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
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.
And I saw a ton of these fast, little guys:
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
We were in Page Springs the other day, which is technically in Cornville, close to Cottonwood. It’s known for having Page Springs Hatchery where they raise rainbow trout for sport fishing and for Bubbling Ponds Native Fish Research Facility. Both are owned by Arizona Game and Fish Department and are surrounded by a preserve where AZGFD and the Northern Arizona Audubon Society are engaged in conservation projects for the plants and animals. It is located on Oak Creek and has several miles of well-maintained trails which we were on.
For those of you who have real autumns, these shots won’t be that exciting to you but, in Phoenix, where fall doesn’t produce many changing leaves, we all get excited at fall colors. This area was not at peak yet, unfortunately, but it was still pretty. So here are too many fall shots of the area.
Maybe that was too many…sorry. The Important Bird Area was not full of plentiful birds, of course. No lifers here.
White-crowned Sparrows, male and female
Northern Cardinal, female
Nor did we see the River Otters which are sometimes spotted there.
This area is also known for its many vineyards and wineries.
We didn’t feel right not getting some souvenirs to make up for the lack of birds. It’s always nice to support the local economy…
Orange Sulphur (I think)
Our lantanas are filled with butterflies now, mostly Painted Ladies. I have never seen so many before at one time. This article might explain it.
Costa’s Hummingbird, female
Creosote Seed Pods
Lesser Goldfinch, bathing
I don’t like taking photos of butterflies with torn and tattered wings, too sad to know their lives are ending very soon, but it’s part of nature…
These photos were taken in our yard, the Desert Botanical Garden, and Dig It Gardens, my local urban nursery.
Hibiscus, its 7th year
Summer in this city means photographing my yard because it’s too hot to go anywhere else…
Verdins, adult and juvenile
Abert’s Towhees, adult and juvenile
Water is life, we have plenty out for the critters…
Ornate Tree Lizard
Northern Mockingbird, juvenile
Rough Stink Bug
Curve-billed Thrasher, juvenile
House Sparrow, fledgling
House Finch, juvenile
Brown-headed Cowbird, juvenile
Hot town, summer in the city
Back of my neck getting dirty and gritty
Been down, isn’t it a pity
Doesn’t seem to be a shadow in the city
All around, people looking half dead
Walking on the sidewalk, hotter than a match head.
(Summer in the City, written by Steve Boone, Mark Sebastian, John Sebastian, 1966)
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
Coneflower and bonus bug
Flame Skimmer Dragonfly
Gambel’s Quail nibbling in herb garden
It was really quite spectacular!