Wednesday, August 22, 2012

An Approaching Monsoon Storm

Last night Tim (father) and Thomas (15-year-old son) and I camped at a precipitous overlook along the Carr Canyon road in SE Arizona's Huachuca Mountains with anticipation of a sunny morning filled with Greater Pewee and mixed flocks of migrants including post-breeding Red-faced and Grace's Warblers.

Instead, we awoke at 5:45 a.m., staggered out of our tents, and peered out to a stunning sunrise with a decaying monsoonal rain cell  approaching from Mexico to the south, just about to engulf the entire mountain range. Without the merest expectation for the remainder of the day, we descended the rough series of switchbacks and found our way to a coffee shop for the next hour as the entire region was drenched with rain.

Here's a view of the approaching storm, looking southeast from our campsite. Click on the photo for a higher resolution.

The rest of the morning was nonetheless spectacular, with 10 species of hummingbirds at my friend Mary Jo Ballator's Ash Canyon  B&B and additional Violet-crowned and Blue-throated Hummingbirds as well as Spotted Owls at and above Beatty's Guest Ranch in nearby Miller Canyon, followed by Pyrrhuloxia, Bronzed Cowbird, and Dickcissel in the lowlands nearby.

Psychedelic Grasshopper

Quick post from the field: Dactylotum bicolor near Montosa Canyon with Thomas and father Tim Meinzen. What an amazing grasshopper!

Monday, August 13, 2012

What I Miss Most About Oregon

It might be the greenness from moss and ferns; the fresh air from Pacific storms; the constant gloomy cool, gray winters; or the protracted spring that lasts months, something new every day starting in late January. But it's actually the late summer – an abundance of berries and other fruits, combined with the wistful smell of tarweed, a not-so-subtle reminder that fall is soon on its way.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Birds & The Bard

I've just finished leading my Birds & Shakespeare tour. It's a much more relaxed itinerary than my Grand Oregon tour that I also just did – averaging 136 miles instead of 230 miles of driving each day. Yet somehow I found less time in our afternoon and evening breaks to post to my blog.

We saw a lot of great birds, unbelievably beautiful landscapes and habitats (Crater Lake above), superb plays, and ate in really nice restaurants. Even my friend the founder/owner of WINGS, who participated in most of the tour, said he's never had better food on a tour.

For me, the varied natural history makes Oregon such an interesting place to return to. (For those of you don't know, I grew up in Oregon but have been in Arizona since graduating from Oregon State University in 1994.) This southwestern corner of the state is so different from the rest of Oregon, I was really stumped by so many things. Such as these mating fritillaries, a puzzling group no matter where you are. I suspect these might be Hydaspe Fritillaries, but I'll wait for the experts to chime in.

Or this chipmunk at Crater Lake. The larger size, pointy head and ears, and rather muted stripes on the back and face (brown rather than black) seem to point to Allen's Chipmunk (also called Shadow Chipmunk), but the habitat here (above timberline on the rim) seems to be wrong.

I recognized this flower on our first morning as being close to Lobelia and in the family Campanulaceae, but I had to look it up later – Bach's Calicoflower, Downingia bacigalupii.

I'm now headed to Corvallis, my home town, to visit friends and family and do some more natural history exploration.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Where I've Been the Past 12 Days

All over Oregon. 2666 miles driven, 66 miles on boat, 238 species of birds. Lots of great butterflies, dragonflies and damselflies, mammals, herps, and other critters. And a great group of participants.