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Fitness and Photography for Fun - A blog on staying fit by hiking and doing photography by David Mendosa

Southeast Arizona’s Las Cienegas

April 25th, 2012 · No Comments

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After leaving Patagonia, we had some light left near the end of our second full day in Southeast Arizona. So Sharon and I studied our field guides to find another interesting place to explore.

One of our best trip resources, the “Southeastern Birding Trail” map, highlighted one place near the route from Patagonia to Santa Rita Lodge in Madera Canyon, where we were staying. Las Cienegas National Conservation Area is “one of the best grasslands left in southeastern Arizona,” it told us. This area has five of the rarest habitats in the Southwest: cienegas, or marshlands, cottonwood-willow riparian forests, mesquite bosques, and sacaton, or dropseed, and semi-desert grasslands.

The other indispensable birding resource for the area, Finding Birds in Southeast Arizona, told us about the Heritage Discovery Trail, which winds through a cottonwood-lined section of Upper Empire Gulch there. That’s where we had a pleasant hike near the end of the day.

But the gulch was well-shaded by huge cottonwoods and not until we drove away did I get any good photographs. The light was almost gone when I half-seriously asked Sharon to find me a bird to match the beauty of last light.

Just then she did. “There, on that pole!” she exclaimed.

Sure enough she had spotted an American Kestrel just minutes before the sun dropped below the horizon. This is our smallest falcon and the most beautiful of all raptors. It was eating a lizard.

A Male American Kestrel Enjoys a Raw Lizard for Dinner

A Male American Kestrel Enjoys a Raw Lizard for Dinner

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The Kestrel Calls

The Kestrel Calls

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What was the kestrel saying? “It’s my lizard; stay away!” Or “I saved some lizard for you, my dear!” Only the kestrel knows.

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