Journal - July, 2003
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This log is in chronological order and the most recent entries
are at the bottom of the page.
The last update was on Thursday, July 31, 2003
Tuesday, July 1, 2003
Two more fire danger related closures started today -- Madera Canyon and the Pinaleño Mountains. Mt. Lemmon has been closed for some time due to a fire and canyons on Fort Huachuca have been closed since June 26. Although the monsoon pattern has been building for the past few days, so far we've had just a few sprinkles and the occasional clap of thunder here in Sierra Vista. However, indications are that the monsoon is about to start on time.
A summary report of my recent adventure in Alaska is now on line,
My return to Arizona birding began rather inauspiciously today. I couldn't decide whether to visit Carr Canyon or the San Pedro River and I chose the latter -- wrong!. I turned into the San Pedro driveway shortly after sunrise (5:20am) only to find the gate closed and locked. I waited in vain until 5:45am. I didn't see a sign about a closure and I don't know why it was closed -- perhaps another victim of fire danger? At any rate, it was frustrating to lose the best part of the day.
There were quite a few birds around the gate -- singing GREATER ROADRUNNER, BLUE GROSBEAK and BELL'S VIREO, the less than melodic calls of ASH-THROATED & BROWN-CRESTED FLYCATCHERS, CASSIN'S KINGBIRD and YELLOW-BREASTED CHATS, a raucous GILA WOODPECKER and a few LUCY'S WARBLERS foraging in the mesquites. Rounding out the birds here were GAMBEL'S QUAIL, LADDER-BACKED WOODPECKER, CHIHUAHUAN RAVEN and BROWN-HEADED COWBIRD.
In the mood that I was now in I didn't have the enthusiasm to drive up Carr Canyon so I went to Sierra Vista EOP, that hotbed of bird activity. Best birds were a couple of CASSIN'S SPARROWS dueling by song at the corner of Moson Road and Highway 90. The birds took turns to sing while skylarking from one mesquite to another. Anything you can do I can do better.
It doesn't seem to matter how poor the day is, or how few birds that you see, there's always a little twist and you learn something. I'd been seeing SCALED QUAIL that are uncommon but regular here, then I noticed a couple of GAMBEL'S QUAIL. I didn't think twice about it but when I got home and checked my records, they were a first for me in July at this location. My previous records at SVEOP are from October through January.
Not much else to report from here. LESSER NIGHTHAWKS were common and foraging over the ponds. BLUE GROSBEAKS were singing. WESTERN KINGBIRDS were kingbirding. 12 species in all.
Thursday, July 3, 2003
Today I eased back into mainstream birding with a trip to French Joe Canyon. Although I left home pretty early at 4:00am, it was already warm as I started hiking and I was wishing that I'd left a little earlier. Nevertheless, I completed two thirds of the distance to the upper spring before sunrise and found the warblers without spending too much time. I was back in town at 8:30am. by which time the temperature was already 90 degrees.
There was a definite smell of smoke in the canyon but visibility wasn't noticeably impaired. That wasn't the case in the San Pedro Valley which was filled with an ugly smoke haze. In fact, as I exited the canyon and turned onto highway 90 at 8:00am., I could barely see the Huachucas. The pattern of monsoon build up that I talked about on Tuesday didn't happen yesterday and the forecast now is that we won't see any rain until Monday. The average monsoon start date is July 3.
During the three mile drive in to the parking area, I noted 6 LESSER NIGHTHAWKS and 4 COMMON POORWILLS. Singing in the gloom were several NORTHERN MOCKINGBIRDS, ASH-THROATED FLYCATCHER, 5-6 BLUE GROSBEAKS and a few BLACK-THROATED SPARROWS.
In over 100 trips to the canyon, I don't have a clear memory of ever seeing RUFOUS-CAPPED WARBLERS without hearing them first -- however, that's what happened today. I'd been listening, watching and generally enjoying the activity near the upper spring for about 40 minutes, when one of the warblers appeared just a few feet from me. The bird flitted around for a minute or so then continued up canyon a little way and started to sing. A second bird joined it and they took turns singing sporadically for about 5 minutes as they headed towards the dry waterfall.
Hummingbirds provided most of the activity near the spring -- almost all were ANNA'S (lots of young birds) with a sprinkling of BROAD-BILLED, BLACK-CHINNED and BROAD-TAILED. The action was fast and furious from the time that I arrived until it ceased around 6:20am when I first saw the warblers. Lots of juvenile HOUSE FINCHES and one of the brightest adult males that I'd ever seen came in to drink as did a family of WESTERN SCRUB-JAYS.
The best bird for me was a GRAY CATBIRD that was also working near the spring -- a new location species for me bringing my French Joe Canyon list to 145. Other than the catbird which is scarce (casual in SE AZ; I have a few records including one previously in July), the remainder of the species that I saw were all regular and to be expected in the canyon at this time of year.
