28 August 2011

Arizona again

We spent a little bit of time around Portal in extreme southeast Arizona and some of the surrounding higher-elevation areas.  For example, a  pit stop at the Research Station near Cave Creek provided the usual tame SAY'S PHOEBES:

The research station also proved the easiest place to see BLUE-THROATED HUMMINGBIRDS for us this trip.  Here is a rare angle that actually shows the throat:

Higher up in the mountains, we found some mixed flocks which included some migrant HERMIT WARBLERS:

A target of ours was the plain and drab JUNIPER TITMOUSE.  We caught up to one in Paradise at the George Walker house:

Fast-forward a tiny bit.  We decided to venture a couple of hours north for a chance at AMERICAN THREE-TOED WOODPECKER, a long-time nemesis of mine.  I had only seen one before and that was many years ago now.  We looked for several hours and finally, thankfully, stirred up a single bird.  We got poor looks but we got to hear it call AND drum which was pretty reaming.  This is the only photo I got of the bird; probably not identifiable.  Oh well:

Any guesses what this drab bird is?

It is a GRAY VIREO, another target of ours.  Thanks to the tip from Melody K., we found a couple of singing birds at a campground east of Phoenix.

Our last birding destination in Arizona, as fate would have it, was a reliable spot for Le Conte's Thrasher; the intersection of Baseline Road and Salome Hwy near Buckeye.  We DID stir up a couple of LE CONTE'S THRASHERS which was a personal target of mine.  Sadly, I didn't manage any photos of it but I was rewarded nearby with the best look I've ever had of a BENDIRE'S THRASHER:

After that, we headed west into California.  Stay tuned for a post from that part of the world.

15 August 2011


I'm having a hard time believing that I haven't posted an update on my bird blog in more than three weeks.  Here is a long-overdue update...

First and foremost, Ashley and I have finished our stint in Iowa.  Honestly, I'm not sure the next time I'll return.  Because living in Iowa any longer wasn't my aim in life, we decided to temporarily relocate to Arizona.

Along with moving to Arizona came a big difference in birds!  Even though I still have some work to keep me preoccupied, I have birded here and there.

Let's start with the Santa Catalinas which are just to the northeast of Tucson.  Lowland places to bird include Catalina State Park whereas a nice diversity of upper elevation birds can be found up on Mount Lemmon.

At Catalina State Park we had 3-4 NORTHERN BEARDLESS-TYRANNULETS.  These flycatchers are rather uncommon but can be found along riparian areas.  Knowing their call is crucial!  Here is a rough photo of one:

Also at Catalina State Park were a couple of VERMILION FLYCATCHERS including this male:

Some sparrows around included RUFOUS-WINGED SPARROWS.  Through the years I have found that Catalina State Park is a wonderfully reliable spot for this southwest specialty:

Being in the desert, it was HOT.  Hot enough for these PHAINOPEPLAS to be gaping quite a bit:

Some other birds we had at Catalina State Park included:

Elf Owl (3)
Western Screech-Owl
Common Poorwill

Some other lowland areas around Tucson yielded things like this GILDED FLICKER:

As usual, the GREATER ROADRUNNERS are around in force: 

Mentioning the desert around Tucson wouldn't be complete without mentioning the abundant BLACK-THROATED SPARROWS.  This one doesn't have a black throat and that's because it's a youngster:

The upper reaches of Mount Lemmon is a really neat place.  You quickly leave the desert below and before long find yourself among misty pine forests.  We explored several areas and found a nice diversity of passerines including this OLIVE WARBLER:

Literally hopping among the parked cars here are the tame YELLOW-EYED JUNCOS.  I didn't spend all that much time chasing them around but here is proof:

Another species up in the mountains that was NOT cooperative was the RED-FACED WARBLER:

Some other birds from up the mountain included:

Virginia's Warbler
Steller's Jay
Mountain Chickadee
All 3 western nuthatch species

Birding in southeastern Arizona probably wouldn't be as interesting without Madera Canyon south of Tucson sitting on the northwest side of the Santa Ritas.  Lower Madera Canyon is a neat place with all the singing sparrows and quail.  Both BOTTERI'S and CASSIN'S SPARROWS are utterly abundant and can be heard singing nonstop.  They CAN be tricky to see at other seasons but not once the monsoons start up.  Here is a tame BOTTERI'S SPARROW:

