By Dan Weisz
We traveled to Rocky Point, Mexico, this past weekend. Along the way, we passed through the rural community known at “Why”. Today’s email has some photos from Why and nearby, and the next few emails will feature photos from Rocky Point.
On the western half of the Tohono O’Odham Nation, one of the more special bird sightings is of Crested Caracara. Crested Caracara are birds of prey in the Falcon family and one of the more spectacular looking raptors we see in the states.
In the Sonoran Desert, they will perch on Saguaros and will build their nests in the swirl of arms of Saguaro and other columnar cacti.
While driving along Highway 86 west of Sells about ten miles before the town of Why, we spotted one Caracara on a saguaro. We slowed down, made a u-turn and drove past the caracara again, driving down the road to a spot where we could turn around again and get in place for a photo. Of course, as soon as I stopped the car and raised my camera the bird took off. I watched it to see where it flew and found in on top of a tilted saguaro where it waited for its photo to be taken.
While shooting that bird, I noticed another Caracara on a nearby Saguaro. The two seemed to be a pair. The second Caracara often looked back towards the first and they both would glance to the south, away from my car. Both birds are adults. Their clean, white neck and dark feathers indicate that.
Crested Caracaras eat carrion as well as live prey. Their bare facial skin is thought to assist them while eating carrion. Much like vultures, the clean face is easier to remain clean while digging into carrion.
After the two birds flew off, we continued driving towards Why. From Wikipedia, here is some information on Why:
Why (O’odham: Ban Hi:nk) is a tiny unincorporated rural community in Pima County, Arizona, United States. It lies near the western border of the Tohono O’Odham Indian Reservation and due north of Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument in Southern Arizona. It is approximately 30 miles (48 km) north of the Mexican border where Lukeville, Arizona, and Sonoyta, Sonora, Mexico, border each other, and ten miles south of Ajo, Arizona.
The population in Why at the 2000 census was approximately 116. (I’m not cure about the US Census Bureau’s methods, but how do you get an “approximate” population count?)
The town derives its name from the fact that the two major highways, State Routes 85 and 86, originally intersected in a Y-intersection. At the time of its naming, Arizona law required all city names to have at least three letters, so the town’s founders named the town “Why” as opposed to simply calling it “Y.” The Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) later removed the old Y-intersection for traffic safety reasons and built the two highways in a conventional T-intersection south of the original intersection.
At the intersection is a gas station/store/restroom where people fill up on gas, buy junk food, buy Mexican Car Insuerance, and use restrooms before crossing the border. There is a sign that says “Don’t feed the coyotes” but unfortunately people have regularly fed local coyotes junk food and caused the coyotes to become beggars. It’s great for photo opportunities but not a healthy thing for the animals.
If you stop anywhere but at the gas pumps and at the store, the coyotes immediately approach your car looking for a handout.
He is a healthy animal, but the behavior is not healthy. On the way home, the same coyote was there and we observed the same behavior.
And no, he is not smiling, he is begging.
Still, it was interesting to be able to observe this coyote from within the car.
For more information on Why, here is a snippet from the famous Abbott and Costello routine, “Who’s on First”:
Costello: You got a outfield?
Costello: The left fielder’s name?
Costello: I just thought I’d ask you
Abbott: Well I just thought I’d tell you
Costello: The left fielder’s name?
Abbott: Oh, he’s center field