The larger birds of Sierra Vista are outstanding in terms of their colors and shapes. Arizona is a vast landscape of bold color, formations and piercing beauty. The southeastern corner is no exception. Isolated mountains called “Sky Islands” rise abruptly from the arid desert highlands, harbor a tremendous variety of plant and animal life and border the San Pedro Valley. The unique grassland of the valley is supported by the San Pedro River, which enters Arizona from Sonora, Mexico and flows north to join the Gila River. A significant percentage of American birders, if asked to choose their single favorite regional destination, would pick southeastern Arizona. Within a relatively small region here, you can find Sonoran Desert, oak woodland, high-elevation conifer forest, and riparian areas. The list of special species is long, but a few highlights are Montezuma Quail, Gray Hawk, Violet-crowned Hummingbird, Elegant Trogon, Arizona Woodpecker, Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet, Buff-breasted Flycatcher, Olive Warbler, Rufous-winged Sparrow, and Yellow-eyed Junco.
Some of you, long standing readers of the blog, since my trip to Africa may have noticed that I have been spending more time on animals than landscape or flowers. You would not be wrong to suggest that my recent focus is on nature photography rather than food and travel. Fear not, I will return to food and landscapes sooner rather than later. I have interesting information concerning cameras, lenses and techniques that have important consequences to your photographic purchases and workflow. In the meantime, I present a second visit to Sierra Vista Arizona, focusing on small birds. As I have said before, a location that excels in the breadth and depth of the birdwatching world.
I got a new Sony camera about a month ago and decided to visit Sierra Vista Arizona to try it out on the beautiful birds that I have heard about. Southeastern Arizona is an eco-crossroad with five life zones within five miles. Habitats and species from the Sierra Madres of Mexico, the Rocky Mountains, and the Sonora and Chihuahuan deserts can all be found in these “Sky Islands.” The bird watching and wildlife viewing areas are world-renowned. The San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area has nearly 40 miles of riparian/riverbank vegetation and this 56,000-acre area is teeming with plant and animal life. The San Pedro River’s cottonwood-shaded corridor provides critical stopover habitat for millions of migrating birds each year. It is one of only two major rivers that flow north out of Mexico into the United States and is one of the last large undammed rivers in the Southwest. The San Pedro River basin is home to 84 species of mammals, 14 species of fish and 41 species of reptiles and amphibians. It has been said that over half of all the breeding species of birds can be seen in this area.
If you’re looking for a remote location with amazing rock colors and formations and little foot traffic, then White Pocket is the perfect place. Now this place isn’t for the unprepared. You will need to have a 4WD vehicle, preferably with high clearance. You’ll be driving through deep sandy roads for at least an hour and a half off the main House Rock Valley Road. Be sure to check the current conditions of the road at the BLM Office located at 745 East Highway 89. This is a great trip to do in conjunction with the Wave or Buckskin Gulch. Honestly, it was a cloudy day, not the best to bring out the colors of the location but as a photographer, you take what you get.
Antelope Canyon is a slot canyon located on Navajo land east of Page, Arizona. Antelope Canyon includes two separate, scenic slot canyon sections, referred to individually as “Upper Antelope Canyon” or “The Crack”; and “Antelope Canyon” or “The Corkscrew”. The Navajo name for Upper Antelope Canyon is Tsé bighánílíní, which means “the place where water runs through rocks”. Lower Antelope Canyon is Hazdistazí (advertised as “Hasdestwazi” by the Navajo Parks and Recreation Department), or “spiral rock arches”. Both are located within the LeChee Chapter of the Navajo Nation. Both canyons are photographic icons, recorded by countless photographers, both for their beauty and the constantly changing light and colors.
Every photographer loves the golden hour, that special time between dusk and dark. Sunsets can be spectacular, unusual and surreal. Since I just got back from Page Arizona to photograph the natural beauty of the area, including of course Horseshoe Bend at sunset, I have decided to collect a few of my favorite sunsets from around the world. Not all sunsets depend on color to make them spectacular, although Horseshoe Bend might be the exception. Often it is the subtle interplay of light and dark, the delicate colors rather than flashy vibrance and it is always about that soft light that fills our senses as the embers of the day play out.
We decided to rent a motorboat from the Antelope Marina. Lake Powell was created by the flooding of Glen Canyon by the Glen Canyon Dam, which also led to the creation of Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, a popular summer destination. The reservoir is named for explorer John Wesley Powell, a one-armed American Civil War veteran who explored the river via three wooden boats in 1869. Glen Canyon was carved by differential erosion from the Colorado River over an estimated 5 million years. The Colorado Plateau, through which the canyon cuts, arose some 11 million years ago. Within that plateau lie layers of rock from over 300 million years ago to the relatively recent volcanic activity. Once the sea drained, windblown sand invaded the area, creating what is known as Wingate Sandstone.