Sunday, November 27, 2011

Thanksgiving Fun

It was a great Thanksgiving week! Maria's family came down from Pennsylvania to visit, and so with them we shared the natural beauty of Arizona along with turkey and pie. There were not many birding opportunities throughout the week, but we still had some great outdoor excursions in the beautiful autumn weather.

Perhaps feeling a bit heavy, we decided to hike Camelback Mountain Friday morning, and later stopped by the DBG to get a feel for the Sonoran Desert scenery. Maria's family was very surprised to see the mountains contained within the city limits, and were very appreciative of the close proximity of so many neat natural features. Being a long-time Phoenix resident, I had come to take these sorts of things fore-granted, so it was great to see some of these Phoenix landmarks with that new perspective.

The south face of Camelback overlooks Arcadia and the Phoenician resort, but on a clear day you can see all the way out past Tempe, into Mesa and Gilbert. The change in elevation is pretty incredible given the close proximity of all the developments.

After some delicious reuben sandwiches, we rendezvoused with Maria's parents at the DBG for a more stylized exhibit of the desert flora. We set out around 3pm, not exactly a good time for birding, but the goal this time was a more in-depth examination of all the eccentric plant life in display--stuff I usually ignore unless it's hosting a bird.

The red fairy dusters were popular among the butterflies, and we saw lots of other interesting species in the wildflower gardens.

Waiting for us outside was a rather grumpy looking female Costa's Hummingbird. She looked a bit like she had been stood up on a date.

The Verdin is a desert specialist, and one of the few birds you can count on seeing at any time throughout the day. I didn't get many pictures that day, but I like here how, even from 30 feet away, the yellow head is catching the afternoon sunlight so well. It's unusual to see those colors so conspicuously with the naked eye.

Cacti have the reputation for being nasty neighbors, but these century plants have a pointy pension for piercing as well. Like many desert plants, they're beautiful to see, and less beautiful to touch.

There are certain areas in the DBG where the cactus has run wild. Like a den of snakes or some tentacled monster, these cactus patches swarm over any open space and other vegetation. Just looking at these prickly piles makes my skin start to itch.

Along with the Verdin and the Cactus Wren, the European Starling is another guaranteed sighting at the DBG. Of course, they're a guaranteed sighting just anywhere else, but it's nice to see them when pursuing your minimum 20-Bird daily requirement!