Winter Trip to Arizona 2013-2104

I left Pierre on December 19, just ahead of another blast of Arctic air and snow. I spent the first night at Scott Lake State Park in Kansas. There wasn't much time for birding by the time I got there, but I did see a Long-eared Owl and a Townsend's Solitaire. That was the first Long-eared Owl I've seen in long time. Today, Dec. 20, I'm in Ute Lake State Park near Logan NM. This place doesn't seem too interesting for birding, but it does have great internet service and hot showers. I wish all state park systems were as good as New Mexico's. Cost is only $14.00 a night (that includes the vehicle pass) and they have nice facilities. That is half of what I paid at Scott Lake. If the weather forecast is right, I should be able to make it to Socorro and Bosque del Apache NWR tomorrow. Right now, the ice and snow storm is going to my south.

Dec. 21. Woke up to snow this morning. The radar shows snow and rain here and where I need to go. The New Mexico road report doesn't look good for the roads I need to travel, so I paid for another night here at Ute Lake SP. I hope I can get out of here tomorrow.

Dec. 22. Still cold and snowy this morning. The New Mexico road report doesn't look much better. By this afternoon, it is supposed to clear out and warm up. Guess I'll stay here one more night, I'd rather do that than run into icy/snow covered roads. I've seen Mountain Bluebirds, Loggerhead Shrike (eating a mouse it had impaled on a thorn), a big flock of Red-winged Blackbirds, and some White-crowned Sparrows. When the sun comes out I'll try for some photos.

Dec. 23. Arrived at Bosque del Apache NWR, paid for a week at the Bosque Birdwatchers RV Park. Lots of Sandhill Cranes, Snow Geese and Ross's Geese.

Dec. 24. I saw a Golden-crowned Sparrow at the visitor center today but it is in a bad spot for photography. Went for a fairly long hike in the hills, Brewer's Sparrows, Black-throated Sparrows, Green-tailed Towhees, but no Sage Sparrows yet.  Not much for photos yet, maybe tomorrow.

Dec. 25. I had to stop this morning and shoot more photos of Sandhill Cranes and geese. I don't really need more, but couldn't resist, it is too easy here! I put some of them at this LINK.

Dec. 26. Tried again to get some photos of the Golden-crowned Sparrow. Everything is set up wrong for photography at the Visitor Center. Here is the best I've gotten so far LINK. I saw a partial leucistic Sandhill Crane today, see that at the LINK. Here is my favorite Sandhill Crane photo from today LINK. Late afternoon, I went for a hike on the Canyon Trail, where I got into a flock of Brewer's Sparrows and and a Green-tailed Towhee was in the bunch too. In that area I also found some Sage Sparrows. Photos from the afternoon are at this LINK.

Dec. 27-29. Yesterday I didn't see much. Went on some short hikes. Today, I went on a long hike up Chupadera Peak. I put photos at these links: Morning LINK and Chupadera Peak LINK. My feet hurt. On the 29th, I birded around the refuge area without seeing much that was different, just lots of geese and cranes. Heading for the Sonoran Desert tomorrow.

Dec. 30-Jan. 2, 2014. I drove on Dec. 30 and 31, spending the night at Karchner Caverns SP near Bentsen AZ. Arrived at Organ Pipe NM and paid for a week in the Twin Peaks Campground. There are no electrical hookups here, but good water and hot showers. Now that I'm in a warm part of the world, I don't need electricity for heat, I just need it to charge batteries, have light at night, and to run my laptop. The solar panel will provide all the power my battery needs for lights and to run the inverter for 120 volt AC. It has been in the 60's to 70's during the day, down to around 40 at night. I've been hiking around the desert and mountains looking for my lifer Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl, still no luck with that. I take photos of other birds when I get good opportunities. I put some new photos at the LINK.

