Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Sudden Sedona Syndrome

If you live in the Phoenix area, you'll get it eventually. Maybe it's the rush-hour traffic. Maybe it's the absurdly hot March afternoons. Maybe it's just driving past the same billboard one time too many. For one reason or another, you'll be struck with Sudden Sedona Syndrome, the overpowering desire to escape from the city and lose yourself up north in the mysterious red rocks.


Only an hour and a half away, Sedona is one of the most lauded day-trip destinations in the state, and for good reason. The scenery and hiking trails are among the most beautiful in the country. There is an abundance of wildlife and the crisp cold air stings your nose with a forgotten purity. No wonder then that extraterrestrials often make Sedona one of their favorite destinations, or so some of the locals believe.

Maria and I got our Sudden Sedona Syndrome this past Saturday (ok, we had actually been planning the trip a bit ahead of time). We enjoyed the lovely four mile hike into the Oak Creek west fork trail, seeing nearly two dozen bird species and soaking in the gorgeous red canyon. The steep, rocky walls and tall pine trees keep much of the canyon shaded throughout the day, and lingering snow can be found at points along the creek throughout much of the year. Birds like the American Robin and Dark-Eyed Juncos love to forage right along the melting line of snow, where they can dig into the moist earth.


In addition to Robins and Juncos, we also saw some lovely Nuthatches, Mountain Chickadees, Acorn Woodpeckers, and Steller's Jays. Adequate lighting for photography was a rare thing, but this was nice in a way as it forced me to pay more attention to those common birds that weren't afraid of the spotlight.  This pair of Robins flew tirelessly back and forth between the muddy creek bed and their nest, no doubt working within a tight timeframe.

Only the finest ingredients go into a Robin's nest...oh the things parents do for their young.
 Although the Robins stole the show, there was no shortage of side acts. It seemed like Oak Creek was swarming with chattery House Wrens all determined to bluff and bluster their neighbors into quiet submission.


With so many bossy House Wrens sounding off, this tiny Pacific Wren was quite content to keep silent.
It ran along its log and took delicate sips of water, trying to attract as little attention to itself as possible. With the Pacific Wren only recently being split from the Winter Wren, this was a new bird for me! We were fortunate to eventually hear it sing, which helped confirm the tricky identification.


The Brown Creeper is another shy denizen of the scrub oak forests. We saw several throughout our hike and they largely paid us no mind as they went about their business of gleaning insects off the tree trunks. It can be very easy to overlook these camouflaged creepers, but sit in any wooded, well watered area and they turn up pretty soon. They're the surreptitious spies of the forest, the sneaky sentries watching you from the woods...



Our little Sedona trip was a great escape from the city. Just as we were heading back to Phoenix the storm clouds moved in, dumping a foot of snow on the red plateaus and following us south to bring a little rain into the desert. There is no known cure for Sudden Sedona Syndrome, but a trip up to the big red rocks once or twice a year is enough to keep us city dwellers going, at least for a little while.

12 comments:

  1. This post made me smile Laurence. When I lived in Colorado and now here in Utah I always know I can go "up" into the canyons and mountains or head to the states north of me to get cooler when the summer heat gets to be too much. It is so invigorating. I don't get Sudden Sedona Syndrome but I get something very much like it. Part of the reason I didn't like Florida summers is that there wasn't any place close by to to get rid of my Too Hot Syndrome.

    Love the images of the Pacific Wren!

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    1. Thanks Mia. The scenery you shoot on Antelope Island is stunning, it always makes me want to visit (as do the birds).

      That's an interesting point about Florida too. There's so much thats nice about the state, but there isn't much in way of mountains or cooler climes.

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  2. Wonderful post. I love the wren photo - they are so hard to capture. Sedona is a great escape!

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    1. Thanks Carole! I guess it's a bit farther north for you, and of course southern Arizona has its own beautiful mountain ranges that are overrun with beautiful birds.

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  3. Looks like a fabulous trip! Sedona is a beautiful place. Nice captures of the Creeper!

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    1. Thanks Tammy. I need to make a trip to the Everglades and see the birds there, but in the mean time it's nice to have some good options outside of Phoenix.

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  4. Sedona looks lovely! We'll definitely have to take a trek up there one day when we finally make it out to the southwest. Love the Brown Creeper, too. They are definitely the spies of the forest.

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    1. I'm glad it didn't Creep you out. When you all make it out southwest, you're gonna have such a birding to-do list...it's too bad this leap year got used up. That extra day could've made all the difference.
      Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

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    1. Thanks Rachel, great to have you syop by.

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  6. It happens here as well:) It just comes on and you have to go. For me it's Rocky Point. Next month, I'm running away to the beach for a few days with friends and I hope to get a shot at Bird Island....but I have to get that set up ahead of time. I'm hoping it works out. Lots of Brown Pelicans in the area. I had thought Oak Creek Canyon to be a good place to go birding because the City of Sedona can be conjested with a lot of people. One of these days the syndrome will kick in:) Usually during the summer....

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    1. I'm looking forward to your Rocky Point photos. Oak Creek Canyon is very nice, though the birding is definitely secondary to the scenery, which is (if you don't mind my saying) the opposite with the southern Az/Tucson area hiking sights (still beautiful, but the birds steal the show).

      I imagine I'll get another SSS attack this summer too. there are worse things in life... : )

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