Monday, July 29, 2013

Broad-tailed Hummingbird

I went to  the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum this morning to look into doing some volunteer work and while I was there I spent half an hour in the hummingbird aviary. It happened to be pretty quiet at the time which is when it's the most enjoyable for me and the birds I'm sure. This Broad-tailed Hummingbird was pretty active allowing me to get fairly close but chasing away the Costa's when ever they ventured too close.

This photograph does really good job of showing all the identifying characteristics. As you can see this little guy has been banded on his left leg. For this species more than 2/3rd's of Arizona is in it's summer or breeding range. More information on the Broad-tailed Hummingbird can be found at:

Wilson's Phalaropes and Rufous Hummingbird

We had to deliver an order of Nancy's handmade soaps to Apple Annie's Country Store in Willcox Az. which is about 100 mile drive one way so when we go I make sure to get a piece of apple pie and make a stop at Twin Lakes to check out the wading birds before heading home. I did a little exploring while at Twin Lakes which is more like a couple of ponds (one fairly large and one not so big) and checked out the two blinds on the large pond and an overlook that looks fairly new on the smaller pond. Clearly this place is set up to encourage birding and I always see plenty of wader's like Stilt's and Avocet's. On this trip however the big lake was loaded with Wilson's Phalaropes, perhaps a hundred or more. Because there is absolutely no cover around the big pond it was hard to get any decent pictures except for landscapes. As you can see it was a beautiful morning and I wish I could have spent more time there. You can find more information on Wilson's Phalarope at:

Also this week I had my first visit of the season from a Rufous Hummingbird at my feeder in Tucson. I see Rufous several times each migration and have had them stay in the yard for weeks on occasion but this was just a couple of days and I haven't seen her for a couple of days now. Rufous migrate from as far away as Alaska and generally from the northwestern US. Read more about Rufous Hummingbirds at:

Monday, July 22, 2013

In The Presence of Buffalo by Dan Brister

Working To Stop The Yellowstone Slaughter

I just completed reading Dan Brister's new book and I have to say in all my sixty-four years I have never read a more moving and educational offering on the treatment of the Yellowstone buffalo. Dan takes you through the brutal history of the cattle industry in Montana and his own 15 year journey dedicated to stopping the slaughter of buffalo that wander to their ancestral lands across the border into Montana from Yellowstone National Park. His commitment to the buffalo and the commitment of many others who volunteer at The Buffalo Field Campaign shines a light on the abhorrent treatment endured by the buffalo at the hands of the Montana Department of Livestock, National Park Service and the State of Montana.
I have followed this tragedy since the late nineties when the Interagency Bison Management Plan was still in the talking stages and was one of the original commenter's siding with the buffalo who under the plan finalized in 2000 had no good options for the buffalo. Dan's and the Buffalo Field Campaign's story is an inspiration to all of us who cherish wild creatures and shows that we can stand up against those who would destroy them. If this book doesn't move you to take action, nothing will. Perhaps the truth will set the Yellowstone buffalo free.

In The Presence Of Buffalo by Dan Brister can be purchased at

Proceeds go directly to The Buffalo Field Campaign

Note: I sent a copy of Dan's book to the Secretary of the Interior, Sally Jewell with the follwing letter attached.

Secretary of the Interior Jewell                                                        8/2/2013
Department of the Interior
1849 C Street N.W.
Washington D.C. 20240

Dear Secretary Jewell,

I am writing to today both to congratulate you on becoming Secretary of the Interior and to make you aware of the mistreatment of the Yellowstone buffalo at the hands of the Montana Department of Livestock, the State of Montana, and the National Park Service.
The mistreatment of the only remaining wild bison herd in the United States under the terms of the Interagency Bison Management Plan is nothing short of a stain on the good name of the National Park Service which is tasked by the American people to protect all park resources including the buffalo of Yellowstone. Under the IBMP the buffalo are hazed and run for miles, shot, trapped and slaughtered to keep them from their ancestral grounds in Montana because of a non-existent threat of disease. While the enemies of the buffalo will tell you that it’s because of brucellosis their real motivation is grazing rights and to illustrate this point elk contaminated with brucellosis are allowed to freely move back and forth into Montana.
I have enclosed a copy of Dan Brister’s book In The Presence of Buffalo, Working to Stop the Yellowstone Slaughter which I sincerely hope you will read as it lays out the misery that the buffalo of Yellowstone National Park have endured for more than fifteen years.


