Click here to return to 2011 Quest for Birds:† http://www.barry15.com/2011_Quest/

 

 

Thursday, April 15

 

It has been several weeks since I added a bird or wrote here, but earlier this week there was a report on Tweeters (the local birding mailing list) of an owl that was roosting in my local park, Juanita Bay Park.† I went down there on Tuesday and Wednesday, but despite good directions about where to look, I didnít find it.† On Thursday I went again, and again couldnít see it, but then a couple of women came along.† One of them had had it pointed out to her earlier, and she was bringing her friend back to see it.† Sure enough, it was there, nestled back in the foliage, and once I was shown where it was, I was able to add WESTERN SCREECH-OWL (lifer) to my year list, as well as to my life list and my park list.† Outstanding!

 

I got some pictures, but they donít show very much, because the bird blends in so well and was so deep in the branches.† Here is the best one, taken with flash, so the eye shows up red:

 

 

 

After enjoying the owl for a while, I wandered around, and as I was ready to leave, I heard a bird singing.† It turned out to be a Spotted Towhee, and the little beauty flew in and posed for my camera, right in front of me.† Here is my favorite picture of the little darling:

 

 

I like the picture very much, because of the colors and the pose of the bird.

 

So, it was a successful twitch for the Western Screech-Owl, and that brings me to 216 species for the year, of which 23 are lifers.† It also brought my Juanita Bay Park list to 84 species.

 

Next week I head out for Arizona and New Mexico, and I expect to add a whole lot of new species on that trip.

 

 

Thursday, April 21

 

John Day, Oregon.† My Southwest trip has started, and today I made it to John Day, on my way to Las Vegas.† One day of driving down, two to go.

 

Despite it being late April, I had snow showers on Snoqualmie Pass, getting out of Seattle.† But, it was no problem, and the drive was easy. †I had about 290 miles of Interstates and then about 130 miles on two lane roads.

 

As for birds, I didnít stop for any birding, but I did see a Bald Eagle flying, then a couple of Turkey Vultures.† I understand that Turkey Vultures migrate south in the winter, and that they are just now coming back to Washington.

 

Just after crossing into Oregon, I saw my only year list bird of the day, BLACK-BILLED MAGPIE.† It was a species that I knew I was bound to see on this leg of the trip.† Later I saw a couple more of them.† I was happy to see them, though, because now Iíll try to see if I can add a new bird to my year list every day of the trip.† That will be tough on some of my travel days, but it will make a nice challenge for me.

 

I had my humble lunch at a rest stop outside of Pendleton, Oregon.† I would have liked to eat at a table, but it was about 45 degrees with a strong wind blowing, so I ate in the car.† I had some leftover beef stew meat, a slab of cheese, and a handful of crackers.† Much healthier than the Mickey Dís lunches I will no doubt be eating later in the trip.

 

On the subject of health, I weighed 262.4 this morning.† I have only been less than that on one day in the last twenty years or more, and that was the day before I left for Australia in October.† It is also within a good sneeze of being down 90 pounds from my high of 352.2 in April of 2009.† I expect that Iíll gain 10 or 12 pounds on this trip, of which 5 pounds or so will be water weight, thus easily lost afterwards.† Iím absolutely determined not to gain back the weight, and I hope to lose a lot more, eventually.

 

After eating lunch, I needed to get gas, and there was a Pilot station just up the road, it turned out.† I like Pilot gas, so I stopped there.† The good news was that it was only $3.76 a gallon, but the bad news was that all eight pumps had cars at them, with people waiting at most of them.† In Oregon, you canít pump your own gas, and they had just one kid to cover all eight pumps, so I lost ten minutes or so, waiting.† As it turned out, there was only one gas station at all convenient after that, and it was $3.99 a gallon, so I was glad I had waited.

 

At Pendleton, I left the interstates and started climbing.† There were several passes, and the highest one at first was over 4200 feet.† Snow on the ground, and snow flurries at the summit, but the temperature outside stayed above freezing, so the driving wasnít impacted.† Later, when I got about 30 miles from my destination, I started climbing again.† This time there was several inches of snow along the road, and the temperatures dropped below freezing for several miles.† It was snowing as well, but not real hard.† Still, when the temperature dropped below freezing, I slowed down.† That pass was over 5000 feet.† After that, I was back in the sunshine, and coasted into John Day.

 

This is my first time in John Day, I think, and itís a nice looking little town.† There is one traffic light, but a number of gas stations and motels.† There is even a McDonalds, which surprised me.† My motel is very nice for the $61 Iím paying, which includes tax.† A fairly large room with king size bed, microwave, fridge, and wi-fi.† It smells nice and fresh, too, which I appreciate.† Ground floor and I could park right outside.† My kind of place, for sure.

 

I got here by 4:40 or so, so it was only about 7 Ĺ hours of driving today.† Thatís enough for this old fart, and itís over one-third of the way to Vegas, my first real destination.† I got some ice from the ice machine and had some bourbon ďon the rocksĒ.† But, the ice is more like shaved ice than cubes, so it is kind of like having a bourbon slushie.

 

For my dinner, Iím having mixed nuts with my drinkies, and I plan to heat up one of my Hormel Compleats meals (chicken in marinara sauce with pasta) and add some leftover chicken breast I brought from home, to jack up the protein.† A very nice evening repast for the Old Rambler.† I wish I had some cookies or something, though.† Maybe Iíll go for a walk before I eat and see what I can find.

 

So, that is my report of my first day of the Southwest trip.† One bird added to the year list, to bring me to 217 species so far, of which 23 are lifers.† The trip is underway!

 

 

Friday, April 22

 

I got to bed early last night and was up by 6:15 this morning.† I had my homemade breakfast of chicken breast, cheese, and applesauce and was on the road by 7:45.† The temperatures were in the high 20ís, but the sun was shining and the road was dry, so it didnít slow me down.† At first the landscape was conifer forests, but soon it turned into sagebrush high desert, which lasted the rest of the day, with some rocky outcrops and wet meadows with shallow ponds from time to time.

 

I got gas in Burns, Oregon, and moved on to Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.† As I approached Malheur, it got very birdy, and I saw some good stuff.† There was a field of thousands of Snow Geese, for example, more Snow Geese than I had ever seen before in one flock.† There were also a number of Sandhill Cranes.† I normally see them in the winter in central California, but these were on their breeding grounds, and soon they will be nesting and raising their young.† They are really beautiful birds, and I regret that I didnít take the time to get some pictures.

