Here are a variety of photos to bring 2016 to an end.

by Dan Weisz

At Catalina State Park, this magnificent Saguaro Cactus plant presents an interesting story.  At some point, it began to take on a crested form.  Botanists are not sure what causes this to happen in the first place.  Theories such as genetic mutation, freeze damage, pathogens, etc., may be a cause, but nobody is certain.  In any case, after spending countless decades becoming crested, this cactus reverted back to its regular pattern.  You can see quite a few regular arms sprouting from the top of the crystate growth to form a very unique cactus.

Speaking of “Crested”, back in Santa Cruz Flat, this juvenile Crested Caracara was feeding on something behind a berm.  Juveniles are brown with that creamy and streaked neck and breast.  The bare skin on its face is kind of like those old “mood rings” and can change color from light to orange to red, depending on the bird’s mood.

Here is an adult Caracara with its crest raised a bit while sitting in a pecan tree.  Its bill is more orange than the above juvenile’s was.

To give you a sense of the agricultural areas of Santa Cruz Flats, here is an adult caracara on a berm amid the fields.

A Cooper’s Hawk sitting low in a tree in Santa Cruz Flats.

Back near Red Rock, this beautiful Red-tailed Hawk was perched.

Here is a similar looking red-tailed hawk in an interesting pose along River Road in Tucson.

Back in Red Rock, I came across a large flock of Yellow-headed Blackbirds near a cattle feedlot.  Many were bathing in water left over from last week’s rains.

After bathing, the birds continued to preen and straighten up their feathers.

This fellow was looking pretty dapper after cleaning up.

Juvenile’s have a tawny or buffy orange head color.  All yellow-headed blackbirds have a distinctive white wing patch that is clearly visible during flight.

While watching the yellow-headed blackbirds bathe, suddenly a huge flock took to the air.  I’m not sure what spooked them, but I was able to see one of those famous “murmurations” of the blackbirds as they swirled around.  I wish I had video to share, but it was beautiful to watch.

I was intrigued enough to try to see our local Marana blackbirds lift off near one of the concrete plants along I-10.  I caught some of this large group before sunrise on Wednesday and hope to return on another day.

here is one of many videos of this phenomenon from the internet
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_tEFRAI9WSE