Ray Goodwin
Tucson Arizona 

Monday, June 24, 2013

Super Moon Over Kitt Peak National Observatory

Kitt Peak National Observatory is located 56 miles southwest of Tucson Arizona in the Quinlan Mountains. I live more than 50 miles away from the observatory but I can see it from where I live. Kitt Peak is home to the worlds largest collection of telescopes including the Mayall 4 meter telescope and the McMath-Pierce Solar Telescope.

McMath-Pierce Solar Telescope

I have made several trips to Kitt Peak for the amazing views and to be able to check out the telescopes and one of my favorite things to do while I am there is visit the observation deck of the Mayall telescope which is open to the public and affords a 360 degree views of the surrounding Sonoran Desert.

I highly recommend that if you are in the area you take a trip to the observatory. You can access a virtual tour of Kitt Peak National Observatory at: The entire trip from Tucson can be done in 5 or 6 hours and I recommend you take a picnic lunch and be prepared to see some spectacular scenery as well some very fascinating science.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Arizona- Sonora Desert Museums Newest Resident

Presently 6 1/2 months old this male was rescued in San Jose, California weighing only 15 pounds. The Desert Museum has provided the following information on it's new resident:

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Bird Watching at Cochise Lakes Willcox Arizona

We took a ride out to Willcox Arizona on business and to get a piece of apple pie alamode at Apple Annie's new country store and decided to make a quick stop at Twin Lakes to check out the birds. I've only been here a couple of times but each time there were plenty of birds to see. Black-necked Stilts were in abundance, perhaps 30 or 40 in all. According to the maps in Sibley stilts summer in a small area of south eastern Arizona and migrate throughout the state. I have seen many here in Tucson at Sweetwater Wetlands. Check out Black-necked Stilts at:

There were Kildeers and what looked like plovers but the lighting was very difficult so I can't be sure of an I.D. Also spotted a single White-faced Ibis feeding along the sand bar which can be seen in the photo below. Information on Kildeers:

The following is a description of the area by the Southern Arizona Birding Organization.

"At the northern end of the valley, on the east side of the city of Willcox, is Cochise Lakes (a.k.a. Twin Lakes) a pair of effluent ponds adjacent to the municipal golf course on the east side of the city of Willcox. These ponds, ranging from shallow and ephemeral to deep enough for grebes and diving ducks, provide habitat for a variety of migrant and wintering waterfowl and shorebirds. The ponds are deep enough to support diving species such as Canvasback, Ring-necked Duck, Lesser Scaup, Redhead, Common Merganser, and Western and Clark's Grebe. In winter, Sandhill Cranes can sometimes be seen loafing in the grasslands nearby in the afternoons. This is a very popular birding stop from August through May, but be aware that the route around the lakes is not paved and is treacherous when wet. The city of Willcox has recently begun to develop visitor access to this site; please sign in at the visitor register at the entrance.

As you can see the town has provided blinds for close up watching. The birds on the island are mostly American Avocets which also summer in a small area of southeastern Arizona. Read about American Avocets at:

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Female Costa's Hummingbird Building Nest

It's been a busy week here in my Sonoran Desert yard. Some of you may already know that I live on the border of Tucson Mountain Park in Tucson Az. not far from Saguaro National Park West. It's been above 100 degrees here all week so I get outside around 6 A.M. to do my yard work and make sure that water is available for all my daily visitors. First I make sure that the bird bath which is placed on the ground is clean and filled. If it's starting to grow things I use bleach and a tooth brush to scrub it and then I rinse it exceptionally well before filling. Because we get so little rain this time of year I have a varied and a sometimes unusual parade of visitors hoping for a drink. As you can clearly see I live in a residential area that was carved out of the desert many years before I arrived here in Tucson. Nearness to the park puts us in a locale that has close proximity to wildlife so visitors like these Mule Deer while not the norm pay us an occasional visit. Today promises to be 106 degrees maybe more so it will be important to keep the water filled. I usually change it 3 or 4 times a day as needed.

