Expedition to Ramsey Canyon by Chris Swarth

Regular price $16.00

The 1896 Field Journal of Ornithologist Harry S Swarth

Tucson Audubon Vermilion Flycatcher April–June 2019: Book Review by Ken Blankenship

An Expedition to Ramsey Canyon presents the fascinating account of a 650-mile journey by foot and horse-drawn wagon, undertaken by an intrepid group of aspiring young field ornithologists in 1896. At the time, little to nothing was known of the incredibly diverse and unique avifauna of southern Arizona, and the field journal kept meticulously throughout the expedition by Harry S. Swarth transports the reader into the cool, lush, and rugged Ramsey Canyon as if s/he is right there with the young explorers, recording species and observations never before known in the United States. It is especially impressive to consider that these very detailed field notes that document collecting and preparation methods, behavioral observations, identification, etc. were written in such excellent language by a 17 year-old! The book is broken into three parts: 1) The full, original (unedited) field journal of Harry S. Swarth; 2) A collection of tables presenting bird names “then and now,” species recorded, specimens collected, etc.; and 3) An excellent summary of a number of particularly noteworthy species encountered during the expedition. Some highlights/features of the book include: • Color maps of the Southwest in the late 1800s, tracing the expedition’s journey • Color paintings and modern images of select species and habitats • Side bars with block quotes from later publications by Harry S. Swarth, as he applied knowledge gained during the expedition to scientific articles • Detailed tables of all species observed and specimens collected, including common names and how/if they have changed • Detailed accounts of a number of particularly significant findings Perhaps the most intriguing example found in the latter section is an extensive assessment of two Bumblebee Hummingbirds that were apparently collected in adjacent Brown Canyon. Both females, these specimens represent the only documented occurrence of the species in the United States to this day! This book provides birders and nature lovers alike with a unique window into the very first comprehensive attempt to survey the avian wonders of southern Arizona, and makes an excellent addition to an Arizona bird lover’s library.

Ken Blankenship is a bird tour guide currently pursuing a dream of living full-time among the “Sky Islands.” He is a Tucson Audubon volunteer and self-admitted “ear-birding addict,” having obsessively studied bird vocalizations for years. “The several mountain ranges of southern Arizona rise much like islands from a surrounding sea of plains. Their bird and mammal faunas are peculiar and are sharply differentiated from those of the surrounding lowlands.” —Harry S. Swarth