November 22, 2007


I think this might be the only picture of wild turkeys I've ever taken. And it's not a very good one. Oh well. Sonja and I are preparing a meat-free feast to enjoy later this afternoon. It mostly consists of several pies and a vegetarian-adaptation of my mom's fantastic stuffing recipe (for some reason, Sonja didn't like the idea of adding gibblets into her stuffing. Go figure). There will be mashed potatoes and crescent rolls thrown in for good measure, too. And I think Sonja's gonna heat up some cranberries, too, but I will not be partaking of them.

Happy Thanksgiving to you all. At least to all the Americans reading this...for everyone else, I hope you have an enjoyable Thursday!

November 21, 2007


Here's a fun junco picture from this afternoon.

And, to update everyone on Sonja's wellbeing, she is feeling much better this week than she was last. Although, we went to the doctor on Monday and they suspect she has a fractured rib. I guess it's the type of break that won't show up very well on the x-ray, so I don't know if we'll ever really know or not. It would have been cool to have a copy of the x-ray to post up here, too.

November 18, 2007

Early Morning Light

With spending most of this last week helping Sonja recover from her accident, I haven't had much time to take the camera out. So, here are some pictures I never got around to posting from earlier this month, on a morning when I found some rare energy to get up before sunrise to get some photos of the Well.

I had a hard time capturing the warm morning light on the rocks of the Sinaguan ruins that line the rim of the Well...until I pointed my camera down and started snapping pictures of their reflection in the water.

I remember the morning as mostly silent. The morning chorus outside our bedroom window that had all summer woken us up having ended with the departure of the majority of the migratory songbirds. At least, it was quiet until I crested the rim of the Well and was greeted with a chorus of pih-TEW's from the Rock Wrens hopping about on the rocks (where else?) and the very un-ducklike squeaky-toy sound of the thirty or so American Wigeons swimming around in the water.

This Rock Wren hopped up onto the railing less than five feet from me. I actually had to back up in order to get my lens to focus on it.

After the sun had warmed things up a bit, I went down the hill to get Sonja. On our way back up, we surprised a covey of Gambel's Quail near the road. A few of them stuck around for me to take a couple pictures.

With Sonja feeling better I'm sure I'll be getting out a bit more. And when the snow starts falling on the red rocks of Sedona, you can bet I'll be out there taking a bazillion pictures. Although, it's hard to contemplate it snowing anytime soon with the daytime temps still approaching 80 degrees.

I never thought I'd say this, but I could get used to wearing sandals and shorts in November...

November 14, 2007


For those of you who haven't heard yet, Sonja was in a car accident this past Saturday while driving home from work up in Flagstaff. Luckily she wasn't severely injured (and neither was the other driver). Sonja's ok, but pretty bruised up, and rather out of it the last couple days with the pain meds she's been taking. Considering that this collision occurred at nearly 70 mph, that's pretty amazing. And I owe it all to three lifesavers: Sonja's quick reflexes, the seatbelt she was wearing, and these:

If anyone ever tries to argue that seatbelts and airbags don't matter (and I don't know anyone who would nowadays), they're full of it. I have always wondered what airbags might feel like in an accident, but after hearing Sonja's description of the experience, I can say that any desire I might have had to feel it for myself went flying out the window. According to Sonja, having your head collide with an airbag at 70 mph doesn't exactly feel like hitting a big fluffy pillow. I think it was her use of the words "face" and "brick wall" combined in the same sentence that really convinced me.

Today I saw the car for the first time, since I was in Wichita at a work conference when the accident happened (getting a call that starts with the words. "I'm ok, but..." is bad enough when you're at home; it's a thousand times worse when you're stuck 1,000 miles away in a hotel room in Kansas...nothing against Kansas, of course). I went up to Flagstaff to retrieve the items that were left inside after Sonja was taken to the hospital. I was also there to take some pictures for the insurance claim.

