Arizona

I have made many visits to Arizona over the years, seeing just about every corner of the state - but certainly not all of the sites.  The Bird Videos - Canada and the United States page on www.bobbarnes.us has an index to the volumes 5 & 6 of Birding the Western U.S. and Canada - those volumes include material from Arizona (see United States & Canada page on this website).  There is also a video portfolio of bird species, which includes material from Arizona, The Birds of the United States and Canada.  The Birds of Arizona, USA photo gallery is on the www.bobbarnes.us website.

The www.bobbarnes.us website has two photo galleries covering Arizona in general.  Arizona - Gallery 1:  This gallery contains images from Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Montezuma Castle National Monument,  Casa Grande Ruins National Monument, Canyon de Chelly, Pipe Springs National Monument, Petrified Forest National Park, and the Painted Desert.  Arizona - Gallery 2: This gallery contains images from the Ft. Lowell Museum in Tucson, the Tucson Botanical Gardens, Ajo, Grand Canyon National Park, and the Arizona State Museum in Tucson, Arizona, USA.  Photographs from Arizona, published on this site, are found in the Arizona Photos gallery.

Rock Art - Arizona is a gallery of photographs from Painted Rock Petroglyph Site, Arizona, USA.  The Arizona - Early Sites photo gallery includes photographs from Walnut Canyon National Monument, Mission San Xavier del Bac, Montezuma Castle National Monument, Casa Grande Ruins National Monument, and Wupatkia National Mounment.

For those interested in flora, there is a Flora of Arizona photo gallery on the www.bobbarnes.us website.

MADERA & GARDNER CANYONS

There are times when I forget what the rest of the world is doing.  Last weekend was such a time.  I chose the weekend, and Easter weekend (first part of June 2014) at that, to go birding south of Tucson, Arizona.  

My first stop was Madera Canyon, where I found every possible parking spot taken, every picnic table encircled by large groups of people, every campground spot and room occupied, and the road only marginally drivable because of the mass of people.  For a person who hates urban birding, this was hell.  For those of you who want to argue about my definition of urban birding feel free, but I consider any place with such a mass of people urban.  Bailing out I headed across the Santa Rita Mountains to Gardner Canyon where I managed to find a camping spot with 75 feet of distance from someone else.  It too was a zoo, just a bit different with ATVs and dune buggies taking the place of picnic tables.  People driving up and down the road at 3 a.m. with blasting radios added to the urban feeling.  Late in the afternoon of Sunday, I tried Madera Canyon again and found the same picnicking zoo that I found on Saturday.

PATAGONIA-SONOITA CREEK PRESERVE

On a Sunday in early June 2014, I headed to Patagonia and spent time videotaping at the Patagonia-Sonoita Creek Preserve which is owned and operated by the Nature Conservancy.  The Broad-billed Hummingbird pictured to the right joined a host of birds which included (but was not limited to) Gray Hawk, Abert's Towhee, White-breasted Nuthatch, Black-chinned Hummingbird, Anna's Hummingbird, Rufous Hummingbird, Cassin's Kingbird, Canyon Towhee, Northern Beardless Tyrannulet, Acorn Woodpecker, Gila Woodpecker....  The list was extensive but nothing particularly unusual for the site.  But it is a spectacular site and a visitor from anywhere else in North America would find the list quite satisfying.

ACORN WOODPECKERS

It is possible to see Acorn Woodpeckers in Oregon (USA), in fact, there is a reliable spot within 30 miles from where I lived in Portland.  It is a species which has always required some special effort on my part, however.  It is not a “trash bird”.

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I remember a summer’s day of the past, however, when no special effort was required to see the Acorn Woodpecker.  On that day I was in Arizona (USA).  I had just pulled into a campground, it was hot, I had flown down from Oregon, picked up a car, and driven miles and miles - I was tired.  I slowly opened the door of the car, there in a tree only five feet away an Acorn Woodpecker was working diligently at food (photo right).

Over the next few days I came to accept them as very common birds and payed them very little heed as I worked to film other species.

ORGAN PIPE NATIONAL MONUMENT

During December 2006 we traveled from Portland, Oregon to Tucson, Arizona.  Along the way we did, however, manage to work in a quick side trip to Organ Pipe National Park which is in the southwestern part of the state of Arizona, bordering Sonora, Mexico on the south.

