Adapted from Jim Conrad's
Naturalist Newsletter of February 23, 2007
issued from Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve,


Saturday afternoon as I descended toward the arroyo I didn't hear a single bird. The land was as silent as a land can be. Only at dusk after I'd pegged my tent in a narrow arroyo branchlet did two species briefly and rather tentatively call. As light failed rapidly, White- winged Doves gently cooed, and some titmouse-like Verdins called insistently with their sharp CHIP CHIP CHIPs, which I interpreted as a warning call -- that a gringo was camped in the arroyo. Verdins occur from the US Desert Southwest to central Mexico. You can see a Verdin at

During the next morning's early cool hours birds commonly seen in scrub along the arroyo were House Finches, often perching like big juicy strawberries atop green cacti and agave flower-stems, Northern Mockingbirds, and Northern Cardinals. Turkey Vultures occasionally sailed across the valley, and every now and then I could hear Ravens croaking, even if I couldn't see them.

During much of the day's middle the only birds heard were Cactus Wrens, with their low, gruff GRRU-GRRU-GRRU- GRRU... You can see an illustration of a Cactus Wren -- the birds are surprisingly large to be wrens -- and hear one calling if you have Windows Media installed, here.

In the hottest, most glaring part of middle afternoon it seemed that not a thing stirred. Just as an experiment I chose a thorny thicket in a ravine looking likely to harbor birds and spished -- made the SHHH-SHHH-SHHH sound. Instantly up popped two Cactus Wrens onto their respective Ocotillo stems and replied with their GRRU- GRRU-GRRU-GRRU... Other Cactus Wrens in other thorny ravines chimed in, and for about 15 minutes the whole slope broke out in GRRU-GRRU-GRRU-GRRUs. Then it was quiet again, real quiet.