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.
It’s Albatrossity Monday, then it’s Mr. Frog on Tuesday after being postponed because Elma was literally on the road (without good access to internet) when I had first scheduled Mr. Frog! BillinGlendale takes us on a surprise trip back in time, then we finish up the week with JanieM and the second installment from Mike S (now its a democratic congressperson!)
Week 2 of Arizona Spring is again a diverse set of avian creatures, some of which are unique to Southeastern AZ, and some of which are more wide-ranging. Many of these were photographed at the Ash Canyon Bird Sanctuary, whose story is worth highlighting. The sanctuary is tucked into the bottom of a canyon in the Huachuca Mountains, and is currently operated and maintained by Sheri Williamson and Tom Wood, two extraordinary advocates for the natural world. We were fortunate to spend an evening with Tom and Sheri on this trip.
Near the top of the list for SE AZ specialty birds sought by visiting birders, this Bridled Titmouse (Baeolophus wollweberi) is a noisy and sprightly denizen of the oak/sycamore canyons of the region. Its perky crest combined with that stripy face distinguishes it from all other North American members of the family. Like the Mexican Jay featured in last week’s post, the specific epithet, given by the ornithologist Charles Lucien Bonaparte, is in honor of the person who collected the first specimen, allegedly in Mexico. But nobody has been able to figure out who Wollweber was, when he lived, or where he collected…
This Canyon Towhee (Melozone fusca) had just finished an extended splashy bath in the water feature, and was drying off its tail feathers in the spring sunlight. Formerly known as the Brown Towhee, it was split from the very similar California Towhee (Melozone crissalis) in 1989. Ranges and vocalizations of these two nearly identical species do not overlap, but if one showed up in coastal California, it might be ignored by most birders.
Winter was hanging around later than usual in SE AZ this spring, and one of the winter birds that was still in the area was this Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis). This one is a representative of the Pink-sided Junco (J. h. mearnsi), which spends the summers in the high mountains of Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, and Alberta. It is a very pretty variation on the junco theme.
Another winter lingerer was this Lincoln’s Sparrow (Melospiza lincolnii), which seemed to be in very fine spring plumage, but had not yet departed for parts north, where it favors high-altitude dense shrubby and boggy areas for nesting habitat. It has always been amazing to me that so many of our birds can adapt to very different habitats in winter vs. summer, and that they do this twice a year!
Ruby-crowned Kinglets (Regulus calendula) are regular winter visitors to the southern states, and regular migrants nationwide, but tend to be jumpy and difficult to photograph. So I attempted to get some shots of this one, and they are OK as far as images go, but I am still seeking one that will flash that crimson crown at me in a photo!
Lesser Goldfinches (Spinus psaltria) are a common species of the western US, rarely venturing east of Texas. They come in two distinctive regional morphs , differing in the color of the backs of the males. This one, with the greenish back (S. p. hesperophilus), is the most common version in the western part of the range. The next image is a black-backed morph (S. p. psaltria), aka Texas Goldfinch. One little-known fact about this species is that the males incorporate phrases from other species (both birds and mammals) into their territorial song repertoire.
Adult male Lesser Goldfinch, black-backed form.
Acorn Woodpeckers (Melanerpes formicivorus) are wild-eyed and wildly vocal residents of the southwestern US, Mexico, California, and Oregon. Throughout this range they are associated with oaks, and they stash immense quantities of acorns in holes drilled into trees and posts. This is a highly social species, and raucous flocks of these birds are regularly encountered in these mountains.
Many species of hummingbirds are found in this part of Arizona, some quite common and some quite rare. This is one of the rare ones, Violet-crowned Hummingbird (Leucolia violiceps), and there are really only a few places where it can be reliably found in the US. One is the Paton Center for Hummingbirds near Patagonia, another site with an interesting history, where many North American birders have added it to their life-lists.
The final species for today is the Pyrrhuloxia, aka Desert Cardinal (Cardinalis sinuatus). Its gray plumage, stubby yellow bill and wispy crest distinguish it from the more familiar Northern Cardinal, which is also found in this part of Arizona. This is an adult male.