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Saturday, May 30, 2015

Ramsey Canyon

Tufted Flycatcher, totally unseen by N. C. Miller

Yesterday I headed for Ramsey Canyon, a best beloved birding spot which would be perfect for me if it were more horizontal in nature, but you can't have everything. Ramsey is jumpin' these days for the exotic birdies that have flown in from the tropics, the most sought after being the Tufted Flycatcher. To see this little exotic feathered thing, an uphill hike to the Ramsey Canyon summit followed by a mile hike along a mountain ridge was required. Loads of people did the hike, me however, not so much. Hope it returns about two years from now at which time I plan to be ready to hike to see the little booger.

Crap shot, of great bird, Elegant Trogon

Meanwhile, yesterday I was after a different tropical rarity that's been found uphill about half a mile up the canyon. So, with camera (loaded with film & charged battery which I had presence of mind to check) I headed uphill. It was nice & cool under the shaded canyon trail. I heard an old familiar call, that of the Elegant Trogons which called vigorously.

Tickled to see a bird that was a lifer for me just last year, I made my way up to where I found a group of birders.

"The Tanager?" I asked hopefully.

"Just left a couple of minutes ago. It'll be back." the Tanager sated birders replied.

Thus started a long, long, futile wait for the Flame-colored Tanager to return. These south of the border birds, a breeding pair showed up a week or two ago, and started building a nest in a little pine tree.  The Tanger's nesting tree was fenced off for protection.
Nesting site was fenced off to protect the little pine on the right
 While we all chatted and waited for the Flame-colored Tanager male to return, I photographed whatever winged thingies came in sight.

Texas Crescent Butterfly

Painted Redstart, cutest little thing in the Canyon
A girlie, Northern Flicker, trying it's best to look like a Gilded Flicker, just for me
 One hour. Two hours. Three hours. No Flame-colored anything. I was starting to get hungry and as no food is allowed in the canyon (unless you are feathered, furred or scaled) getting back to my rental car seemed a good idea. Heavily disappointed I started the long trudge back down the canyon. Loads of birds danced around along the route, and not to far from the visitor center I stopped to rest on, I kid you not, a wooden rocking chair to watch hummingbirds at the feeders. There, watching a Magnificent Hummer duking it out with a Broad-billed Hummer, a couple of guys who I'd chatted with uphill, called to me.

"As soon as you left, the Flame-colored Tanager flew in! I'm sure he's still singing away just over the trail if you want to see him."

I. Was. Flabberghasted. How DARE they update me on that totally Claire-unfriendly Creature-of-the-wild. It was some kind of CIA level conspiracy. I mean, how DARE that bird fly in after I'd left in favor of lunch over facing the bird's return while slowly starving to death in public. 

No way I could muster the energy to crawl back up the hill. It was a miracle I'd made it uphill to begin with but I just couldn't face scaling the hill a second time. Too much sweat on my brow and under my armpits. Tomorrow. I'll get back up there tomorrow. Feeling sorry for myself. Oh yeah, you betcha. 

When I left the canyon and finished lunch I stopped by a Mickey D's for a HUMONGOUS iced coffee, then decided to re-visit Carr Canyon, where a year ago the troop of White-nosed Coatis crossed my path. On the way I passed by a little nature center which was closed last year as it was mid week. This time it was open and I toured it, and chatted like 45 minutes with the visitor center ranger. Honestly, I had a rare case of Chatty Cathy-itis and couldn't just shut the hell up. After the visit I headed up Carr Canyon and half way there in my rental 4-wheel drive, I decided I didn't feel like hazarding the drive up to the top which, I recall from last year, was um... daunting. No Coatis this time around, but I did come across a roadrunner, with the catch of the day in its bill. The bird charged across the road then flew (a rare sight I can assure you) up the hill, where the bird proudly posed with its lunch.

Mighty hunter I, pose here with this wildly
powerful mini-dinosaur I caught with my own beak!
Totally enjoyed that Roadrunner. 

Tonight I checked into a cute tiny motel, that had champagne dreams and caviar wishes. Was delighted they had a happy hour (OK, was more like 3 hours). I decided after my long day I deserved treats so enjoyed a nice cold beer (wasn't Guinness but very nearly had flavor which was a bonus) and a little of their starchy Chex mix type offerings. Later around sunset, I exited said room to see, a large, scrubby desert lot next to the motel that was being droned by a Lesser Nighthawk. Yay!

Feeling experimental, I took loads of pictures with an ISO setting normally used for photography in unlit caves in the bowels of the earth. It being sundown, not Hades, I think I may have overshot my ISO needs, but what the hell, it was an experiment. I was stunned by how not-too-horrible the shots turned out.

Little Desert Gamble's Quail
Now, the photos I took ran from so-so to too-dark-but-what'd-ya-expect-it-being-past-sundown. So, I did a little photo shopping and LOVED the results.
Un-photo-shopped Lesser Nighthawk
Second uncorrected shot
OK, now hold onto your whatever-it-is you hold onto. Here comes a Nighthawk with viewable feathers!
Astounding - for me at least - corrected photo
And oh, yes, here is a second lightened, contrast messed-with and such, photo.
Slightly blurry, overly contrasted, but hell, you can very nearly see feather patterns!
Are you awestruck? No? Then you're not trying. Really, for me these are amazing photos, that I skillfully produced by hitting Photo Shop's 'You are too much of an idiot to work the professional level so just hit the auto' button. Yeah, I hit that sucker all on my own, no help with the cursor. Thank you. I'm impressed too.

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