Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Snow and Birds in Saguaro NP

1. Saguaro NP-kab Saguaro National Park-Rincon Unit 2-21-13

Snow in the desert is such an unusual thing that when it snowed last month on the 20th giving us over 2” of snow on the valley floor I got up early on the morning of the 21st and headed for Saguaro National Park to take pictures before it all melted away. As I mentioned in my previous post, apparently I was not the only person with this idea for when I arrived there was a line waiting to get in.

2. BT sparrow-kab Black-throated Sparrow on Ocatillo

Of course, snow on cacti was my primary objective but you can bet I was counting birds as well! This little black-throated sparrow was one of the first birds I spotted.

3. cholla snow-kab I pulled off the road to photograph this cholla cactus. Car after car pulled over or drove past me as I snapped away. I was starting to get irritated. Too many cars! Too many people!

4. rincons-kab A view of the Catalina Mountains to the north.


6. cactus snow-kab All of the desert looks frosted as I look southeast towards the Rincons.


7. palo verde snow-kab Snow on a Palo Verde Tee!


8. road to clouds-kab Road to the clouds!


9. clouds n snow-kab Clouds!


10. Catalinas-kab Snow-capped peaks!


11. RT in mist-kab A Red-tailed Hawk soars out of the misty clouds!


12. phainopepla-kab A female Phainopepla watches me warily.


13. catalina view-kab 

14. cactus and clouds-kab 

15. snow caps-kab 

16. snow-kab 

There we so many cars and so many people that I was not having much fun. As I drove slowly with my windows open watching and listening for birds I suddenly heard a bird song I did not recognize. For once there was no one behind me as I stopped in the middle of the one-way loop road. I could hear so many birds down in the wash. I had just passed a parking lot for a trail that I had never been on before, so I quickly backed up and got out of the car.

17. trailhead-kab Across the street was the sigh for the trail, but I had heard the bird a few yards up the road, so I walked along the pavement and cut down a side path into the wash.

18. path-kab Though the snow was still patchy I walked cautiously down the trail. All the time I could hear the strange bird’s song. I walked quietly and slowly so as not to startle it.

19. saguaro-kab On the canyon slope before me I saw small birds moving. I spotted sparrows and Rock Wrens and then a pair of Canyon Towhees! All through Big January and the Great Backyard Bird Count I had looked for this species of bird. Finally I found it! It was my first sighting of Canyon Towhees for this year!

20. east-kab The Rincon Mountains formed a great wall to the east of me,

21. north-kab while a look to the north revealed a glimpse of the Catalina Mountains

It was here in the brush alongside this wash that I spotted the mysterious bird! It was perched high on a branch singing away. It’s back was to me and I was hoping to creep closer and get a better look and even a photo of the bird which I suspected was a Crissal Thrasher. The bird’s long tail hung below as it lifted its beak in song. Its overall appearance was a gray-brown, and as I got just a little bit closer the bird dived for the ground, classic Crissal Thrasher behavior! In comparing the song I heard to the song on my smart phone I was fairly sure of my identification. As the bird emerged once again deeper in the brush it taunted me with its song. I knew I would not be getting a photo of it today.

22. ABTO-kab There were plenty of other birds to catch my eye and I found an Abert’s Towhee scratching in the debris almost beneath the same tree that the Crissal was singing in. Northern Cardinals and Pyrrhuloxias moved through the dense brush as well. What a birdy place!

23. pool-kab I marveled at the pools of water formed by the melting snow.


24. north view-kab Finally I was away from all the people and alone with nature. I felt a sense of peace wash over me. I am so glad that I got off the road and onto the trail! I cannot believe that in all the times I have been to the park I have just driven by this spot.

25. hillside-kab Though cars still drove by on the road above, the steep canyon walls minimized the noise. I was in a world of my own.

28. huttons vireo-kab As I headed back toward the parking lot I found a Hutton’s vireo eating an insect!


29. cleaning beak-kab Like all good birds, he cleaned his beak on a branch when he was done eating!


30. view-kab Everywhere I turned was yet another beautiful vignette!

31. path to parking-kab I followed the trail back towards my car.

32. rincons-kab With one last look at the snowy Rincon’s…

33. road-kab it was time to hit the road!

34. Saguaro NP-kab Good-bye until next time, Saguaro National Park!


Birds seen at Saguaro National Park on February 21, 2013:

  1. Gambel’s Quail-2
  2. Red-tailed hawk-1
  3. Mourning Dove-1
  4. Gila woodpecker-5
  5. Ladder-backed woodpecker-1
  6. Gilded Flicker-2
  7. Hutton’s Vireo-1
  8. Common raven-5
  9. Verdin-1
  10. Rock Wren-1
  11. Bewick’s Wren-2
  12. Cactus Wren-10
  13. Northern Mockingbird-1
  14. Curve-billed thrasher-7
  15. Crissal thrasher-1
  16. Phainopepla-10
  17. Canyon Towhee-2
  18. Abert’s Towhee-3
  19. Rufous-winged Sparrow-8
  20. Brewer’s Sparrow-2
  21. Black-throated Sparrow-12

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  1. ah very cool Kathie. We were too low to get snow but got some ferocious hail in Phoenix even so.

    What a weird winter it's been.

    Lovely post and great photos.

    1. Laurence, this is the most snow I have seen in Tucson in all the years I lived here. It sure paid off to get off the beaten path and take the trail less traveled! I will have more on this location later!

  2. Kathie, what a lovely place to bird. The snow looks pretty. Great list of birds and beautiful photos. Happy Birding!

  3. So weird to see snow in those settings.

  4. Beautiful scenic shots Kathie, has Kathryn sent you some snow.{:))

    1. Roy, I think she has! I need to send her some warmth!

  5. What a super-duper wonderful post. The desert with snow is just to die for and finally being on your own in the wonder of these surroundings must have been like being in heaven.
    I so very much wish I could fly and get to see this for myself.
    At least I can suck up these wonders from your photos, I'm so glad you are back in Arizona.

    1. Arija, I wish you could see it as well! Thank you. I am finally adjusting to being back here and I am starting to be glad.

  6. Great outing! Love the juxtaposition of snow and desert. Congratulations on the Crissal Thrasher!

  7. Hi Katie...I do love this post, so much gorgeous scenery even if it is snow !! Poor cholla cactus all covered!!
    I am real taken by the Phainopepla,love it!!
    Awesome pic's!!
    Thanks for your comments!!

    1. Grammie, I am taken by Phainopeplas as well. Fun and interesting birds!


Welcome to my nest! I hope you will enjoy spending time here with me and the birds. Thank you for your comments. I will try to get back to you as soon as I get back from counting more birds.