yesterday I was back in Alamo Canyon but had little luck. I did get some photos of Red-spotted Toad tadpoles but have yet to see an adult. Today, I went up the Ajo Mountain Loop Road in Organ Pipe. Got a long sought after lifer lizard there. Some photos at the LINK.
March 27, 2017 Hiked on the edge of the Little Ajo Mountains today. I missed some really good photos due to my forgetting to set the camera back to aperture priority after using manual exposure last night. I ended up with some pretty good images of Black-throated Gray Warbler. I put a few images at the LINK.
March 30, 2017 It has been a hectic couple of days.
Yesterday I got up at 3 AM to do some astrophotography. I planned on sleeping in
the afternoon, but instead found a White Wagtail at the Ajo water treatment
ponds. I spent most of that day trying to photograph the bird, notify birders on
the Arizona list-serve, then going back to help people find the bird. Lots of
people came from all over the state. This is the 2nd record for Arizona and
almost no one got to see that last White Wagtail in Arizona. So there were a lot
of happy birders. Then last night I did some blacklighting. I was tired. Today,
more time at the ponds, meeting Arizona birders and trying to photograph the
wagtail. It was hard to get good photos, it was a long way out, behind a fence,
and mostly in poor light. I put some images at the
April 3, 2017 I'm at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, staying in the campground. It has been great herping around here and other things going on too, like walking around the campground at night looking at the wildlife under the lights by the restrooms. Some lifer lizards and snakes, including Gila Monsters. I put a lot of images at this LINK.
April 5, 2017 Back in Alamo Canyon today, hoping for another chance at a Red-backed Whiptail but did not see any. Lots of other interesting things though. I put a few new photos at the LINK.
April 10, 2017 In case anyone is still reading this trip report, I better get an update out. I've been staying in Miller Canyon south of Sierra Vista. No cell phone or internet unless I go to town. But, I've been having great success with photography! Lots of lifer birds and butterflies. I will probably head for the Chiricahuas tomorrow for a few days then head back to South Dakota. I posted some new photos at the LINK.
April 12, 2017 Left Miller Canyon yesterday and now I'm in Cave Creek Canyon by Portal. No cell phone or internet except at the library in town. I was lucky to even find a campsite here, campgrounds are full. I will probably stay here a few more days, I still need to get that Streak-backed Oriole, I've been to the location twice now with no luck. I posted some new photos at the LINK.
April 13, 2017 Today, after multiple visits and many hours of waiting at the Foothills Feeders, I finally got the Streak-backed Oriole. The owner said the bird had been easy to get until a few days ago, when for some reason its visits became less frequent and more erratic. Anyway, I got it, not the best photos due to poor light but they are OK. For what it is worth, this species puts my ABA area (North American north of Mexico) life list at 569. I put some new images at the LINK.
April 16, 2017 I'm still at Cave Creek, Chiricahua Mountains. I've been chasing butterflies and birds, not much very exciting but I am getting some new butterflies and found a Canyon Wren nest, first one I've ever actually seen. I will probably stay here a few more days, the migration is just picking up. I put a few new photos at the LINK.
April 18, 2017 I've moved over to Sunny Flats Campground. Now I have better sunlight for solar power and hummingbirds. The variety of hummers so far isn't very good though, just Blue-throated, Magnificent, Black-chinned and one Broad-tail. Migration is still very slow in picking up. I would sure like to get some photos of a Mexican Whip-poor-will before I leave, but I haven't even heard one yet. No trogons have been reported either. I put a few new photos at the LINK.
April 19, 2017 Last night I heard several Mexican Whip-poor-wills but could not get any photos. I tried calling for them, one flew by just a few feet away then landed somewhere close, but too well hidden, I could not find it. I will try again tonight. Migration really picked up today, FOS Brown-crested Flycatcher, Hermit Warbler, and lots of Townend's Warblers. Also a Hammond's Flycatcher. I put a few new photos at the LINK.
April 21, 2017 I'm still at Sunny Flats CG. Birding has been slow though, I keep hoping for a big migration day. Weather is great, warm days and cool nights. The campground is full of other birders, so everyone has stories to tell. I put a few new photos at the LINK. I would be doing some astrophotography but Polaris is out of sight behind the cliff here, so I can't get polar aligned from my campsite.
April 22, 2017 Last night, I gave another shot at Mexican Whip-poor-wills. I was getting pretty discouraged with my results so far, having heard a few and having them fly by me in the dark, but I could never find one on a perch. Last night there were more calling than before. After several hours of trying to find one where I could see it, I finally got the eye shine of a calling male up a steep slope, about 100 yards from the road. It was calling and staying on a perch. But, I was pretty sure it would never stay there long enough for me climb up there, making all kinds of noise going through the brush, rocks, and dry leaves. Amazingly, not only did it stay put, it let me approach to within about 10 ft. I had to zoom in to 135 mm to keep it all in the frame! I got lots of great photos and learned something new about Mexican Whip-poor-wills. I put some at the LINK.
April 23, 2017 Last night I went night prowling again. This time I found a Flammulated Owl that I was actually able to photograph. It wasn't the best situation, the owl sat high in a pine tree close to the trunk, but at least I got some shots. I posted a few photos at the LINK.
April 24, 2017 I'm at the Bosque del Apache Bird Watchers RV Park now. Left Sunny Flats this morning. Last night I tried for more photos of the Flammulated Owl. I had a little better success, with the bird lower in the trees. I posted a couple of new photos at the LINK. If the weather holds, I will probably be in Pierre by next weekend or even sooner.
April 25, 2017 Bosque is really birdy. Lots of shorebirds, raptors, ducks. Mostly the birds are too far out for good photography but I am enjoying birding with my spotting scope. I decided to stay another day, besides being birdy it was very windy and I didn't want to drive in that wind. I will need to get moving north though, a snow storm is forecast for later in the week. I posted a few new photos at the LINK.