I have always been impressed with the mixture of stone, sun, and cactus in this region -- an incredible composition.

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Stenocereus thurberi, Organpipe Cactus, Organpipe National Monument Arizona, USA

As we headed north from the Visitor Center we were stopped by the US Border Patrol who wanted to know from whence we had come - my response of “the Visitor Center” may not have been supportive of the efforts of these brave men and women who are protecting the peoples of the great Orange County, California enclave.

SAN PEDRO RIVER


On December 17, 2006 we scouted future photograph and video locations.  We crossed the Rincon mountains via Reddington Road, visited San Manuel and Mammoth, and looked at sites along the San Pedro River (photo above).   The highways were paved or reasonable dirt roads.  Along the San Pedro we found Beaver signs and a small beaver dam.

In this area we found Black Phoebe, Western Bluebird, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Greater Roadrunner, and House Wren within fifty feet of the car.  The river is quite small this time of year but during the summer rains in can turn into a raging mess.

From the San Pedro we traveled across the Tortilla Mountains, trying various side roads along the way.  We stayed out of the washes but still saw some great countryside.  Saguaro and various Cholla, prickly pear, and barrel cactus species dominated the landscape along with Palo Verde, Mesquite, and Brittlebrush.  In this habitat we saw a lot of Northern (Red-shafted) Flicker, Black-throated Sparrow, Phainopepla, and Gambel’s Quail.


BIRDING TUCSON, ARIZONA

In December 2006 I visited Tucson and noted that I had been videotaping Greater Roadrunner, Gambel’s Quail, Canyon Towhee, Mourning Dove, Cactus Wren (below) and Black-throated Sparrow -- on a rest day following the drive down from Oregon.

In the early dawn a Coyote came to the back door, during the night their howls filled the dark landscape, I pulled the blanket up and contentedly fell back to sleep.


At that time I taped many of the common birds -- Gambel’s Quail, Cactus Wren, Mourning Dove, Canyon Towhee, Curve-billed Thrasher, Black-throated Sparrow, Phainopepla, and White-crowned Sparrow are the most common species at my home base.  Some nice footage but mostly I was thinking of future efforts and getting an idea about the logistics of doing a prolonged shoot in the area.


Whenever I visited Tucson, I took time out for taping and photographing birds.  Nothing of great rarity but birds which I don’t see in Oregon -- and some that I do, I spent an afternoon in a wash looking for Gila Monster and all I saw were House Finches and House Sparrows.  Anna’s Hummingbird (above) from October 4, 2007 and Verdin below on February 18, 2008.



When we stay in Tucson we are lucky enough to live on the edge of the city, near Saguaro National Park.  That means, among other things, that we get to rise to the sound of Gambel’s Quail (below) and Curve-billed Thrasher (above).  The Thrasher is the sound of the desert, all day long (these photographs from February 2008).



CASA GRANDE RUINS


On October 2, 2007  Rebecca and I wound our way through the southern end of the Sierras, with some highway grades of 11 and 13%, driving late to reach Coolidge.  We spent the next morning touring the Casa Grande Ruins, the photographs from here are not as exotic as some of the ancient sites - but impressive nonetheless.  The Round-tailed Ground Squirrel was very cooperative at Casa Grande, even waiting for me to get a longer lens. 

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PIMA AIR AND SPACE MUSEUM, TUCSON, ARIZONA

I took a morning (October 6, 2007) off to visit the Pima Air and Space Museum, a fantastic collection of aircraft which I hope to return to visit soon.

                                                The Death of a Ball Turret Gunner
                                                           by Randall Jarrell

                                        From my mother’s sleep I fell into the State,
                                        And I hunched in its belly till my wet fur froze.

                                        Six miles from earth, loosed from its dream of life,
                                        I woke to black flak and the nightmare fighters.

                                        When I died they washed me out of the turret with a hose.

This famous poem, and especially the last line, has always haunted me.

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PLANES OF FAME AIR MUSEUM, VALLE, ARIZONA

On November 13, I reported that I had gotten “Airplane Museums” out of my system.  I was wrong.  I picked the northern route through Arizona, in part, so I could stop at the Planes of Fame Air Museum in Valle (Arizona, USA).

