Sunday, August 12, 2012

A Day on the Mountain

First I have to take a minute to apologize for my absence over the last few months. I have been dealing with a difficult health problem that seemed insurmountable for quite a while. Doctor's were of little help and I finally turned to my own devices to see if I could figure out what was happening to me. To make a long story short I have made significant progress in controlling my symptoms thanks to the Internet and family and friends in the business of health. Good advise and trial and error have allowed me to return to the great outdoors where I belong.
Yesterday was my first real day long trip out and it was marvelous. Marvelous because we headed to Mt. Lemmon for some photography and bird watching. Our destination near the summit of Mt Lemmon is over 8,000 feet above sea level and as you ascend  the temperature drops dramatically from over 100 degrees in the valley to around 75 degrees with a nice refreshing breeze. Our first stop on the way up was Molino Basin which has toilet facilities and plenty of area to walk especially now that the adjacent campground is closed. It is also part of the Arizona National Scenic Trail which runs the entire length of Arizona from Mexico to Utah. You can learn more about the Arizona Trail here:

We walked a short distance into the campground and I shot the these pictures of an immature Cooper's Hawk surveying the surrounding stream bed from his perch. It was very accommodating as it waited for me to return to the car, change lenses, and return to it's location and get a few shots before moving on. A short distance up the road I was poking around a small building that housed toilets when Nan said "watch out for snakes". At that precise moment I spotted this guy moving away from my location.
One possible identification is the Western Patch-nosed Snake but my view of the snake was very limited and I didn't see it's head so it is just a guess. You can read more about Arizona snakes here:
Since my run in with a 4 foot Western Diamondback Rattlesnake a few months ago I am still a little skittish when it comes to snakes so I try to be very aware of where I am walking even when working in the yard where I have seen rattlesnake on several occasions.

We headed out of Molino Basin as it was quite warn and we were anxious to get to cooler altitudes but we had to make a couple of stops for pictures and just to marvel at Mother Natures beauty which I believe too many people in this country take for granted or worse recklessly damage. These next two shots were taken just above the Seven Cataracts overlook. It is geologic wonder and a majestic beginning to the coniferous forest that is the number one reason I love to visit here. Hailing from New England one of the things that I miss the most is trees, conifers, deciduous, tall, beautiful full sized trees!

 This first shot is off to the left side of the road and shows the effects of some recent forest fire. Allot of this mountain range has been affected by fire in the very recent past and as you will see in photos later on in this post it takes years even decades to heal areas that have been burned.

These two photos were taken on the right side of the road where we have seen Peregrine Falcons nesting in past years. Peregrines have made a remarkable recovery after being brought to the brink of destruction by pesticides and you can read more about them here:

Our next stop is a picnic area much farther into the conifers where we spent some time photographing butterflies and doing a little bird watching and of course having a snack. If you have ever photographed butterflies you know that there are the cooperative butterflies and the totally uncooperative butterflies. Today they were mostly cooperative.

This Western Black Swallowtail was attracted mostly to the thistle that was sparsely distributed under the Ponderosa Pines. Information on the Western Black swallowtail can be found at:

This Spicebush Swallowtail practically posed for the pictures but it's dark coloring made it a difficult capture in spite of it's cooperation. Information on this butterfly can be found at:

Our next destination was Windy Point for a chance to see the sweeping vistas of Tucson and beyond. Standing atop Windy Point the view really gives a sense of the vastness of the west. Unfortunately there has been some defacing of the rock formations here but in general the stop is worth it as the views are wonderful.

Our final destination was Loma Linda picnic area which we had all to ourselves. I took a few pictures but mostly just enjoyed the cool temperatures and breezes. There was a cloud formation that I was watching on the ride up that I was sure would make for good pictures but when we arrived at Loma Linda the formation was on the wrong side of the road.

I couldn't resist going across the road to see if I could get a decent shot. While we were there we talked with a couple of birders and were treated to a Zone-tailed Hawk calling overhead, a Stellar Jay, several Acorn Woodpeckers but we did not see the reported Red Crossbills.

These are pictures of Summerhaven that was ravaged by fire not to many years ago. You can see the various stages of recovery in the above photo. It's clear that houses are are lot easier to replace that some of the trees.

One of the people birding was specifically looking for a Short Tailed Hawk which I was unaware could be found on Mt. Lemmon. When I got home I decided to do a little research and see if there actually is a chance to see the Short Tailed Hawk here. Here the information that I was able to find which was quite comprehensive and very informative.

It's good to be back. I am looking forward to the return of the Sandhill Cranes in October and many other adventures too.