Yesterday I complained about how cold it was here in southern Arizona. Mother Nature read my blog last night, and wrote a comment that said “You think THAT was cold?! Just wait ’til tomorrow, sucka!” Here’s what my thermometer read about half an hour after sunrise.
And I was in a warm part of town, apparently. The guy on the radio said it was only 8 degrees. My car engine did (finally) start, and I was on my way to the San Rafael Grasslands southeast of Patagonia. The grasslands (and surrounding hills) are beautiful, but there weren’t many birds out. Perhaps they were still in bed with the covers pulled over their heads. I headed to a spot where Baird’s Sparrows had been reported the week before, but the only bird around was a Kestrel perched in the top of a tree. Kestrels are bird-eaters, so all of the little sparrows had fled the area and it was otherwise deserted.
On the way back I passed a small herd of Pronghorns. Pronghorns are sometimes called antelopes, but although they look a lot like real antelopes found in Africa and Asia, they are not closely related. These are not introduced animals. They are native to the Americas – endemic, in fact, to the western US and tiny adjacent pieces of Canada and Mexico.
The males develop impressive ‘pronged horns’ in the summer and fall, but they drop them in winter so none of the animals I observed had any horns. They did display their amazing speed and leaping ability, however.
Leaving the Proghorns, I drove to Patagonia Lake State Park. I originally intended to stay only an hour or so there, but I kept seeing good stuff and ended up spending most of the rest of the day there. This Anna’s Hummingbird sat in a mesquite tree next to the Visitor’s Center and complained loudly that the sugar water in the hummingbird feeder was frozen solid.
[Bonus question for my Honors Chem students: what is the freezing point of sugar water that contains 1 cup of sucrose dissolved in 4 cups of water? The freezing point constant for water is 1.8 C*kg/mol and the density of sucrose is 1.6 g/mL.]
I meandered down by the lake, and was surprised by this stunning male Elegant Trogon.
Trogons are fairly common in the canyons of southeastern Arizona in the spring and summer, but almost all of them retreat back to Mexico in the winter. So this was a real treat. The trogons I have seen in the past have been somewhat shy, but this bird seemed totally unconcerned with my presence. He posed for quite some time so that I could get photos of his beautiful reddish-orange belly, brilliant yellow bill and eye ring, and bright green back.
And then he wanted to make sure I got a close-up of his coppery tail. Do these iridescent green feathers make my butt look big?
Heading back to the car, I was taking pictures of cacti and some other plants.
That’s when I found owl #11 for the year, a Western Screech-Owl. They live in King County (where I live!), but I just haven’t managed to come across one in Washington state yet. I scored a sleeping one in Arizona though, and here is the obligatory bad picture of the owl snoozing away in deep cover.
I’m going to look for Thrashers tomorrow, and then maybe Nutting’s Flycatcher on my last day in Arizona. Unless it’s below -15 F. In which case I’m cranking up the heat and watching TV in bed.