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Goodbye, Arizona!

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Scarlet globe mallow, a flower I know from the prairie grasslands.
Its color is a little lost here in the red painted desert.

A pair of rufous-crowned sparrows came up to see me. This is a bird I've actively sought and eventually found in the Bisbee and Portal areas. And here it was, unbidden.

Gotta say these desert birds' beauty is on the subtle side.

I have new and redoubled respect for people who photograph birds in the desert. The lighting conditions can be hard, hard, hard. Can't say I got much that I'm proud of in the bird realm.

A Gambel's quail slips through the scrub. Every one I saw had babies with it, but getting a photo of them is like photographing will o' the wisps. 

Desert cottontails have extra fluffy tails, which they stick out more than our eastern bunnies do.

And speaking of subtle beauty, here's a juniper titmouse, with nothing to adorn or recommend it but its personality, which is pleasant. And she makes all her own clothes.

Not dissing desert birds. Just having a little fun. You know I love a subtle bird as much as the next guy.

At this point I've long passed the 4 mile mark, and I've swung all the way around the back of the mesa. It's getting hot. I'm thinking about catching my plane down in Phoenix. I'm looking through a chain link fence at the runway for the tiny perfect Sedona airport, and trying to imagine landing here in a small jet. You would not want to overshoot the runway. The prickly pear is waiting for your tires. I have to think this airport with its stunning surrounds is a bucket list item for a lot of private pilots. 

You can tell there's a runway because there is a tiny orange wind sock to the left of the big rock formation. :)

I'm starting to fret about getting to Phoenix on time when I hear a dry croaking rattle.

Huh. That sounds like a cuckoo, I think. I prick my ears and look for motion. 

And it is. This sound, which most would overlook as nothing at all, leads me to America's biggest cuckoo, a ground cuckoo, in fact, our only one. A roadrunner!

I couldn't have picked a better bird to bid me goodbye to Arizona, and speed me on my way.

Thank you, desert. I needed that. You're welcome. Now pick up the pace. Meep meep!

I step out faster yet, and at the 4.7 mile mark (by my Fitbit's reckoning), I see people doin' the Vortex thing at the trail's beginning.

No time to om. I'm zipping back to Sky Ranch Lodge, throwing my camera in the carry-on, and heading south, down into the low desert. No thanks to the inaccurate map at the trailhead!

Where I take photos of my car thermometer as I drive, starting at 107 degrees, and culminating in this beauty as I enter Phoenix. A personal temperature best. It scares the bejabbers out of me. That's outside temperature.

I think about the definition of "habitable," and all the things we do to occupy uninhabitable places. We're good at that. We're like roaches. Roaches with technology. But we're nothing without our air conditioning, our fossil fuels. 

We are nothing to the roadrunner, who pants in the shade of the creosote bush.

He lives here, and he has everything he needs in his lithe body to survive the desert. 

Desert birds, plain and fancy: amazements, all.


well, do come back now, beep beep!

One summer when I was a child, my family stopped by my dad's deer lease just so we could see where Daddy went deer hunting every year in the Texas hill country. We all ate some of the cactus fruit and left dark juice stains everywhere. It almost looked like a bloodbath to his hunting buddy and family when they arrived shortly after we left. Fortunately they figured it out before they called the sheriff to report a mass murder! At least, that is what we children heard.

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