Sunday, August 4, 2013

Arizona wrap-up: Grand Canyon and Lake Powell

After three nights at the Grand Canyon, our motor home was on the move eastward and northward to Lake Powell. Just before we exited Grand Canyon National Park we stopped to enjoy one of the most majestic views on the South Rim-- Desert View overlook.

Desert View overlook HDR 20130620

Watch Tower at Desert View

Watch Tower at Desert View HDR 20130620

As we got out of the RV at the parking lot, I immediately spotted a Western Tanager in living color. It disappeared before I could reach for the camera and failed to reappear as I lingered behind the rest of the family. My first (and only) photo of this species was an out-of-focus snapshot I took at "The Log" at Capulin Spring in New Mexico over 15 years ago. Wish I'd discovered the fun of DSLR a bit earlier!

Western Tanager

A Rufous-crowned Sparrow lurked in the shrubs next to the path to the overlook. This is only the second time I have been able to photograph this large sparrow. It remained in sight for only a few seconds. Though far from perfect, this shot was an improvement over my earlier attempts.

Rufous-crowned Sparrow 4-20130620

Rufous-crowned Sparrow 3-20130620

I had never before photographed a Black-chinned Sparrow, and have only seen them on a couple of occasions when we lived in New Mexico. This bird was even more adept at remaining unseen, yet betrayed its presence by vigorously disturbing the twigs and leaves of its hiding places.

Black-chinned Sparrow 2-20130620

Black-chinned Sparrow 20130620

The final three days of our Arizona RV vacation were spent at Lake Powell, on the Utah border. We rented a day-use houseboat for two days and enjoyed swimming and fishing, at first deep in Navajo Canyon, a narrow extension on the south shore of the lake.

Here I am at the helm of the 36 foot "Weekender"...

Ken at wheel of houseboat 20130621

...entering Navajo Canyon.

Lake Powell - Entering Navajo Canyon 20130621

Far in the canyon there are unusual "Angel Wing" rock formations.

Angel Wings in Navajo Canyon 20130621

We spent the second day swimming and fishing with the houseboat anchored on a beach opposite the Antelope Point Marina. This was a special time for fun and getting wet, so I did not bring my long lens. In fact, I took my photos with a pocket-sized Canon A1100 IS point-and-shoot. 

Swimming at Antelope Point 5-20130622

I caught two Striped Bass, which we cooked over charcoal that evening. Interestingly, this species normally lives in salt water and returns to the fresh water of rivers and inlets only to spawn. They have been introduced into many larger inland lakes for recreational fishing and control of invasive Gizzard Shad but usually fail to reproduce and must be periodically re-stocked. However they successfully breed in some lakes, notably Lake Powell, where they are now abundant and out-compete native game fish. Because they are considered pests, there is no size or catch limit.

Ken's two striped bass 20130622

The only bird of note was this Western Grebe, shot with my son-in-law's DSLR, a Canon EOS 5D Mk II zoomed all the way up to 105mm.

Western Gree 20130621

The rather long drive back to Phoenix encountered a major detour due to a landslide, and slow trucks climbing the 3% grades on Interstate 17.  After a night back at Desert Shadows RV Resort, we returned the vehicle with over 1,300 (not 13,000-- thanks to Phil for pointing out my extra zero!) new miles added to the 4,000 already on the odometer when we started out.

We used our frequent-flyer miles to book a First Class flight back to Illinois, as there were no economy seats available. Very nice! This was the first time we ever traveled "in class."

Back home in Illinois, seeming quite oblivious to all the construction activity, a Red-tailed Hawk perched on a lamp post next to our condo.

Red-tailed hawk 20130707

Red-tailed hawk in flight 20130707


  1. What an awesome trip! The Houseboat on the lake looks like a fun time. Love the birds, especially the hawk shots. Thanks for sharing, great post.

  2. the red-tail is so handsome! love that you rented a house boat! so cool!

  3. Hi Ken What a fantastic trip. Great scenery and wonderful to have the boat and to catch the 2 fish. I'm impressed. Great shots of the Red tail.

  4. Very nice trip indeed!!! Hope you get better shots of the Western Tanager when you come back. I know how that goes:)

  5. Nice welcome back after a perfect vacation! Beautiful scenic photos as well as the great job catching some very shy birds.

  6. It all sounds like a really nice holiday but the best for me would be the time spent on the water at Lake Powell. A great series of birds and good to see and photograph ones different from around your home.

  7. There is some serious landscapes there Ken, excelent. And although the small birds may have been a great achievement, its the hawk that takes the prise for me.
    All the best Gordon.

  8. Beautiful shots and the scenery is gorgeous! Love the hawk photo! It sounds like you had a great trip!

  9. What a grand trip Ken. That is such a beautiful spot to anchor the boat!Nice birds shots, and I bet those bass tasted mighty good!

  10. Magnificent scenery! The hawk is gorgeous.

  11. Great trip!! Boom & Gary of the Vermilon River, Canada.

  12. how lovely to do the houseboat trip and great photos; are those fish edible; great size and fun catching them

  13. Nice set of pictures. We have talked about hiring a house boat - this may tip us over into the "yes" camp!

    The earlier post on the Kestrel is great.


    Stewart M - Melbourne

  14. Beautiful pictures of a beautiful landscape.
    Beautiful fish, the last picture is totally awesome.

    Greetings Irma

  15. A fascinating series of photos. I had no idea that there were varieties of sparrow. And love those "angel wing" rocks. Fascinating.

  16. Good for you to get an upgrade! What a great family holiday you had, so much to feast on in memory not to mention the fish on site.

  17. A brilliant write up Ken. bad luck with the tanager - it would have made for a stunning picture if in simsilar plumage to the earlier one. The first sparrow looks like a large version of Chipping Sparrow. Noce landscape shots - love the angel wings. Those bass look tasty and if they are anything like our Sea Bass they would be. 13,000 miles! That's a lot of motoring.

  18. OOPS-- thank you, Phil for pointing out my math error-- 13,000 miles in 12 days would have worked out to over 1,300 miles a day with no time to eat, sleep or see any birds!! Yes, the bass was extremely tasty. It was next to our last day and we had run out of seasoning except for a small tub of herb butter. I used that to baste the fish as it cooked over the charcoal and it was perfect!

  19. That sounds like an amazing trip Ken, and I loved all these beautiful photographs. We took a trip out west a few years ago and I remember seeing the houseboats on Lake Powell and wondering if they were for rental vacations.

  20. Love the black chinned sparrow [I'm hoping that is what it was] in the plants, on the branch with the wonderful shadows!! That is artfully captured.

    You certainly have accomplished making me miss AZ!!

  21. wow, that´s a great trip. So much to enjoy. Birds and nature and boat trip. And I loved the Angel wings. :)


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