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One of the truly wonderful things about living in southern Arizona is that you never have to be satisfied with the scenery and wildlife in your immediate neighborhood. The dramatic differences in elevation here produce a variety of ecosystems and habitats supporting a vast array of flora and fauna. For example, we live at an elevation of less than 3000 feet and our immediate neighborhood is a classic upland desert, complete with numerous species of cactus and with the weather that one typically imagines when one thinks about Arizona. We’ve experienced high temperatures of 100 degrees or more for most of the past two weeks and next week’s highs are predicted to reach or exceed 115 degrees on a couple of days.
However, a scant hour’s drive from our home sits the summit of Mt. Lemmon. At nearly 9200 feet of elevation, Mt. Lemmon’s summit supports an environment totally different than that found in our desert, an environment that is much closer to that encountered in the Colorado Rockies than in the desert below. At the summit, Ponderosa Pines and hardwoods abound and daytime high temperatures rarely get above the 80’s. In winter there is often significant snowfall.
Last Sunday, I drove to the summit along with a friend, Ned Harris. It was a day when the high temperature in Tucson was about 103 degrees. At Mt. Lemmon’s summit it was in the low 70’s. We encountered a variety of species up there that differ dramatically from desert wildlife.
These included Black-headed Grosbeaks. These beautiful birds, resembling large finches, might show up very rarely in the desert as they pass through during their spring and fall migrations. However, they summer and breed at the higher elevations of Mt. Lemmon and they are common summer residents there. The bird that I photographed was a male in breeding plumage.
These birds are seed eaters and they are generally denizens of mature deciduous forests, precisely the habitat that one finds at Mt. Lemmon’s peak.
Over the next few days I will be featuring some more images that I made while atop Mt. Lemmon. They are vivid examples of how changes in elevation can create strikingly different habitats.
Images made with a Canon 5Div, 100-400mm ISII zoom lens, aperture priority setting, ISO 1000, f5.6 @ 1/800.