It has been an unusual season for Diamondback Rattlesnakes having encountered two here in the yard and one at the Desert Museum. The two in the yard were very young perhaps from the same hatch so I suspect that their might be a den somewhere nearby. Young rattlesnakes can travel up to a mile from their den and adults up to three miles in search of food.
Gambel Quails have been visiting the watering hole for a couple of months in pairs and family groups and only rarely solitary individuals. This week they have started showing up with the tiniest of chicks in tow. I have seen 2, 3 and 7 chicks in different family coveys.
We have the usual assortment of Mourning and White Winged Doves, House Finches, English Sparrows, Lesser Goldfinches, Goldfinches, Verdins, Northern Cardinals, Mockingbirds, Gila Woodpeckers with occasional visits from Phyrraloxia, Phainopepla, Hooded Oriole, Bullocks Orioles, Cottontail Rabbits, assorted Lizards and a very disruptive Coopers Hawk. My favorite visitors are however the hummingbirds.

At this very moment a female Costa's is building a nest outside my workroom window. Females are really hard to identify and I have spent the last couple of days trying to decide if she was a Costa's or a Black-chinned. I finally concluded she was a Costa's for two reasons. She has faint spotting on her breast and there is a male Costa's hanging around who is not being aggressive towards her. Males are very aggressive toward any other hummingbird that is in their territory. There is a daily battle raging as other hummers try to get a drink at the feeders.
 Here in Arizona there are 17 different hummingbirds. Some are rare and localized and some are common depending on the time of year. So far I have managed to see 8 different varieties including a Blue-throated Hummingbird in Patagonia. There are at least five different hummers who frequent my three feeders here at the house and I have seen two other attempts to nest in the yard but both were unsuccessful due to high winds. Hopefully this time i will get to watch the entire process from nest building to egg laying and hatching and finally fledging. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

Note: Sadly the hummingbird nest was abandoned with two tiny eggs after several days of temps above 105 degrees. Mama spent all day each day sitting in the sun keeping the eggs shaded but I suspect that it was too much for her as she just disappeared. It's possible that some other harm befell her but I will never really know for sure. Of the three attempts that I have witnessed of hummers nesting in the Oleanders all three have failed. I am beginning to wonder if Oleanders are unsuitable nesting sites perhaps because as they bloom they sag under the weight of the blossoms exposing the the nests to the elements.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Mexican Gray Wolf Recovery 15 Years

Each and everyday my inbox is filled with both good news and bad news from environmental organizations. More often than not though when it comes to wolves the news is bad. Genetics, poaching, and outright hostility by some segments of the cattle industry and their supporter's still plague wolf populations around the country. Recently wolves in some states have been subjected to hunting once again after being de-listed by the Interior Department resulting in the slaughter of over 1100 wolves. An effort is underway by those who care little about the improvements that wolves bring to the ecology to undo all the efforts made to return a healthy wolf population to the lower 48. It still breaks my heart to think about the destruction of Yellowstone's Cottonwood Pack on a mid October morning in 2009 just outside Yellowstone National Park where thousands of people visit each year to see these magnificent animals roaming free and where the environment is recovering thanks to their presence.

Today is the 15th anniversary of the effort to reintroduce the Mexican Gray Wolf, a subspecies of the Gray Wolf, to Arizona and New Mexico. Unfortunately there is still much to be done if we are to save this "most endangered" wolf from extinction. As a supporter of wolf reintroduction the news that there are now 75 Gray Wolves in the wild on the surface is good news but underlying that fact is that all 75 animals are descended from just seven animals. With a genetic pool this shallow the Mexican Gray Wolf is as endangered today as it was when the program started 15 years ago. With only three breeding pairs in the wild much more needs to be done to ensure the survival of the species. Along with genetics, poaching also continues to be a major problem for the program in-spite of huge rewards offered for the capture of those responsible for the deaths of protected Mexican Grays. I was unable to embed video that I took at the Desert Museum of one of the female Mexican Gray Wolves housed there but have added a link to Howling For Justice that has some excellent information on these animals as well as some stunning video that everyone interested in wolves should see.

