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Images from the American Southwest December 2015/January 2016


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Mark and I took a 6 week road trip from California to Texas and back via Arizona, a bit of Utah and New Mexico. I won't bore anyone to tears (myself included) with a day by day report as a lot of it was non-wildlife related and consisted of visits with family and friends. I thought I'd post some photos and would be happy to answer any questions. Please feel free to correct any mis-ID's.


Thanks to everyone who helped with my planning thread especially @@offshorebirder, @@Atdahl and @@Anomalure for suggesting that I look at Southeast Arizona, an area which I hadn't previously given much thought to and we ended up falling in love with. We were generally very lucky with the weather and only ran into two snow storms (only one of which we had to drive through) that resulted in some minor tweaks to our itinerary while on the road.


To start, a phone pano of Sedona Arizona at sunset. It had snowed that morning but most of it had melted by mid day.



Monument Valley, Utah - it started snowing lightly here too the following morning but since only "flurries" were predicted we decided to continue on.



Starting to get a bit "flurrier". That's Canyon de Chelly, Arizona behind us.



Going about 25 MPH now. We did finally make it to Petrified Forest, Arizona that afternoon only to be told the park had closed for the first time in 10 years.



But we made it in the following morning. Here's the Painted Desert portion of the park.



A petrified log


Edited by Patty
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One of the highlights of our trip was Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico. We stayed in the town of Socorro which was about a 20 minute drive away. We did the round trip drive twice a day and didn't find it to be too bad. There are a few accommodations in San Antonio if one wanted to be closer. We would get to the reserve just before sunrise to watch the fly out, then drive or walk around watching the cranes and geese feed in the fields and looking for other wildlife, take a mid day break and grab lunch and return in the afternoon for the fly in and stay until dark.


Here's a video of the evening fly in.

Edited by Patty
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Sandhill cranes getting ready to take flight in the morning. It was 16 degrees F before sunrise at the crane pond but luckily no wind the 2 days we were there so we could comfortably stand around in our snow boots, down jackets, hats and gloves. Once the sun came out, it warmed up nicely into the 40's during the day.









A family of mule deer




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There were also Ross's and snow geese in even greater numbers and their fly ins and fly outs were just as spectacular if not more.


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~ @@Patty


This thread is a GEM!

As yours truly once lived in Arizona, and has a special love for the southwestern U.S. environment, your photos are an unexpected treasure.

The images of geese, cranes and deer — terrific!

Likewise the agatized section of petrified wood.

Very interesting to see the severe winter snow you encountered.

Your Sedona panorama looks like an Old Master painting.

It was great fun reading your posts while you were there.

Thank you so much for following up with these lovely images.

Tom K.

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Wow, some really beautiful shots. We were in Sedona last March. A really nice phone photo.

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Thanks for sharing that part of the world with the rest of us! Great landscape photos, and sandhill cranes are excellent also.

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So glad your trip turned out well @@Patty - what amazing landscapes, especially the one near Sedona.


And great photos and videos of Sandhill Cranes and Snow Geese! Seeing large numbers of Sandhill Cranes and Snow Geese lifting off is a very uplifting experience.


Thanks for sharing this trip report.

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Beautiful landscapes and great shots and video of the cranes and the snow geese. Thank you

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We spent a few days in Santa Fe, New Mexico and took several day trips in the surrounding area.


Our first day trip was to Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument about an hour southwest of Santa Fe.







Another day trip took us to Valles Caldera National Preserve (about an hour and a half northwest of Santa Fe) and Bandalier National Monument. They are in the same direction so easily combinable. In winter you're limited to driving to the visitor's center at Valles Caldera and walking, snow shoeing or cross country skiing from there. Still we had a nice time walking around, saw a large herd of elk in the distance and had the place to ourselves. I think it had been a few days since they last had visitors at the preserve.


Driving down into the caldera. The small buildings on the right is where the visitor's center is and you can park.





Elk herd





On the drive between Valles Caldera and Bandalier we caught a glimpse of a coyote.



And mule deer



Bandalier National Monument



A cliff dwelling at Bandalier


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A couple of more scenic stops in southern New Mexico


Carlsbad Caverns - the elevators are currently out of service so this is the only way to enter and exit the cavern.









White Sands National Monument






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Cave Creek Canyon in the southeast corner of Arizona close to the New Mexico border on the east side of the Chiricahua Mountains turned out to be our favorite stop on our trip. We loved the combination of wildlife, scenic beauty and remoteness. We stayed at Cave Creek Ranch http://www.cavecreekranch.com/ which I can highly recommend. We were able to book on short notice as it's winter and there were at most 5 rooms occupied during our stay. Spring would be quite a different story.


We stayed in Apartment 6 which is an end unit that's part of the Juniper Lodge triplex. It had a fireplace which was really nice for the cool evenings and a full kitchen. There are a few small stores and restaurants open on various days in the nearby towns of Portal, Arizona and Rodeo, New Mexico but it's best to stock up on groceries (and get gas) before you get to these towns as we found out when we ran out of bread. How hard can it be to find a loaf of bread, right? That's what we thought too! We first went to the little store in Portal to find it closed on Wednesdays. Then we drove to the store in Rodeo only to be told they couldn't sell us their last loaf of bread as they needed it themselves for the small attached cafe. We were willing to negotiate for a few slices at this point while scanning the bare shelves to see what else we could find when luckily for us another loaf was found and we had our bread! We were very happy as the next store was an hour away. We did see a new empty building in Rodeo that looked to be a future grocery/restaurant but wasn't open at the time of our visit.


