One of the more rigorous, vigorous outings on our visit to Arizona was a Tucson Audubon Society trip to nearby Chino Canyon. Close to Madera Canyon, it was nonetheless rather difficult to access by car. We all doubled up in the all-wheel drives and carpooled across the desert to the beginning of the trail. This was only a few short weeks after my knee surgery, so I wrapped it tightly and took one of my preciously hoarded prescription pain pills, grabbed my binoculars, field guide and camera and off we went. Trip leader Mike Bissontz was yet another of the wonderfully knowledgeable guides we were fortunate to hook up with. Who knows how we would have floundered in our birding adventures if not for such as he!
We walked about six miles in Chino Canyon. Although the footing along the trail was rocky and uneven at times, the knee held up and the birds hid well. I was not successful at bird photography that day. But I was fascinated by the changing shapes of Elephant Head, which we hiked along and around. There was a fissure cutting diagonally across it that drew me like a moth to a flame. But for my rabid fear of heights, I might have tried a rock climb! Yeah right…believe that and I’ll tell you another!
Some of the new birds we saw that day were Ash-throated Flycatcher, Gambel’s Quail, Canyon Wren, Rufous-crowned Sparrow, Lark Sparrow, Lesser Goldfinch.
And just a few of the other birding areas yielded:
Douglas Ranch: Violet-green Swallow, Blue Mockingbird and Ruddy Ground Dove
Florida Canyon: Rufous-capped Warbler, Black-capped Gnatcatcher, Spotted Towhee, Black-chinned Sparrow
Patagonia Lake: Elegant Trogon, Bridled Titmouse
Backyard in Tucson: Violet-crowned Humingbird
For a complete album of photos from the Arizona trek, visit
and you’ll find the jewel-like birds, the mysterious plantlife and the mind-boggling geologic features of another world!
We loved birding (and the bit of botanizing I was able to fit into our schedule) in Arizona. Each day became a new adventure, and the weather was so much nicer than back home in Pennsylvania!
Now, exit Arizona…..
…and enter Pennsylvania.
It’s May in Pennsylvania! Which leads me back home in my narrative and on to our newest adventures in search of the elusive spring migrant warblers and wonderfully stationary wildflowers.
This past week brought a warm spell with temperatures in the sunny 80s some days. Canoeing, birding and finally, botanizing! We went out birding nearly every day, and Thursday morning while we worked on the briar clearing on the Tidioute Riverside Rec-Trek Trail, the wildflowers actually came out of hiding. Red Trilliums, White Trilliums, Pepperroot (Dentaria diphylla), Kidneyleaf Buttercup (Ranunculus arborvitus) and Cuckoo-flower (Cardamine pratensis) decided to open today.
Probably the most exciting spring wildflower, to me, the one which signifies It’s Spring!, is the White Trillium (Trillium grandiflorum). It seems that no sooner has it emerged than it’s popping up a green bud and the next day, that Grand Flora! What was merely leaf duff last week is today a stately grouping of the princess of spring wildflowers.
I remember 35 years ago when I discovered that a woman had pulled over to the side of the road by our neighbor’s property. She took her children into the woodland there and they all picked the trilliums, every one of them. Did she know that by doing this, they killed them all? I don’t know; they clambered into the car and took off before I could talk to them about what they’d done. The Trillium plant needs its leaves to feed the bulbs for the next year’s bloom/seed cycle. As with other bulbed plants, if you pick the leaves, the bulbs have no way of building nourishment to stay alive. The Trillium flower grows on a very short stem about the 3-part leaf, so when they are picked, most people in their ignorance pick the entire plant.
The Red Trillium (Trillium erectum) is also known as Wake Robin. It has a foul odor, but the beauty contradicts the offensive qualities. A deep russet color, this flower might easily be overlooked in the dim shadows of the forest floor.
I did not see any today, but the Trout Lilies have been blooming for over a week in our area in northwest Pennsylvania. I learned of a patch of rare white Trout Lilies in bloom north of Warren that I wasn’t able to find yesterday on a walk. And Spring Beauties along the roads and trails in the Erie National Wildlife Refuge as well as various violets (enough for an entire article, just themselves), Bloodroot, Wild Ginger...like a candy store!
If you take a walk on the Muddy Creek Holly Trail on the Refuge, east of Cambridge Springs, you might find the delicate and beautiful Painted Trillium (Trillium undulatum).
I could go on in my enthusiasm, but it is time for “Young and the Restless,” which means my dog Maggie is waiting on the couch for some quality spud time. Till we meet again...