 

I also saw Willets and Long-billed Curlews.† Again, I usually see them in California in the winter, but they are also on their breeding grounds in Oregon, or else they are still migrating; Iím not sure which it is.† Horned Larks, Canada Geese, Greater White-fronted Geese, Turkey Vultures, Common Ravens, Kestrels, and finally my year list bird of the day Ė YELLOW-HEADED BLACKBIRD.† I didnít get a picture of the first ones I saw, but I saw lots of them later, and here are some pictures:

 

 

I went to the visitorís center at Malheur, but I didnít see any interesting birds around there.† Part of the gravel road through the refuge was closed, but I didnít really have time to drive that stretch anyway, so I bypassed that on the paved highway.† I got some pictures of ducks in that area.† Here is a picture of a male Redhead, a duck I donít see very often:

 

 

And here are some Cinnamon Teal, which I think are interesting looking ducks and aptly named:

 

 

I drove part of the gravel road, and there were lots of birds, but nothing especially interesting or photogenic.† I stopped at a tiny place at the south end of the refuge called Frenchglen, and had my lunch there (ham, cheese, Fritos, and cookies).† There was a group of young people there, some of them with binoculars or cameras, and I asked one guy if there were any interesting birds around.† He told me about a Great Horned Owl nest just down the street, so I went looking for it after I finished eating (first things first, you know, and the nest wasnít going anywhere).

 

I found it and got some pictures of the owlets in the nest.† Here is the best one:

 

 

One of the parents was roosting nearby, right out in the open, so I took a lot of pictures of him/her, too.† Here is one of them:

 

At the same place, I saw a Brown Creeper, but didnít get a good enough picture to show, and also a Northern Flicker:

 

 

 

Along the way, I got a picture of a shaggy mule deer, too:

 

 

As you can see, it was a picture kind of day.

 

After I left the wildlife refuge, the driving got pretty boring.† It was high desert, with a series of passes over 5000 feet.† Not much out there at all; it kind of reminded me of Australia, in terms of remoteness.† Very little traffic, and maybe three or four gas stations in about 200 miles of driving.† A couple of those werenít even really gas stations, just places that had a gas pump.

 

Oh yes, I forgot to mention, I checked out the Malheur Field Station, which is where my friend Fred and I are planning to stay for four nights at the tail end of this trip.† It was a pretty bleak place, in the middle of the sagebrush desert, and the trailers are pretty dreary looking, too.† Still, we will have a full kitchen and wi-fi, and we will be in the middle of the refuge, when all other accommodations are 30 miles away, so Iím glad to have our trailer booked.† Spring will have come by then, I think, and the place will probably be looking less bleak, too.

 

As I approached my destination for the day, Battle Mountain, Nevada, I stopped at a rest area, just to stretch my legs for a few minutes.† There were some birds around, too, as it turned out.† There were some very vocal Great-tailed Grackles, but I wasnít able to get a decent picture of them.† There were also a couple of Eurasian Collared-Doves, which I have written about before.† Here is a picture of one:

 

 

There were also a couple of Killdeer there, and I got some pictures I like of those very attractive little birds.† Here is one:

 

 

So, I finally got to my latest home away from home, the Big Chief Motel.† It is surprisingly nice, with a microwave and fridge in the room Ė and only $42 plus tax.† I wasnít able to make my laptop connect to their wi-fi (shades of Australia Ė there is something about this computer that is causing a problem, and I canít figure out what it is).† In this case, I have a workaround, though.† I have an app for my cell phone that allows me to connect the laptop to the cell phone with a USB cable and use the cell phoneís data plan to connect to the internet for me.† I donít think that Verizon likes me to do that, but it seems to work fine.† I have much better cell phone reception out here in the middle of nowhere than at my house in Kirkland Ė I guess it is easier to provide coverage in a flat desert valley than in a hilly area with tons of trees and buildings.

 

So, that is Day Two of my 2011 Southwest trip.† Lots of pictures today.† I kept my streak going by seeing the Yellow-headed Blackbirds today.† Weíll see if I can notch up another year list species tomorrow, as I drive to Vegas.

 

 

Saturday, April 23

 

Yesterday was a big photo day, and today there are none.† I drove from Battle Mountain, NV to Henderson, NV, which is a suburb of Las Vegas.† It was about 7 hours of very boring driving, although it did have its moments, as when I had to go over a 7500 foot elevation pass while it was snowing.

 

I had gotten to bed pretty early last night, and was up by 6:45 and on the road, after brekkie at Mickey Dís, at 8:00.† I set my GPS app on my cell phone for Tonopah, my first waypoint, and hit it south.

 

Today was again mostly two lane roads, with lots of sagebrush and snow-capped mountains all around.† Fortunately, Nevada has a 70 mph speed limit on suitable two lane roads (and 75 on I-80), so I was able to make good time and stay almost legal.

 

I got gas in Tonopah and continued on south.† Somewhere along in that stretch, I saw a very large bird on a power pole, so I slowed down and stopped, to take a look.† It was too big for anything I have seen this year, other than an eagle or a Turkey Vulture, and Iíve never seen a Turkey Vulture perched on a power pole.† It turned out to be my first GOLDEN EAGLE of the year.† An excellent bird to get.† I had it at only 60% for the whole year, based on the fact I have only seen one two or three times before, but now it is in the books.† It was nice to get a year list bird so early in the day, too; it took the pressure off.† I had been concerned about being able to identify a Golden Eagle, compared to an immature Bald Eagle, but there was no doubt this time.† The golden colors were very evident.† I watched it as it flew away.† A massive beauty of a bird.

 

In Tonopah, where I got gas, I could tell I was in a state with legal prostitution, as there were six brands of condoms in machines, in the rest room.† A little way down the road was the Shady Lady Ranch, and some time later I passed Angelís Ladies Brothel, which had a big sign advertising ďTruck ParkingĒ.† I guess you need to know your customer base.

 

I was looking for a rest area to eat my humble lunch, and I finally found the town park in Beatty.† I had my ham, cheese, and Fritos there, with my cookies as I drove on south.† It was kind of interesting to look at the landscape ahead and guess which way the road would go, around the various mountain ranges and hills in my path, as I just plowed on and on.

 

I made excellent time, and my plan was to stop at a place called Corn Creek, just north of Vegas, to look for birds.† As it turned out, I had plenty of time to do that.† Corn Creek was a real disappointment, though, as there was construction of a pond going on, and besides that, there really werenít very many birds around.† I had intended to go back there tomorrow, but my short time there today was sufficient, and now Iíll have to work up another plan for tomorrow.

 

I didnít see many birds at Corn Creek, but I did add some common ones to my year list.† One of the first ones I saw, singing his heart out at the top of a tree, was a male PHAINOPEPLA.† It is an all black bird with a red eye and a raggedy crest on its head.† I also saw flycatchers in three separate places, and eventually decided they were all WESTERN WOOD-PEWEES.† It is a common bird, and one I will see many of, but today was the first of the year.