38 species recorded in French Joe Canyon 4:30-8:00am, Hwy 90-Hwy 90
White-winged Dove, Lesser Nighthawk, Common Poorwill, Broad-billed, Black-chinned, Anna's & Broad-tailed Hummingbirds, Ladder-backed Woodpecker, Western Wood-Pewee, Ash-throated Flycatcher, Cassin's Kingbird, Western Scrub-Jay, Mexican Jay, Chihuahuan Raven, Plumbeous Vireo, Gray Catbird, N. Mockingbird, Cactus, Rock, Canyon & Bewick's Wrens, Verdin, Bridled Titmouse, House Finch, Black-throated Gray & Rufous-capped Warblers, Black-throated & Rufous-crowned Sparrows, Spotted & Canyon Towhees, Hepatic & Summer Tanagers, Black-headed & Blue Grosbeaks, N. Cardinal, Hooded & Scott's Orioles and Brown-headed Cowbird.
Sunday, July 6, 2003
Current forecasts put the start of the monsoon season still as much as a week away and conditions remain unpleasant to say the least. Smoke from the Mt. Lemmon fire continues to fill the air even here in Sierra Vista (although not as bad today) and it must be unbearable in Tucson, especially with the higher temperature there. Even though using my swamp cooler brings the smell of smoke into the house, not using is far from an option with the very hot days.
After more than six weeks of vacation (five of which I spent traveling), my tiempo libre officially came to an end today as I started birding with Jonathan Reader from NJ and Susan Herrick from WV. Over the next five days we'll be looking for a number of target species for Jonathan -- today we looked for five species and saw four of them -- a short visit to Ash Canyon B & B didn't result in a Starthroat sighting (I think Jonathan will need to pay his dues here with some sitting time, not exactly my favorite thing to do).
I rose early (just for a change) and we left town at 4:00am for a trip to French Joe Canyon. Déjà vu all over again. We noted only one each LESSER NIGHTHAWK and COMMON POORWILL on the way in, although more Poorwills were calling. You have to get up early to be ahead of me but someone did just that because there was one vehicle already at the parking area. We arrived at the upper spring at 5:30am just as that person was leaving having seen the warbler at 5:24am! (Do I hear "you should have been here 5 minutes ago"?) He'd paid his dues, however, since this was his fourth trip. I heard the warbler singing shortly after we talked to the guy but never found it.
Almost exactly an hour later at 6:32am, the warbler appeared at the spring, took a drink, bounced around on the rocks and disappeared without Jonathan and Susan having seen it. At this point I was hoping that it wasn't going to be "one of those days" and when Dick Palmer and his group arrived I was hoping that the extra folks wouldn't impact us. However, his timing was impeccable because just a few minutes later the RUFOUS-CAPPED WARBLER again appeared on the rocks, wrestling with a bug, providing excellent views to the admiring and appreciative crowd. Apart from a few soft "ticks", the bird was silent. Based on their behavior today and a few days ago, and my sightings in May, I feel fairly sure that the birds are feeding young at the nest (which I believe is down canyon from the spring). It could also be that the young have recently fledged.
A couple of STELLER'S JAYS screeching their displeasure at our presence at the spring were definitely out of place here at this season (they are rare in the canyon at any time). Other species were similar to my trip here last Thursday. The GRAY CATBIRD skulked around near the spring around 6:15am. Our only other target in the canyon was BLACK-CHINNED SPARROW and, as is usually the case here, we didn't have any trouble finding one.
41 species recorded in French Joe Canyon 4:30-8:30am, Hwy 90-Hwy 90
Band-tailed Pigeon, White-winged Dove, Greater Roadrunner, Lesser Nighthawk, Common Poorwill, Broad-billed, Anna's & Rufous Hummingbirds, Ladder-backed Woodpecker, Western Wood-Pewee, Ash-throated Flycatcher, Cassin's Kingbird, Steller's & Mexican Jays, Western Scrub-Jay, Chihuahuan Raven, Hutton's & Plumbeous Vireo, Gray Catbird, N. Mockingbird, Crissal Thrasher, Rock, Canyon & Bewick's Wrens, Verdin, Bridled Titmouse, House Finch, Black-throated Gray & Rufous-capped Warblers, Black-chinned, Black-throated & Rufous-crowned Sparrows, Spotted & Canyon Towhees, Summer Tanager, Black-headed & Blue Grosbeaks, N. Cardinal, Hooded & Scott's Orioles and Brown-headed Cowbird.
