May 22, 2015, Tucson, Arizona — Like the classic 60s surf movie, I’m living in endless summer. Today I traded one hot place (Texas) for another (Arizona). My only “winter” this year will be in the high mountains every now and then—otherwise, my down jacket is mostly useful as a soft pack liner.
At least Arizona is dry (in Texas, it was 80 degrees at 3 a.m. and sticky). My connecting flight to Tucson was canceled late last night and the airline comped a nice hotel room in Phoenix. Two friends, John Yerger and Scott Olmstead, drove up to meet me there this morning and we spent the day working a wide loop to Tucson.
The desert landscape in Arizona is different than anything I’ve yet experienced this year. Northern Mexico was also quite dry (west of Monterrey, an arm of the Chihuahuan desert is full of Joshua-tree-like yuccas and chaparral) but the Sonoran desert here is unique. We passed through large stands of Saguaro cacti today interspersed with creosote, cholla, prickly pear, palo verde, and ironwood. It’s so beautiful it feels fake, like a movie set.
The birds are different, too, and I quickly picked up some arid southwest specialties: Gray Vireo, Cactus Wren, Gambel’s Quail, Gilded Flicker, Abert’s Towhee, and Le Conte’s Thrasher. John and Scott made sure to stop at an urban park in Phoenix so we could see a couple of Rosy-faced Lovebirds, a type of small parrot native to Namibia which has established a population here (recently deemed “countable” by the American Birding Association, which presides over such matters in North America). We also stopped at a sewage pond and were questioned there by a passing police officer. All in all, a productive day.
New birds today: 18
Year list: 2613