Friday, March 16, 2012

Sedona, AZ - Day 6 - 05 Mar 2012

The Bell Rock lookout area was such a hit with both of us yesterday that we decided to check it out first thing in the morning.  After a quick continental breakfast we took off for the town of Oak Creek and the Bell Rock hiking area.

Immediately upon arriving I was drawn to a beautiful male Verdin singing in a bush next to the parking lot. I was unable to get the camera out of the car fast enough before it flew off.  Still, great views from just a few feet away.  A Canyon Towhee singing on my opposite side then got my attention, and I attempted to get some digiscoped images of the side-lit bird.  Robin had already taken off for Bell Rock, so I told her I'd catch up.
Once I was done w/ the towhee, I turned my attention to the numerous singing birds in the open scrub next to the parking area.  White-crowned Sparrows were numerous, as were Dark-eyed (Oregon and Slate-colored) Juncos.  No sooner did I digiscope a cooperating White-crowned Sparrow that a Western Scrub Jay presented itself, followed by a very cooperative Spotted TowheeChipping Sparrows were also present, but much harder to photograph through the thick brush they were hiding in.

I began walking the Big Park Loop trail and began hearing 'buzz-trilllllllllll' calls from several locations.  I spotted a tiny bird atop a pine 200' away.  It had a prominent white supercillium that immediately brought Bewick's Wren to mind.  However, the calls in Sibley's Birds of North American (Android App) sounded nothing like the bird I was hearing, so I began to doubt myself.  Still, I got a record image through the scope and continued on.
A pair of Juniper Titmice appeared, but gave no chance to digiscope. They were also too far for the 300/2.8 VRII, as well.  A tiny gray gnatcatcher-like bird with pale eyes popped into view, and I grabbed several pics. I immediately thought Wrentit, but Sibley's has them only in coastal California (?).  I would run into several more of these little critters again, and each time they appeared to be Wrentits.  Turns out that they were female Bushtits (Psaltriparus minimus), common in Arizona.
I then backtracked to the Bell Rock trail to catch up w/ Robin.  While walking the trail near an old riverbed I spotted a covey of Gambel's Quail that popped out from the underbrush.  I was able to get a couple quick pics w/ the 300/2.8 VRII but could not get the scope on them fast enough.  They slowly worked their way out of sight.

As I continued along the trail, I was hearing a "Bee-Buzzz" call that sounded very much like a Blue-winged Warbler.  I then heard more Buzz-trilling calls and again saw Bewick's Wrens singing from tops of trees.  Another Verdin later, I walked by the Bell Rock formation and noticed a small flock of White-throated Swifts circling overhead.  I was able to put the scope on several holes in the rock face where the birds were entering and exiting.  Cool!  Several Anna's Hummingbirds also buzzed by as I walked.

I then digiscoped a Mourning Dove that landed up the trail about 30' feet away.  As I digiscoped it from my distance a passing hiker walked right up to it and took photos from less than 2 feet away...
I ended up walking past it, as well.  It was fine w/ our presence.

Robin and I hooked up, and we began to head back.  I would run into several more Bewick's Wrens, and more Juniper Titmice, but would be unable to get any pics.  Another Spotted Towhee made a nice digiscoping subject.  I then chatted w/ a couple from Ottawa who were asking about the Western Scrub Jays that were flying about - they looked nothing like the Whiskey-Jacks (Gray Jays) they have back home...
We returned to the car, then headed off for lunch.  Robin had a spa treatment in the afternoon, so I headed back to Bell Rock to hike the trails some more.

It was much quieter this afternoon than it was in the morning.  Skies were also very overcast, and it was about 80F.  Still, I walked the Big Park Loop hoping to get a few more digiscoping opportunities. Western Scrub Jays were about the only birds actively calling and flycatching.  Another Canyon Towhee appeared close enough to digiscope in poor light.

As I climbed a large hill I spotted a male Anna's Hummingbird perched atop a dead juniper snag.  With the sun directly behind it I had difficulty digiscoping it. I would have to open the camera to +1 EV in order to bring out the bird's feathers.
It seemed to stay put, so I hiked around behind the snag so the overhead sun would be more to my back.  With slightly better lighting, I spent the next hour trying to capture the bird's magent gorget in full display.  Sadly, the bird liked to sit w/ its back to the sun (is this normal?) and call its buzzy, chatter.

After a while it flew off, and returned to a snag that allowed me to see it face-on.  I fired away at full magnification, trying to steady the scope while a D300s, 300/2.8VRII and binoculars dangled from my neck.  I managed enough keepers (I hope) that I could continue on the trail and leave the bird to defend its territory.

I walked for another 10 minutes or so, then decided to head back to the car.  I passed the hummer, and continued on.  A tiny lizard at my feet scrambled under a rock, so I stepped back and waited for it to come back out.  It popped its head out for several minutes, then scrambled out onto the clay-colored rock.  I slowly backed up enough to photograph it w/ the 300/2.8 VRII, then backed up even more so that I could digiscope it (at left)!
As I began to descend into a dried riverbed I spotted another Anna's Hummingbird perched atop a large bush.  This time, however, I had the Bell Rock formation in the background, so I got to a position that I could digiscope the bird (facing me - yay!) w/ the mountains as a backdrop.  This made for much more pleasing images than I had earlier.

I then spent a few minutes taking photos of the dried riverbed, and some of desert cacti and succulents growing alongside the trail.  I then headed back to the car to head back to the cabin.

Day 7 was a quiet day.  We decided to stay near the resort for the day, so we walked into town to check out some of the art galleries. Forecasts called for strong winds today (up to 60 mph) so we made sure to get back to our cabin before they hit.  It was time to pack, anyway, so a nice lunch at the resort (creekside) was called for.

We headed home on the 7th of March, but had to drive back to Phoenix.  This gave me some time to do some last birding (from the car), which was not too bad.  We stopped at a McDonald's to get a soda, and I was able to spot a pair of Chihuaha Ravens near much larger Common Ravens.  Just outside of Phoenix we stopped at another McDonald's where I found a Gila Woodpecker atop a wooden dumpster of all places.  A Eurasian Collared Dove made for a nice cap to the trip.

1 comment:

Laurence Butler said...

Very nice Jerry! As luck would have it, I'm heading up to Sedona tomorrow! Now I've got a great preview. Thanks for sharing.

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