After exiting the canyon we headed east to St. David in search of Mississippi Kite, a species that has nested in the area for the past few years. A fair number of LESSER NIGHTHAWKS were still active near the Fairbank crossing of the San Pedro River. After searching the skies from highway 80 near the San Pedro bridge, we were fortunate to bump into Heidi Lauchstedt (who lives in the area) as we headed to Apache Powder Road. Actually, she was kind enough to track us down to tell us where the nesting area was -- thanks! Consequently, it was just a matter of time before we had several looks at soaring MISSISSIPPI KITE on AP road. Other species in the area (now quite toasty at 93 degrees around 10:30am) included GRAY HAWK, BELL'S VIREO, LUCY'S WARBLER, YELLOW-BREASTED CHAT & BLUE GROSBEAK.
We finished the morning at Ash Canyon Bed and Breakfast in the Huachucas -- thanks to Mary Jo Ballator for her hospitality. There was quite a crowd gathered here looking for the Plain-capped Starthroat that has been seen regularly (albeit infrequently) for a couple of weeks, including twice yesterday. This is the same bird (banded in Miller Canyon) that was here last year for over 7 weeks. I really didn't expect to get lucky and find it during our short visit, this was more an introductory visit for Jonathan and Susan who may have to make several trips in order to see it.
Activity wasn't very high in the late morning -- ACORN WOODPECKER, BLACK-HEADED GROSBEAK and a good looking male RUFOUS HUMMINGBIRD were among 13 species noted. A small, but promising monsoon cloud was forming over the Huachucas as we left. It was almost 100 degrees back in town around 12:30pm.
Monday, July 7, 2003
Out again today with Jonathan and Susan. Our primary destination for the day was California Gulch where the emphasis was on day birds, not on the nightjar. Consequently, we decided against a late afternoon/night visit and left Sierra Vista at 1:00am to have some shot at the nightjar while still maximizing the chances for day birds in the early morning hours. We arrived at the former Oro Blanco mine site at 4:00am.
As I expected, we had no trouble hearing BUFF-COLLARED NIGHTJAR (a bird called from 4:40-4:50am) but we were unable to track it down before dawn. Other calling species were COMMON POORWILL, GREAT HORNED OWL and WESTERN SCREECH-OWL.
As daylight came, we moved on the short distance into California Gulch where we enjoyed excellent looks at singing FIVE-STRIPED SPARROWS. It took some time to get satisfactory looks at VARIED BUNTING in the sunlight (they look pretty black otherwise). Although they were very common, most were not singing and in shady locations. NORTHERN-BEARDLESS TYRANNULET was another target that cooperated well after some initial reticence.
Other species in the gulch included GRAY HAWK, a pair of THICK-BILLED KINGBIRDS, BROWN-CRESTED & ASH-THROATED FLYCATCHERS, lots of BELL'S VIREOS, LUCY'S WARBLER, YELLOW-BREASTED CHAT, RUFOUS-CROWNED SPARROW, BLUE GROSBEAK, SUMMER TANAGER and HOODED ORIOLE. After we finished birding, we dropped off some supplies to Steve who has been looking after Ralph's place at the south end of California Gulch. If you are planning a trip to the gulch, he can always make use of whatever surplus supplies that you have, or care to bring for him, such as water and food. By the time that we reached the Ruby Road a little after 9:00am the temperature was up to 97 degrees,
During afternoon break, Jonathan returned to Ash Canyon Bed and Breakfast and was rewarded with sightings of PLAIN-CAPPED STARTHROAT and LUCIFER HUMMINGBIRD after only an hour of feeder watching. We had a little rain this afternoon, hopefully a prelude to the long awaited (and much needed) monsoon season.
Our evening owling session was a mixed bag. WHISKERED SCREECH-OWL was very responsive and obliging and we had great views. Western Screech-Owl was a no show. Nevertheless, a very successful (and long) day.
Tuesday, July 8, 2003
Day 3 with Jonathan and Susan. We started early in the Huachucas then moved north to the White Mountains where it's almost as warm as SE AZ. The temperature in Springerville at 4:30pm this afternoon was 100 degrees.
A visit to Carr Canyon shortly after dawn produced our target NORTHERN PYGMY-OWL without the serious hike that I was expecting. Although we were not super close and could have used better light, we still enjoyed decent looks as the bird remained perched in the clear in the same tree for almost 30 minutes. Since I'd expected a long hike, I didn't take a scope on the trail. When I finally decided to return to the vehicle to get it (about 1/2 mile of much huffing and puffing), that's when the bird finally flew off.
We didn't stay long in the canyon and recorded about 30 species incidental to the owl search. Among them were BAND-TAILED PIGEON, ARIZONA WOODPECKER, several very vocal GREATER PEWEES and BUFF-BREASTED FLYCATCHERS, WHITE-THROATED SWIFT, RED-FACED WARBLER. PAINTED REDSTART and HEPATIC TANAGER.
