Western Kingbird On A Post

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Recently, I took this picture of a Western Kingbird sitting on a fencepost in grasslands not far from Patagonia, about 50 miles southeast of Tucson.

Western Kingbirds are yet another species of flycatcher that shows up in the Tucson area.  These birds are seasonal residents whose habitat consists mainly of open country broken by scattered trees, precisely the terrain that one sees in the grasslands of southern Arizona.  They also show up from time to time in isolated venues in and around Tucson, even though they’re not really a desert species.  I’ve seen them occasionally at Sweetwater Wetlands, for example.

These are noisy, active flycatchers who can often be identified by their chattering calls before one sees them.  It’s not at all unusual to see them hanging out in small flocks.  They’re difficult to photograph because they never sit still for more than a few seconds.  I consider myself lucky that this individual posed long enough for me to take its picture.

Much of the grasslands where I took this picture have been consumed by fire in the past couple of months.  There are at present large swaths of blackened terrain in Patagonia and in nearby Sonoita.  Some of the burned areas cover several square miles.  Although these fires jeopardize structures and human habitations and in the short term leave ugly black scars on the countryside they do no long-term damage.  Indeed, in some respects they are beneficial because they may serve to create a healthy ecosystem in the long run.  The grass will regenerate once the summer rains begin (if they begin!) and the ash from the fires will actually serve as fertilizer for new growth.  The fires are, in fact, part of an age-old natural cycle.  We humans have disrupted that cycle by fighting the fires and allowing overgrowth of brush in some areas.  Then, when the fires inevitably come they are far hotter and more intense than they would have been had we just let nature take its course.

Image made with a Canon 5Div, 100-400mm f4.5-5.6 ISII zoom lens, aperture priority setting, ISO 640, f8 at 1/1600.

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