As we reach our "golden years," my spouse and I look for enjoyable ways to keep fit. One of our favourites is walking in Sabino Canyon, only a 10-minute drive from our house. This is only enjoyable until the desert heat hits, so we're going as often as we can. Yesterday was one of those cool, clear walking days. Since we wanted to keep pace and not stop, I agreed not to take a camera. After all, the last couple of times we were in the canyon, there wasn't much to photograph - dry, dying vegetation; nary a bird in sight; dry creekbed.
Yesterday's walk was delightful. As we turned off the main road up the canyon onto the Bluff Trail, we heard the sound of rushing water. Coming round the corner and looking down - a beautiful mini-waterfall, clear and sparkling in the sun! [Photo Op 1]. The snow melt from the two recent mountain snowfalls were feeding the creek. Later: a great view of the small, flowing creek [Photo Op 2] and the waterfall - thin, but still beautiful - over the dam [Photo Op 3]. Turning on to the Sabino Lake Trail ("lake" still dry as a bone), we saw the brilliant orange flower spikes of ocotillos [Photo Op 4]. On the descent to the Bear Canyon Trail, I turned around to find a very young roadrunner following us down the path. We stopped to watch it. Fearlessly, it sauntered to within 3 feet of me before turning up a small wash and walking off. [Photo Op 5] Just before we got to the Bear Canyon Trail, I heard sweet trilling and spotted little birds flitting through the mesquites. I stopped (are you counting? - two stops now) to watch them. I could barely make out that they had dark backs, grey breasts and heads, and some of them had black patches on their faces. [Probably too far away and too fast for Photo Op 6 - but you never know]
Since I'm pretty unfamiliar with birds, even our local ones, I had to look these birds up in Peterson's. I came up with Black-Chinned Sparrow, although it didn't seem quite right. I couldn't actually see streaked backs. I emailed Beth and she emailed me right back, suggesting that they might be Dark-Eyed Juncos. By then I'd already been to the Firefly Forest blog and seen Beth's post about the Dark-Eyed Juncos she'd photographed in the Chiricahua Mountains. (Talk about great timing!) These birds seemed to fit the description very well, but I wasn't sure if these juncos also frequented our area, since the Chiricahuas are at a much higher elevation.
Next fitness walk in Sabino, I'll carry at least the little pocket camera. The emerging photographer in me calls too strongly to resist.