Thursday, March 8, 2012

Sedona, AZ, Day 1 - 29 Feb 2012

Robin and I flew to Phoenix, AZ yesterday morning and drove up to Sedona, AZ to celebrate our 20th Anniversary.  First bird out of the airport was a juvenile Great-tailed Grackle, followed by the first of many Common Ravens.  The drive to Sedona was surprisingly quiet, with only a couple of Western Red-tailed Hawks seen along the way.  I did see a possible Prairie Falcon, but couldn't confirm it.
This morning we took a drive to Red Rock State Park on Hwy 89a South.  We followed Google Maps, but unfortunately 'she' directed us to the north side of the SP, which resulted in our driving on a dirt road that ended at a Private Driveway.  But I wasn't upset, we managed to see and photograph several Western Scrub Jays, a pair of Common Ravens, and a Red-shafted Flicker (at left).

The flicker (a female) was a challenge to identify.  The golden forehead and gray throat suggested Gilded Flicker.  But I managed a pic or two that showed a red undertail (Gilded Flickers would have a yellow undertail).  Yellow-shafted Flickers would show a brown throat (not gray) and yellow undertail coloration.

When we did finally reach Red Rock State Park the birding was fast and furious.  We parked at the Visitor Center, and immediately I was drawn to flocks of White-crowned Sparrows and Lesser Goldfinch moving along the shrubbery lining the trails.  More Western Scrub Jays were flying about in the parking lot, so I walked around trying to get pics of them. The White-crowned Sparrow at left (Zonotrichia leucophrys) may be of the subspecies oriantha, which has a dark gray spot between the eye and orange-yellow bill.  I saw several White-crowns that appeared to be of the subspecies gambelli, showing white supraloral stripe that extends in front of the eye to bill (below).

Walking down to the Visitor Center and the feeders I was greeted by more flocks of White-crowned Sparrows, Dark-eyed (Oregon) Juncos, Lesser Goldfinch, and a flock of Chipping Sparrows.  For several minutes I frantically attempted to get photos w/ the Nikon D300, 300/2.8 VRII, SB-800 flash and Better Beamer. The female Oregon Junco (below), with its paler grayish head could be confused with a Pink-sided Junco, which has a more prominent dark spot between the eye and bill.

A pair of male Spotted Towhees appeared near the path to the Visitor Center, and provided some nice looks and couple of quick photos.  As I tried to digiscope them from the open field next to the center a pair of Canyon Towhees also appeared.  I was able to get a couple of quick digiscoped images w/ the new Nikon V1 before the first of several Anna's Hummingbirds arrived.

A nice male Anna's appeared on the tip of bare bush just 30' away, and provided some nice digiscoped images.  The bird had its back to me, so I was unable to see its bright magenta gorget.  Any views of the gorget appeared totally black.
As I attempted to digiscope the bird the first of two Townsend's Solitaires flew in.  They were quite a distance away, but I was able to digiscope a record shot from about 150'.

I was then distracted by another Canyon Towhee that appeared in a snag just a few feet away and provided point-blank photos w/ the Nikon D300, 300/2.8 VRII, SB-800 flash and Better Beamer. 

A flock of Western Bluebirds then flew in overhead and landed in the field behind me. I turned my attention to several bright blue male bluebirds that were foraging in the scrub just 20' away.  It was at this point that I suspected the settings on the Nikon V1 might be messed up.  I attempted to check the menu to make sure that I was shooting Continuous 10 fps, but couldn't find the menu options (?).  I didn't have time to fuss w/ it, however, as another hummingbird appeared just a few feet away, and it was flashing a gorgeous magenta gorget! I managed a couple quick photos w/ the D300s and Better Beamer, but really wanted to digiscope it!

No matter how quick I was, the bird either flew off too soon, or stopped flashing its gorget just as I was about to photograph it.  And I was also noticing that I wasn't getting multiple frames when I pushed the shutter on the V1.

But, I was in a location that required dropping the digiscoping and shooting hovering hummers at the feeders nearby. 

I missed a pair of Bridled Titmice that were near the feeders, but I kept hearing a loud "CHUKK" coming from the trees overhead.  It sounded like a quail, or a very large squirrel, but it turned out to be a female Anna's Hummingbird that was putting out a noise that was deafening!
Having to turn the rental car in before noon, Robin and I had to leave.  Too bad, I was exhausted, but it was fun.  I was never able to leave the Visitor Center area and walk any of the trails.  On the way out, though, I spotted this tiny lizard sunning itself on a rock.  Any help w/ ID would be greatly appreciated!

We returned to L'Auberge Resort de Sedona around lunchtime.  A walk into Uptown Sedona for lunch at the Open Range Bar & Grill was a nice treat.  I was then able to buy a new cool hat to replace my somewhat floppy hat that was worn out. 

As I was reviewing images from the new Nikon V1 it finally dawned on me that the Mode dial had been accidentally switched to "Motion Snapshot Mode", which captures a single frame and a 1-second video at 300fps and plays it back at 2.5 sec speed.  So, instead of shooting multiple frames at 10 fps I was shooting 1-second videos!  Grrr... Oh, well, no better way to learn a new camera than making mistakes of epic proportions.  At least I was able to get a few keepers out of the single-frame captures.

Our cabin at the resort overlooks Oak Creek.  From our window we could see a large flock of mostly Mallard Ducks that frequent the resort.  But among the flock were some nice treats: two pair of Mandarin Ducks, two pair of Wood Ducks, a pair of American Wigeon, and a single Gadwall drake.

I spent a little time in the late afternoon sun digiscoping the ducks from only a few feet away when I was distracted momentarily by a Black Phoebe that appeared along the flowing creek.  It only stayed a few moments, but provided some nice looks w/ binoculars.  A Great Blue Heron flying overhead provided a nice end to my birding day.  It was now time to go to dinner to celebrate our anniversary.

Happy Anniversary, Robin!  Looking forward to another 20 years together.


dAwN said...

Happy Anniversary to the both of you! What a wonderful place to spend your Anniversary. Great photos!

Jeremy Medina said...

That's an incredible shot of the bluebird! Cool post.

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