Saturday, August 20, 2011

Camelback Pt. II

As promised, Wife and I returned to Camelback with our camera for another weekend's adventure. We were prepared for the wildlife and the view this time around, and while the Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher did not make an appearance, we left satisfied nonetheless.
We took the more gradual and scenic Cholla Trail up Camelback's East side, preferring it and the camera's safety to the much steeper Echo Canyon. I was constantly distracted with peripheral movement, but it was Maria who first saw the Greater Roadrunner slaloming its way down the slope.

After a brief foray of photographing and a water break, we were lucky to see the Roadrunner actually take flight and glide to another outcropping--the first and only time to date that I've seen a Roadrunner fly. As we continued upwards, we began to encounter Chuckwallas, a large, chunky lizard found throughout arid regions of the U.S.,  and Broad-Tailed Hummingbirds.

Our continued ascent soon brought us to the spine of the mountain, where we were met with a pleasant breeze and a vantage point providing total circumspection of Maricopa County.

We shared the view with a few Red-Tailed Hawks, and saw some rock wrens as well as sort of unidentified sparrow.

We were feeling the heat by the time we reached the summit, and we had no luck photographing the charming Gnatcatchers we had seen on our last visit. Even so, it was a pleasant romp among the mesquite trees and over granite boulders as we saw many more hummingbirds and got a close-up of a Juvenile Red-Tail, as well as a sleek Garter Snake. The descent was quick, and the experience was most satisfactory.

Juvenile Red-Tailed Hawk

This Western Juvenile (the Eastern Juveniles look different) was both active and photogenic atop Camelback Mountain. There's enough variation among Red-Tails too that multiple postings seems more than appropriate.
These are also among the first in-flight shots I've been able to capture.
When mature, this young hawk's tail will have reddened, her back will have become a darker brown, and her eyes will turn a rusty orange.

Broad-Tailed Hummingbird

These hummers seem to have a large population on the top on Camelback Mountain in Phoenix. They're still too impatient to pose very well, but their antics are always fun to watch while recuperating from the steep ascent up Echo Canyon. The Broad-Tailed is the most common Hummingbird in Arizona and in the Southwest up to Southern California, and it's nice to have colorful birds that stay in Arizona year-round, and in good numbers.
Their ruby-red throats also have a bright green on the sides, which I had never been able to see without the use of still shots. They have the shiny green backs common among hummingbirds, and the females (pictured first) lack anything more than a few freckles on their throats.

Greater Roadrunner

There is no Lesser Roadrunner that I am aware of, but nonetheless this emblematic bird of the American southwest is pretty great. At almost 2 feet long, these zygodactylic (two toes front, two toes back) cuckoos (family cuculidae) are one of the more interesting ground specialists in North America. With its shaggy crest, long tail, and predatory nature, these birds do establish a certain harkening back to the dinosaurs.They also have bits of iridescent blue throughout their tail, head, and face, which makes them more than just an oddity to see, and the males sport an excellent, flame-like streak back from their eyes that moves from blue to orange.
I was very lucky to get some great shots of this Roadrunner at the Desert Botanical Garden in Arizona. A good birding trip really needs one of those power moments, when a cool bird is identified or photographed and done with extreme thoroughness and satisfaction. That was very much the case for me with this fine specimen. Be sure to click on the pictures for a larger image.
He first strolled rather lazily by while I was actually staking out my nemesis, the Wilson's Warbler
He then proceeded into the brush without too much urgency

He then emerged a few minutes later with, one might say, a cold-blooded kill.
After he had showcased his catch, he left again, exactly the same way he went before.

(08/2011) We had a couple run-ins with the Roadrunner, and have as of yet been unable to get a really satisfactory photo, but these few get the idea across.
This specimen did not have as dark or pronounced a crest as other roadrunners I've seen, nor did it have the nifty blue and orange eye-stripe, which leads me to believe it was either adolescent or a female, or both.