January 3-4. Yesterday I just birded around the visitor center. Amazingly I saw a male Townsend's Warbler, which should be far to the south by now, and in pine forest habitat. No photos yet. Today, I had some good luck with a male Costa's Hummingbird at the visitor center. I tried to resist doing photography there because everyone who walks by wants to talk (and a lot of people walk by).  But, that is the only place I've seen any hummingbirds. I put some photos at the LINK. The NPS doesn't allow hummingbird feeders in the campground. When I move next week, I'll be able to put out some feeders and hope to have hummers at my campsite.

January 5-6. It has been quite windy, especially today. I walked dry washes, trying to stay out of the wind. Saw a couple of Gray Vireos and got a good photo of a female Phainopepla. Yesterday afternoon I took some more photos of Costa's Hummingbirds at the visitor center. Photos from the last couple of days are at the LINK. Tomorrow I need to either move or pay to stay here again.

January 7-8. I relocated to the BLM land west of Ajo. I'm located about five miles out on the Darby Wells Road. Now I can put out hummingbird feeders. I've already got 3 or more hummers coming in, a male Costa's, a female Anna's and a female Costa's for sure. Hoping for an adult male Anna's to show up. Very quiet out here. This morning, I left the truck door open and the female Anna's went inside, then couldn't figure out how to get back out. I caught her by hand and turned her loose. That's the first time I've held a hummingbird by hand. I had a Cactus Wren in the camper for a while too, but it found the found way out with no help. No cell phone service here, but I can hike up to the ridge to the east (about 1/2 mile) and then get a good signal. I put up some photos at the LINK.

January 9-10. I have two male Anna's coming to the feeders now, plus a couple of Costa's. See LINK for more photos. Coyotes are prowling around the camper, I see them once in a while, just outside the window, mostly in the evening. 

Jan. 12. Today I got up early and headed west on the El Camino del Diablo into the Cabeza Prieta NWR. I went in here last year too, to find LeConte's Thrasher. I thought I'd try for them again but had no luck. I thought had found a pair but they turned out to be Curve-billed Thrashers. The fellow who is camped over the ridge from me came over today. His name is Rick, he is from Pennsylvania, but he hasn't been there for three years. He said he stays out west all year now, wintering in this area then moving into the mountains when it gets hot. He lives in his tent. His dog is named Sadie, she is part Australian dingo and looks it. I should have taken a photo of her, I will get one later.

Jan. 14. This morning I finally got some photos of Gila Woodpecker that has been coming to the hummingbird feeders, see photos at LINK. Now I have 3 or 4 male Costa's, a couple of female Anna's, and one or two male Anna's coming in. One of the female Anna's has a slightly deformed bill. I put photos of her at this LINK. Rick came over this morning and said his car battery was dead. We drove down to give it a jump start and I took a few photos of Sadie the desert dog, seen at this LINK.

Jan. 16. I see lots of lizards while walking around, so I've started photographing them and getting an ID. So far, they all seem to be the same species, the Common Side-blotched Lizard, Uta stansburiana. I'd like to find something like a Chuckwalla or a Gila Monster, but I think most of these desert species are most active in spring or after rain. Maybe it will rain. I put some photos at the LINK.

Jan. 21. Yesterday I drove up to Lake Havasu to look for the Nutting's Flycatcher and the Blue-footed Booby. Before I left Ajo, I got some photos of a Western Screech-Owl in a saguaro cavity. Now I'm a state campground paying $25 a day, so this will be a short trip unless I find somewhere cheaper. The Blue-footed Booby was perched on the rocks this morning, but a long way out. No luck with the Nutting's Flycatcher yet, although it was seen this morning by other birders for a few minutes. I'll be back there tomorrow. I put some photos at the LINK.

Jan. 22. Today I got the Nutting's Flycatcher early in the morning and some really terrible photos. No light, the bird stayed in the bushes and it was too far away. Went further north on Lake Havasu and after looking all afternoon finally found the Brown Booby, fairly close to land on a buoy. I took some more photos of the Blue-footed Booby from a better location, but still a long way out there. All of these photos are huge crops of the originals. I posted them at the LINK. I'll probably try one more time for the Nutting's Flycatcher in the morning.

Jan. 23. It paid off to go back to the Nutting's Flycatcher spot. I got some pretty nice photos this morning! I put them at the LINK. Now I'm heading back to Ajo.