Our room overlooking the creek



As we settled in to eat our lunch on the back patio, we saw this peccary crossing.



Followed by the two cutest babies



They still had their umbilical cords.



We drove around Cave Creek and did several small hikes including the McCord Trail directly behind the ranch across a swing bridge.



Views from the McCord Trail



More Cave Creek wildlife


Coue's white-tailed deer






Acorn woodpecker



Bridled titmouse


Edited by Patty
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This report is giving me some ideas for a future road trip from Kansas. How cold was it during the time you were there? Was that in January or February?



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@@mapumbo Our trip was December 5th to January 17th. Day time temps spanned from the 20's to 80's though the upper end was mostly in Los Angeles and Austin. It was colder than normal through much of AZ and NM and got down to the teens/single digits a few evenings. After we left Bosque del Apache a big snow storm closed the auto tour loop for a few days and hit a lot of NM and the TX panhandle pretty hard. The warmest it got around Santa Fe was in the 40's. SE AZ was warmer, 50's during the day in the canyon areas though we ran into a snow storm one day there too. Tucson was in the 60's during the day.

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~ @@Patty


Those collared peccary babies deserve special mention.

After looking at the photo for some moments, I'm fairly certain that it's the first image that I've ever seen anywhere of collared peccary babies.

Cute, cute, cute !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Cave Creek Ranch looks highly attractive, @@Patty. Thanks for the tip.

Your bird, landscape and historic monument images are superb!

Yet it's the faces of those wee collared peccaries which I can't seem to forget.

Many, many thanks!

Tom K.

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Really enjoying this, Patty. The Red Cardinal is a stunner, and the Peccary babies are a really precious sighting. But most of all I appreciate the landscape shots.

Edited by michael-ibk
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Thanks @@michael-ibk! I'm encouraged by everyone's nice comments and likes. I wasn't sure if there would be much interest when I started this.

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Our plan after leaving Cave Creek was to visit Chiricahua National Monument on the west side of the Chiricahua range. However the weather forecast that day called for rain, snow and high winds so we reluctantly abandoned those plans decided to visit the towns of Bisbee and Tombstone instead. The latter was good cheesy fun. We drove south toward Douglas, Arizona as the road across the mountain range isn't passable at this time of year. We briefly stopped at Whitewater Draw where we saw some sandhill cranes in the distance but the high winds kept us from exploring more. We arrived at our motel in Sierra Vista, Arizona in the late afternoon and had only experienced some light rain up to this point so were hopeful for getting into the canyons south of Sierra Vista the next day. However that was not to be as it started snowing heavily in the evening. We decided that it was best to head to Tucson early and wait for the roads to clear.


Plan C turned out to be a good plan and we enjoyed our 3 days in Tucson. The city offers easy access to nature nearby and we visited the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum, Saguaro National Park West, Sabino Canyon and met up with @@Atdahl and his wife for a hike at Catalina State Park.


Despite its name the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum is really a zoo but a well done one and we were able to see up close some of the desert wildlife that we had missed. It's right before the entrance to Saguaro West so the two can be easily combined. The following were taken at this "museum".





Mexican grey wolf



Mountain lion



Prairie falcon


Edited by Patty
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We had beautiful weather the morning we visited Sabino Canyon and the snow on the peaks added the perfect finishing touch.



White-tailed deer



Cholla cactus





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On our last day in Tucson we found out that the road in Madera Canyon had been cleared all the way and booked a night at Santa Rita Lodge. Madera Canyon is about an hour south of Tucson so it's also possible to day trip here. Due to its proximity to Tucson we encountered more people here than at Cave Creek Canyon though it still wasn't what I would call "busy" at least on our weekday visit. Might be different on weekends. The accommodations at Santa Rita Lodge are a more basic than at Cave Creek Ranch. We had a room that was part of the quadplex overlooking the creek (but no creekside patio) with a small kitchenette. Green Valley, Arizona is a decent sized town nearby so you don't have to bring food or cook if you don't want to.


Here's a view of our room from the other side of the creek. We watched some deer in the late afternoon from our window.



Similar to Cave Creek we spent our time here driving the canyon roads and going on short hikes. Many of the upper trails still had snow and ice but we had enough clear trails to choose from.



Mexican jay



Ladder-backed woodpecker and white-crowned sparrow



Wild turkey





Coue's white-tailed deer



One last pano of Madera Canyon taken from the Nature Trail



Thanks for following along everyone and allowing me to relive our trip!

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~ @@Patty


Too much beauty to single out any particular image.

Nonetheless, that bobcat photo is a honey!

Love your panoramas, especially due to the frosting of snow.

I remember when you were inquiring about possible places...and when you were on the trip...and here is the trip report.

It's been delightful from start to finish.

Thank you so much for making time prepare and upload the commentary and images.

Tom K.

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@@Patty - I love the photos of the baby Peccaries! So glad you got to see good birds and wildlife on your winter visit. I like SE Arizona in winter - much quieter and more serene. Reptiles and amphibians are few and far between but the bird and mammal action is still good.

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