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On the birding trail


This area of southern Arizona is a hot birding spot. Although it’s a low time of year for birds, since the winter birds have gone and the summer birds aren’t here in great numbers yet, along the San Pedro River area and in the canyons of the Huachuca Mountains there are still plenty of birds to see.

Traveling around the country we’ve become more interested in birds. I never really cared much about them in the past, but now it’s fun to see the variety of species the live in North America, and to try to photograph them. To really do a good job I’d need a much longer lens than I have, but I catch a few halfway interesting shots from time to time with the 200mm zoom. Today I wasn’t trying too hard because we were just having a nice time walking along the river with the kids.


A fire near the Dragoon Mountains, north of our position, cut our hike short. The smoke began drifting to the south and put a haze in the air, as well as apparently discouraging the birds. We never found out what caused the fire but it was still burning hours later.

Seeking clearer air, we drove up Carr Canyon Road into the national forest. There are three canyon roads that lead into the Huachuca Mountains. Carr is in the middle, and undeniably the roughest. It’s a single lane of very rough dirt, riddled with potholes and twisting so tightly that even long pickups can’t make the turns without taking two passes.   It’s a challenging drive, and occasionally scary, since none of the road has any sort of guardrail and the drops are intimidating.

Six miles up the road, if your kidneys survive the pounding of the seat belts, is a nice national forest campground (Reef Townsite) at 7,200 feet.   But no Airstream is going to go up there, unless it is under 12 feet long.   I could see coming back there to tent camp in the summer.   At that altitude the temperature would be perfect, and there are a lot of very interesting-looking hiking trails.


In the photo you can see Eleanor ambushing the girls with a tiny snowball on one of the trails.   There was very little snow up there, but they all managed to find some and have fun with it.   In the background you can see Sierra Vista through the smoke, about 3,000 feet below us.

Brent turned on the radio in his truck and of course we heard Mexican music come through.   This close to the border, it’s no surprise.   Listening to it always feels fun and it put Brent in the mood for a Mexican beer, which led to Eleanor suggesting Mexican dinner at the Airstreams, which led to a shopping trip for fresh tortillas and other ingredients.


My job was to wrangle the girls (or at least keep an eye on them) while Eleanor and Brent shopped.   The girls seemed to have far too much energy left in them, but that made them interesting photographic subjects, at least until I was apprehended by the management of Food City and told that the store “absolutely” did not allow photography.

That sort of thing happens regularly to me.   Unless I see a sign specifically advising me that cameras are not allowed, I assume it’s up to my judgment to decide whether to bring one into a situation.   Most of the time it’s perfectly OK, and other times I know better (and don’t take photos), but once in a while somebody gets bent out of shape over me taking a photo in a situation where I felt it wouldn’t be a problem.   That’s one of the minor risks of photography.

Really, if you only take pictures when they are specifically approved, you’ll miss a lot of good shots.   I figure if I don’t get busted by an authority figure at least 3-4 times each year, I’m probably not using my camera enough.   Last time was in Hawaii in another store where I was preemptively warned not to take photos of the erotic netsukes (miniature sculptures). That was in November, so I’m fulfilling my quota of socially-incorrect photographic conduct.

We have discovered another dark side of having a home base: it’s too easy to leave things there.   Not long after we headed off yesterday, Eleanor remembered she forgot her crock pot, and I realized I’d forgotten my cell phone charger.   It’s a good thing we are heading back this week.   I’ve started a list of things we might forget to do (or pack) so that we won’t repeat these mistakes when we leave for the summer.

2 Responses to “On the birding trail”

  1. terrie Says:

    exciting to see you out again…love the vista in the Eleanor pitching snowball photo….

  2. Daniel Says:

    I long for the day when I have my own kids and take them hiking and birding so i can pass on the little knowledge I have to them so they can continue to root for conservation…Congratulations!