Like many people interested in nature, I have a fairly large set of bird feeders in my back yard. Last year was quite eventful for the feeders, I had several clutches of Gambel’s Quail (Callipepla gambelii) born in the bushes scattered around the yard. Gambel’s Quail are skittish birds, living mostly on the ground, they run for cover at even the hint of a surprise. While they have nested in my yard off and on for several years, last year was the first time they visited the feeders. There is plenty of water, feed and shelter in my backyard and the quail apparently liked what they saw. We had at least 3 clutches and possibly as many as 5–6 with the result of many groups of adult, adolescent and baby quail pretty much all summer. Naturally I took photos, as if I was the proud grandfather. Many of the photos were taken in less than ideal light but gradually they grew more trusting and I managed a few flash captures. I thought the photos would make for a nice post so I organized the best ones to present here.
I stumbled on a really great blog on places in and around Death Valley by a guy named Steve Hall, aptly named “Death Valley Adventures”. His blog is particularly great because there are few maps and/or information on most of the area surrounding Death Valley. It encouraged me to do a little exploring on my own. I decided to drive home from Los Angeles to Las Vegas on the Fourth of July through the Searles Valley, Panamint Valley, Death Valley to Furnace Creek Inn and then on home. These valleys are between the Argus, Slate, and Panamint Ranges which are oriented north-south, or toward the north-northwest. The El Paso Mountains, Spangler Hills, Straw Peak in the Slate Range, and Quail Mountains are oriented east-west, and the Owlshead Mountains are arranged in a semi-circular pattern south of the valleys. Aside from the geology, there are some interesting places to see along this little drive and of course some of our beautiful desert flora. Admittedly it extended the trip home by a few hours but the scenery was worth the lost time.
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.