Wait... Arizona in the middle of summer? Are you crazy?! Not quite (but I might be heading there). The "Second Spring" tour, as you'll often hear it referred to, focuses on southeastern Arizona during the monsoon season which is marked by thunderstorms that rejuvenate the dry deserts and can turn them into lush green landscapes.
How exactly does that work? Simply put, the monsoon season is a shift of winds. Typically the winds that blow from the west and southwest into that part of the state are dry. However, in July and August, the winds shift to the south and southeast which brings up moisture from the Gulf of California. That moisture, coupled with the heat of summer, fuels the monsoon thunderstorms.
What that means for birds is a new bounty of food and shelter. Many species actually begin singing and end up breeding during this lush period of the summer. The grasslands turn into a gorgeous vistas full of singing birds. It's spring for them... a second spring.
I flew into Tucson a bit early to do some scouting. We visited the De Anza Trail where I hoped to find a brand new ABA bird... my all-time nemesis, the ROSE-THROATED BECARD. This time, the nemesis fell... and HARD. Check it out:
Of course, there is a downside of the monsoon season... the unpredictable storms that can dump huge amounts of water in a short amount of time! Here is a road that is normally dry but became an impassable river after a storm!
Note that the name is "Lucifer" and not "Lucifer's". It's not named AFTER someone (or anything religious), it's named after the word lucifer which, in Latin, means "light bringing" or "morning star". Clearly the hummingbird is an attractive, light-bringing bird!
In the above photo, note the pale bill. Compare that to the dark bill on this WESTERN SCREECH-OWL near Portal:
It has a pretty intricate pattern on the head, huh?
"Phain" = Shine or shining
"Peplum" = Robe
What do you get? The PHAINOPEPLA is a silky-flycatcher with a very sleek-looking robe, one could say:
The rarest species we saw was this buffy flycatcher high in the Huachucas:
This aptly-named gem is a TUFTED FLYCATCHER and it's only one of a few that have been found in the US. If you follow the ABA codes of ranking rarities... it's a Code 5, essentially the highest rarity ranking possible. Lucky for us, a pair or two have been in Arizona in recent years and we caught up to one of them much to the delight of everyone present.
When one thinks of BROWN PELICANS, they often think of them soaring along the coast of an ocean or something. This one, however, had found a sewage treatment pond near the small town of Amado. I can't imagine there was a ton of food for it there... which might explain why it was sitting on the bank asleep:
You can find out more about this particular tour on our webpage by clicking here. Do it! The dates are already posted for our 2018 and 2019 Second Spring tours.