 

On the way back to the highway, I saw a bird at the top of a tree and stopped to see what it was.† Another very common bird, but my first WESTERN KINGBIRD of the year.† As I watched, it flew off to a point about 30 or 40 feet away, chased an airborne insect, and came back to its tree with a lovely dragonfly, which it proceeded to scarf down.† So, although Corn Creek was disappointing, it did provide three common birds for my year list.† That brings me to 222 species for the year, of which 23 are lifers.

 

I got to Henderson, which is east and south of downtown Las Vegas, about 4:45, and was all moved in and ready for my first drink of the day by 5.† I am in a Comfort Inn, and it is very nice.† It is far and away the best place I have stayed so far, which is appropriate and by design, as Christina will be flying into town on Monday to join me.† It feels good to be settled into a place where I will be staying for three nights, as I am very tired of one night stands in cheap motels.† There is a casino next door, Sunset Station, and Iíll have to decide whether to visit tonight, to see if Iím walking around lucky today and donít even know it.† This could be the day that I canít lose a bet, and I would never know it if I didnít place a bet.

 

Thatís my report for today.† What a life!

 

 

Sunday, April 24

 

Before I start into todayís report, I wanted to mention one thing that I forgot to mention yesterday.† Somewhere on my interminable journey through the sage brush high desert yesterday, my cruise control failed to work.† Now, this had happened once at home, a few weeks ago, and I was going to take the car in for it to be looked at, but it was working the next time I tried it, so I decided there was no point in having it looked at if it was working.

 

I use cruise control almost all the time on these long stretches, and it would be a major inconvenience to not have it.† Well, one theory I had developed when it happened before was that it might be a computer failure, since it worked at a later date.† So, yesterday when it happened, I stopped when I could, and ďrebootedĒ the car computer, by turning off the engine and restarting it.† Well, what do you know, cruise control worked fine after that!† So, Iíll worry about it every time I go to use it now, but at least it is working again for now.† We will see how it goes.

 

I slept poorly last night and didnít get up until 7:15 this morning.† The hotel has a great free breakfast (sausage, eggs, bagels with cream cheese, and make-them-yourself waffles, although I passed on them this morning.† I didnít have any of the biscuits and gravy either, but I might try that tomorrow.† Anyway, it was 8:50 by the time I got on the road this morning, with all my morning routines to get through.

 

As I mentioned yesterday, I decided not to go back out to Corn Creek today, and I went to Red Rock Canyon instead.†† It is a really beautiful place, just to the west of Vegas.† There is an excellent Visitorsí Center and a 13 mile scenic drive, with places to stop along the way, lots of hikes, and some picnic areas.† It was a beautiful day today, Easter Sunday, and the place was totally packed with people.† Screaming kids, people with dogs (some of them off-lease, against the rules), blaring boom boxes with salsa music, bicyclers, motorcyclers, runners, etc.† It was a total zoo, but a beautiful place, nonetheless.† Here is a picture:

 

It costs $7 per vehicle to get in, and the cars were lined up at each of the three entrance lanes all morning.† I got in for free with my old farts federal Golden Age pass, so I felt like I beat the system.

 

I looked around the visitorsí center, and saw my first bird of the day there.† I was very excited, as it was obviously a flycatcher of some kind, and there were several flycatchers I still needed that are common there.† I got some pictures of it, and had it narrowed down to two species in my mind (my field guide was back in the car), when I got a better look and realized it was a Sayís Phoebe, a nice little bird, but one I had seen in the Monterey area in January.† Here is a picture:

 

 

As you can see, it had just caught an insect.† The giveaway that it is a Sayís Phoebe is the reddish brown color under the hind end of the bird, plus the lack of wing bars or eye ring.

 

So, I left the visitorsí center and headed out on the scenic drive, with all the other Easter Sunday visitors.† I drove very slowly, letting people pass me on the one-way road, and I stopped a couple of times when I heard birds, but the only one I saw was another Sayís Phoebe.† I turned off the scenic drive at Willow Springs, and I managed to find a parking place at the first stopping area.† I had heard a bird singing there, and finally located it, a BLACK-CHINNED SPARROW, one for my year list.† I couldnít tell what it was, and I had to go back to my field guide in the car to identify it, but once I saw the picture in the book, I knew that was it.† I had it at only 30% for the whole year in my spreadsheet, so I was very glad to see one.† I tried for a picture, but none of them came out good enough.† I did get a marginal picture of one later, though, a little up the road, and here it is:

 

 

I also saw a cute little chipmunk at that first stop on the Willow Spring spur road.† Here is his picture.† Is he a cutie, or what?

I walked up the road from the parking area at Willow Spring, but there werenít many birds.† I imagine that the hordes of people and their dogs wasnít helping, nor was the fact that it was coming on to mid-day and it was windy to boot.† I saw some Ruby-crowned Kinglets and the Black-chinned Sparrow I showed the picture of, but nothing else of interest.† Still, it was a really beautiful place, and a really lovely day.† The temperature was in the mid-60ís at that point, and eventually it got up to about 80 in the afternoon.

 

I finished the scenic drive, and after stopping at the visitorsí center to use the nice rest room there, I went on to an area called Calico Basin, just up the road from the scenic drive, and part of the Red Rock natural area.† I ate my lunch in the car there, and then walked the boardwalk from the Red Spring picnic area (mobs of people there, too).† Here is a picture from that boardwalk:

 

 

 

Despite the crowds and the shortage of birds, it was still a wonderful day out in nature.

 

On that walk, I tried something different.† One of the birds that were supposed to be there is the Black-tailed Gnatcatcher, which would be a lifer for me, and I only have it at 30% in my spreadsheet.† So, in a suitable looking place, I played the call on my phone birding app.† Almost immediately, a couple of little birds showed up, obviously gnatcatchers.† I thought I had my lifer, and I looked them closely, but didnít get any pictures.† When I got back to the car, I looked in my field guide, and what I had seen were the very similar male and female Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, a species I had seen in the San Diego area earlier this year.† Bummer!† I had thought I had a lifer, but it was still a great little bird to see, and I appreciated it.

 

Before getting back to the car, though, I got a great look at still another flycatcher, but I wasnít sure what species it was.† When I looked it up, though, it was definitely an ASH-THROATED FLYCATCHER, another one for my year list.