On the drive to the White Mountains, a EURASIAN COLLARED-DOVE was near the intersection of highways 191 and 70 in Safford. Our first stop in the mountains was at Luna Lake where we spent 45 minutes enjoying the common birds and pleasant scenery. An adult BALD EAGLE was near the nest (only one eaglet this year). An out of place SANDHILL CRANE foraged near the lakeshore (has occurred here in previous summers). Other species from 20 recorded included CINNAMON TEAL, COMMON MERGANSER, BROAD-TAILED HUMMINGBIRD, VESPER SPARROW and YELLOW-HEADED BLACKBIRD.
Now it was time for some target birding. We moved on to Nutrioso where we found PINYON JAY without too much effort, in fact a large flock of them. We then looked for Red-naped Sapsucker without success -- hopefully we'll find one tomorrow in better habitat.. Nutrioso was quite birdy as usual and species here included EURASIAN COLLARED-DOVE, several LEWIS'S and ACORN WOODPECKERS, CORDILLERAN FLYCATCHER, WESTERN & MOUNTAIN BLUEBIRDS, PYGMY NUTHATCH and WESTERN TANAGER
Wednesday, July 9, 2003
Day 4 with Jonathan and Susan was spent birding in the White Mountains. After an initial strikeout with Blue Grouse we recovered to find all four targets for the day to add to yesterday's Pinyon Jay and complete a successful visit. It was another warm day in the mountains and the temperature was still at 100 degrees when we arrived in Payson at 6:00pm.
The day began with LEWIS'S WOODPECKER on highway 260 as we left Springerville this morning. MOUNTAIN BLUEBIRDS were quite numerous along FR118. We spent 90 minutes on Green's Peak looking unsuccessfully for Blue Grouse. I didn't have a good feeling when the lady in the fire tower told me that she had neither seen nor heard them since she started work in early May, despite putting out food and water. Not a good start to the day.
We headed over to Greer where our fortunes improved as we quickly found RED-NAPED SAPSUCKER at our first stop in Butler Canyon -- we watched an adult feeding a juvenile. Shortly afterwards we were able to track down a drumming and calling WILLIAMSON'S SAPSUCKER. Two for the price of one in quick succession.
At our next stop in town, we only needed a short wait to see CLARK'S NUTCRACKER at close range as it came in looking for handouts at a regular feeding location. Things were looking a lot brighter now than they did two hours ago.
Now it was time to head over to Big Lake to try again for the grouse. Shortly after arriving at the lookout I spotted a male DUSKY GROUSE high in a tree (but almost at eye level from our location) and we enjoyed good views as the bird preened for a while and then started to feed among the tree branches. It's quite amazing how such a large bird can seem to disappear in the needles while feeding.
Our morning target birding success allowed us to relax over a leisurely lunch at the Rendezvous Diner back in Greer (RUFOUS and BROAD-TAILED HUMMINGBIRDS at the feeders) and then do some casual birding along West Fork of the Little Colorado. We spent a little time looking for Dipper without success, although I may have seen one briefly. The river was jam packed with fishermen and kids so not finding a Dipper was hardly a surprise. We had good looks at a singing MACGILLIVRAY'S WARBLER and a juvenile RED-FACED WARBLER while VIRGINIA'S WARBLER remained heard only. We also had great close up looks at RED-NAPED SAPSUCKER. Other species included CORDILLERAN FLYCATCHER, CLARK'S NUTCRACKER, PYGMY NUTHATCH, MOUNTAIN CHICKADEE and GOLDEN-CROWNED KINGLET.
Thursday, July 10, 2003
Fifth and last day with Jonathan and Susan. Today we worked on three target birds as we traveled south from Payson back to Sierra Vista. We looked for Common Black-Hawk, Gilded Flicker and Gray Vireo and managed to see all three. Yet another monsoon-less and warm day -- 100 degrees when we arrived in Sierra Vista at 3:00pm.
Just as yesterday, the day threw us an early curve ball as we looked for Gray Vireo. After the short journey from Payson to Slate Creek Divide, I was dismayed to find the gate into the Tonto National Forest closed because of fire danger. We birded instead on the northern section of the old Beeline highway (no longer a through road) where we found several singing GRAY VIREOS. None of them were particularly cooperative and they played hard to get as is often the case. However, we persevered and eventually had great looks at a bird foraging in the open at close range. Also present were JUNIPER TITMOUSE and BLACK-CHINNED SPARROW.
We moved on to the southern section of the old highway where I was very surprised (and extremely pleased) to find a juvenile COMMON BLACK-HAWK still at the nest. I'd told Jonathan and Susan that the young would have fledged by now and that we would likely have to go to Aravaipa Canyon to maximize our chances. Hey, what do I know. Obviously, they nested a little later this year. An adult was sitting in the tree near the nest, although mostly obscured by leaves. We were very fortunate when the homeowners whose land the nest is on saw us and kindly invited us to enter their property where the view is much better. I was able to get the above photograph of the juvenile as well as this adult COMMON BLACK-HAWK as it brought food to the nest.
