View from Henderson, Nevada Bird Preserve
Click here to go to the City of Henderson Bird Viewing Preserve site
Below: The incomparable Grand Canyon
Above: Sunset Crater, Arizona

Below: Sunset from our adobe abode in White Mountains, New Mexico
Above: Lincoln windows to the past

Below: Western style and hospitality are abundant in old New Mexico
Long-eared Owl                                        Barn Owl

Below: Flock of Short-eared Owls at Hansen Dry Lake in the Mojave Desert
In New Mexico during in the spring? Don;t miss Bosque del Apache NWR (above) or
White Sands NM (below)

Some of our favorite locals top to bottom:

Gambel's Quail - all puffed up and ready to go

Western Meadowlark  - singing it's heart out

Green-tailed Towhee - mmm...seed good
View from the San Pedro National Riparian Conservation Area                                               Below: the multi-hued  Ramsey Canyon, AZ
Where the deer and the Antelope play
Left: Caprock Wildlife Area, NM
Below: Carrizo Plain, CA
Oh yeah! Lot's of Reptiles , too!
We’re starting to plan our third season of Southwest Desert Nature Trips for Spring
2007 now. If you are interested in flying along with us, give us a hoot!


Until then, here's a few more for your viewing pleasure. Happy Trails!
Above - Clockwise from top left: Broad-billed Hummingbird ; Chirichua Mountains ; Ajo, AZ at night, Joshua Tree National Park,
Organ Pipe National Monument, Cactus Wren on Cholla Cactus
Clockwise from top left: Death Valley Panamint Mountains, Northern Harrier, Ano Nuevo SP, CA ; Curve-billed Thrasher, Organ Pipe NM,
AZ ; Rain Orchid, Point Lobos Preserve, CA ; Carrizo Plain, CA ; Elephant Seal, Ano Nuevo SP, CA ;


Copyright Notice: Naturally, all photography and text is property of Nature Trip and is not to be used, copied or reproduced without
permission.
South Western Deserts Spring 2006
Nature abounds in the American South
West Deserts this spring and on each of
three Nature Trips we were rewarded with
intimate wildlife viewing, multitudes of
flowering flora, new friends and
reacquainting with long time friends. We
were graced with highly variable but
generally beautiful spring weather as we
toured Southern California, the southern tip
of Nevada, Arizona and New Mexico. All
told, the adventures scheduled from
February 25th - April 15th included 30 days
in the field with two  groups from the
Midwest U.S. & another from the
San Francisco Bay Area.
During these eight to twelve day excursions we
visited a huge variety of habitats including
Mojave, Chihuahuan, Sonoran desert, canyon
lands, badlands, huge lava fields, High Sierra
desert, Arizona’s Sky Islands, Oasis and
desert riparian corridors. All offered
fascinating study areas and a multitude of
opportunities to witness wildlife and flora
adaptations in some of the most beautiful and
at times extreme conditions the Southwest has
to offer. Spring travel tends to bring out the
adventurer in us all and variable clothing
options paid off as we experienced
temperatures from the low teens (South rim of
the Grand Canyon) to over 100 degrees
(Organ Pipe Cactus NM) Fahrenheit and big
skies that went from incredibly clear (oh, the
stars!) to rainbows in the deserts. Our last day
of the last trip was spent in Sequoia-King’s
Canyon NP where the snow depth was over
our heads in spots while two days earlier we
witnessed an awesome hot, blasting
sandstorm from the safety of our van in the
southern Mojave.
Male Great-tailed Grackles strutting
their stuff for an appreciative audience
Some of the parklands and areas featured on
these Nature Trips included: The Mojave
Desert Preserves, Death Valley NP, Carrizo-
Plains NWR, Henderson Bird Preserve in
Nevada, Grand Canyon NP, Sevilleta &
Bosque del Apache NWR, Carlsbad Caverns
NP, Gila Cliff Dwellings NM, White Mountains,
N.M., White Sands NM, Bear Mountain Nature
Conservancy, Chirichua NM in AZ., The
amazing San Pedro National Riparian
Conservation corridor, Ramsey Canyon and
Sonoita-Patagonia Nature Conservancy
Preserves, Organ Pipe NM, the Salton Sea,
Joshua Tree NP, the Kern River Preserve and
Sequoia-King’s Canyon NP.