 

So, after that, I headed back into town.† I used my GPS app on my phone to plan my route back to Sunset Park, a nice place for desert birds that is right in town, and not far from my hotel.† Well, if I thought Red Rock Canyon was crowded on Easter, it was nothing compared to Sunset Park!† It was as packed as I could imagine any city park being.† They must have a ton of parking places, as the whole place was really overrun with people.† The birding part of the park is a road around the back that goes through a remnant piece of desert habitat.† I hadnít been there for several years, but I was glad to see that most of the desert remnant is still there.† I drove around there and parked in a place where I have seen birds in the past.† I got out and walked a bit, and I soon saw one of my target species for that park, GAMBELíS QUAIL.† It is a very common bird, but it was still very cool to see several pairs of them in the area, running across the road, in most cases.† Here is a picture of a male at the top of a bush, acting as a sentry no doubt, for the family down below in the bush:

 

They look very much like California Quail, with some subtle differences.† One of the pairs I saw had a family with them already.† Here is a picture of two of the little ones.† Are they cute, or what?

 

They canít have been more than a day or two old.† I saw five chicks with that pair of quail.

 

But, wait, the day wasnít over yet.† I saw a hummingbird and was able to get a good enough look at it to ID it as a BLACK-CHINNED HUMMINGBIRD, another bird for my year list.† They are very common, and I expect to see a lot of them, but here is a lousy picture of the first one of the year.† I hope to have a better picture eventually.

 

 

So, that was the end of new birds for the day.† I did get some pictures of a male Great-tailed Grackle, though.† I love that name Ė Grackle.† Back in the 60ís and maybe early 70ís, I used to love to read a column by a Los Angeles Times columnist by the name of Jack Smith.† He used to mention grackles, which are an eastern bird, although this particular species of grackle has been moving westward and is now in the L.A. area.† Anyway, here are two pictures of the male Great-tailed Grackle.† I couldnít decide which one was better, so will show them both:

 

 

 

So, that is my report for the day.† Not many new birds, but it was a really fun day, and I enjoyed being out and about.† Iím now up to 226 species for the year, of which 23 are lifers.†

Monday, April 25

 

I was up and out shortly after 8 this morning.† Not exactly early, but early for this old night person.† I went on over to the Henderson Ponds, which is a bird watching place that is also the sewage treatment plant for Henderson (and maybe Las Vegas, too, for all I know).† It is open to birders, with a sign in and with your signature on a release of liability.

 

I wandered around the ponds and saw some good birds and got some pictures.† Here is a Common Moorhen, a bird I saw in San Diego, but this was the first time I had an opportunity to get a good picture of one.

 

 

There were also American Avocets there, an attractive bird I had seen in the Monterey area in January, but again, had not gotten a good picture of them.

 

There were also a number of Ruddy Ducks around.† The blue bill of the males in the breeding season (spring) is interesting, I think.† Here is a male and a female:

 

 

The male is the gaudy one, of course.

 

There were also a number of Eared Grebes around.† I see them in the winter, typically, at which time they are a very nondescript gray and white color.† Here is one in breeding plumage:

 

Another bird I see in the winter in California is the Black-necked Stilt.† They look pretty much the same in the winter as in the summer.

 

 

One of the birds I had wanted to get a picture of was the Greater Roadrunner.† Everyone knows the roadrunner, from the cartoons of our youth.† I got some pictures of one quite close, but Iím disappointed that it blends into the background so well that you canít see the bird very well.† Still, it is a roadrunner, and I was very pleased to see one so close and be able to photograph it.† Here are two shots of it:

 

 

So, all that was well and good, but I hadnít seen any new birds, and my time was running out.† There were several species I was looking for, supposedly common at the site, but none had shown themselves.† I was starting to worry about being skunked today when there on the path in front of me was an ABERTíS TOWHEE, one of my common target species.† It flew up into a little tree, and immediately a couple of little birds started interacting with it Ė they were a pair of BLACK-TAILED GNATCATCHERS (lifer), the bird I had thought I had found yesterday, before deciding that yesterdayís birds were actually Blue-gray Gnatcatchers.† I got long looks at the pair today, and got some pictures as well, and now I think that maybe the ones I saw yesterday were indeed the Black-tailed ones after all, but I am counting them today.† Here are a couple of pictures of the male:

 

 

 

The female is very similar, but less blue colored and without the dark cap.† It was a great one to get, as I didnít really expect to see this species, and they donít live in the parts of Arizona where Iím going.

 

So, I went from being afraid of not getting any new birds today to having two, all at once, just as my birding time was coming to a close for the day. I did get some more pictures, though.† Here is a Spotted Sandpiper:

 

And here are some Western Sandpipers:

 

 

To finish things up, here is a picture of a couple of Mourning Doves:

 

 

But, wait, although the birding was over for the day, officially, on my way back to the hotel, I saw a bird on a wire over the road, and I swear it was a Galah, an Australian cockatoo that I saw a lot of in Australia.† I turned around as soon as I could, but it was gone when I got back.† It had to be an escapee from a pet owner, but it was a real surprise to see it in the desert of Nevada, when it was such a familiar bird of Australia.† I wish I could have gotten a picture of it.

 

So, the birding part of the trip was over for now.† Christina was flying in to the Vegas airport at 12:20 PM, and I needed to pick her up.† I had one little glitch, though.† I needed gas, so I filled up and then went back to the hotel to check on her flight.† When I went back to the car, I noticed that the door to the gas filling place was open and the gas cap was missing.† I remembered that when I was getting gas, I had just finished washing the windows when the pump clicked off, and I realized that in the activity of replacing the window squeegee and putting the gas hose back on the pump, I had forgotten to put the cap back on the gas tank.† I went back to the gas station and asked if anyone had turned in a cap, but I also realized I had most likely put it on the back of the car.† I drove around the block twice, back to the hotel, but couldnít find the cap.† I did manage to find an auto supply store on the way to the airport and got a replacement, but it made me late, and Christina had to wait for 20 minutes or so.†

 

Oh yes, that wasnít the only car adventure of the day.† I had noticed on the way down that my gas mileage was lower than usual, and I had also noticed that at least one of my tires looked low.† There was a tire place across the street from my motel, so this morning I stopped and had them check the air in the tires.† Sure enough, they all were low, and one was especially low.† It will be interesting to see if my mileage improves now.

 

So, I picked Christina up at the airport and we drove over to the Strip.† We parked the car and walked along the strip, enjoying the sunshine and the people.† We visited the Venetian, one of the more interesting hotels, I think, and here is a picture of Christina, taken with my cell phone camera.† It is the first picture I have taken with my cell phone:

 

 

We walked some more, and visited the shops at Caesarís Palace, but by then, I was getting hot and very tired of walking.† This old rambler isnít in the shape he was once in, and that is for sure.† So, we called it a day and went to the hotel.† Tonight we walked over to Sunset Station and had a lovely dinner in their Italian restaurant, and I won back half of what I had lost last night at the tables.† I ended the trip down $100.† Tomorrow morning we head for the Grand Canyon and more adventures.† I wonder if I will see a new bird for my year list tomorrow.† Time will tell.

