Readers’ wildlife photos

August 28, 2023 • 8:32 am

Today’s photos come from ecologist Susan Harrison at UC Davis.  Her captions are indented, and you can enlarge the pictures by clicking on them.

Southeastern Arizona (part 1)

Sooner or later, a U.S. birdwatcher must go to Southeastern Arizona.   That’s because dozens of Mexican and Central American bird species make it just across the international border into the tree-lined canyons of Arizona’s Chiricahua Mts., Huachuca Mts., and other small north-south oriented mountain ranges.  Many of these birds are as dazzlingly colorful as you’d expect from their mainly tropical and subtropical distributions.

In August 2023 I made my pilgrimage to see these species.  Today I’ll show the most localized species, and next time I’ll show some of the ones that also range east into south Texas, west to the California deserts, and/or north to the Great Basin deserts.

First, a habitat shot of a canyon in the Chiricahua Mts.:

Next, the region’s most fabled bird, the Elegant Trogon (Trogon elegans):

Hummingbird diversity is perhaps the region’s greatest claim to fame besides Trogons. Over a dozen species can be regularly found here!  The technique for seeing them is to visit small eco-lodges and visitor centers where feeders have been set up.  Here are four species:

Rivoli’s Hummingbird (Eugenes fulgens):

White-Eared Hummingbird (Basilinna leucotis):

Violet-Crowned Hummingbird (Leucolia violiceps):

Lucifer Hummingbird (Calothorax lucifer):

Other colorful denizens include these warblers –

Red-Faced Warbler (Cardellina rubifrons):

Rufous-Capped Warbler (Basileuterus rufifrons):

Some Southeastern Arizonan birds are close southern relatives of birds that are familiar elsewhere in the U.S.  Here are four examples:

Mexican Jay (Aphelocoma wollweberi), almost identical to California Scrub Jay (Aphelocoma californica) but more social in its behavior; we always saw them in flocks:

Mexican Duck (Anas diazi) in front of a Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos); these two species often hybridize in urban settings like this Tucson pond:

Whiskered Screech-Owls (Megascops trichopsis), related to Western Screech-Owls (Megascops kennicottii) and living beside them in this area, but in slightly drier habitats:

Mexican Spotted Owls (Strix occidentalis lucida), found in pine and fir forests at higher elevations, closely related to and just as threatened as the Northern Spotted Owl (Strix occidentalis caurina).   This roosting pair is grooming each other’s facial feathers.  My title for this photo is “Get a room, owls!”:

16 thoughts on “Readers’ wildlife photos

  1. The Rivoli’s and Lucifer hummingbirds are particularly stunning.  I suppose the green and purple have a refractive basis and are not from pigments(?). 

    1. Yes, hummingbird colors are refractive. In fact, these hummingbirds are all stunning — it’s just that the full brilliance of their color is only seen when they are out in the sun and turn their heads directly toward you, which is a challenge to catch in a photo. I was lucky on the Rivoli’s and the Lucifer.

  2. What lovely birds and a very special place. The border regions in Mexico are now rather unsafe, so this part of Arizona is probably the best place to see these species.

  3. Traveling to Southeastern Arizona is one thing, but then getting good photos of all these rare birds there is quite another; extremely impressive! Thanks.

    1. Thank you, John. The good folks at Wildside Nature Tours get all the credit for finding the rarities. I’m spending my cats’ inheritance on guided bird trips 🙂

  4. As usual thanks.

    I very much enjoyed your comments on “Reflections on Papers Past,” which JAC introduced to me, perhaps most of us, upon commenting on his reflection several weeks ago. Hari Sridhar had a lovely idea, ending up with some 150 interviews.. There are several more authors that JAC has mentioned previously, most recently Peter and Rosemary Grant of the Galapagos and Paul Ehrlich (in a water snake reference about which I agreed with one commenter: their proclivity to strike) although his reflection is about coevolution in butterflies and plants. Some of the entries are likely to ring a bell.

    Ed Hessler

    1. Ed, thanks for reminding us of “Reflections on Papers Past”. I hadn’t know about it (or if I did, I forgot….) Those are great interviews, very interesting to read. They are rare opportunities to get insights into the persons behind the science. I enjoyed Susan’s interview too.

  5. Exquisite photos of exquisite species. Looks like a beautiful area to boot. I loved the Elegant Trogon, never seen that bird before. I also liked the fact that its common name is a direct translation of its binomial (Trogon elegans). Maybe that happens a lot, but I can’t think of any others.

  6. I missed an obvious entry and acknowledgement in my reference to “Reflections on Papers Past.” Color me red as the proverbial beet of summer and the red face of a winter’s day in January with the wind huffing and puffing and the temperature trying to find a bottom. I don’t know how many web sites has a contributing photography pool with two National Academy of Science members. Dr. Harrison is one; the other is John Avise who has a paper in that series, one that made a huge difference for him personally and professionally.

  7. Chiracahua National Monument is a bucket-list destination even if you are not a birder, and reasonably easy to get to. Drive SE from Phoenix or Tucson, get lodging in Wilcox or camp in the NM. Geological wonders, sky islands with Canadian flora at altitude.

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