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.