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I was pleased with the visit, and added a new gallery to the site as a result.  Behind all the fascination with the machinations of airplanes lies the understanding that the photo above shows how most of them end up (in this case, the remains of a Yokosuka DAY Suisei - Comet).

After visiting the Planes of Fame Air Museum I walked across the parking lot to visit the Valle Airport Terminal -- to see a collection of antique automobiles and light trucks which they had in the lobby.  It was a very pleasant display with nice vehicles -- looking outside I could see about three inches of snow on the ground.

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THE GRAND CANYON NATIONAL PARK

Looking back on some of my travels I wonder what the merits are of just passing through on the way to somewhere else.  Such sideline efforts certainly make the traveling more enjoyable and probably a bit safer - I get tired if I drive 10 hours a day, for several days in a row.  It also allows time for reconnoitering future sites to visit. AND, it can be very productive.  On December 16, 2007 I stopped at the Grand Canyon and was rewarded with some great photographic opportunities including a nice study of Common Raven.

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Common Raven, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona, December 16, 2007

On this particular occasion I was able to study the Raven’s nictitating membrane.  The membrane is a “third eyelid” which sweeps horizontally across the eye (from the inside edge of the eye to the outside edge - away from the bill).  It is used to clean and moisturize the eye.  The following two photographs were taken a second apart as the Raven posed for me on the South Rim.



WUPATKI NATIONAL MONUMENT

On the 16th, my last side trip was to Wupatki National Monument.  I wanted to take photos of ruins in the snow and was not disappointed by the opportunities at Wupatki.  (One nice thing about winter -- there are fewer people out and about.)  I was able to visit four major ruin (Pueblo) sites in my short visit.  The photos are good but I am still searching for that quintessential photo of snow on rock.

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NAVAJO BRIDGE

I generally stop at the Navajo Bridge crossing of the Colorado River (in northern Arizona, USA) at midday. On April 15, 2008, I hoped that I would be able to see one of the California Condors which have been released there as part of the captive breeding program (administered by the Peregrine Fund and others).  I wandered over to the interpretive center and there above me, and not very far above me, were seven Condors.  I watched for half an hour as they soared lazily above or flashed quickly along the cliffs, all of the birds I saw were tagged.  Lots of photographs but no video.


SONORAN GOPHER SNAKE

My son and I were videotaping in Saguaro National Park. While hiking along a trail we encountered a Roundtail Ground-Squirrel being killed and eaten by a Sonoran Gopher Snake.

It was a gruesome and fascinating event.  I am a bit uncomfortable around snakes, to use a cliche, my skin was crawling.

The Gopher Snake first constricted the Ground-Squirrel and then swallowed it whole.  The entire process took about twenty minutes.

During the editing of “Birding The West” Volume Three.  I used footage of a Roundtail Ground-Squirrel shot the week before to create the drama of “a stalk” prior to the feast.

As my son watched we discussed how most of the natural history shows are edited -- with the lion tracking an antelope which was filmed the year before in a different country.  I am afraid it ruined Natural History programming for years, for my son.  But his healthy cynicism on the subject led to the excellent editing eye which he posses today.


WALNUT CANYON NATIONAL MONUMENT

Walnut Canyon National Monument is in northeastern Arizona and was a frequent stopping place during my trips between Oregon and Arizona/New Mexico.  On April 15, 2008, for instance, I stopped at the Monument but found the trail was closed because of a rock slide.


PETRIFIED FOREST NATIONAL PARK

Petrified Forest National Park is along Interstate-40 and thus a good place to stop on those long trips between Oregon and the southwest.  On one such trip, on April 15, 2008, I stopped by Petrified Forest National Park in the late afternoon and looked at petrified logs and a pueblo site from ca. 700 AD.  I took a short hike at Grey Mesa and took a number of photographs of the highly sculptured landscape -- dotted here and there by petrified logs.


CANYON DE CHELLY NATIONAL MONUMENT

On April 30, 2008, I spent the morning taking photographs of Canyon de Chelly (Arizona, USA) -- from the north and south rims.  I spent some time wondering if I ever wanted to spend the money to tour the canyon floor and left undecided.  It is truly a beautiful canyon but there are many beautiful canyons in the southwest.

I met a man who made juniper berry necklaces and sells them along one of the trails that I took to the north rim.  This was very interesting to me, we discussed how he went about gathering the berries and how he made the necklaces.


















© Robert Barnes 2018