Readers’ wildlife photos

I implore you once again to send in your good photos. I have a reserve, but it’s not large.

Today’s aliquot (you should have learned that word by now) comes from reader William Savage, and comprises lovely bird and landscape photos. (There’s a reptile in there, too.) His captions and IDs are indented:

Here are some more birds from the Sonoran Desert in Arizona, together with one animal and some shots of the desert habitat.

The Black-crowned Night Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax) was photographed just outside Tucson, at a spot called Sweetwater, where the water authority has established a series of natural lakes for treating waste water by biological means for use on the many golf courses in the area. As permanent areas of standing water in the desert, they attract large numbers of birds at all times of the year.

Next, a very typical bird for waterside places throughout Oregon, California, Arizona and down through Mexico into Central America: a Black Phoebe (Sayornis nigricans). They’re very accommodating to photographers, since they like to perch in prominent places and tend to stay there, using it as a base for quick forays to grab insects mid-air.

Out into the desert now, where you can find Horned Larks (Eremophila alpestris) in the drier areas. The same species occurs on beaches and sand-dunes in Europe, where they are usually called Shore Larks. As the Latin binomial implies, they are also found in the Alps.

Next some pictures of Sonoran Desert habitat. The first three all come from the Catalina State Park on the northern side of Tucson. It is a wonderful resource, situated at the foot of Pusch Ridge, one of the westernmost outliers of the Santa Catalina Mountains — the largest and tallest “sky islands” in this part of Arizona. That’s Pusch Ridge in the background of the first picture. Note the tall Saguaro cactus (Carnegiea gigantea) in it as well.

A typical dry wash. During the monsoon, these can turn into raging torrents in moments, sometimes catching and killing unwary visitors.

This shot shows how green the Sonoran Desert is, even in the dry seasons.

Back to birds, and a photo of Lawrence’s Goldfinch (Spinus lawrencei). These tiny birds breed mostly in Baja Californian and winter from Southern California across to Texas.

Here’s another, quite rare local speciality, a Desert Tortoise (Gopherus agassizii). They spend most of the year hiding in burrows from the heat of the sun, only coming out after rains, when there’s abundant green vegetation at ground level. Maybe that’s why they’re long-lived, most managing 60-80 years.

Finally, a shot of the Tucson Mountains, home to thousands of Saguaros, which make up the Saguaro National Park.



  1. Posted February 3, 2020 at 9:57 am | Permalink

    Very pretty! I am envious of your weather — in February; but not in July! 🙂

  2. Posted February 3, 2020 at 10:30 am | Permalink

    Outstanding. I love the Sonoran Desert. It is an under appreciated part of the American landscape.

  3. rickflick
    Posted February 3, 2020 at 10:34 am | Permalink

    A beautiful part of the U.S.
    The night heron is a favorite of mine.

  4. Posted February 3, 2020 at 11:23 am | Permalink

    Great stuff! I just realized desert tortoises could not evolve the upturned shell seen in some Galapagos tortoises for grazing higher off the ground b/c then they would not be able to burrow.

  5. chascpeterson
    Posted February 3, 2020 at 11:44 am | Permalink

    Great shots of a beautiful area.
    Desert tortoises were split into 3 (so far) species a while back; the ones around Tucson are now considered Sonoran Desert Tortoises, Gopherus morafkai.

  6. Barbara Radcliffe
    Posted February 3, 2020 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

    Great photos! I am intrigued to find a bird with the same generic name, Eremophila, as as Australian shrub, commonly known as emu bush. Any ideas if such multiple useage is common?

  7. Mark R.
    Posted February 3, 2020 at 4:11 pm | Permalink

    I liked all of these, especially the tortoise. Beautiful desert landscapes and yes, greener than I’d expect.

  8. Posted February 4, 2020 at 11:49 am | Permalink

    Thanks for the photos – I am unlikely to make it to that part of the world, so it is nice to see it at one remove!

  9. Andrea Kenner
    Posted February 7, 2020 at 7:14 am | Permalink

    Thank you for the beautiful photos — and for expanding my vocabulary once again!

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