 

 

Tuesday, April 26

 

Today Christina and I drove from Henderson to the Grand Canyon.† We got away about 9 oíclock and got here about 2:30, with stops for gas and lunch.† It was excellent road all the way, and an easy drive.† It was also a lot greener than the barren wasteland of Eastern Oregon and Central Nevada.† The high temperature here at the Grand Canyon today was about 57, and the low overnight is supposed to be below freezing.† I think it is almost 5000 feet in elevation.† It was quite windy all day.

 

I was concerned about seeing a new year bird today, as I didnít have any particular birding places to stop along the way.† As it turned out, we couldnít find a rest area or park for lunch, so we just pulled off onto a side road and ate in and around the car.† We had each packed a lunch for our self, so we didnít need to find a restaurant or anything.† After we ate, I drove down the road a little way to turn around, and there was a bird on a wire Ė one of the few birds we had seen all day, other than ravens and Turkey Vultures.† It was an interesting shade of blue, not too large, and I thought it was a Mountain Bluebird at first.† It flew before I could get the binoculars on it, but I got out of the car to see if I could locate it again.

 

I saw a bird land at the top of a tree down the road, and as I walked down that way, three or four birds flew over, calling a distinctive call as they flew. †They were also blue, and by this time I was thinking of a bird I had targeted for this area.† I didnít get a good enough look for a positive ID, but I fired up my iBird app on my cell phone and played the call of the bird I suspected.† Sure, enough, that was it, no doubt about it Ė PINYON JAY (lifer).† I hadnít recognized them at first because they are a small jay and I hadnít ever seen one before.† I will try to get a picture of one before we leave here.† They donít live in Southern Arizona, so this area around here is my only chance to see them on this trip.† I only had them at 30% for the whole year, so seeing them right off the bat, before we even got to the Grand Canyon was fantastic.† It also meant I didnít have to go looking for birds when we got here, which was just as well, as it turned out.

 

The parking situation here is absolutely horrendous, if you are staying in one of the hotels on the rim.† The organization of the place also leaves a lot to be desired, and we werenít able to get into our room until after 4.† I parked in a loading zone so we could unload the car and cart all our crap up to our room, and then I went and found a parking place, not all that far away, as it turned out.† The place is overrun with people and the roads are mobbed with cars, but maybe away from the actual village area it will be less congested.† Of course, the scenery is fantastic, and the weather is fine, if a bit cool and a lot windy.† It is supposed to warm up later in the week and the wind is supposed to die down.† We will see.

 

So, no pictures today, and only the one bird to report.† It keeps my streak alive though Ė a new species for my year list every day of the trip.† So far.

 

I have a few species to look for tomorrow, but could easily get skunked, so we will see.† My sister, Kathy, and her husband are due to arrive here early tomorrow afternoon, so we will have some company to help us enjoy the park.† C will probably go off hiking with them on Thursday, while I go looking for birds.† It is going to be tough to find a new one on each of the next two days, but Iíll give it a shot.

 

By the way, we donít have internet access in our room here, but Iím using the app I downloaded for my cell phone to connect my laptop to the internet via a USB cable to the cell phone.† So, Iím using the internet on my laptop, through the data connection that Verizon provides for my cell phone.† As I understand it, Verizon doesnít like that, but I havenít been able to find anything in my contract to prohibit it.† Yet.† I'm definitely "back-dooring" them, and I suspect they will eventually put a stop to it.† They want to sell you the same service for $20 a month, for a quite limited amount of data (2 GB), but this app I got for free works around that, for unlimited data, theoretically.† Technology sure is amazing.

 

 

Wednesday, April 27

 

Before I get into todayís report, I wanted to mention two things from yesterday.† First of all, I was wrong about the elevation here.† Instead of being almost 5000 feet in elevation, it is over 7000 feet.† When I walk around, I can really feel it, too.† Second, my friend Ted emailed me and said he thought we had seen Pinyon Jay on one of our birding trips, in the hills north of Vegas.† I remember that day, and he might be right.† Iíll need to check my little notebook from that trip, when I get home.† Pinyon Jay might not have been a lifer yesterday.

 

This morning Christina was up and out of here by 5:30, to see the sunrise on the canyon.† I managed to sleep a little more, and I rolled out of bed at about 6:30.† The canyon was still beautiful in the morning light, even at the late hour of 7.† I went over to the dining room at the Bright Angel Lodge for a nice omelet breakfast.† On my way back to the room, there was a bird out in front of our room, and I couldnít tell for sure what species it was.† It seemed to be a female bluebird, but I couldnít remember if it was a Western Bluebird or a Mountain Bluebird.† When I got back to the room and looked it up, I thought it was a Mountain Bluebird, which would have been a year bird for me, but I got some pictures, and I could see later that it was actually ďonlyĒ a Western Bluebird, a species I had already seen in California this year.† Here is the little sweetie:

 

 

 

Right after that, a couple of other little birds flew in and started feeding in the grass, and they turned out to be Pine Siskins, a species I have seen before this year, but one I have never gotten a picture of, so here is a picture of one of this morningís Pine Siskins:

 

 

About 9 or so, C and I set out walking along the rim of the canyon, heading east.† It was pretty cold still, but the wind wasnít blowing and the sun was shining brightly.† It was a really lovely morning, and there werenít many people out walking at that time of morning.† Here is a picture of C, bundled up against the cold:

 

 

I wasnít expecting much in the way of bird action, but I did have a short list of possibilities for birds I might see for my year list.† We did see a pair of Western Bluebirds, the first of several pairs we saw this morning.† Seeing the males and females together helped me realize that the first one this morning was indeed a Western Bluebird.† Here is a picture of one of the handsome males:

 

 

 

We werenít seeing anything new, though, so I played the song of one of my target species, so we would know what to listen for.† Immediately, like a shot, a MOUNTAIN CHICKADEE flew in to check us out.† He didnít stay long, and I didnít get any pictures, but I had my year list bird for the day, just like that!† It was amazing how responsive he had been to his own song.† Later we saw some others, but again, no good looks and no pictures.

 

A little while later I decided to try that trick again, and played the song of another of my target species.† Again, just like with the chickadee, a JUNIPER TITMOUSE (lifer) flew right in.† This one stuck around, flitting from tree to tree, flicking his wings and generally acting like he was pissed off that another titmouse might be in his territory.† I have seen his cousin, the Oak Titmouse in California often, and this one looks exactly the same.† They used to be one species, called Plain Titmouse, but a few years ago they were split into two.† The only difference as far as I can tell is that they live in different places.† At least it makes it possible to know which one you saw, depending on where you see it.†

 

I got one interesting picture of this one.† It had been sitting near the top of a little tree, and just as I took the picture, it flew off.† But, the way it took off was to first jump into the air, and then spread its wings and fly.† I got it before it had opened its wings.† I call the picture the Jumping Juniper Titmouse.† There is some motion blur, as it was moving fast, but I think it is a cool picture:

 

 

As you can see, it is a very plain gray bird, but with a cute little crest.

