Tuesday, December 2, 2008

My World: Winter Sparrows, Autumn Haze

Santa Ritas in a Blue Haze by Kathie 11-30-08
On Saturday a coolness settled over Southeast Arizona and there was no warmth in the sun. I pulled my jacket on as Gus and I walked the dog at the Sycamore Canyon Park. Later that evening I changed into long pants as we headed out to see “Australia” at the Desert Sky Cinema in Green Valley. It was the first time I have worn long pants since last March. The weather has been perfect lately, and we have not used the air conditioning in well over a month. We have yet to turn the heat on for the year, but the weatherman reports we are running about 10 degrees above normal for this time of year.

Sunday the sun finally rose with some warmth, but yesterday’s coolness lingered in the valleys and even on the mountains. The result is a temperature inversion with cool air trapped beneath a layer of warmth above. As Gus and I head out for a walk in the neighborhood the filtered light casts a thin veil of haze over the mountains. While the valley below looks like it is under a brown cloud, the Santa Ritas look like a water color painting of the real thing, vaporous and gauzy shapes fading into a dazzling white infinity.

White Infinity by Kathie 11-30-08

We walk up to the new neighborhood that is being put in farther up the mountainside. Here these “Estate Lots” are 2 to 3 acres in size. While the roads and utilities have been put in, the surrounding desert has not been disturbed yet, and so the birds and wildlife have adapted to this change in their environment and the paved roads make it a pleasant place to walk. I hear the silvery tinkle of Black-throated Sparrows in the scrub around me, as well as the "zeet! zeet!” of other sparrows in the brush. Overhead a red-tail circles lazily on the thermals, searching through the haze for something to dine on.



There is warmth in the sun today, and Gus and Blossom are feeling it. They head back down the mountain leaving me to my reverie. Gila woodpeckers abound in the desert and I watch as they fly from cactus to cactus. Then I spot a Gilded Flicker in a mesquite tree. I slowly creep closer for a better look. When it decides I am getting too close, it takes to the air, squawking its alarm. Suddenly another flicker unseen by me takes wing, and as they fly off into the surrounding desert together, yet another large bird takes to the air and crosses their path like an X. I watch as the bird flies on silent pointed wings, its large buff and white body flying swiftly away from me. My eyes follow its flight path as my brain searches to put the details of what I’ve just seen with previous knowledge and experience. Bingo! I realize that I am seeing a barn owl. It must have been perched somewhere in one of the nearby mesquite trees unseen and silent, but when the Gilded Flickers raised the alarm it felt it needed to move on to safer territory. How I wish I could tell it that it has nothing to fear from my presence.



Black-throated Sparrow in cholla cactus by Kathie 11-30-08

I’ve gotten lost in my bird watching haze. I am walking alone in my own peaceful dream. I veer off the road onto one of the dirt trails that crisscross the desert and loop around the neighborhood. Here I finally see the many sparrows I have been hearing. They flit nervously about the desert, darting from cactus to bush, or diving into the grass. If the desert was a brain, then these little birds are the thoughts that dart about between neurons and synapses. At least, that’s what they make me think of. Trying to get a good look at one is just as difficult as trying to capture a fleeting thought. Finally I catch a glimpse of a rufous-winged sparrow, as well as some Brewer's, some chipping sparrows and a few black-throated sparrows. Winter is sparrow season here in Arizona and sparrows present their own identification challenges. With over 20 possible species, and many in their dull winter plumage, I realize that I still have so much to learn.

Sparrow in Ocatillo branches by Kathie 11-30-08

It’s Tuesday now. A breeze has sprung up. Still, the air is warm enough that I can wear shorts and a tank top. I have the windows open to let in the warmth of the day. Tonight when darkness falls I will enjoy the Christmas lights my neighbors have put up. Without them it would be hard to believe that Christmas is coming!