Also in my inbox this morning was this plan from Defenders of Wildlife that prods the US Fish and Wildlife Service to release more wolves to address the genetic instability among the Mexican Grays and to improve their overall chance for survival. It sounds like a very good start.

In order to move Mexican gray wolves back from the edge of extinction, Defenders has created a three-point emergency rescue plan:

1 Release more captive wolves into the wild in order to address the genetic problem. The wolves to be released must be the right wolves genetically, and the releases need to be the first step in a more rigorous genetic improvement plan.
2 Complete a scientifically sound recovery plan. USFWS must complete this essential road map to recovery, and then implement it.
3 Establish at least two additional core wolf populations — and do so right away. Additional core populations of Mexican gray wolves will allow them to expand and give them a better chance for long-term survival.
On a further note from Defenders the message is clear.
Time is not on the Mexican Gray Wolf's side, but there is still hope if we act today. Wildlife lovers like you have helped bring back the peregrine falcon, the grizzly bear and a host of other endangered wildlife back from the brink. With the right energy and focus, Mexican gray wolves can join the list of species that have become conservation success stories.

I also received an e-mail from the Arizona Fish and Game Department today about the effort to have Mexican Gray Wolves de-listed ostensibly so that the state can take over the reintroduction effort. I strongly object to any de-listing effort as the State of Arizona Conservation Commission is controlled by hunting interests including a member with ties to Safari International. While the people of Arizona usually speak loudly and clearly for protecting the natural heritage of the state, elected officials record on the other hand has not always in the best interests of conservation.
Wolves Belong here in Arizona and deserve the protection afforded them by the Endangered Species Act.

For the wolves,



Monday, March 11, 2013

Predators Balance Nature


When large predators are removed from the environment negative consequences follow such as deer and elk populations exploding. This is then followed by over browsing of plants, which can cause streams to erode and populations of plants, birds, animals, fish, insects, and amphibians to dwindle with some vanishing forever. Take wolves from the environment and coyotes proliferate reducing populations of rabbits and hares. At the same time deer and elk herds grow beyond the ability of the forest to sustain them. Trees and shrubs are unable to reproduce adequately due to over browsing and some vanish from the landscape. Habitat that supports birds and insects is lost and their numbers plummet. By removing wolves from the environment a chain reaction is put into play that is the beginning of a major ecological degradation.
 Here in the west wolves, mountain lions, bears and eagles were hunted almost to extinction to make room for domestic cattle and sheep. Unable to comprehend the contribution of large predators to the ecology bounties placed on predators almost completely removed wolves from the lower 48 including our public lands. Today wolf reintroduction programs are seriously impacted by those who misunderstand the role that these predators play in the health of the environment.
 Recently protections for wolves have been removed by the Interior Department allowing them to be slaughtered by the hundreds in the Northern Rockies and I believe they will try to remove protections from almost all wolves across the country before Secretary Salazar leaves the agency once again leaving wolves to be leg trapped and shot back to the brink of extinction.
Mountain Lions are being killed in South Dakota, Wolves in Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Wisconsin and Minnesota are being killed at an alarming rate (0ver 1000) since August 2012. Threats to these animals include hunting, habitat loss and poaching.

                                                             MEXICAN GRAY WOLF

Even though the Mexican Gray Wolf has been protected by the Endangered Species Act since 1976 twenty of the animals released along the Arizona/New Mexico Border have been killed. Currently there are only 58 Mexican Grays in the wild making them the most endangered mammal in the country.
 Around the world thousands of species are either extinct or endangered due almost exclusively to the activities of humans. The Endangered Species Act of 1973 was approved by Congress with the force of law aimed at protecting plants and animals that are in danger of extinction. Today we still have great challenges including legislators on the right that try to weaken and even end protections for our most vulnerable species based on politics with little or no regard for science. Clearly this assault from politicians is driven by campaign cash and unfortunately ignorance. Senator Orrin Hatch has introduced  a bill that would remove protections from all wolves allowing them to be slaughtered throughout the entire country including in Arizona/New Mexico where reintroduction efforts would be devastated and the Mexican Gray Wolf would disappear from the landscape forever.