Below: Swainson's Hawks replace Red-tails as
the predominant Buteo in New Mexico
While searching for and identifying wildlife
and flora were all three group’s focus, there
was ample time to bliss out on the incredible
scenery as well. Most of the locations where
we bunked down were inside or adjacent to
nature preserves so that we could be outside
observing during the most wildlife active
periods of the day.
The folks in these parts are famous for
their hospitality and we did not once
meet a grumpy local during any of the
adventures (although at least one town
claims to have one). One of the cultural
highlights included a tour of a town on
the National Heritage Register,
Lincoln, N.M., where we were treated
to an informative and humorous first
person history lesson from a resident
who was born and raised in the town
during the 19-teens. The whole town is
a living relic from the Wild West era
and it was great fun to imagine what it
might have been like during the Billy
the Kid and Pat Garrett days.
Surprising how sparsely visited it was
at the time of our visit but that only
aided our imaginings. Another surprise
was a stopover in Winslow AZ. La
Posada Hotel, a beautifully historic
Santa Fe Railway Hotel is a must see
if you find yourself “standing on a
corner in Winslow, Arizona”. With a
small group you can probably find a
table at the Brown Bag Café, a
Navajo/Mexican style restaurant across
the street, which was one of my favorite
meals of the trips.
One of the birding highlights of the
Southwest has to be the amazing variety
of owls in the deserts. On many evenings
and on several daytime occasions we
had sightings or calls of owls. Very close
up viewing of Great Horned, Barn,
Long-eared and Short-eared Owls. We
were also able to hoot-up Western
Screech, Spotted and Northern Pygmy
Owls. One evening in the Tehachapi
(CA) area, which still has good stands of
mature oak woodlands despite all the
development, we heard several Great
Horned owls hooting around us. Figured
I would give a hoot back to see if they
might come in closer for a look. Nothing
seemed to happen for about a minute
and then suddenly we were rushed by a
Barn Owl who let out this very loud
blood-curdling scream just before
flashing into view. It was electrifying to
say the least. No wonder that this
world-wide species is believed to be the
cause of ghost and demonic spirit myths
from early human times. Other avian
diurnal denizens included Common
Poorwill (JTNP) and Lesser Nighthawk
(Ajo, AZ) sightings at dusk.
Another memorable evening of native
entertainment came at the natural
entrance to the Carlsbad Caverns.
This area is a well-known wildlife
magnet and while we were waiting and
hoping to see the Mexican Free-tail bat’
s exit we were treated to excellent
views of Cave Swallows by the
hundreds darting in and out of the
cave and were consistently serenaded
by Rock Wren and Pyrrhuloxia.
Plumbeous Vireo skulked in the desert
shrubs while Rufous and Broad-billed
Hummers zinged all about. The bat fly
out itself is just one of the most
amazing natural phenomenons on the
planet  - words just won’t describe it –
you just have to go see it.
                                                                                       Carlsbad Caverns                                    Pyrrhuloxia serenading

Mexican Free-tail bats by the hundreds of thousands  exiting the Cavern                                          Broad-billed Hummingbird
We didn’t really catch up to the neo-tropic bird
migration until we hit the south. Once we
ventured south of Truth or Consequences, N.M.
around April 7th, the sprinkle of migrants we had
been seeing turned into a shower. Vermillion
Flycatchers by the boat load, Myiarchus, Empid
and Tyrannus Flycatchers out the ying-yang.
Swallows filled the air and warblers began to be
seen in good numbers. Painted Redstart
presented dazzling displays and we had to keep
putting our eyes back in after being knocked out
by Lazuli Bunting, Hooded and Bullock’s
Orioles.  Although not the biggest by numbers,
my personal favorite birding day was April 11th.
Started with a dawn walk on the San Pedro River
led by the good folks at Southern Arizona Bird
Observatory (SABO), hiked up Ramsey Canyon
(great butterflies, too) and ended back at the
river at dusk to see Screech Owls flying and
American Beaver just starting their work shift.
Big Raptor day, too including Golden Eagle,
White-tailed Kite (rare for this area), Northern
Harrier, American Kestrel, Prairie Falcon,
Cooper’s, Sharp-shinned, Red-tailed, Gray, and
Swainson’s hawks. Added two new bird species
to the old life list including Lucy’s Warblers and
Albert’s Towhee, too. Considering we only
checked out West Coast shore birds for a few
hours on the first trip, we were pretty happy to
be able to identify 256 species of birds for the
three trips. Well over 150 species on each
individual leg of the journeys.
Male - the brilliant Vermillion Flyctacher - Female

Painted Redstart                               Lucy's Warbler
In addition to the wonderful bat and Beaver experiences, other mammals that
wowed us included a Desert Bighorn Sheep close to the Hoover Dam, the largest
Pronghorn Antelope herds we had ever seen east of Roswell, N.M., Roosevelt Elk
in the White Mountains and Coyote in about 10 locations. New mammal species for
Noreen & I included Mexican Ground Squirrel, Red Squirrel (Carlsbad), Albert’s
Squirrel (Wupatki) and Desert Kangaroo Rat (JTNP).
Black-throated Sparrow                                   Northern Cardinal                                                 Canyon Towhee
                                          A few  more of the uncommon, common birds of the Southwest
(We had time for a Snipe hunt or two)                        Wilson's Snipe                                                      Chipping Sparrow
The best mammal wow! of all though was in Red Rock Canyon SP in California. A
little before dusk, we hiked up to where the canyon boxes-in about ¾ mile up the
trail. We had seen a Barn Owl fly up into some pinnacles on the way in and there
was white wash from where large birds have perched all around the box canyon
walls. Evidence of recent rains in the form of gullies and wild flowers in the wash
but only about a 4 inch wide, 25 feet long stream of surface water remained in the
upper canyon. Just a long puddle really. As we were standing there quietly taking
it all in Noreen first notices a movement in the bushes and out walks a stunningly
beautiful male Bobcat and it was not about to let us bother it from a long cool
drink of that water. It gracefully ambled down a boulder pile, walked within five feet
of the group, slowly approached the streamlet, sat down and lapped water for
about two minutes. When it was finished, it took one quick look at us, turned,
marked a shrub and disappeared back into the chaparral.

There is some special kind of magic that happens when a wild animal feels that
you are just a part of its world. A predator perhaps, those funny looking bipeds do
have eyes in the front of their heads but not an obvious threat (at this location
anyway). Something to keep aware of, but not something that you are going to
get thirsty over.