2023-04-13 Apache Creek NM

Western Bluebird - Sialia mexicana
I was invited to visit friends in Apache Creek New Mexico and enjoy the birds visiting their yard, so I did! It was loads of fun.

Last Tuesday (April-11) I left my friends in Thatcher, looking forward to spending some time with friends Debbie Merrill and her husband James. I met Debbie when I was working on a book for the San Diego Natural History Museum (the San Diego County Mammal Atlas). My role for the book was to provide images needed to help the various authors to tell their stories. I was able to provide a fair amount of images from my own library, but there were many species in the book that I found the best solution was to reach out to local photographers for their images. I found it worthwhile to connect with several photographers, some of which were friends, and others I’d not previously met. One of these new friends was Debbie Merrill.

One species we needed images for, was the coyote. And when Deb sent us her images, we were all knocked out. Not mere snap shots, it was clear to the team that these were the result of tireless patience in observing behaviors. It’s been almost six years since publishing the Mammal Atlas, and I’ve stayed in touch with Deb and her husband. A couple of years ago, they sold their home in San Diego and moved to a remote region of New Mexico in Apache Creek, where the crush of civilization has yet to reach. Given the opportunity to pay them a visit, I could not forgive myself if I didn’t try.

I arrived at their spread Wednesday afternoon after spending the morning in Glenwood. Then Thursday I enjoyed meeting the birds that were attracted to the feeders that Deb and James provided in their backyard. Unfortunately, I had a technical goof to deal with. Tuesday night I inadvertently set the ISO on the Z9 to 100 when I was attempting to format the memory card via the assigned buttons (Delete+ISO). Those buttons didn’t seem to provide the functionality I was used to on my other dSLR cameras, and without realizing it, I left the camera set at ISO-100, and my early morning shutter speeds were too slow to capture any but the most stationary of subjects. I discovered the problem after my early session, and corrected it in time to get better results for my mid-morning and afternoon efforts with the birds. I believe I captured the subjects well enough to tell the story of the species I met, so it wasn’t a complete disaster. Later, I learned how the new camera’s formatting function changed from my dSLR cameras, so future chaos with camera settings should not be a problem.

Broad-Tailed Hummingbird - Selasphorus platycercus

Shooting birds at feeding stations can sometimes yield images with limited aesthetics because of unnatural settings, but the opportunity to collect otherwise elusive subjects is fair compensation, especially when time is limited. And let’s face it, all of us earth-walkers have limited time! 

When the day was done, I’d enjoyed the company of Acorn Woodpeckers, Broad-Tailed Hummingbirds, Cassin’s Finches, Chipping Sparrows, House Finches, Juniper Titmice, Pine Siskins, Dark-Eyed (Pink-Sided) Juncos, Say’s Phoebes, Sonoran Gopher Snakes, Steller’s Jays, Western Bluebirds, White-Breasted Nuthatches, and Woodhouse’s Scrub-Jays. However, there were several species that met my eyes, but not my camera. Included were Black-Chinned Hummingbirds, Golden Eagles, Common Ravens, Red-Tailed Hawks, Turkey Vultures. Black Phoebes, Great Blue Herons, American Wigeons, Green-Winged Teals, Mallards, and American Coots.

I left Apache Creek on Friday and pushed relentlessly for three days, covering a thousand miles to see my friends in Kansas, where I am now. I’ve ordered the parts to repair the suspension air-bags damaged on my drive over Redington Pass in Arizona. Now I am waiting for the parts and a free day for my friend to help me with the repair. In theory, I could be back on the road by mid-week next week, and headed to Canada. I have reviewed the weather ahead, and presently there are storms pounding southern Canada and the Great Lakes that I’d just as soon avoid. A few extra days here in Kansas won’t hurt me a bit.

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