 

We continued along the rim, enjoying the views of the canyon and the lovely morning.† Another blue bird flew in, a Western Scrub-Jay.† That is a bird I see commonly in California, but the ones here seem more blue and less scruffy looking.† Here is a picture of that guy:

 

 

We got all the way to Yavapai Point, which is about 2 miles from our room.† We enjoyed the views from there, and I took some pictures.† Here is a portion of the Bright Angel Trail, which goes down to the river eventually.† This is a series of switchbacks.

 

 

If you look in the upper let corner of that picture, you might be able to make out a mule train carrying passengers down into the canyon.† Here is a crop of that picture, showing not only the mule train, but you can see hikers on the trail as well:

 

 

At Yavapai Point, we saw a couple of little birds flitting around, and one turned out to be another one of my target birds, a CHIPPING SPARROW.† Once I had identified it, I played its song on my cell phone, and it was very responsive, too, repeatedly approaching us, so I could get its picture.† Here it is:

 

The song playback was working so well that I decided to try it again for another target species.† I played the song, and again, one immediately flew in, straight to us, and perched in the trees to check us out.† It was another lifer, a BLACK-THROATED GRAY WARBLER (lifer).† It posed for some pictures, but the only ones I got that came out any good were from a fair distance.† Nonetheless, here is the little darling:

 

 

What a morning it had been.† I added four species to my year list, two of which were lifers!† I was amazed.† I think that Christina must be some kind of birding lucky charm.† Maybe I should be dragging her along on all my birding trips.

 

To finish off the morningís walk, for me, anyway, we walked to the grocery store in the village, where C got some food and I got a bottle of bourbon, as I am running low, and one wouldnít want to run out of alcohol on a birding adventure.† What would I do at 5 oíclock if I didnít have any booze for my drinkies?† On the way to the store, there were some Mule Deer by the trail, so I got this picture:

 

We ate our lunches there at the store, and then C went on the visitor center and I took a shuttle bus back to the room and processed my pictures.

 

After that, I walked along the rim to the west, enjoying the sunny day and the canyon.† As the day went on, it got more crowded, and I wasnít seeing any birds without my birding lucky charm, Christina.† I took some pictures of the start of the Bright Angel Trail, the most popular trail down to the river.† Here is a picture of the start of the trail:

 

 

You can see at the left of that picture that the trail goes through a hole they have carved out in the rock.† Here is a close-up of that part of the trail:

 

Eventually, Christina phoned me, and we met at the site for the ďCondor talkĒ.† This was a ranger telling a crowd of maybe 40 or 50 people about the California Condor ďprogramĒ.† The condors were almost extinct, and in 1982 there were only 22 left alive.† After a lot of controversy and argument, it was decided to capture them all and start a captive breeding program.† A condor only lays one egg every two years, so it is a long, slow process.† But, they are now up to 184 of them in the wild, and 200 more in captivity, being bred.† When the birds mature, they are released in California and here at the Grand Canyon.† I had read about the program, and I had really hoped to see one when we were here, but I thought it was very unlikely.† Technically, California Condors are not ďcountableĒ by birders, because they are all captive bred and/or raised these days, or are descendents of ones that were captive bred.† I had decided ahead of time that I was going to count the species for my Quest anyway, if I could see one.

 

The talk was interesting and amusing, although it meant sitting for almost an hour.† All the condors have plastic numbers and radio transmitters on their wings, so they can be identified and tracked.† Our ranger told us about his favorite condor, number 33.† Number 33 is a female, and I guess she was the first one he saw when he came to the Grand Canyon.† Condors mate for life, and she is mated with number 87.† They have a nest to the east of the village, and he has seen her raise at least one chick successfully.† He didnít say anything about our chances of seeing one of the condors, but from what I have read, they used to be easier to see, but the rangers try to discourage them from hanging around where people are, in order to protect the birds, so you donít see them as commonly as you used to, a few years ago.

 

So, after the condor talk, we met my sister, Kathy and her husband, Jim, and had a drink or two in their room, before we went over to dinner. †As we left for dinner, I decided not to take my binoculars, although I feel kind of naked without them when on a birding trip.† Well, wouldnít you know, on the way to dinner, I took a look over the edge to the area where the condors are known to roost in the late afternoon, and there was one, sitting on a ledge, a couple of hundred yards away!† I could tell immediately that it was a CALIFORNIA CONDOR (lifer), because of the size.† Christina told me, no, itís only a raven, but I knew, so I immediately took off at the nearest thing I can still do to a run, back to the room to get my binoculars.† When I got back, sure enough, it was a condor, but I couldnít quite read its number with my binoculars.† So, I went rushing off to the car, to get my scope.

 

I got back and set it up, and damned if it wasnít number 33, the very bird that the ranger had been telling us about this afternoon!† You could read her number clearly through the scope.† Unfortunately, she had her back to us, so you couldnít see her head, most of the time, except when she would turn to one side.† At that point, I mentioned out loud that I wished I had thought to bring my camera from the room, and C kindly offered to go get it.† In the meantime, I was sharing the view of number 33 with everyone around.† I lowered the scope so short people and kids could see it, too, and there was a steady stream of passersby who took a look.† C got back with my camera, and I took some pictures, hoping to get some that were worthwhile.† It was a long, long shot, but I snapped away.† At one point, a couple of ravens flew in and interacted with the condor, and the size comparison was great.† A raven is a pretty big bird, but they were dwarfed by the condor, which has a nine and a half foot wingspan.†

 

You can read more about the condor program here, and see a closeup picture of number 33, if you scroll down:

 

http://www.nps.gov/grca/naturescience/california-condors.htm

 

I see by following some links from that page that number 33 was hatched in the Los Angeles Zoo in 1996 and was in the first group of condors to be released into the Grand Canyon area.† She didnít lay an egg last year, as she was being treated for lead poisoning for several months.† She and her mate, number 87, are believed to have produced an egg this year, and soon there will be volunteers watching the nest site, to see how it goes.

 

Here is my best picture, showing her bare, pink head and a raven for size comparison:

 

 

So, it was really exciting to actually see a condor, and even more so for it to be the one the ranger had talked about this afternoon.† It was also great to have been able to share the sight with so many people.† There must have been several dozen people who looked through my scope and saw her.† Many of them were very appreciative for the opportunity.

