Elegant Trogon and Wildflowers on a 2010 Trip to California

     In 2010 I received an email message from a friend who works at Stanford University asking if I would be interested in joining him and his son in an outing photographing California wildflowers.  A banner year for wildflowers was predicted because of higher than usual rainfall levels. I accepted the invitation and decided to drive to California making stops along the way to explore birding hotspots that I had not yet visited.  

     When I arrived at the head of the Sonoita Creek Trail in Patagonia Lake State Park south of Tucson, one of the hotspots I had never visited, birders were talking about the Elegant Trogon they had seen. I asked for directions, but since this was my first visit, the cognitive map that emerged was, at best, very crude. Two other birders about to enter the trail were also listening to the directions and, since they had visited the park previously, I joined them in the search for the bird. We took a right turn, presumably as directed, but walked a long distance without seeing the small group of birders we were told would still be viewing the bird. The two other birders thought we had made a wrong turn and were about to turn back when I asked them to wait until I went over a small rise to make sure the group of birders we were expecting to see was not just ahead. As I reached the top of the rise in the trail, I flushed the Trogon. It flew back toward the other two birders and landed in a thicket. I found a small opening in the branches that allowed a partial photo of the bird. The bird caught and consumed a larva and then flew further back toward the main path. 

Elegant Trogon, Patagonia State Park, AZ - June 2010

At the new location, I set up my tripod at ground level and, lying flat on the ground, had a full view of the Elegant Trogon on its perch through a small opening.  

Elegant Trogon, Patagonia State Park, AZ - June 2010

Elegant Trogon, Patagonia State Park, AZ - June 2010

What great luck – to see this rare and beautiful bird on my first birding trip to Arizona. The Elegant Trogon is a native of Mexico and Central America, but in the United States it breeds only in a few of Arizona’s southern canyons. Audubon estimates that 50 pairs now nest in Arizona.

As illustrated by the next three images, the prediction of a banner year for California wildflowers was accurate.

Field of Fiddlenecks, Carrizo Plain National Monument, CA - June 2010

Wildflowers, Carrizo Plain National Monument, CA - June 2010

Wildflowers, Tejon Ranch, CA - June 2010

David Sparks

I retired in 2005 after 40 years of research and teaching at the University of Alabama in Birmingham (24 years), the University of Pennsylvania (8 years) and the Baylor College of Medicine (8 years). Photography is my retirement hobby.

Nature photography, especially bird photography, combines a number of things that I really enjoy: bird-watching, being outdoors, photography, travel, messing about with computers, and learning new skills and concepts.  I now spend much of my time engaged in these activities.

David Sibley in the preface to The Sibley Guide to Birds wrote "Birds are beautiful, in spectacular as well as subtle ways; their colors, shapes, actions, and sounds are among the most aesthetically pleasing in nature."  My goal is to acquire images that capture the beauty and uniqueness of selected species as well as images that highlight the engaging behaviors the birds exhibit.