Wolves and Mountain Lions provide a natural and necessary function in nature. We made the mistake of removing them in the past and our ecology suffered enormously. Now with the science clearly showing how these animals help an ailing landscape forces are poised to repeat the tragic mistakes of the past. If this battle is lost then hundreds if not thousands of other efforts will fail along with it. We must prevail in our efforts to save these remarkable animals or suffer grave consequences.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

44 of Americas Last Wild Buffalo Shot Dead Yards from Yellowstone

More sad news from the Buffalo Field Campaign. Once again the Department of the Interior fails in it's mission. Here's hoping the new Secretary will do a better job of protecting America's last wild buffalo.

* Update from the Field

Between Thursday and Sunday, forty-four of America's last wild buffalo were killed in the Gardiner Basin by hunters with the Nez Perce and Umatilla tribes. Most of these buffalo were shot less than 300 yards from the north boundary of Yellowstone National Park, on a small area of Gallatin National Forest land called Beattie Gulch. Three of the buffalo that were shot here did not immediately fall but walked into Yellowstone, where they were not allowed to be retrieved by the Nez Perce hunters who shot them; their bodies left to the ecosystem. According to state and tribal officials, the hunters who shot these buffalo are being allowed to keep their tags to kill other buffalo. In another incident, three other buffalo were illegally shot and killed by two non-tribal members.

Two days later we watched as more than a hundred buffalo approached these killing fields. They found the remains of their relatives strewn across the land like fleshy boulders left behind by glaciers. We watched in sorrowful awe as the buffalo approached the gut piles. Their tails shot up in the air as they ran from remain to remain, discovering what was left. Enormous bulls bellowed like roaring dragons, mouths agape, bodies arched, and pawing the ground. The buffalo placed their faces close to the flesh left behind, nuzzling their muzzles into the earth where the buffalo had fallen. They sniffed at fetuses still sheltered in their mother's flesh whose lives were ended before they were born. The buffalo circled and scattered, ran to each other and away again. Sparring, bumping, running, pawing and crying out in their deep emotion of their discovery. Watching, we could only think of it as a wake, a mighty wailing of the buffalo. Back and forth they ran, frantic, between the gut piles that had been their friends, their family. Like chieftains in their own right, fathers of their clans, the mature bulls lingered the longest, as the mothers and grandmothers lead the young ones on in an ancient procession, their deliberate footsteps slower in their sorrow.
The depth of relationship the buffalo share is timeless, intense, and far beyond most people's willingness or ability to accept or understand. Indeed, it is easier, more convenient, to ignore or pretend that it doesn't mean anything. In that blindness we deny not only to other creatures, but to ourselves, the honest power of love, the gift of respect, and the aid of wisdom. The buffalo already encompass these things, and they are patiently waiting on the brink for us to catch up.

Please read below to learn about the ways you can help wild buffalo right now, and help raise awareness by sharing this email with all of your friends and contacts.

Wild is the Way ~ Roam Free!
~ Stephany

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Yellowstone Buffalo Slated for Misguided Slaughter

Nothing is sadder than Yellowstone National Parks failure to protect the buffalo entrusted to it by the American people. It is their duty to protect all the wildlife in Yellowstone and slaughtering thousands of buffalo at the behest of the Montana Livestock Association is a miserable failure and abdication of the parks responsibilities. Please support the Buffalo Field Campaigns heroic efforts to save the remaining buffalo of America's last genetically pure herd. 

Bull buffalo mourn a comrad shot by a hunter. Buffalo do not flee after a friend is shot, but will run to them, attempting to get them up again, grunting, circling and nudging them. Buffalo have many amazing behaviors that demonstrate that they deeply care for one another. BFC file photo by Kim Acheson. Click photo for larger image.

Update from the Field

Bull buffalo mourn a comrad shot by a hunter. Buffalo do not flee after a friend is shot, but will run to them, attempting to get them up again, grunting, circling and nudging them. Buffalo have many amazing behaviors that demonstrate that they deeply care for one another. BFC file photo by Kim Acheson. Click photo for larger image.

