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.
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Looks to be a fun week!
The Arizona Monsoon is a welcome change in the weather, or more accurately, a shift in the wind direction. In the winter in AZ the winds are predominantly from the north and northwest (from CA, NV or UT primarily) and that air is pretty dry. Sometime in the summer the wind direction shifts so that air from the south and southwest (i.e., from the Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific Ocean), bring moist air to the mountains and deserts of the American Southwest. This predictable weather pattern means that summer moisture can make the flowers bloom, and hummingbirds have evolved to move into the state in late summer and take advantage of that abundance. And, as you will see, they move into the state from both north and south.
Monsoon rains in the southeastern AZ mountains come in the form of thunderstorms. Individual storms are usually short-lived and fast moving, but can bring down a lot of moisture in a short amount of time. Here’s one moving across the northern Huachuca Mountains, a bit west and north of Tombstone on the afternoon of the day that I arrived in SE AZ. Click here for larger image.
I spent three full days in the area, and it rained on me at least once every day. The cooler temperatures were welcome, but it can be daunting to photograph fast-moving birds when it is overcast and rainy. My first morning at Ash Canyon Bird Sanctuary was pretty drippy, and it lasted most of the morning. Nevertheless, the birds were there, and so was I, so we both made the most of it. Here is a White-winged Dove (Zenaida asiatica) seeking a bit of shelter under a tall flowering stalk of one of the large agave plants there. Click here for larger image.
One of the special birds at Ash Canyon is the Lucifer Hummingbird (Calothorax lucifer); here is a male at the feeder during the rain. There are at least a couple of pairs of this species at the Sanctuary, but most of the range for this species is in Mexico. And the sanctuary is less than 4 miles, as the hummingbird flies, from the US/Mexico border. Click here for larger image.
This young male Broad-billed Hummingbird (Cynanthus latirostris), looking hopeful that the rain would soon let up, reflected my own thoughts on the matter. Click here for larger image.
Same species, similar pose, different sex and age class. Adult female Broad-billed Hummingbird with her eyes to the skies. Click here for larger image.
After the rain started to lighten up, this adult male Anna’s Hummingbird (Calypte anna) still had some rain on his mind. Click here for larger image.
Cooper’s Hawks (Accipiter cooperi) are a common sight in the Southeastern AZ mountains. This young bird stayed on this perch, preening and cleaning its feathers after the rain, for 30-40 minutes. The doves and other birds stayed away from the feeders for a while. Click here for larger image.
The sun had not yet come out, but the rain had ceased, allowing me to get a better shot at the fabulousness of this male Lucifer Hummingbird. Click here for larger image.
Although he was nearly small and fast enough to dodge the raindrops, this juvenile male Black-chinned Hummingbird (Archilochus alexandri) nevertheless stayed out of sight until the rain moved on. Click here for larger image.
All of the hummingbirds in the pictures above are expected species for this time and place; they are either migrants from the north or local summer residents of SE AZ. But the star of the show that day (and the immediate target species for many of the other birders at Ash Canyon that week) was this young Plain-capped Starthroat (Heliomaster constantia). The breeding range for this species is entirely within Mexico and Central America, but post-breeding dispersal can sometimes bring them to this corner of the USA. This was a lifer for me, and certainly made a rainy morning that much more memorable and enjoyable! Click here for larger image.