I Got Lucky!

This is a male Pyrrhuloxia, sometimes called the “Desert Cardinal.” It is a cousin to the Northern Cardinal. He has been a nemesis bird for me. Their range is more in southern Arizona, southern New Mexico, southern Texas, and Mexico so they are not very common in the Phoenix area. However, this particular bird is now spending his 3rd (at least) winter at the Desert Botanical Garden and I’ve been chasing him that whole time but he was very elusive. I kept seeing photos of him in my Facebook birding group from many other people. He hangs out in a specific area quite a bit and, a few days ago, I sat there for 2 hours waiting for a glimpse. No show. I was getting discouraged but decided to go over one afternoon this past week and get disappointed again. I sat down and, within about a minute, he appeared! And he seemed to do a lot of posing just for me, probably recognizing me from all the times I’ve been looking for him:

Isn’t he beautiful/adorable/unusual? During breeding season, his bill is also bright yellow so he’s even more colorful then but he doesn’t breed up here so I’ll have to try to catch one in southern Arizona sometime.

Gilded Flicker, male

Northern Mockingbird

Queen

A couple days before finally seeing the Pyrrhuloxia, I went to Gilbert Riparian Preserve (Riparian Preserve at Water Ranch) in search of some rarities being seen there. I never have good luck there unless I’m with an experienced birder. Fortunately, one showed up and, when the bird finally appeared, helped me find it. It was a Prairie Warbler, very unusual for this part of the country, but my picture is not good at all. There are now several more rare (for Arizona) birds there so I should try to make it out there one day this coming week and hope someone can help me find them, too.

Desert Cottontail

And I saw a ton of these fast, little guys:

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Say’s Phoebe

Western Meadowlark

And these little warblers were energetically flitting about right in the same area as the Prairie Warbler giving me false hope several times as they have the same coloring.

Yellow-rumped Warbler, Audubon’s

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Earth-based Faith

Like many other people, I’ve been constantly monitoring the last two U.S. hurricanes (with a 3rd and 4th coming) and their damage on TV as well as reading news coverage about the forest fires in Montana and Oregon and the earthquake in Mexico and wondering why there are so many natural disasters lately here and throughout the world. Some of it is definitely human-caused in the form of climate change and carelessness. Yes, there have always been hurricanes and earthquakes and forest fires but the increased frequency, size, and intensity are from climate change, the climate scientists agree. It’s sad what is happening to our planet.

I’m sure many of us know people in several of the affected areas and are concerned for their well-being. We have a friend who lives in Puerto Rico now who is okay but is without power and that could last for several months. The U.S. and British Virgin Islands are decimated. Cuba is currently being pummeled. Texas will be recovering for a long time. I have a cousin who lives on Florida’s gulf coast and, although he isn’t there at the moment, he is concerned about his house as so many people are. I have another friend who evacuated and is in Mississippi until Irma passes through, also hoping he has a home to return to. I have a blogger friend who is actually fighting the forest fires in Montana and a friend who was supposed to go to Portland to visit her kids today but decided against it when they told her there was ash floating everywhere.

Last night, just coincidentally, we went to an event sponsored by the Grand Canyon Trust where a Navajo woman spoke eloquently about her earth-based faith and what the land on the Navajo Nation means to her, how she respects it, how water is power, how the spirits of her ancestors still reside there, how she goes there to seek peace all while developers are trying to coerce the Navajos into letting them build resorts there. The U.S. government is considering reducing or eliminating existing National Monuments so we can have more development and less nature.

I’ve been trying to document Fibonacci spirals demonstrating nature’s perfection but this is as far as I’ve gotten:

Virgin Murex

Fiery Skipper

West Indian Fighting Conch

So for now, I’m sending prayers for those being affected by natural disasters…not just in the U.S. but throughout the world, including all the poor animals. We need to be better custodians of our planet while we still have it.

Northern Mockingbird, Florida and Texas State Bird

Western Meadowlark, Montana and Oregon State Bird

Crested Caracara, Mexico’s National Bird

Late Afternoon Sunlight

Gila Woodpecker, female

A few days ago, when it was unseasonably cool, I wandered over to the Desert Botanical Garden around 5 pm. It was not crowded at all, the birds were happily chirping and eating, everything was blooming, and the sun made it all glow. The Garden is always beautiful but this evening it seemed that everything came together to make it extraordinary. These photos don’t begin to capture the way it looked.

Mexican Fencepost Cactus

Sunflower

Coneflower and bonus bug

Flame Skimmer Dragonfly

Gambel’s Quail nibbling in herb garden

Gaillardia

Lesser Goldfinch

Anna’s Hummingbird

Verdin dining

Queen Butterfly

It was really quite spectacular!

Spring Sprung at the DBG

In March, this female Williamson’s Sapsucker showed up at the Desert Botanical Garden for a few days. She really loved the aloe nectar so she stayed in one area and was easy to find. They are rare here (preferring western mountains) so many birders went out to see her.

She looked very pretty foraging through the blooms.

Zebra Longwing

Common Buckeye

These are from the new Butterfly Pavilion at DBG. I guess I don’t enjoy photographing them in a controlled setting like that; it’s more challenging to get them in their native environments. Apparently both these species can be found in Arizona but I’ve never seen them.

Desert Spiny Lizard

Lesser Goldfinch, female

Gambel’s Quail, male

Phainopepla, male

And just in time for Easter!

Desert Cottontail

Three of Four Seasons

This is the Darden Road Bridge in South Bend, Indiana, over the St. Joseph River. The only known truss bridge in the county, this bridge is noted for its multi-span length and unusual deck placement. It was built in 1884 by P. E. Lane of Chicago, Illinois. I came upon it by accident and it was really pretty.

I just got back from there; my 95 year old mother was in Rehab. She’s fine now and will be released in a couple days. I didn’t have much time for birding, understandably, nor did I take my birding lens but, even so, I got 5 lifers!

These first few photos were taken at St. Patrick’s County Park, also on the river.

Black-capped Chickadee

There is a Bald Eagle nest at this park that has been inhabited for the last couple of years. The eagles took over an existing Red-tailed Hawk nest (I didn’t know they did that). Below is the nest.

And my mom and I saw one of the eagles in a nearby tree! Wish I had my birding lens for that. Here’s their Bald Eagle Live Cam.

On another day, I went to Madeline Bertrand County Park in nearby Niles, Michigan, and that’s where I got 4 lifers in less than an hour! These are birds we don’t see in Arizona.

White-breasted Nuthatch

Tufted Titmouse

Red-bellied Woodpecker

Dark-eyed Junco, Slate-colored

I also saw a beautiful Blue Jay but the photos are pretty blurry.

Northern Cardinal, Indiana State Bird

We have Great-tailed Grackles in AZ but in Indiana, they have these guys all over the place (my 5th lifer):

Common Grackle

The robins were in abundance everywhere, pudgy little things.

American Robin

In the 2 weeks I was there, I experienced all the seasons but summer. The temperatures ranged from 19 to about 65. We had rain, snow, sleet, hail (golf ball-sized), tornados all around us, and a little sun. I prefer Arizona’s 2 seasons, beautiful and hot. I’m fortunate it was “mild” while I was there, for the most part. Bye, snow.