 

Finally, though, I had to put away the scope and go to dinner.† What a great ending to a great birding day.

 

So, with the addition of 5 more birds to my year list, of which three were lifers, I am now at a total of 234 species, of which 26 are lifers (assuming that the Pinyon Jay yesterday was not a lifer, which is what I will assume until I can confirm it from my notes at home).† Now, Iíll have to see what I can find tomorrow.

 

 

Thursday, April 28

 

Well, I knew today was going to be a tough one to see any additional birds for my year list, as I saw so many yesterday.† This isnít a very ďbirdyĒ place, and I had exhausted most of my target species already.† Before I get into todayís birding adventures, though, I have one story from yesterday that I forgot to tell.

 

Yesterday at the end of the morning, when Christina and I were in front of the park headquarters, just before going to the grocery store, a couple of little birds flew into a bush by the sidewalk.† They were flitting around in there, and I got a good enough look to know that they were something I had never seen before.† They were mostly gray, with a black face and reddish brown across their back in a wide swath.† The bill was horn colored and sparrow-like and they were the size of a small sparrow.† As I said, they were nothing I had ever seen before, so I was excited.

 

I tried for a picture, but the birds would settle just long enough for me to almost get the shot off, and then they would move on a little, mostly on the ground.† I chased them across the parking lot, waiting while they made their way under cars and kept moving along.† I took at least half a dozen pictures, but they all came out blurry, as they always flew on just as I snapped the picture.† I must have chased them for 5 or 10 minutes, all over the parking lot.† When I finally gave up and went back to join Christina, she said she had talked to a woman who had suggested they might be juncos.

 

OK, that did it, the penny dropped.† They were indeed Dark-eyed Juncos, but a different subspecies than we get in the northwest.† They are the same size and shape and behave the same way, but the colors are completely different.† The subspecies or race we have in the northwest is called the Oregon Race, and this one is called the Gray-headed Race, and they live in the mountain states.† There are 3 more races in other parts of the country.† So, I thought I was getting a lifer, and it turned out to be a species that I see every day at home in our yard.† I only count species, not subspecies, sorry to say.† Disappointingly, I didnít even get a picture, but I expect I will see plenty more of them on this trip and will be able to get pictures of them then.

 

So, that was yesterday.† Today Christina, Kathy, and Jim hiked down into the canyon, and I drove east along the rim, stopping various places to look and listen for birds.† It was really barren of birds today, for me.† I didnít have my lucky birding charm (Christina) with me, I guess, so the birds just stayed away from me.† I played the Canyon Wren call in many places, but never got any response nor ever saw or heard one.† Likewise the Red-naped Sapsucker, another possible one, in the right places.

 

It was getting on for noon, and I was almost as far as I intended to go, Desert View, which is about 25 miles east of Grand Canyon Village.† Finally, at the last view point before Desert View, I was looking at the scenery, scanning and listening for birds, when I happened to look through binoculars at the Watchtower, which was maybe a mile away across a side canyon.† A bird flew across my field of view, and I had a brief look at it, and could see it was a VIOLET-GREEN SWALLOW, a bird that is supposedly very common along the rim of the canyon, but one I had not seen before this year, let alone here.† I ended up seeing a half dozen of them flying around, high in the sky.† I couldnít even see them with the naked eye, so it was just lucky that one happened to fly across my field of view while I was looking at the Watchtower, which is a stone tower built many years ago.

 

So, I had my bird for the day, and I havenít seen any more since then.† I went on to Desert View and had my humble lunch (ham, cheese, crackers, vegetables, and cookies) with a cup of coffee at the snack bar at Desert View.† There were House Sparrows flitting around, but nothing else.†

 

It was a remarkably birdless day today, in fact.† I could still see something else this afternoon or evening, but it isnít likely, as I donít plan on leaving the immediate area of our room and the lodge, where we will have dinner.† Iíll look for a condor again this afternoon, of course, but I donít expect to get lucky that way two days in a row.

 

No pictures today, so far, anyway.† I took several of a raven, but I donít think any of them are anything special, so Iím not going to bother even downloading them from the camera.

 

Tomorrow Christina and I plan to drive to Sedona, Arizona, where we plan to stay for two nights.† That will be at a much lower elevation, and I expect it to be much hotter there.† I do have some birds to look for around there, but it wonít be easy seeing a new species tomorrow, when we will be traveling for half the day.† I thought today would be the day my streak would end, and now I expect it will be tomorrow, but we will see.

 

The Grand Canyon has been a great place to visit, and the birds I managed to see exceeded my expectations as well.† Bring on Sedona!

 

 

Friday, April 29

 

We were up and out of our Grand Canyon lodge by about 9 this morning.† C had already walked about five miles along the rim of the canyon.† We had breakfast in our room, loaded up the car, and hit the road about 9.

 

It was an easy drive to Sedona, and we stopped on the way into town at Slide Rock State Park.† We had stopped in Flagstaff and gotten Subway sandwiches for our lunch, which we ate at Slide Rock.† I had a bird list for Slide Rock, and I was hoping to get something for my year list there.

 

We walked around the park, and there wasnít anything at first, but eventually we started to see a few birds.† There were some swallows flying around, but I decided they were all Northern Rough-winged Swallows, which I had gotten in
San Diego already this year.† I saw a bird in a field, and it turned out that there were two of them, and they were LARK SPARROWS, a bird I have only seen one or two times before.† So, I had my bird for the day.

 

We continued to walk around, and after a while, I saw a PAINTED REDSTART (lifer), flying from one tree to another.† I would have liked a closer and longer look, but there was no doubt what it was Ė a black bird with a white patch on its wing, and a red breast.† Very distinctive.

 

We continued to walk around, but didnít see many more birds, although I did see a couple of House Wrens, and they were very responsive to their calls, played on my phone.† The main attraction at Slide Rock State Park is the creek that runs through it.† It runs over rocks, and there are swimming holes and places that are deep enough to jump into off the rocks.† We watched families enjoying the water on this sunny 76 degree day in the spring.† I wonder if that creek runs all summer.† If so, it would be extremely popular on a summer weekend.

 

After that, we went on in to town, and checked out our motel, but check in time was still an hour away, so we looked around and got some groceries in for breakfast for the next couple of days.

 

After checking in to our room, we drove to a view point over the city and walked around a little.† The only birds we saw were Western Kingbirds.† The views were certainly spectacular, though.† The town is surrounded by cliffs and stone formations in all kinds of interesting shapes.

