Thursday, January 24, 2013

Star-less Mountain and a Shrike

Last weekend Maria (she is my wife) and I went for a lovely morning hike in the Estrella Mountains of southwest Phoenix. Neither of us had been to that mountain range before so it engendered that bubbling sense of excitement in seeing a new place. Additionally, this is one of the few areas in the state where over-wintering Gray Vireos hang out, provided they can find enough bursera microphylla to sustain them through the chilly months. So, a lovely morning hike in pretty mountains with prettier wife and the (very small) possibility of seeing a new (and pretty uncommon) bird was the excellent prospect for our Monday off.



It was indeed a lovely hike, but Maria and I agreed that in all honesty the closer and more mainstream South Mountain Park offers better hiking, and alas we didn't press far enough south into the mountain range to really tap into the potential Gray Vireo territory. We saw only one scrawny bursera and it was in the process of being suffocated by mesquite.
At any rate, I was too dense to take any good scenery shots, and the bird activity was very low. Oddly enough, it was a Loggerhead Shrike--a bird not widely known for its gregariousness or tenderheartedness--that took pity and gave me my only close ups with a bird for the day.


So, neither the goal nor the result of our day trip was great birding, but seeing a Shrike up close is always a treat, and knowing that alone would happen, even if I also knew I'd dip on the Vireos (and yeah, I kinda knew that was coming anyway), would've been motivation enough for the drive out west.  It's funny to think that I'm here photographing Shrikes in 70 degree Phoenix while Mia McPherson is up in Utah is photographing the same species in thoroughly frigid conditions.

14 comments:

  1. It is freezing here Laurence and I think your Shrikes have it easier than ours! It is 21 degrees here this morning, 14 degrees warmer than yesterday, I'll need to get out my sandals and shorts soon :-) Love the images of the Loggerhead on the catus.

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    1. No doubt Mia, our Shrikes are big softies. I've even seen them eating leaves around here. Leaves! Not mice or lizards no...I see more ferocity from Roadrunners (unsurprisingly) and Finches going at each other.

      Anyway, glad to hear it's warming up over there.

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  2. Very Shriking shots, Laurence!

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  3. So fun seeing the shrike on a cactus! These are one of my favorite birds.

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  4. It is one tough species. Sometimes it's that one shot that counts:) And it's the time shared. I did the same this weekend with my other half and it's the stories and time together that matters most:) But a Shrike is pretty cool. It's up there with the Bridled Titmouse for interesting color and design. Pretty birds. Well they all are fascinating:)

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    1. Cheers Chris,

      I ain't complaining at all, though I have had a few prominent busts now this winter...
      The Bridled Titmouse, that is a bird that is still an unacceptable and full-blown photo nemesis for me.

      I do love the black, white, and grey birds (Shrikes, Titmice, Chickadees, Pintails, many others). There's something so sharp about those color combinations, something that makes them just as striking as a flaming red Tanager, at least to me.

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  5. Great shots Laurence. A bird I seem to only see every other year.

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  6. Fantastic shot of the top half of that cactus! Should have shoo'd that silly bird out of the way. Cool bird, though. Again, never seen one. I think it's time to make a weekend trip to Phoenix. When is the good birding down there?

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    1. Like anywhere, I guess later Spring/early Summer is the best, when the rarer Hummingbirds are up from Mexico along with more of the specialist Flycatchers and Trogons but it's very good in the winter time too, and comparatively better than the rest of the country right now. Given two or three days...we would rack up beers and lifers like no other...

      I forget how fascinating saguaros are to the midwesterners. Maybe we should just go cactus watching instead?

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  7. A shrike on a saguaro is an awesome sight, Laurence. Thanks for sharing a bright moment! That deep blue sky in the background reminded me of what we are missing right now in the northern valleys of Utah. We've been locked under a foggy haze for weeks as a result of a typical winter inversion. I can't wait for my next trip to Mesa!

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