At B's Bs Ltd. Inc., we're always striving to bring the latest, edgiest material to the bird blogosphere. Often times striving happens in the wrong direction. At any rate, I've been on a recent nocturnal birding kick, enjoying great success on some occasions and enjoying great failures during others. Nocturnal birding has several great attractions: it's cooler, the lighting doesn't matter in a sense (overcast vs. sunny, etc.), one doesn't have to wear pants, be cognizant of where to go to the bathroom, or worry about appearance in general, and it can be done on weekdays. To this end, I have also been eager to explore and find good areas for nocturnal birding closer to home. The Salt River spots are excellent, but are still a good 25 minute haul that is somewhat of a stretch on work nights.
I've mentioned Papago Park before as a great spot for crushing waterfowl and a few other desert species. It was my hope that the sparser mesquite and saguaro habitat here would still have enough of an allure that I might record ELOW and WESOs, as well as Common Poorwill. Papago Park is probably one of the best places to see and photograph Black-tailed Gnatcatchers. They're mad for the creosote there, and stay active for a bit even after sundown.
Sunset is a special time in the desert. The warm light combines with the red and purple hues of the landscape in an existentially reassuring way. In an homage to the merciful son, many animals perform a sort of salute during this time by directing their most prominent feature towards the waning light.
I think we've all had that experience when we're so consumed with the beauty of something, like a sunset, that we deeply desire to back our butts into it.
The Bighorn Sheep are in an enclosed area adjacent to Papago Park, which is a part of the Phoenix Zoo. They once lived on rocky bluffs throughout the state, and some populations have recently been reintroduced in the Santa Catalina Mountains near Tucson. These sheep are still in assisted-living.
They often move higher up the buttes near Papago as the sun sets, and they are not the only ones. Visually and vocally imposing Great-horned Owls also take to the high ground, espying rabbits, mice, and wayward children from their vertical vantage point. This guy seems to the one and the same with that owl from the Rats of N.I.M.H. movie.
When darkness settled in, the GHOW called constantly and was joined by the charming audio of Lesser Nighthawks. Ultimately and disappointingly, the vegetation was too sparse and the human traffic too high to support EFOW and WESO populations in detectable numbers (in a given year, I'm sure a few are around) and the same with COPOs. Nonetheless, birding at night puts one's senses on high alert, and makes for a very stimulating, recommendable experience. You never know what you'll run into.