 

That was it for the birding today.† We went out to a Mexican restaurant, and now we are having cookies and coffee in our room.† Another great vacation day and two more birds for my year list.† Tomorrow we plan to check out a couple more local parks, and in the afternoon, C will probably walk up through the town, checking out the tourist stuff they are selling here.†

 

The town is obviously very much oriented toward tourism.† It cost us 5 bucks to park at the view place we went to, ten bucks to get into the state park, and an overlook near the airport actually had a guy on duty, to collect the one dollar suggested donation to look from the viewpoint there, over the town.† One of the parks we want to go to tomorrow is another state park, and I assume it will be another ten bucks admission, but the other park is a federal fee area, so my old farts federal pass should get us in there for free, as it did at Grand Canyon National Park.

 

Today got up into the mid to high 70ís and was quite windy.† Tomorrow is supposed to be sunny, calmer, and the temperature a very civilized 65 degrees for the high.† I hope they have it right.

 

 

 

 

Saturday, April 30

 

Before I get into todayís report, I have a couple of pictures from yesterday afternoon.† Here is Christina, with one of the Sedonaís rock formations in the background:

 

 

And, here is a picture of Sedona itself, showing some of the rock formations that surround the town:

 

 

They had the weather forecast right, and it was a beautiful day today, although a little breezy by late afternoon, and the temperature started dropping early.† It was pretty chilly by the time we walked back from dinner.

 

So, this morning we had our humble breakfasts in our room.† It is less expensive that way (which I like), and it is also faster, so we were out looking for birds before 9 this morning.† Not exactly early, by birding standards, but pretty good for us (OK, for me Ė Christina is a morning person).

 

We started the day at Crescent Moon Ranch Recreation Area.† It is a Federal Recreation Area, so I expected my federal old farts pass would get us in, but no, they have figured out a workaround to extract more money from the tourists.† It turns out that the federal government has contracted out the management of this recreation area to a private company, and the private company doesnít have to honor the federal passes.† So, it cost us 9 bucks to get in.† I donít mind paying, but it seems dishonest or something to me, to get around the pass situation by contracting out the management of the area.† It seems like a pretty cushy deal for the company with the contract.† They donít have to own the land or make the improvements (presumably), just maintain the place (presumably) and collect the fees from the tourists.† Nor do they have to honor the various federal passes.† But, the alternative would be a still larger federal deficit, no doubt, so maybe it is the best way.

 

It is a lovely park, and there were very few people there when we got there.† We walked down by Oak Creek, looking and listening for birds.† Almost at once there was a bird calling repeatedly in a big tree, and eventually we saw it.† It was red, and I assumed it was a Northern Cardinal, which I knew lived around here.† But, as it turned out, it was another red bird, a male SUMMER TANAGER (lifer).† Later I got pictures of a male, and here is one of them:

 

 

The female showed up later, too, and here is a picture of the two of them.† The female is in the lower right corner of the picture, partially blocked by leaves, and is a sort of greenish yellow color:

 

We walked along Oak Creek, which was an extremely pleasant walk.† There were birds singing and we saw various ones, but nothing exciting for a while.† Eventually, Christina spotted a big black bird up in the sky, soaring around.† We both assumed it was a Raven, or maybe a Turkey Vulture, but it turned out to be a COMMON BLACK-HAWK (lifer).† This was very exiting, as it is mostly a Mexican bird, and is rare in Arizona, and only lives in a pretty limited range.† This was my one chance to see one, and I did.† I had it at 1% in my spreadsheet, as I didnít think I had any chance of seeing one.† I even got some pictures, and although they are very distant, they do show the bird and all the diagnostic details.† Very broad wings, short tail with a wide white band and a white tip, and black leading and trailing edges to the wings.† There was no doubt whatsoever about the identification.† Here is a picture:

 

 

I liked it so much, here is another one:

Here is an example of the superb scenery along the way.† This is Oak Creek with the rock formation called Cathedral Rock in the background:

 

 

Another bird for my year list was also another lifer.† We heard and saw a couple of GILA WOODPECKERS (lifer).† Here is a picture:

 

We walked around the Crescent Moon place some more, but I didnít see anything else new, or get any other pictures worth sharing.† About 11:30 or so, we headed over to the neighboring Red Rocks State Park.† On the way, a couple of red birds flew across the road, and I figured they were Summer Tanagers, as we had seen several of them so far.† But, I stopped anyway, and by golly, at least one of them was a lovely male NORTHERN CARDINAL.† This is an Eastern bird, but I had seen them before on an east coast trip, and I also have seen them in Hawaii, where they have been introduced, so it wasnít a lifer.† Still, it was another one for my year list.

 

At Red Rocks State Park, we had to pay another 10 bucks to get in, but that was expected.† Arizona is quite aggressive about extracting money from the tourists.† The motel tax in Sedona is over 13%, for example.

 

We had our Safeway sandwiches at the park, and then went to the visitor center.† I had read that there were bird feeders there, and sure enough, there was some good action there.† The hummingbirds were the stars, and while I didnít see any new hummingbird species there, I did enjoy taking pictures of the little darlings.† Here is a male Annaís Hummingbird, in flight:

 

 

We walked around the park, hearing birds, and seeing some, but I couldnít identify any of them.† There were a couple of little gray ones, one with two wing bars and one with no wing bars, but I couldnít tell what species either one of them was.† I saw Sayís Phoebes and a number of Lesser Goldfinches, but nothing new that I could identify.

 

Back at the feeders, I got some more pictures, and also picked up another lifer, the LADDER-BACKED WOODPECKER (lifer).† Both the female and the male visited the suet feeder, but neither one stayed very long, and I didnít get any pictures, sorry to say.† I did get pictures of Black-chinned Hummingbirds, though, and here is a male:

 

 

Here is a White-crowned Sparrow:

 

And, here is a male Lesser Goldfinch:

 

 

So, that was it for the birding today.† On the way back to the room, we stopped at the Church of the Holy Cross, which is a famous church situated in an incredibly beautiful location on a hillside.† For dinner we walked over to the BBQ place up the street, and had a great dinner.

 

Tomorrow C is scheduled to fly home from Phoenix, and I head on to Tucson and southeast Arizona for the hard core birding part of the trip.† So far the trip has been very successful.† On the trip so far, I have added 26 new species to my year list, of which 8 of them are lifers.† That brings me to 242 for the year, of which 31 are lifers.† Iím still hoping to get to 300 on the trip, so I have a lot of work to do still.† The weather has been very hot and dry in southeast Arizona recently, and Iím hoping that doesnítí handicap me.† We shall see.† One day at a time, and tomorrow I am going to have to see something new in the Tucson area, to keep from breaking my streak of a new bird every day of the trip.† I have a couple of places to stop near Tucson, but I donít know how to judge my chances of actually seeing something new at either one of them.† Stay tuned for the next report, to see how I go.