On the Road is a weekday feature spotlighting reader photo submissions.
From the exotic to the familiar, whether you’re traveling or in your own backyard, we would love to see the world through your eyes.
Albatrossity finally got to take a trip! Cheryl (no cats this time) talks about taking photos with a cell phone, we go to a state park with BillinGlendaleCA, Munira takes us through four seasons, and Mike S takes us on a nature trip.
One of the changes wrought by the pandemic was a complete shutdown of travel for most people, and so my contributions to On The Road over the past couple of years have been photos from archives of trips in the past. As the pandemic entered this latest lull, it became possible to think about travel again, and spring fever contributed to that urge as well. After a long period of online teaching and seclusion, Elizabeth (and I) were ready to break out. The final trigger for planning a trip was her upcoming birthday; since it was one of those that has a zero, we wanted to make it special.
So we planned a trip to Southeastern Arizona, staying at a B&B that required proof of vaccination, and near dozens of places offering opportunities for hiking, birding, and sunshine. Over the next few weeks I will be sharing some photos from that trip. It was, all around, a lovely getaway, and all the more appreciated after a couple of winters of isolation and doom-scrolling.
Arizona is a lovely state, offering vistas of sky and topography just about everywhere you look. This red rock mesa (Round Rock, near the town of the same name in northeastern AZ) was actually photographed at the start of our trip home, but it seemed like a good image to start this series. Here’s a Google Street View of the location.
There are many special birds that make Southeastern AZ a birding destination, and this Broad-billed Hummingbird (Cynanthus latirostris) is one of those. I have made several trips to this region over the decades, and it seems, at least to me, that this species is becoming more common. We saw many of these beauties on this trip.
Another hummingbird that is more familiar, at least to West Coast birders, this male Anna’s Hummingbird (Calypte anna) was sporting quite fine spring headgear.
Another special bird of this region is the Painted Redstart (Myioborus pictus), a warbler whose range extends south to Nicaragua but barely into the US in AZ, NM, and TX. This is a very active warbler, commonly seen catching insects near the streams in the oak/pine canyons of the Chiricahua and Huachuca ranges of Arizona.
The iconic bird of the Southwest has to be the Greater Roadrunner (Geococcyx californianus). Yes, as one might guess from the name, there is a Lesser Roadrunner, but its range does not extend into the US. You’ll need to go to Mexico to see that one (Geococcyx velox). The genus name means “ground cuckoo”, and it is indeed a member of the cuckoo family.
White-winged Doves (Zenaida asiatica) formerly were found only in the southwestern states, but their range has expanded to CO and even KS in recent years. They are seemingly able to adapt to human-altered environments, even though they are hunted in many of the states where they occur.
There are a number of thrasher species in the southwestern US, but the Curve-billed Thrasher (Toxostoma curvirostra) is certainly the most commonly seen and heard member of the family. They are typically solitary, but in the breeding season one often finds them paired up, like this handsome couple.
Bushtits (Psaltriparus minimus) are found in many western states, and are almost always encountered in large noisy flocks. Their chatter makes them impossible to ignore, and their diminutive size and nervousness make them almost impossible to photograph. This female (identified by her bright yellow iris) paused long enough at the water feature to allow me to get her portrait.
This handsome corvid is a Mexican Jay (Aphelocoma wollweberi), formerly known as the Gray-breasted Jay because it lacks the blue necklace of the other scrub jay in the region, Woodhouse’s Scrub-Jay (Aphelocoma woodhouseii). Unlike the latter, which tends to be found in more open country, the Mexican Jay is a denizen of the oak/pine canyons of the Southeastern AZ mountain ranges. Always found in flocks, and always noisy, this is another of the iconic species that birders seek in this region.
The Arizona Gray Squirrel (Sciurus arizonensis) is a large arboreal relative of the familiar Eastern Fox Squirrel (Sciurus niger), the bane of my bird feeders back in Kansas. This species, however, has a much smaller range and is in fact threatened by habitat loss. They were fairly abundant in the places we visited, however.