Showing posts with the label Birds of Arizona

Eared Quetzal Trip Report

You probably don’t need me to tell you that today (November 3rd, 2020) is Election Day. If you haven’t already, please go vote. If you have, it might be healthy to think about something else for a bit. To this end I offer a humble trip report from early October when Nell and I headed to southeast Arizona. The primary target of our trip was a pair of famed Eared Quetzals that had been reported since June this summer. Nell and I were hesitant to chase these birds for months because they’re the kind of birds that draw crowds and, for some reason, we’re uncomfortable with crowds this year. However, the birds persisted through summer and fall, sometimes disappearing only to be re-found in nearby canyons. With the crowds thinning by early October we could almost hear the quetzals squealing to us. Finally, a series of coincident reports of other incredible birds in southern Arizona came through the birding grapevine, coalescing into a perfect itinerary for a quick tour of southeast Arizona. J

The Phainopepla is a curious bird

The Phainopepla is a curious bird. Their tall crest and feathers of silky black or gray are accentuated by piercing blood-red eyes. They reveal luminous white wing patches in their somewhat slow yet buoyant flight. In the Sonoran Desert they fiercely defend their clumps of desert mistletoe from intruders with an inquisitive “Wert?” A charming and charismatic bird at first glance, the closer one looks into any aspect of its natural history, one realizes the veracity of Allan Philips' claim in The Birds of Arizona : "Phainopeplas have no respect for the rules." "And there isn't any need for you to doubt it" -Rum Tum Tugger Phainopepla nitens – sketch by the author "Wert?" call The Phainopepla song is a modest volume series of burry and polyphonic phrases, evocative of blackbird and shrike vocalizations in their complexity. Those that work closely with Phainopepla have noted a bizarre vocal behavior when they're distressed while being handled: th

Whitewater Draw Mystery

Listen to this: (Headphones recommended) It's been over a year since I recorded this in March 2019 and I’m only just beginning to understand what it is. We arrived in the dark of night, the graded dirt road violently vibrating my Honda Fit. After a few minutes of straining to hear, I turned off the radio and listened to the sound of every piece of my car and body rattle.  We pulled into the dirt parking area, shut off the engine and stepped outside. Suddenly free from the confines of the car, our ears began to open up beyond the immediate vicinity, expanding outward in every direction into the darkness...until we heard them. My girlfriend Nell and I had come to Whitewater Draw on the last night of February to experience the Sandhill Cranes that winter at this 600-acre wetland in the southeast corner of Arizona. A huge striking bird, I had only previously seen handfuls of migrating cranes off rural county roads outside Phoenix. Hearing tens of thousands of them at night though, di