Western U.S. Travel Diary -
18 May 2004
I've enjoyed some R&R at daughter Mary's in
Berkeley, where the family gathered to celebrate her M.A. degree in archaeology. Now
comes southeastern Arizona, the last leg of the trip. Here I hook up with Duncan and
wife Kathy from West Butterwick, U.K. Like me, Duncan is an avid hummingbird
photographer - we've exchanged e-mails, and this is our first photo-shoot together.
We're staying at Beatty's Guest Ranch, one of the top hummer locales in
the U.S. Five different species visit a sugar-water feeding station on the hillside
near our cabins: Anna's, Broad-tailed, Magnificent, Black-chinned, and Broad-billed
Hummingbirds. We spend hours photographing them - on the feeders as well as perched
in Alligator Juniper that provides welcome shade. The temperature hovers near
90°F., but Duncan & Kathy always take a break for an afternoon cup of hot tea.
Our Lipton's, they say, doesn't compare with good Typhoo tea in Britain. Another
hardship to endure while traveling in distant lands.
18 May 2004
The birders' grapevine reports Elegant Trogons
nesting in Garden Canyon a few miles away, so Duncan and I drive over for a look.
For an hour we see nothing except a few Gray-breasted Jays. Then, just as two other
birders show up, we hear the male trogon's hoarse croaking call. Both he and the
female fly down to the sycamores along the stream where they are nesting, but only the
male visits their hole. I manage a few shots of this very rare bird, which in the
U.S. is found only in the mountains of southeastern Arizona. I've looked for trogons
on previous trips with no luck, and was beginning to grow impatient with this nemesis
18 May 2004
Duncan and I had planned to photograph lots of
hummers at flowers, but it was not to be. One problem is the wind, which has been a
nuisance at every stop on this trip. Here it howls up and down the canyon day and
night. Just when I have everything set, a fierce gust topples the backdrop and
scatters the birds. Worse yet is the low number of hummingbirds - the Beattys are
now putting out 2 quarts of sugar-water a day instead of the usual 20 quarts. It's
this way all over southeast Arizona, they say.
In 3 days I manage just one acceptable photo, the plain-Jane female
Black-chinned Hummingbird at a pot of Desert Honeysuckle. If nothing else it teaches
one that in bird photography, nothing can ever be taken for granted.