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.