America's last continuously wild buffalo population numbers fewer than 4,200 individuals. Living in and around Yellowstone, they are under a tremendous amount of pressure that threatens their immediate survival and their long-term evolutionary potential. This season, over 127 wild buffalo have been gunned down by hunters along the border of Yellowstone National Park. While Montana's state hunt is finally over, some treaty hunting will continue through March. Additionally, the Montana legislature is quickly moving forward with a frenzy of devastating bills that would have very real and harmful impacts to these gentle giants. Aggravating matters, Yellowstone National Park continues to hold fast to their plans to senselessly slaughter hundreds of buffalo this year and in years to come. While Yellowstone managers admit that these are the most unique and important buffalo populations in the world, they seek to manage for the smallest numbers possible.

You and I have the power to stop this. Together our actions have made significant differences for wild buffalo. But wild bison remain ecologically extinct, truly endangered without federal listing or protection. We need to keep the pressure on, and turn it up! Everyone who reads these words has the capacity to make a difference. Please read below to learn about the ways you can help wild buffalo right now, and please help raise awareness by sharing this email with all of your friends and contacts.

Wild is the Way
America's last continuously wild buffalo population numbers fewer than 4,200 individuals. Living in and around Yellowstone, they are under a tremendous amount of pressure that threatens their immediate survival and their long-term evolutionary potential. This season, over 127 wild buffalo have been gunned down by hunters along the border of Yellowstone National Park. While Montana's state hunt is finally over, some treaty hunting will continue through March. Additionally, the Montana legislature is quickly moving forward with a frenzy of devastating bills that would have very real and harmful impacts to these gentle giants. Aggravating matters, Yellowstone National Park continues to hold fast to their plans to senselessly slaughter hundreds of buffalo this year and in years to come. While Yellowstone managers admit that these are the most unique and important buffalo populations in the world, they seek to manage for the smallest numbers possible.

You and I have the power to stop this. Together our actions have made significant differences for wild buffalo. But wild bison remain ecologically extinct, truly endangered without federal listing or protection. We need to keep the pressure on, and turn it up! Everyone who reads these words has the capacity to make a difference. Please read below to learn about the ways you can help wild buffalo right now, and please help raise awareness by sharing this email with all of your friends and contacts.

Wild is the Way ~ Roam Free!

You can donate to the Buffalo Field Campaign and learn more about this dedicated group at:

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Signs of Spring in the Canyon

For those of you who are wondering how long this cold weather will last there are clear signs that spring is here in Sabino Canyon. The creek is flowing moderately well from snow melt on Mt Lemmon and the trees are turning that pale green that I look for as a sure sign that the worst of winter is behind us. I saw a few butterflies, mostly the tiny blue ones and although it was chilly when we started our walk from the last shuttle stop it soon became warm enough to shed our coats for our trek out of the canyon.

March will be the beginning of the hummingbird annual push northward. Black-chinned Hummingbirds show up in Arizona in March thru May and Broad-tailed Hummingbirds are likely to be seen in March or early April. Here in Tucson I have had Costa's and Black-chinned all winter and have even seen a Magnificent at my feeder a couple of times this year. There are over a dozen different hummingbirds that can be seen in this area so if you are a serious fan of the little guys it's a great place to be in springtime. At the tail end of the fall migration I was visited by a pair of Rufous Hummers and hopefully I will get to see them on their way up the California coast.
This is a great time to do a little birding here in southern Arizona as some of the winter birds are still here and migrating species are about to pass through and nest builders  are starting to return. What could be better. The hardest part at this point is deciding where to go when. There are so many great places like Sierra Vista which is the hummingbird capital of the USA and has such great spots as San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area and Ramsey Canyon to name a couple. A little further down the road is Whitewater Draw Conservation Area which is famous for it's annual visits by thousands of Sandhill Cranes. Arivaca is another great wildlife location and is one of the quietest places during the week at either Arivaca Cienega or  Arivaca Creek.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Male Northern Cardinal

 The male Northern Cardinal is one of the easiest birds to identify and even easier to spot in the wild. A year round resident in approximately 50 to 60 percent of Arizona the Cardinal is described as having a conservation status of Least Concern by the IUCN with it's population status listed as stable. The IUCN stands for International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources and is widely recognized as the most comprehensive, objective global approach for evaluating the conservation status of plant and animal species according to it's website.

