...was long and beautiful but kinda monotonous. Needless to say, Niblet and I are pretty spent from the trip, but we're settling in here in San Antonio.
The first day, I drove us from Rohnert Park right past the posh areas of Palm Springs and Indian Wells to a run-down little town called Indio, CA. There were so many closed restaurants and businesses all around the motel, but there was a little strip mall closer to the center of town where Subway and Starbucks and Baskin-Robbins were apparently still in business.
The next morning, we started early and, with a speed limit most of the way set at 80mph, we pretty much flew across the desert of Arizona and New Mexico. I did manage to get some pretty terrible photos (both taken in the sunset light) of two lifers:
The pics are so terrible that it's hard to make out, but I feel confident that my ID of Cactus Wren (which was made with a much better view of the bird through my binocs) is correct. He definitely had the spotty sides and the much larger than other wrens. There were a couple of them flying around the Motel 6 parking lot with the House Sparrows, just flying casual like they were no big deal. I guess they're not in the desert southwest, but they were a big deal to me!
The second lifer I saw, at a rest area somewhere in Arizona, is, I believe, a Cassin's Kingbird:
I was pretty confident that it was a kingbird from the second I saw it, but I figured it was a Western Kingbird. Still, when I studied the field guide later, I realized that the darker breast and the lack of white-edged tailfeathers indicated a Cassin's Kingbird. Pretty cool bird! I listened to the vocalizations later, and I'm pretty sure that I was hearing a Cassin's Kingbird.
I also saw this other bird that I have no clue about -- look at how flat and elongated his posture is:
This bird made no vocalizations, and he refused to turn around and face me so I could get a better look at him. At first I thought it was just the Cassin's, but note the tiny beak, and that weird posture was not at all like the more upright Kingbird. Any clues?
By now, the sun was pretty much gone:but I still managed to drive us all the way into El Paso that second night. Again, the amazingly high speed limit was a big help.
I had a sleepless night thanks to a sore tooth (I think it's from clenching my jaws at night), so I finally gave up on sleep at about 5 a.m. when I saw that Niblet was in his cage using his litty. I slammed the door shut (much to his chagrin), loaded up, and left El Paso. The speed limit out west was still 80 so I made it to San Antonio late that afternoon, very much exhausted but glad to be off the road.
I had some great pics of the Texas Hill Country, but for some reason they didn't come off my camera in the download. I'm a little confused by this, not to mention worried. I somehow managed to damage the LCD screen on the camera, which was (I thought) safe in my bag but somehow got banged up or something. Still, I usually use the eye viewer to shoot pics anyway because my vision is so terrible up close. But now these disappearing pics -- hmmm.
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This post has taken a week to write and upload; it's now a full week since I got here. I'm still searching for a job, but I'm amazed at the number of good jobs there are here, many of which demand great writing and editing skills -- something I kinda have a lock on, considering my past jobs as a technical editor, a managing editor, and an English teacher. So I'm confident that something will come through. Meanwhile, keep those positive thoughts coming in a southerly direction, friends -- thanks a bunch!
I'll be going to Austin next weekend (my brother's coming into town to see my this weekend) and birding at the Hornsby Bend Birding Reserve, which is supposed to be amazing. I've already downloaded a list of birds commonly seen there in Octobers past, and I'm totally pumped about seeing "abundant" Scissor-tailed Flycatchers and all sorts of Sandpipers and other migrants. You can be sure that I'll be studying my field guides over the next week to prepare for all those great Texas birds.
You'll notice I changed the banner (again). It's kind-of strange to be "coming home" to Texas as a complete novice on Texas birds. But my hardcore days as a beginning birder didn't actually begin until I moved to Pennsylvania, a very birdy place in its own right. I've been studying the Peterson's Guide to Texas Birds that I got for my mom back in February, along with my National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of North America and my Peterson's Western Birds. My mother just laughs at me when she sees me, jumping from book to book, trying to get every possible look at potential lifers.
By the way, that National Geographic guide is actually pretty darned nice -- good illustrations across the page from the descriptions, range maps on the same page as the descriptions, and detailed descriptions of range and habitat -- I was pretty surprised. And I got it for only ten bucks at Your Friendly Neighborhood Corporate Overlord Bookstore That's Driving Many Independent Bookstores To Ruin, aka Barnes & Noble (I had a giftcard). Give it a look, if you're itching to get a guide for the whole USA.