So, what happened was, Sonja was driving home on I-17 when she came over a rise and noticed a car in front of her. This car did not have any break lights on or hazards flashing (a detail confirmed by a witness to the accident), but was at a complete stop right in the middle of the main driving lane. Now, by the time Sonja realized that 1) the car appeared to be moving slowly, 2) the car was in her lane, and 3) the car wasn't actually moving at all, it was really too late for her to do anything other than slam on the breaks and try to avoid it as best she could. But that still wasn't enough time. I mean, who expects to have a car sitting right in the middle of the driving lanes of an interstate?? Not to mention one whose posted speed limit is 75 freakin' miles per hour.

This is what our car looks like:

I was surprised to see how unimpressive the damage to our car actually is. That little Geo can take one helluva punch. In fact, compared to how the Mercedes fared you would think that ours was the luxury car:

This thing crumpled like it was made out of paper. I thought these were supposed to be "good" cars? They're certainly expensive enough...or so I thought. I did a little research to find out just how much this guy's car was worth. Apparently, the "fair market value" for his Mercedes is only $100 more than for our little Geo.

Now, as we deal with the insurance companies, we just have to keep reminding ourselves that the most important thing here is that everyone involved is safe, at home, and healing. Everything else is just stuff...

November 07, 2007

Chasing a Lifer

Many hardcore birders subscribe to various "Rare Bird Alerts" in order to stay updated about any new or interesting species that are being seen in a particular area, and I'm no exception. Most of the time, I just find it interesting to learn which species are in the area, or to plan future birding trips. But once in a while, an alert comes down the wire that just can't be ignored. Sunday morning was one of those occassions.

I opened my email to see a report of a species for which there were only three records in the state of Arizona. A typically Mexican species whose "normal" range doesn't come within hundreds of miles of the U.S. border: the Northern Jacana. The only catch, it was hanging out on a golf course 170 miles south of us. But with the prospect of seeing a bird we may never get a chance to see again, a 350 mile round trip drive wasn't much of an obstacle.

So by Sunday afternoon, Sonja and I found ourselves dodging golf balls on the 13th hole of the Casa Grande Municiple Golf Course, watching this tiny little wading bird foraging along the edge of a water hazard. No bigger than a jay, jacana's have incredibly long toes that they use to walk on top of lily pads and other aquatic vegetation.

It was definitely a satisfyingly easy experience, but far from typical for most "lifer chasing" adventures. Click here for more pictures of this jacana from some of the other birders that stopped to see it. The best thing was that the jacana wasn't even the only lifer we saw. About 20 minutes into our time at the course, we spotted another pair of birds we had never seen before...

These Harris Hawks decided to hang out in this snag for about fifteen minutes, giving us a great look at what some ornithologists refer to as the "wolves of the sky". Harris Hawks actually hunt cooperatively in "packs" to flush their main prey, jackrabbits, into the talons of their pack-mates. I like to think of them as the motorcycle gang of the bird world.

And finally, I thought I'd post a couple more pictures of the striped skunk that stopped by our place a couple nights ago.

November 05, 2007

Strangers in the Night

We've always known that we have a plethora of nocturnal neighbors roaming the park. But for the most part have only caught glimpses of some of them on the rare occasion that we catch them in our headlights as we're pulling into the park after dark. Recently, however, Harvey and Luna have been regularly waking us up in the middle of the night with the very pleasant sound of a flurry of barking and jumping up at the bedroom window. Every time it happens I jump up to peek outside and try to see who they're so excited about. Well, by the time they get done with their ruckus whatever was outside the window is long gone, so I never got a good opportunity to see anything. Well, last night Sonja and I beat the dogs to the punch and caught a glimpse of not one but two different nighttime visitors.

This pack/herd/pod of javelinas also included a cute little baby, but once I started flashing pictures of them they kept the little one out of sight. You can quite clearly see the "collar" marking on their shoulders, hence their other name: collared peccaries.

About an hour later I heard more scuffling outside and thought the javelinas had come back. So, I stuck my head out the window (I had removed the screen the day before) and was surprised to see this chubby little fuzzball scruffling around in the dirt not more than five feet under my head. When I first saw it I was hoping it was actually one of the hog-nosed skunks I'd seen along the ditch. But that black stripe down its back identifies it as a more common striped skunk.

We've also caught glimpses of a smallish racoon, but have yet to capture it on film. I'm still hoping to try to rig up the birdcam to do this for I don't have to stick my head out the window with my good camera leaning over a skunk.