2023-04-09 Early April On Cottonwood Wash

Lucy's Warbler - Leiothlypis luciae
Cottonwood Wash drains from the north slopes of Mount Graham near Pima Arizona. On this, my 2nd visit, I found newly arrived summer birds, full-time residents, and winter visitors nearing their time to head north.

Saturday, my friend Linda and I drove to visit her good friend Kai, who lives on the Cottonwood Wash south of Pima. I had the pleasure of spending time with birds here once before as I returned from Texas in 2020, and I was eager to spend time once more. Summer birds were showing up, and many of the winter visitors had not yet departed. 

Kai was hosting a memorial for an old pal, and there was a gathering of a dozen or more friends. Music was played. After spending an hour and a half with the local birds, I returned to the scene and joined the group. It was a genuine pleasure being with these folks. Most were old hippies, so we had much in common. Almost half the folks were musically inclined, and there were songs shared. It reminded me of the times in my life when music was at the center of my existence. I must confess, it made me a little sad that I no longer had it in me to share in the fun of playing campfire style with caring folks.

I spent the night parked in Kai’s front yard, and got up early Sunday morning to visit with the birds once more. When I finished, there were 2300 frames collected. It took me until early Monday morning to finish embedding all the GeoData, do the first round of culling and file naming the images with the species names. I didn’t get images for every species I met at Cottonwood Wash, but I collected quite a few. I found no rarities during my vigil, but rare birds are not a priority for me to enjoy my time with birds. The species that surrendered to my camera were: Ash-Throated Flycatcher, Bell’s Vireo, Bewick’s Wren, Cactus Wren, Crissal Thrasher, Curve-Billed Thrasher, Gila Woodpecker, Hooded Oriole, House Finch, Ladder-Backed Woodpecker, Lesser Goldfinch, Lucy’s Warbler, Say’s Phoebe, Verdin, Vermilion Flycatcher, White-Crowned Sparrow, Yellow-Rumped Warbler, and Yellow Warbler.

I understand the drought of the past two or three years left Cottonwood Wash and its tributaries bereft of flowing water. I understand in normal years, water flows over the sandy bottom for about four months a year. This year the heavens blessed this region with generous rainfall, and much snow-pack atop nearby Mount Graham. 

Mount Graham, called Dził Nchaa Sí’an (“Big Seated Mountain”) in native Western Apache, at 10,724 is the seventh highest peak in Arizona, the southmost peak in the USA over 10,000 feet. A mountain’s “prominence” is the measure of the height of a mountain relative to the surrounding terrain. Of all peaks in the ‘Lower Forty-Eight’ states in the USA, this peak ranks 20th, and it is number one in Arizona. All four native tribes in the region consider the mountain a holy place.

I’m tempted to stay longer in this region, but if I mean to see Canada and its Maritime Provinces, I must get back on the road. My plans to visit friends in Colorado have been revised, and now, after a visit to friends on Apache Creek in New Mexico, there lies a long stretch of interstate that will carry me to see friends in northwestern Kansas, where I will work to revive the airbag suspension that was damaged when I crossed the Redington Pass last week.

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