Other species in this birdy area included BROWN-CRESTED & SULPHUR-BELLIED FLYCATCHERS, WESTERN SCRUB-JAY and SCOTT'S & HOODED ORIOLES.
We continued south to a part of the trip that I wasn't looking forward to. Months ago when I planned the itinerary, I knew that we would end up in Tucson looking for Gilded Flicker in the heat of the day. However, with the monsoon season so far being a non-event, little did I know that we would be looking for the bird in a temperature of 106 degrees! Needless to say, it was tough going until we eventually found a very hot looking GILDED FLICKER.
Other desert denizens dumb enough to be out in the midday sun with this Englishman included GAMBEL'S QUAIL, GILA WOODPECKER, BROWN-CRESTED FLYCATCHER, CURVE-BILLED THRASHER, CACTUS WREN, VERDIN and CANYON TOWHEE. Susan found a BLACK-TAILED GNATCATCHER nest with three eggs adjacent to a parking area -- with miles of habitat the bird selected this spot!
After an afternoon break, we headed into the Huachucas to try for Western Screech-Owl that we missed a few nights ago. It was a very warm, cloudy and muggy evening and there wasn't a breath of air. Perhaps even more significant to our results, very few people were around. In a spot that regularly has WESTERN SCREECH-OWL (but not a sign of them on Monday night), we had excellent eye-level looks at a calling individual perched in an oak. For good measure, an inquisitive ELF OWL also provided us with excellent looks. Ironically, Whiskered Screech-Owls that were easy to locate and see on Monday were completely silent tonight. Over the years I've learned that owling is more of an art than a science.
Saturday, July 12, 2003
Out today with Stan Wulkowicz from Aptos, CA for another trip to French Joe Canyon, this time an unsuccessful one. We left town at 4:00am and arrived at the upper spring at 5:30am. The drive in produced zero nighthawks and nightjars (very unusual at this time of year) and the hike to the spring was punctuated by few birds. The succession of high overnight low temperatures continues and today it was certainly warm enough to make the hike in uncomfortable. The mid morning walk out was no fun at all. Rain, rain, rain, we need rain.
At 5:50am, when I heard a RUFOUS-CAPPED WARBLER singing near the spring, I thought that I would be home enjoying breakfast before too long. Unfortunately, that thought didn't become a reality. The bird sang again at 6:15am and we tracked it to the upper (dry) waterfall as it worked its way up canyon, singing sporadically and staying one step ahead of us and out of sight the whole time. We finally lost it at 7:15am when I heard it sing for the last time. I wandered up and down the canyon a couple more times to no avail. By 9:45am Stan decided that he'd had enough and we left. I guess some days the bird has to win.
The GRAY CATBIRD continues (seen at the spring at 5:45am) as do a couple of STELLER'S JAYS. After not hearing them earlier in the month, a few WESTERN TANAGERS were singing this morning (they are uncommon but regular here). A calling DUSKY-CAPPED FLYCATCHER was only my third record for the canyon (previously in July 1995 and May 2001),
40 species recorded in French Joe Canyon from 4:20-10:50am, Hwy 90-Hwy 90:
Band-tailed Pigeon, Mourning & White-winged Doves, Broad-billed, Black-chinned, Anna's & Rufous Hummingbirds, Ladder-backed Woodpecker, Western Wood-Pewee, Dusky-capped & Ash-throated Flycatchers, Cassin's Kingbird, Steller's Jay, Western Scrub-Jay, Hutton's & Plumbeous Vireos, Gray Catbird, N. Mockingbird, Crissal Thrasher, Cactus, Rock, Canyon & Bewick's Wrens, Bushtit, Bridled Titmouse, House Finch, Rufous-capped Warbler, Black-chinned & Rufous-crowned Sparrows, Spotted & Canyon Towhees, Hepatic, Summer & Western Tanagers, Black-headed & Blue Grosbeaks N. Cardinal, Hooded & Scott's Orioles and Brown-headed Cowbird.
After a very hot and muggy afternoon, Sierra Vista saw significant rainfall in the late evening. Hopefully, this is the start of the long awaited and overdue monsoon season.
Monday, July 14, 2003
Por fin! The monsoon rains finally arrived on Sunday night and there's a thunderstorm and heavy rain again in Sierra Vista as I write these notes on Monday night. My UPS started earning its keep during a power outage.
Out again today with Stan & Rosemary Wulkowicz from Aptos, CA -- another trip to California Gulch for the nightjar and sparrow. After considering the various factors, I decided that a "morning" visit was our best bet and we left Sierra Vista at midnight. An almost full moon (at times slightly cloud-filtered) was visible all night.
