Almost anywhere I go, I look to the water. Plant and animal life is always most abundant there whether it is a salt marsh, a lake, or a river. That is true in the desert too, but here water is so very scarce. One of the best places for photography in the Arizona desert is a small pond setup not far from Madera Canyon. Bill Forbes has created and maintained the Pond at Elephant Head especially for photography and it’s teeming with all sorts of birds. I had the good fortune to spend the day in a blind photographing wildlife as it came to the pond for a drink. It was my first experience with this sort of photography where you lots of control over the situation and can move around stones, logs, even plants. The star of the show was definitely the Gambel’s Quail. These attractive quail were everywhere. You know you’ve got a good thing going when one of your biggest problems is having too many birds around.
In addition to a wonderful time with the photography, I also had the chance to talk with two great people. In the heat of the early afternoon when photography wasn’t an option, Bill Forbes and Scott Linstead took some time to talk to me about a wide variety of subjects. I learned volumes about the photography business as well as enjoying the long conversation we had. Together they run bat photography workshops at Bill’s place and Scott is a fantastic photographer specializing in capturing high-speed action shots as you can see at his website. At the pond, I was able to finally get some decent photos of one of desert bird that I had been trying to get for a while, the nearly impossible to spell Pyrrhuloxia. Like its cousin the Cardinal, this bird has a very thick beak for cracking open thick-coated seeds.
It truly was incredible the amount of wildlife that uses this small pond as a water source. In one day, I was able to obtain some decent photos of nearly 20 species of birds, and that’s not counting the ones I missed. But it wasn’t just birds that came, there were a variety of mammals too. Harris’s Antelope Squirrels were nearly as abundant as the quail. These little balls of energy dashed all over the place and seemed to thing nearly everything was food.
At the end of the day, I had lots of images and a wonderful time. In between the morning and late afternoon shoot, I adjusted the positioning of many rocks, branches, and perches, but I would change it again if I had the chance. Even with all the mistakes I made, I left at the end of the day feeling satisfied and accomplished, regretting only that the sun had to set. Hopefully I’ll be back again soon to see more of the wonders of the desert that come to drink at the Pond at Elephant Head.