Photographer's Notes:

All of today's photos were taken by Kathie with the Nikon D80 and the 70 to 300 mm lens.
  1. Blue Haze: Programmed Auto, Focal Length 70mm, 1/1000 sec - F/8
  2. White Infinity: Programmed Auto, Focal Length 70mm, 1/640 sec - F/6.3
  3. Flicker on Saguaro: Sports Mode, 300mm, 1/1000 sec - F/5.6
  4. Black-throated sparrow: Sports Mode, 300mm,1/500 sec - F/5.6
  5. Unknown Sparrow: Sports Mode, 300mm, 1/500 sec - F/5.6


Be sure to visit My World Tuesday for a trip around the globe while sitting comfortably at your computer!

24 comments:

Denise said...

Another wonderful walk Kathie, I have learned a lot today. A tiny seedling sows itself in my mind and sprouts a little more as I read another post of yours.

Kathiesbirds said...

Thank you Denise! Now, what little seed has sprouted for you? That's how dreams begin you know!

Ruth said...

That Black-throated sparrow is a handsome bird! It must take some practice to land safely on that thorny branch. Lovely pictures.

Lynne said...

Kathie- That is a bee-autiful picture of the Black-throated Sparrow! Love it. This post was so very nicely written, wish I were wandering along with you...

gina said...

i can almost hear the birds calling in these pix. i love mountain scenes...but i think my faves are the birds...i'm really partial to birds. :) your sparrow is fantastic.

The Good Life in Virginia said...

enjoyed the walk in the desert and the birdies...thanks for the tour of your world.

Arija said...

Kathie, your lyrical prose twanged all the strings in my soul and the resonance was deafening. Such beauty you not only drink in, but manage to convey in magical words.
I am stil agape from the experience!

Wren said...

Great pic of the black-throated sparrow! Thanks for a great photo tour of one of my favorite parts of the world.

Ruth's Photo Blog said...

It is so interesting to read about your world.We are having cold and snow,no thought of wearing shorts.The Black-throated Sparrow is a beautiful bird.
Blessings,Ruth

Louise said...

Love your photos,and the Barn Owl part was so interesting. That happened to me once, but I was never sure what kind of owl.

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

When you share your desert bird walks, I feel like I'm right there walking along beside you, I can smell the desert aromas and hear the birds and other creatures, and feel the warm sun and gentle breeze.
Thanks for sharing your walks and all the pretty photos you take.

Oh, and I've got a little something for you, too:

A Jewel for you!

Lisa
New Mexico

Mary said...

These are wonderful photos! I've never seen the black-throated sparrow. How cool that you saw an owl!

bobbie said...

Thanks for taking us with you on your walk, Kathie. I enjoyed it.

Jayne said...

WOW, that black throated sparrow is amazing. Wonderful shot! Nice to meet you here on your lovely blog Kathie. Hope to get to meet you in WV in April. :c)

Shellmo said...

I feel so dreamy and relaxed reading your words and looking at your photos. The Black throated sparrow was a treat to see.

Doug Taron said...

Beautiful words and images. I really like the top photo of the very blue Santa Ritas against a bluer sky. It's very different here in Chicago right now. We had 5" of snow Sunday night and more on the way today.

Deborah Godin said...

You sure get a lot of variety on your walks. I think that black-throated sparrow is very handsome!

Celeste said...

Kathie your Black-throated Sparrow picture is great. How wonderful to see a Barn Owl, they are such dramatic birds.

Texas Travelers said...

Great photos all. I especially like the BTSP in the cholla cactus.

I will say it again, "Your writing is fantastic and the words add to the thousand word of the photos".

Great walk,
Troy and Martha

PS: I like all of the choices of camera modes that you are using. Well done.

Gaelyn said...

There's a feeling of infinity to the watercolor mountains despite the knowledg of haze. Which does seem to happen often during winter in the southwest desert. I certainly do admire your clear photo of the black-throated sparrow which I see so often at my feeders.
I so enjoy your blog.

babooshka said...

SparrowS I would love to see but not on my backyard.

Gretchen said...

Great series of photos. I've never been that far west, so it's always fun to see what it looks like there.

zhakee said...

A bit of haze always seems to do wonders to distant mountains when it comes to an artistic effect. Pretty images with the blue mountains.

Larry said...

It sounds funny to hear you say that you just stopped using ac.The Black-throated Sparrow is a cool looking bird. You have warm weather and Black-throated Sparrows. We have cold weather and Whit-throated Sparrows!