I got up a little before 6 this morning and drove back to Mummy Cave overlook, because I had just a glimpse of a bird that could have been a warbler of some kind when we were there before. It was a lovely drive out, and I was thinking about people in the area coming out the doors of their hogans to face the rising sun and scatter pollen. I got to the overlook just after dawn, and got to see the rising sun just lighting the rim of the canyon while the just-past-full moon set in the west.
I couldn’t find my mystery bird, but the swifts were still active along the cliff face, and even coming to perch. I unlimbered the camera, hoping to get a good shot of my 500th bird species. Then I got a better look. While preparing for the trip, I’d thought about how you tell a White-throated Swift from a Violet-Green Swallow, both of which have white that wraps around from the undertail up to the sides. Obviously I hadn’t thought quite enough, or else I was just too willing to believe in a new bird yesterday. I did get a photo of one; it’s not great, but it’s plenty good enough to show that it’s a Violet-Green Swallow and not a White-throated Swift.
So, I’m down to 501 species total, and my 500th was actually the Rock Wren. And one consolation is that I got some very good pics of the Rock Wren. So, here is my (new) 500th bird.
I got back to the hotel in time for a nice breakfast of blue corn pancakes, and then we packed up and headed south. Our first goal was Petrified Forest, but I did get the rest of the group to agree to a side trip to Ganado Lake, in hopes of a Western Grebe. No such luck, but some Avocets and ducks, with a whole lot of coots and a few Ring-Billed Gulls.
Then on to Petrified Forest. I’d never seen the place, and I didn’t really know what to expect. The sheer number of fossilized tree trunks is astounding. We had a good time looking at the Painted Desert.
Then we walked a short trail at Crystal Forest and marveled at all the huge trunks, now turned into agate and crystals. And some cool flowers as well.
From Petrified Forest our next stop was to be Meteor Crater, but we needed some lunch badly. We wound up going to Mr. Maesta’s in Holbrook, AZ — this place appears to be the original Cracker Barrel, with old photos covering the walls and rusty toy tractors and such hanging from the ceiling. I had a red chile chimichanga that was the best chimi I’ve had in years. And better yet, they had beer!
We finally got to Meteor Crater at maybe 3:30 or so. It was getting pretty hot, and we were tired, but we had to see it. It is pretty astounding — hard to appreciate the size of it even when you’re looking at it. I was perplexed by all the space program memorabilia until I found out in their museum that the Apollo crews trained there — closest thing they could find to a lunar crater.
From there, it’s only a little more than 30 minutes to Flagstaff, and it’s a remarkable transformation as you go from scrawny desert scrub to tall pine forest all of a sudden. We’re in Flag for three days now, so there should be time for a variety of expeditions. Meanwhile, I could use another beer.