This picture is kind of a joke but it's of a distant CASSIN'S SPARROW after it had just finished skylarking up and singing:

A quick walk around the Proctor Road pulloff always provides VARIED BUNTINGS.  Here is a male with a meal:

Further up into Madera Canyon the bird diversity changes dramatically.  You're surrounded by things like SULPHUR-BELLIED FLYCATCHERS giving their easily-recognizable squeaky calls:

Most of the birders that come to this part of the country are usually keen on finding ELEGANT TROGONS.  Madera Canyon is a great place to look and although this is my fifth time here, I still am interested in checking them out:

Probably the best bird of the trip so far was this male AZTEC THRUSH in Madera Canyon.  You can see I didn't put a lot of effort into photographing it, I'd rather give rarities space:

Another neat spot in the Santa Ritas is Montosa Canyon.  The attraction there at this point are the recently-discovered FIVE-STRIPED SPARROWS that can be found singing from the road.  What an easy spot compared to California Gulch!!  We had very little trouble finding one singing even at midday:

Another species that we saw there are the common SCALED QUAIL.  We have heard or seen this species between 5-10 times already.  Here is one peeking at us from a roadside:

Further south near the town of Patagonia, the roadside rest once again provided a reliable spot to see THICK-BILLED KINGBIRDS.  It was here that I got my lifer TBKI many years ago:

We have tallied 12 species of hummingbirds so far on this trip in Arizona.  The absence of a White-eared, starthroat, or easy Allen's will likely keep our list at 12:

Lucifer Hummingbird
Violet-crowned Hummingbird
Berylline Hummingbird
Broad-billed Hummingbird
Blue-throated Hummingbird
Magnificent Hummingbird
Anna's Hummingbird
Costa's Hummingbird
Black-chinned Hummingbird
Calliope Hummingbird
Broad-tailed Hummingbird
Rufous Hummingbird

A highlight for me included 4 different LUCIFER HUMMINGBIRDS.  Our first was this striking male at the feeders in Ramsey Canyon (which is in the Huachucas):

The other three Lucifers were at Mary Jo's in lower Ash Canyon.  Many thanks to Mary Jo for continuing to allow birders to visit her property.  As you might know, the recent fires engulfed a lot of homes in the area but thankfully her wonderful spot survived!  I would highly recommend a visit to her place if you ever have the chance.  Here are some of the male LUCIFER HUMMINGBIRDS at her place:

Mary Jo's feeders had some other highlights including this female/juvenile COSTA'S HUMMINGBIRD (middle bird):

I hadn't realized how small COSTA'S HUMMINGBIRDS really are.  You can see the small size compared to the relatively huge ANNA'S (left) and the moderately-sized RUFOUS/ALLEN's (middle):

Another neat hummingbird of the southwest is the VIOLET-CROWNED HUMMINGBIRD.  We saw multiple VCHUs at places like the Patton's in Patagonia and also one at Ramsey Canyon.  Here is an adult at the Pattons:

We had our best luck with CALLIOPE HUMMINGBIRDS in the town of Paradise.  We had at least 5 different ones including this male:

Another common bird so far has been BLACK-THROATED GRAY WARBLERS.  This one was in Paradise as well:

A jaunt up into Garden Canyon in the Huachucas is usually productive.  At the top of Garden Canyon, our main target worked out nicely where Sawmill Canyon splits off, the BUFF-BREASTED FLYCATCHER:

Here is a terrible photo of a GREATER PEWEE in Scheelite Canyon (also a subcanyon off of Garden Canyon):

Further east in the Chiricahuas, this BLACK-CHINNED SPARROW actually gave me pretty good looks for the first time in my life:

Last but not least, we ventured to Willcox where a rare TRICOLORED HERON showed up recently.  We managed to find the heron in addition to shorebird species such as:

Black-necked Stilt
American Avocet
Western Sandpiper
Least Sandpiper
Baird's Sandpiper
Spotted Sandpiper
Wilson's Phalarope
Long-billed Dowitcher
Short-billed Dowitcher

Also a plegadis ibis and several BLACK TERNS were in the area flying around too.  Just padding my growing Arizona list!  :-)

That's all for now, stay turned.