Many COMMON POORWILLS were active along the Ruby Road and an ELF OWL chattered as we entered California Gulch. We arrived at the old Oro Blanco mine site shortly after 3:00am where bright moonlight provided lots of light. Apart from some distant COMMON POORWILLS, the sound of silence was all that we didn't hear for the next two hours. For entertainment, we challenged the local WESTERN SCREECH-OWLS to come see us -- and they did.
Finally, at 4:50am, a BUFF-COLLARED NIGHTJAR started calling and moving around quite rapidly. We tracked the bird to a location where we had a chance to see it, only to be foiled at the last minute when a vehicle drove in at the critical moment. Instead of stopping, the driver continued on with headlights blazing and randomly scanning around with a spotlight! Bye bye nightjar. We later witnessed some incredibly tacky behavior from the same individual. It takes all sorts. The nightjar resumed calling a few minutes later and continued to do so until 5:05am as daylight increased. We tracked the bird again and I briefly saw it flying, but it was a losing battle. Fortunately, Stan only needed to hear the bird.
As we left the mine, the quavering call of MONTEZUMA QUAIL drifted down from one of the ridges. We moved into the gulch where several FIVE-STRIPED SPARROWS were singing and easy to see. Stan was able to get some photos (better light was one of the reasons that we made a night/morning rather than an afternoon/night visit); I left my camera at home. A few male VARIED BUNTINGS were frolicking (I don't use that word much) in the same area.
Our time in the gulch was brief -- other species among 30 recorded included GRAY HAWK, NORTHERN BEARDLESS-TYRANNULET, THICK-BILLED KINGBIRD, all three Myiarchus, BLUE GROSBEAK and HOODED ORIOLE.
Tuesday, July 15, 2003
My next clients decided to cancel due to the hot, dry and smoky conditions and the cancellation gives me five (unpaid!) days to myself. I decided to use the time to work on collecting more data in the White Mountains. Even though I was working there last week and I'll be there again in the not too distant future, target birding doesn't really afford me the opportunity to do routine birding.
Before heading north to the White Mountains, I spent an hour at Willcox starting shortly after sunrise. This was my first visit here in some time and I was surprised by the low water conditions, about the lowest that I've ever seen here. With so much shorebird habitat, a relatively cool temperature and only a few bugs, the birding here was very enjoyable (even if it did smell like the Salton Sea!). I didn't find any of the recently reported rarities except for the continuing female GREATER SCAUP, a bird that stands out a mile. KILLDEER and AVOCET were both very numerous. LONG-BILLED CURLEWS numbered around 10, BAIRD'S, LEAST and WESTERN SANDPIPERS and GREATER & LESSER YELLOWLEGS were represented by just a few individuals. I noted 3 RING-BILLED and 1 FRANKLIN'S GULL; no sign of the California that had been reported. SCALED QUAIL was the most common landbird -- I saw them in multiple locations, scurrying around on the ground as well as perched up and calling.
41 species recorded at Willcox:
Ruddy Duck, Am. Wigeon, Mallard, N. Pintail, Cinnamon Teal, N. Shoveler, Redhead, Greater & Lesser Scaup, Am. Kestrel, Scaled Quail, Am. Coot, Long-billed Curlew, Greater & Lesser Yellowlegs, Spotted, Western, Least & Baird's Sandpipers, Wilson's Phalarope, Black-necked Stilt, Am. Avocet, Killdeer, Ring-billed & Franklin's Gulls, Mourning Dove, Western Kingbird, Loggerhead Shrike, N. Mockingbird, Curve-billed Thrasher, Verdin, Barn Swallow, House Sparrow, House Finch, Pyrrhuloxia, Blue Grosbeak, Bullock's Oriole, Yellow-headed & Red-winged Blackbirds, Eastern Meadowlark and Great-tailed Grackle.
I took my normal route north via highway 191 to Safford, highway 78 through the Burro Mountains into New Mexico, highway 180 north and back into Arizona near Luna Lake. The Safford area was blanketed with smoke haze -- I saw a small fire burning in the southern foothills of the Pinaleño Mountains but this was probably not solely responsible for so much smoke. Multiple fires were birding in the Mogollon Mountains in New Mexico and the entire journey along highway 180 was very smoky. The White Mountains were heavy with smoke that I could smell, taste and feel stinging my eyes -- pretty yucky. This is probably due to the fire in Whiteriver.
I started birding at a
very warm and smoky Luna Lake where the continuing SANDHILL CRANE was the only
bird of note from 30 recorded in an hour. PYGMY NUTHATCHES and WESTERN BLUEBIRDS
were both very numerous.