Jan. 28. I've been camping out on the BLM land again. Free camping. Birding has been about the same as before, the same desert birds. Migration should be picking up soon for some species. I hope the Elf Owls will be back in a week or two. In the meanwhile, I hike, photograph what I can find. Weather has been very nice, even had a few sprinkles one morning. The winter rains have been nonexistent though, so the flower bloom may not be very good. There is still time. I put some photos at the LINK.

Feb. 1. Since the 28th, I've just been staying around the camper, birding and hiking. Today, I made another trip to look for LeConte's Thrasher and this time I was successful. Not only that but Crissal Thrasher, Sage Thrasher, Harris's Hawk, and a Desert Horned Lizard were found. It was a pretty good day!  Photos are at the LINK.

Feb. 11. I've been staying at Organ Pipe National Monument again, for a few days. Lately, bird photography has been slow. The Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl continues to elude me. Only one new lizard species. The winter rains have not come and none are in the forecast. Desert flowers are slowly emerging but without rain I don't expect anything spectacular. I put some photos at the LINK.

Feb. 19. Still no rain. I caught a quick glimpse of the Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl a couple of days ago, but still no photos. Mostly I've been photographing flowers, lizards, insects. It has been pretty hot lately, record setting heat according to the NWS. It has been up into the 90's, but now the trend is for cooler weather. I am going to stay here awhile longer, I really want to photograph that owl! Meanwhile, some of my favorite photos from the last few days can be seen at this LINK.

Feb. 26. I got a permit to go into the Barry Goldwater Air Force Range after hearing about a good display of wildflowers by Hat Mountain, about 20 miles north of Ajo. The permit comes with a combination to the locked gates and I have to call the Air Force before going in. It was worth the trip. They even allow camping there, I might move up there for awhile. I put some photos from the last week at this LINK. Still no succes finding a Ferruginous Pygmy Owl at Alamo Canyon. There is a possibility of some rain this weekend, hope it does!

March 1. Today it cloudy, cool and windy but still no rain. It sure looks like it could rain though. I had a couple of new herps over the last few days, one a new species for me, the Desert Iguana. I put photos at the lINK.

March 11. Have been on a road trip to the Saguaro National Park, Santa Rita Mountains (Madera and Florida canyons), Las Cienegas National Conservation Area (north of Sonoita) and Patagonia Lake State Park area, with a stop at Tubac for the Sinaloa Wren. Had very good luck! Picked up four lifers and got photos of them all. There is free camping at the Las Cienegas National Conservation Area, I think I'll be spending more time there. I'm back at Ajo again, camping on the BLM. Migration is picking up, will be looking for Elf Owls and migrant warblers here. I put photos at these two links:  LINK 1   LINK 2

March 26. Stayed at Ajo for a while, now I'm on the move again. Have been to Buenos Aires NWR, Las Cienegas National Conservation Area again, Huachuca Mountains and Miller Canyon (for Mexican Spotted Owl), and finallly headed over for the Chiricahua Mountains. Got a lifer Zone-tailed Hawk near Arivaca and a long overdue Mexican Spotted Owl in Miller Canyon. I put some photos at the LINK.

April 7. This is probably my last entry for this trip. I'll be heading back to South Dakota in a couple of days. Currently, I'm camped at Sunny Flats CG in Cave Creek, near Portal. Finally got my good shots of Olive Warbler. Before getting here, I got photos of an Elf Owl near Sierra Vista and also a male Calliope Hummingbird. Other highlights include photos of male and female Williamson's Sapsucker, Bullock's Oriole, and my best ever Hutton's Vireo. I was trying to photograph owls one night, the camera was up on the tripod, in the dark I stumbled and tipped the whole works over. At first I thought the lens had to be broken but it wasn't, the camera wasn't damaged either. However, the tripod collar broke, and the flash cable was smashed, so now I can't use the tripod or the flash brackets. Looks like I'll be sending the lens in to Canon when I get back. It could have been a lot worse! Photos at the LINK.