Naturerecordists 2001 Worldwide Dawn Chorus Recordings
Greg Clark Contribution
Copyright Greg Clark, 2001
Location: West of Fourpeaks mountains, Cottonwood Creek, in the Fourpeaks Wilderness Area about 70 Km east of Phoenix, Arizona.
Cactus Wren (irritation call)
Always on the lookout for a possibly quiet place to record near Phoenix, Arizona, Tim Price and I travelled to a survey site Tim knew about from 1993. This site was thought to be sheltered from highway noise because it was in a bowl with the Fourpeaks mountains on the east and a deep canyon dry wash system on the other sides. We decided to scout the site on the previous weekend because it had been so long since Tim had been there. Arriving in the area around 4:45 AM we got lost and took the wrong road. A poor quality road, we lost too much time going a few Km before we realized we were lost. So when the time came, I just set up to record where we happened to be. After recording the dawn chorus at this site (a week before Sept 1) we eventually made our way to the site we would use the next weekend. On reviewing the dawn chorus at the "lost" site Tim discovered that I had recorded the call notes for Bendire's Thrasher, something we have been trying to do for the last 8 years. Bendire's Thrasher may sing for 20 minutes continuously, but it rarely calls. So, if it weren't for this project, and getting lost, we still wouldn't have a recording of this call.
On Sept. 1 we arrived at the intended dry wash site near Fourpeaks well before dawn. It is necessary to hike a bit before getting into the best sonoran desert habitat where the birds were most likely to be found. I hiked in the dark to the sounds of kangaroo rats chasing each other through the prickly pear cactus, an Elf Owl that still had not begun migration, and the end of the night's singing for several Common Poorwill. Just as the dawn chorus was starting, a small airplane began an overflight that I thought would never end. Finally, the drone was gone and I had 15 minutes with near perfect conditions before a jet airplane showed up along with nearby blasts from shotguns and small arms, both noises frequently heard in Arizona public lands. I was able to get some nice irritation calls from Cactus Wren and the usual complaints from Gila Woodpecker, both birds letting me know they would be happier if I left for home. Once more there was a little surprise. I recorded something I have never heard before, probably the weak contact calls of Common Poorwil. September may be a rich time to record call notes not frequently heard at other times of the year in the desert. This project got me into the desert at a time I would normally not think of going, looks like I should do more September recording!