Monday, April 16, 2012

A Beautiful Day at Madera

We took a walk in the lower canyon just to get outside on a beautiful spring day. The temperature was perfect and although it was somewhat quiet in the birdwatching category we just enjoyed being at Madera. On Whitehouse Road on the way in this Red-tailed Hawk flew up with what I think is a Whip Snake in it's talons from along side the road. It landed on a power pole and we watched as the snake tried desperately to free itself from the hawks grasp to no avail.

I tried not to disturb the drama taking place but I got just a little too close for the hawks comfort and it moved to the next pole with the snake still trying to bite. It was a good reminder of how in nature that it is survival of the fittest and death is not always swift or kind. Red-tailed Hawks are the most common hawk in the country and are perhaps the easiest to identify because of their namesake "red" tail.

On the trail we met a couple from Canada who were adding birds to their life lists at a rate that seemed to make them very excited. This Canyon Towhee was a first for them as was  a Zone-tailed Hawk and the Ash-throated Flycatcher seen below. One of the most rewarding aspects of birding is the chance to meet people from far away places that have never seen some of the birds that we take for granted. It gives me a perspective that makes me want to travel to other places so that I may see birds that while common to the locals are new to me.

Ash-throated Flycatcher

In an unrelated story the other day at Sweetwater Wetlands in Tucson Nan and I took our friend Bosque Bill from New Mexico on a tour in hopes of seeing the Red Phalarope that has been spotted there lately. As luck would have it we easily found the phalarope as well as Long-billed Dowitchers and Black-necked Stilts all mingling together in one of the retention ponds. It was amazing to me and everyone else how small the Phalarope is.
Up to this point it's all good and then I had what I consider to be an incredibly close call with a large Western Diamondback Rattlesnake. Like most birdwatchers my focus is in the trees and ponds and not so much on the path. As we approached the settling ponds I was out in front by 100 feet or so and all of the sudden I was aware of hissing and rattling and coiling at my feet. Well as Nan likes to say "for an old guy you sure can jump high and fast". It must have been my lucky day because the snake let me off with a warning and slithered away into the underbrush. I spent the rest of our visit with one eye on the sky and the other  on the ground!


  1. Glad you didn't get bitten. I second your thoughts in this post. I saw the Red Necked and Red Phalarope....and they were difficult to find. Tiny little birds but we saw them swimming in their circles. I wish I had had my telephoto lens for a better shot. Very fun and active weekend for us here in Tucson. Love your shots of the hawk and snake. Great catch!

  2. You handled yourself very well, Ray, during and after your "close encounter." Thanks for being a great host in Tucson.

  3. amazing pictures of the redtail & snake!