My next birding stop was along Nutrioso Creek where it was much cooler as rain clouds gathered. The area was very active and produced a couple of noteworthy birds. A lone CASSIN'S KINGBIRD was my first in the northern section of the White Mountains. I took a family of LAZULI BUNTINGS (male, female, 3-4 juveniles) to be proof positive of breeding here (male was also singing). I've heard them singing here before in summer and I assumed that they were on territory and breeding. Now I know for sure. I noted adults and juveniles of several other species that breed in the immediate area -- RED-NAPED SAPSUCKER, LEWIS'S WOODPECKER, WESTERN & MOUNTAIN BLUEBIRDS, PYGMY NUTHATCH, GREEN-TAILED TOWHEE and WESTERN TANAGER. A nearby feeder had lots of BROAD-TAILED & RUFOUS HUMMINGBIRDS.
In town I saw lots more LEWIS'S WOODPECKERS and the seemingly always present EURASIAN COLLARED-DOVES. Just west of town I saw at least 25 BAND-TAILED PIGEONS perched in a dead tree in typical fashion. I singled out this individual for a photo.
Nelson Reservoir is so dry at the eastern end that I was able to walk out to the middle to check the shorebirds on the far side -- they turned out to be 1-WILLET, 2-LESSER YELLOWLEGS, a few SPOTTED SANDPIPERS and tons of KILLDEERS.
I finished the day at Becker Lake as the rain started to fall in mid afternoon. I noted about 20 species including BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT-HERON, CINNAMON TEAL, REDHEAD, SPOTTED SANDPIPER, BLUE GROSBEAK and YELLOW-HEADED BLACKBIRD.
As I checked into my motel, the temperature in Springerville was 70 degrees, 30 degrees cooler than last week!
71 species recorded in White Mountains (Luna Lake-Nutrioso-Nelson
Pied-billed & Eared Grebes, Double-crested Cormorant, Ruddy Duck, Canada Goose, Gadwall, Green-winged Teal, Mallard, N. Pintail, Cinnamon Teal, Redhead, Ring-necked Duck, Common Merganser, Great Blue Heron, Black-crowned Night-Heron, Turkey Vulture, Red-tailed Hawk, Am. Kestrel, Am. Coot, Sandhill Crane, Lesser Yellowlegs, Spotted Sandpiper, Willet, Killdeer, Band-tailed Pigeon, Eurasian Collared-Dove, Mourning Dove, Broad-tailed & Rufous Hummingbirds, Lewis's & Hairy Woodpeckers, Red-naped Sapsucker, N. Flicker, Western Wood-Pewee, Cordilleran Flycatcher, Cassin's Kingbird, Steller's Jay, Am. Crow, Common Raven, Plumbeous Vireo, Western & Mountain Bluebirds, Am. Robin, N. Mockingbird, European Starling, Pygmy & White-breasted Nuthatches, House Wren, Bushtit, Violet-green, N. Rough-winged, Barn & Cliff Swallows, House Sparrow, Pine Siskin, Lesser Goldfinch, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, Chipping & Vesper Sparrows, Green-tailed Towhee, Western Tanager, Black-headed & Blue Grosbeaks, Lazuli Bunting, Yellow-headed & Red-winged Blackbirds, Eastern & Western Meadowlarks, Brewer's Blackbird and Brown-headed Cowbird.
Wednesday, July 16, 2003
Today was a Red Letter day. After 10 years of birding in the White Mountains and always being in the wrong (or right) place at the wrong time, today I was in the right place at the right time to see my numero uno Arizona nemesis bird -- PINE GROSBEAK! Admittedly, they are very rare in AZ and I barely remember 3 or 4 reports in the last 10 years from places like Big Lake Campground, Sunrise Campground and the Mount Baldy trail where I saw the birds today. My lifer came in BC, Canada and since then I've seen them in CA, CO, MN, UT, WY and now, finally, in AZ.
The Mt Baldy trail is not a place that I go when work birding in the White Mountains because the return on investment of time and physical effort is simply not there. Almost all of the typical target birds that birders coming to the White Mountains want to see can be seen much easier elsewhere. However, it's probably the best place for Three-toed Woodpecker, a good place for Gray Jay; and Pine Grosbeak has been seen here inconsistently over the years. I had planned to hike the trail (6.5 miles one way from 9300 to 11300 feet) to see what might be lurking there (last trip I had White-crowned Sparrows at the top of the mountain, singing and seemingly on territory); and when I read that Dick Palmer had seen Pine Grosbeaks on the trail a few days ago I though that I might be able to kill two birds with one stone.
