Monday 2 May 2016

My Grand Adventure: Part 3

On the Wing

Before I left for my Grand Canyon sojourn a few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of working on an unusual commission - not of someone's beloved four-legged companion but rather a wild western scrub jay.

While at that time I'd not had the good fortune to see one on the wing, my client had not only observed them on a trip south but had captured a series of excellent photos. When I saw the photos I instantly realized why someone would want a piece of art featuring this glorious blue bird. I wasn't familiar with scrub jays in particular but they're cousins of my local Steller's and gray jays with similar behaviours. The scrub jay turned out to be a great project and the finished product was well received by my happy client.

Imagine my delight when these striking birds and their relatives, the pinyon jay, were among the species I observed and identified during my trek. Alas, I wasn't able to capture any great photos but in my mind's eye I can recall their flashing blue feathers and companionable calls. I felt a warm sense of familiarity with these birds, like meeting up with old friends.

And while I frequently scanned the skies for a glimpse of the Grand Canyon's iconic feathered resident, the California Condor, I was not granted an appearance. At least looking for them distracted me from my tired feet and aching back! (There were days when the water I needed to carry added a dozen or more pounds to my already weighty backpack. However, my view is that little discomfort is the price to be paid for a unique wilderness experience.)

There were, of course, lots of other birds including some that were very familiar...

Chipping sparrow
Common raven
And others that were new to me...

Lesser goldfinch
Black-throated sparrow

Some I couldn't identify...

Some sort of flycatcher...? (Anybody out there know this one?)

And other speedy little charmers who were challenging to photograph.

There were many more, but I would declare my absolute favourite to be the canyon wren. Its beautiful, melodic call - a distinctive series of decending notes - could be heard reverberating from the canyon walls wherever there was an available water source, a bit of foliage, and an appropriate nest site high up in the rocks.

Like their cousins the Pacific wren (aka winter wren) whose song enriches my home woodlands during the spring, the male canyon wrens were busy declaring their territories and attempting to lure females. I am continually amazed by the volume and complexity of the song a tiny wren can produce. For a canyon wren sound bite click here.

So while I didn't catch a glimpse of a condor or capture a photo of a scrub jay, I was entertained daily by the rich variety of birdlife. I'm also left with excellent reasons to return some day to this magnificent place.


1 comment:

  1. So, ok, I wanted to hear the canyon wren song, it's 1:48 am, I am in bed with my laptop and I click on "click here" only to have all 3 dogs leap in the air and start staring at my lap top.Hmmmm. Gunna think twice next time. :)