2023-04 Early April on the Redington Road

Rock Wren - Salpinctes obsoletus
Historic Redington Road runs east out of Tucson through some very rugged country. I stopped on the eastern slopes to spend time with the birds and make camp.

I left Tucson Saturday with my heart set on traveling the Redington Road, so I drove to the end of Tanque Verde Road and climbed the steep, winding gravel to the crest of the first grade. The road was tough going. There weren’t a lot of birds to be seen as I drove, but there were plenty of ATVs, Jeeps, and other vehicles from folks looking to get away from the city I guess. The further away from Tucson I traveled, the fewer people and vehicles I met stopped at the pull-offs shooting their guns at targets. 

I continued on, occasionally stopping to look and listen for birds. During one brief midday stop, I explored a grove of giant Junipers. I didn’t see much bird activity, but there were female Phainopeplas, Townsend Solitaires, and a few small birds flying over that I could not identify. Had I remained longer, I may have seen more species, but it was too early to settle in for the night, so I continued down the road.

I reached the crest of the Redington Road and began descending the eastern slopes. I began looking for birds with a little more enthusiasm. Humans were more scarce on the east side of the mountain, and birds seemed a little more available. One of the birds I noticed were American Robins, proving once more that this was truly the year of the robin. This winter folks across the USA have been reporting invasions of these iconic birds. 

I found a camp spot on the eastern slope, where it seemed worthwhile spending some time. I could hear birds calling and singing from the slopes above where I camped. The birds that became obvious to me were Black-Throated Sparrows, Bell’s Vireos, Townsend Solitaires, Rock Wrens, Northern Flickers, and a few strange voices I could not identify in the distance. After settling in, I took out my camera and tried my best to capture images of those birds willing to share some time with me. When the light began to fade, I retired to my Silver Cocoon and processed the day’s images until the call of the horizontal plane could not be ignored.

Townsend's Solitaire - Myadestes townsendi
Historic Redington Road runs east out of Tucson through some very rugged country. I stopped on the eastern slopes to spend time with the birds and make camp.

I woke up Sunday morning to a massive flock of sparrows that seemed to be on the move through the brush and mesquite, migrating north to their breeding grounds. Most seemed to be Chipping Sparrows. I grabbed my camera gear and ventured out to see if I could capture any worthwhile images. The sparrow flock was restless, and I struggled to get a few nearby subjects into focus. More often, they were rather distant. The resident birds, many who I met yesterday afternoon, were present and committed to their morning chores, and the Rock Wrens that were so shy yesterday, came out to play for a while. When I tallied up my catch, I’d captured images of American Robins, Ash-Throated Flycatchers, Bell’s Vireos, Black-Tailed Gnatcatchers, Black-Throated Sparrows, Canyon Towhees, Chipping Sparrows, Lucy’s Warblers, Rock Wrens, and Townsend’s Solitaires.

When I finished my time with the birds, I made myself a protein shake, then I broke camp and continued east on the Redington Road. I reached the San Pedro River Valley floor after a long and arduous drive over some of the roughest roads Arizona can offer. Yet the rough roads were not quite done with me. Heading south towards Benson, I bounced over deep washboards and churned up dust for another thirty miles before reaching pavement. What a difference a smooth road can make! Rather than sitting inside a snare-drum, I could hear myself think again. I must confess, the Redington Road lived up to its hype as one of Arizona’s dangerous roads.

When I finally stopped rolling away from Redington, I realized my RV sustained some damage from the rough road riding of the past two days. The first and most obvious thing I noticed was that one of the air-bags that provide increased ground clearance, had a leak. So I no longer had the ride over rough terrain that I’d come to depend on. Later, I saw that my brush guard, which I mounted to the front of the van as self-defense from suicidal deer, had bent away from the grill. I’d had several low-speed encounters between the underside of the van’s front-end and the ground while crossing washed out ditches. Some of these had apparently been more severe than I realized. 

These issues have me reconsidering my plans for the extensive journey ahead. I will look for solutions while I stay in Arizona’s Safford region.

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