This particular Northern cardinal was spotted at Sabino Canyon in Tucson Arizona along the creek which has a robust flow due to recent rain and snow events. I have to say that it was an unusual encounter as this bird came within a few feet of me and hung around the entire time I was at the location. It seemed not to have any fear of me and these photos were taken with a 135mm lens. I like these photos because they give a more complete picture of the coloring on male cardinals showing the dark almost black on the top of the tail and wings. I rely on the Cornell Lab of Ornithology for information on birds as I find them to be easy to understand and for the most part pretty comprehensive.
Here is more information on the Northern Cardinal including vocalizations listed under the "Sounds" section:

Thursday, February 21, 2013

The day After the Storm

The day after it snowed off and on covering the landscape the white stuff had melted away leaving a fresh new look behind. Snow was still evident on the mountains especially at the higher elevations but even this would be short lived and by the middle of the afternoon Golden Gate Mountain pictured above was completely bare.

This photo was taken from Saguaro National Park looking west out across the valley toward Kitt Peak  which can be seen still covered in snow. The saguaro in the center of the photo has multiple arms which start to develop at around sixty-five years so I would estimate this one to be around ninety to one hundred years old.

It's especially nice to hike in Saguaro National Park West this time of year with the temperatures today in the fifties. It's a short drive from my house and the park has panoramic views and many hiking trails and a diverse compliment of plants and animals.

Kitt Peak which can be seen in the background is over fifty miles away. Route 86 which heads west towards California takes you through the Tohono O'odham reservation where the world class Kitt Peak National Observatory is located at the summit. I have visited the observatory a few times and I will tell you it's worth the trip.

What a difference a day makes here in the desert. In a couple of days it will push into the seventies and very soon the wildflower season will color the landscape in yellows and pinks and purples.I have to say I simply cannot wait. I have included a link to the park if you're interested in visiting the saguaros.

More Winter Saguaros

Here are some additional photo's that were requested by an avid plant person from Costa Mesa California. Seeing snow covered saguaro's is a rarity and you have to be quick to get out as the snow only lasts a very short time, as a matter of fact it melted away so quickly that I didn't get to shoot one whole section of the park that I had planned on visiting. It could be years before we see this again although with the climate changing so rapidly it's possible that it could become more or less frequent. I have seen photo's from the early years in Tucson and there was more snow in the past then we see these days.

It's terrific to have such a beautiful place as my backyard and I am looking forward to the spring migration and hopefully an abundant wildflower season as well.

Here is some information on how saguaros grow.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Winter Comes to Tucson Arizona

Our one day long winter arrived today a little before noon and it was beautiful for about 3 hours before it melted away. No shovel necessary. The top picture is the road running through Gates Pass. If you walk through the "saddle" at the top of the picture you can end up at my house in the valley.

Scenes like this one are definitely not the norm here in the Sonoran Desert but it is certainly welcome because it almost guarantees a really good spring wildflower season this year.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Female Great-Tailed Grackle

This female Great-Tailed Grackle was with a group of males at Sweetwater Wetlands in Tucson. I snapped a couple of quick shots just because it's cinnamon brown head and breast were displayed so nicely in the sunshine. I ended up really liking the shot so I thought I would share it here on my blog.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Wolves Under Attack in Lower 48

Urge U.S. Fish and Wildlife to Keep Existing Protections for Gray Wolves

Supported by: Defenders of Wildlife, Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, National Parks Conservation Association, Humane Society of the United States, Center for Biological Diversity, Animal Welfare Institute, Endangered Species Coalition, Cascadia Wildlands, Predator Defense, Western Environmental Law Center, Wolf Conservation Center, and others.

