Three days in the Santa Rita mountains south of Tucson, Arizona produced EIGHT lifers! Without the enthusiastic, expert guidance of local birding professional Brian Gibbons, my trip would have been a bust. Brian and I hiked miles and miles of canyon trails…at elevations greater than 5,000 feet, in pursuit of rarities that only frequent North America by way of southern Arizona, in the summer. These specialties are basically Mexican birds.
We were not the only birders on the trail up Miller’s Canyon in search of the White-eared Hummingbird. About a mile up the very steep slope I recognized 82 year old Sandy Komito….the guy who holds “The Big Year” record; you know…the character portrayed by Owen Wilson in the not-so-famous 2011 movie of the same name. We talked briefly and I gave him my business card. I’ll let you know if he chooses to correspond with me.
As I write this post in the Phoenix airport waiting for my red-eye flight to Philly, I am distracted by the incredibly itchy welts around my waist caused by chiggers. I have no idea how I hosted these microbes…but I blame the bear we encountered yesterday. His sudden appearance on our hike up Madera Canyon dropped me in my tracks and left me sitting in some strange vegetation, as I attempted to take a memorable photograph.