We find this ball of resin clinging to the side of a mesquite tree. I have never seen anything like this.
From here we head farther up into the Canyon to another favorite birding spot: Madera Picnic Area. As soon as we park the car TR gets to see yet another target bird, the Acorn woodpecker. While he jumps out for a better look, I gather my gear and the food and we head down to find a picnic table for a rest and a snack. However, just as soon as I lay my books, bags, and cooler on the table I see something in the shadows of a nearby bush. It is barely 10 feet away from me and my jaw drops open and I start to shake. Can I be seeing what I think I am seeing?
T.R. is wondering what I am so excited about but I can barely answer him. I have been in pursuit of this species for almost a year, and now here it is, right before my eyes. I see the pigeon's body, but this is no Rock Pigeon or Mourning Dove. "How do you know," asks T.R.? "See the yellow feet and the yellow beak," I say, but something is not right. Where is the banded tail and the white crescent and green iridescence that should be on the back of the neck. Yet it has a yellow beak and yellow feet. Rock pigeons have pink feet and a gray beak. Mourning doves have the same with a pointed tail and speckled wings. As my mind races, all I can think is that this must be a juvenile.
Thursday morning dawns bright and clear. The wind has died down so all is calm as T.R. and I head out into the wash. This will be our last hike before he has to leave. We saved Sycamore Canyon for last since we do not have to drive to get there. It is right out my front door. I do not know what we will see, since we have not seen large numbers of species at all in the places we have birded so far, but Sycamore Canyon does not disappoint and soon we are seeing birds everywhere! So many, in fact, that it is hard to keep track of them all. I get on one bird and TR finds another. "What is this," he ask. "Wait a minute, I am not sure what this one is!" I reply. And we spin, and snap and look and list and hike and look some more. We are finding phainopeplas, Gambels' Quail, Gila Woodpeckers, Gilded flickers, Black-tailed gnatcatchers, black-throated sparrows, Costa's hummingbirds, curve-billed thrashers, cactus wrens, turkey vultures and more. Birds are all around us. Birds are everywhere. T.R. wants to see a pyrrhuloxia, and finally we find one when we near the bridge over the wash. We also find a ladder-backed woodpecker, and a lark bunting eating grass seed heads by the side of the road. The lark bunting is in the same area where I had the Unexpected Encounter with the peregrine falcon and I point it all out to him. We are in no hurry and we go at our own pace. T.R. is enjoying the beauty around him. I think the magic of this place has wrapped around his heart.