Dear Colleague,
Please join us in signing the attached letter to Director Ashe of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service requesting that the agency retain Endangered Species Act protections for gray wolves in areas where they have only just barely begun to recover, including the Pacific Northwest, California, southern Rocky Mountains and Northeast. In February, 2012, the Fish and Wildlife Service released a five year review for the wolf that recommended removing protections for gray wolves across most of the lower 48 states. The agency has since indicated that it will move forward with this action as soon as this March.
Retaining protections for wolves in the lower 48 will not impact the delisting decisions in the northern Rocky Mountains or western Great Lakes, where wolf recovery has seen considerable improvement and wolves have been removed from the endangered
list. Instead, it will retain protections for a small number of wolves on the West Coast and wolves that have slowly been moving back into historically occupied areas like the southern Rocky Mountains and Northeast.
Studies completed after the reintroduction of wolves to Yellowstone National Park have found that wolves are highly beneficial to ecosystems, benefitting a host of species from fish to songbirds to pronghorn antelope. Wolves have also been a boon to the local economy as a major tourist draw.
Much can still be done to recover these incredible animals in portions of their former range that remain suitable. Action by the Fish and Wildlife Service to remove protections for lower 48 wolves is premature and we urge you to join us in sending the attached letter. If you would like to sign the letter or have any questions please contact Megan DeBates in Rep. Peter DeFazio’s office at (5- 6416).
Peter DeFazio Edward Markey Member of Congress Member of Congress

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Mallards in the Canyon

 I have come to expect the unexpected here in the Sonoran Desert. One of those unexpected things is ducks. I was surprised to see them by the thousands on my first visit to Sweetwater Wetlands and I was surprised to find them swimming in Sabino Creek yesterday. It's not that they don't belong there, it's more that I haven't seen them there in all my visits. When I go out to places like Sabino I know there's a pretty good chance that I'll see Roadrunners and Phainopeplas and at certain times of year I can count on Western Bluebirds and even American Robins but Mallards not so much.

Seeing something unexpected is part of the reason why I spend so much time on, around, and near water here in the desert.

This pool is just above where I spotted the Mallards and when I arrived the sun had not breached the canyon peaks until this moment when the water turned from gray to these beautiful reflections. I have always enjoyed photographing reflections in water so it was nice to have my tripod and ND filter with me to see what was possible.

On this visit I also saw Gnatcatchers, White-tailed Deer, Roadrunner, Phainopepla, Curved-billed Thrasher and Northern Cardinal. Again I looked and looked but did not see a mountain lion but I always have the feeling that a mountain lion sees me.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Sunshine and Neutral Density Filtration

                                                              ISO 100 F20 SS1/4 18MM

The flow in Sabino Creek has slowed considerably due to some very cold weather here in the Sonoran Desert this past week. With temperatures in the low twenties in the valley it's a safe bet that it was extremely cold at 8000 feet above sea level. When I arrived at Sabino Dam there were still a few places where water was flowing over the top of the dam. Fortunately it was more than enough water for me to use my Neutral Density Filter to see what effects it would have on flowing water.

                                                            ISO100  F 20 SS 0.400000s 18MM

Normally the dam is fairly well shaded but on this visit the entire area was bathed in bright sunshine with the exception of a small portion of the dam.

 This is a shot of the dam from down stream which was taken at F20 18MM. Keep in mind that even though these photos were taken using a tripod the wind was blowing at about 8 or 10 miles per hour and the trees had some pretty good movement which would have some effect on the sharpness at longer shutter speeds.

I plan on taking an early morning trip back to the canyon and photographing the creek at some of the bridges perhaps Monday. I'll have to walk in starting at dawn which at least on the way in means no sun until much later in the A.M. due to the steep canyon walls.  This should give me chance to get a few miles into the canyon and work in the shade at least for a few hours.

I'll also have another chance to keep my eye out for mountain lions and hopefully see some other wildlife as well. With temperatures in the mid to upper 70's this week it should be a fairly pleasant hike and water flow should increase although I'm not certain by how much.

As climate change has already arrived my interest in it's effects on riparian areas has increased considerably. Hundreds of birds that live here or migrate through this area are dependent on a few places that have an adequate supply of water most of the year. Climate change could severely impact the ability of endangered species like the Gray Hawk pictured above which has only about 100 nesting pairs in the state, mostly in southern Arizona along the border with Mexico. Their survival depends on the cottonwoods where they nest along the rivers and streams in the few riparian areas that remain.