Sunday, April 18, 2010

Birding From Dawn ‘till Dusk: Day 2 Organ Pipe NM

DSC_0114 Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument 21 mile Loop Rd 4-8-10

Kathryn and I get up with the sun and head west across the desert to Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument.  It is a long drive to get there and I have never been past the town of Three Points, so I have no idea what to expect. We travel across native lands and past Kitt Peak where I spot a Crested Caracara flying alongside the road. Though traffic is traveling at 65 to 70 mph in this area the road is narrow with no shoulders and steep drop-offs to the cactus studded desert below. There is absolutely no place to stop and get a picture for miles, though I do try, but by then the bird is too far away. I let Kathryn take over driving now and scan the desert for birds.  We are seeing Harris Hawks, ravens, and Red-tailed Hawks and then, to my utter surprise, our second Crested Caracara perched atop a saguaro right near Sells! We get as good of a look as we can driving 65 mph down the road.


Organ Pipe Cactus 4-8-10

After a brief stop at the visitor’s center for info and to eat our picnic lunch we decide to take the Ajo Mountain Loop Road. Though it is 21 miles long, we break it into 5 miles segments for eBird and count birds as we go. I have never been here before and I am captivated by this desert beauty.  It is no wonder that this is a National Monument.

  DSC_0120 The beauty of a cactus bud.

DSC_0146We come to the Arch Canyon Trail and decide to get out of the car and walk a bit.  Though the trail is only 3/4 of a mile we don’t go far because it is so hot and we only have sandals on our feet. This seems a peaceful place with beauty all around us.

DSC_0131 We marvel at the arch overhead…

DSC_0142 …and gaze at the mountains beyond…

DSC_0146…the canyon lies invitingly before  us…

DSC_0147 …and wraps its arms around us in a rocky hug!

DSC_0152We see and hear Phainopeplas softly asking us, “What?…What?” And then, just as we are settling in, a dark shadow looms!

DSC_0156 “Who are you and what are you doing in my canyon,” the Turkey Vulture seems to say. It is soon joined by another and they swoop ever lower and closer to us…

DSC_0158 DSC_0159 …until one is so low that it is too close for my 70-300mm lens!

DSC_0161 DSC_0166 DSC_0183We decide to leave and beat a hasty retreat back to the car. We are halfway around the loop road by now and the day is fading fast. As we continue our drive we stop at various points along the way finding most of the birds along the desert washes. 

DSC_0201 Reluctantly we say good-bye to organ Pipe Cactus national Monument with its vast and prickly beauty with wildflowers and solitude in abundance. It is long after dark by the time we arrive home but we are so glad that we went!

Birds seen today on the drive to and in Organ Pipe Cactus NM:

  1. Crested Caracara
  2. Turkey Vulture
  3. Gila woodpecker
  4. Raven
  5. Northern Mockingbird
  6. Black-throated sparrow
  7. Phainopepla
  8. Kestrel
  9. Mourning dove
  10. Costa’s hummingbird
  11. lesser Goldfinch
  12. House finch
  13. Harris hawk
  14. Gambel’s Quail
  15. Cooper’s hawk
  16. Verdin
  17. Cactus wren
  18. Curve-billed thrasher
  19. Northern Cardinal
  20. Scott’s Oriole
  21. Red-tailed hawk
  22. Loggerhead shrike
  23. Cassin’s vireo
  24. Blue-gray gnatcatcher
  25. Rock Wren


Carolyn Ford said...

I really like how you not only capture exquisite shots of birds but also capture the beauty of the environment of where you see them. These are such a beautiful series of a grand part of our southwestern desert.

Carol said...

Beautiful photos...the buzzards are really quite pretty from below...

DeniseinVA said...

I have always been drawn to the desert and have always been in awe of its beauty on my rare visits there. You've captured it well in your photos and in your words. Have a great week Kathie.

Kathie Brown said...

Carolyn Ford, the Sonoran desert has a beauty all its own. I really enjoy living here.

Carol, the vultures are quite beautiful and I am glad you can appreciate them!

Denise, I only hope you can come and visit some day.

Dan Huber said...

Wonderful photos. Makes me want to go out there, you saw some great birds.


Larry said...

I love the cactus and arch photos.It's a good thing the Turkey Vultures don't know you're posting about them.You wouldn't want them to get an attitude the next time your out there.

Kathie Brown said...

forestal, yes we did!

Larry, boy did those buzzards come close! Yikes! We didn't run for our lives but we did get out of there quickly!

Gaelyn said...

I haven't been to Organ Pipe Cactus in many years and it's still as breathtaking going along with Kathryn and you. As always a wonderful day birding with you Kathie.

Dawn Fine said...

I have never been to Organ looks like a wonderful place..putting it on my list!
Wonderful landscape and birdie shots!

Kathie Brown said...

gaelyn thank you. It is a long drive through a lot of wilderness to get there but it beautiful. I learned you need to make sure your car is full of gas and you have food and water. There are very few places to stop along the way and long distances between them!

Dawn, it is a wonderful place and breath-takingly beautiful. Spring is the best time, summer the worst. Make sure you fill up with gas and have food and water on the way. Once you get close there are a couple of gas stations on the crossroad before you enter the monument but other than that, nothing! wonderful hiking though (I think) and I also think there is camping there. You and Jeff would love it!

Nita said...

When we visited Organ Pipe NM we stayed in the small town of Ajo. There are a couple of places to stay and a restaurant. Also a parklike plaza much like those found in Mexico.Organ Pipe is marvelous.