I left Sheep's Crossing trailhead at 6:40am. and after a 2.5 mile hike I arrived at the location where the birds had been seen at 7:50am. Imagine my surprise when I looked at a couple of birds that caught my eye only to find that they were male and female PINE GROSBEAKS. You'd think that after 10 years I would be doing cartwheels (as if I could), but no, my immediate thought was "what am I going to look for now?" (the answer is Black-capped Chickadee, also rare in AZ but not as rare as Pine Grosbeak). This is the same person that wouldn't look for an easy roadside Siberian Rubythroat in Alaska recently. There has to be a challenge. What a fickle bunch we birders are. Perhaps I need treatment.
I slogged up the trail for another 4 miles after seeing the grosbeaks, ate lunch at the top from 11:30am-12:00pm, and then stumbled my way out, arriving back at the trailhead at 3:30pm. completely exhausted. A 13 mile round trip, not bad for an old fart (perhaps I won't be so upbeat about it tomorrow morning). The view from the top wasn't very good because of smoke from the fire near Whiteriver. The most intriguing sighting was an immature ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLER fairly high up the mountain in good breeding habitat (low and medium height growth) near an old burn area. GREEN-TAILED TOWHEES were in the same area. Unfortunately, it's too close to migration to say that the bird definitely bred here.
I was surprised by Dick's report of 4 Downy Woodpeckers here. All my White Mountain sightings (not that there are many) and my one SE AZ sighting are all from pine habitat. There's not much of that on the Mt. Baldy trail, just a little near the trailhead. Perhaps they like the spruce-fir aspen stuff as well. I didn't see nor hear any.
HAIRY WOODPECKERS were absolutely abundant, drumming and calling in multiple locations on the trail. I stopped counting after 25. THREE-TOED WOODPECKERS were also common. Conservatively, I heard 12 of which I tracked down 5 (those that were close to the trail -- every step at this altitude is a chore!). I saw a couple of WILLIAMSON'S SAPSUCKERS on the lower part of the trail. I found 12 GRAY JAYS in small groups of 3, 4 and 5 in different locations. CLARKS NUTCRACKERS and RED CROSSBILLS were present at regular intervals along the trail. LINCOLN'S SPARROWS were common and vocal in the willows along the river (West Fork of Little Colorado).
I didn't see a lot of species today. This list of 40 is from the Mt. Baldy
Trail plus roadside birds (in italics).
Am Kestrel, Lewis's, Hairy & Three-toed Woodpeckers, Williamson's Sapsucker, N. Flicker, Western Wood-Pewee, Cordilleran Flycatcher, Steller's & Gray Jays, Clark's Nutcracker, Am. Crow, Common Raven, Western Bluebird, Townsend's Solitaire, Hermit Thrush, Am. Robin, Pygmy, Red-breasted & White-breasted Nuthatches, Brown Creeper, House Wren, Cliff Swallow, Ruby-crowned & Golden-crowned Kinglets, Mountain Chickadee, Horned Lark, Pine Siskin, Pine Grosbeak, Red Crossbill, Orange-crowned & Yellow-rumped Warblers, Dark-eyed Junco, Lincoln's, Chipping & Vesper Sparrows, Green-tailed Towhee, Western Tanager, Eastern Meadowlark and Brewer's Blackbird.
Thursday, July 17, 2003
After my exertions of yesterday, I took it a little easier today -- less trail walking, more driving and more standing still and scanning. I covered a fair amount of ground throughout the day starting early this morning in Greer with visits to Butler Canyon and West Fork. After an excellent breakfast burrito at the Rendezvous Diner, I checked White Mountain Reservoir (dry), Sunrise Lake (low) then worked my way east along 273 and 249 with stops at Crescent Lake, Sierra Blanca Lake and Divide Hill trailhead. I spent some time around Nutrioso (reservoir, creek, and in town), then checked Nelson Reservoir and finished up at Becker Lake back in Springerville. I had a very productive day seeing almost 100 species including several interesting birds, a few location firsts and even a first for the White Mountains. It was a mostly cloudy day with on and off sunshine, a few rain showers and some wind later in the day.
Butler Canyon was quite birdy early this morning (30+ species) and I saw many of the expected species such as WILLIAMSON'S SAPSUCKER, DUSKY FLYCATCHER, CLARK'S NUTCRACKER, TOWNSEND'S SOLITAIRE, VIRGINIA'S & MACGILLIVRAY'S WARBLER and GREEN-TAILED TOWHEE. However, a pristine looking male THREE-TOED WOODPECKER was a bird that I certainly didn't expect here and one that was new for me in this location. Willow Flycatcher was a bird that I expected but did not detect.
I checked West Fork before the crowds arrived and didn't have any trouble finding a couple of AMERICAN DIPPERS. While walking the trail I came across this juvenile RED-NAPED SAPSUCKER that, judging by its behavior, hasn't yet learned that it's supposed to fly away! VIRGINIA'S and MACGILLIVRAY'S WARBLERS were easy to find. A few RED CROSSBILLS were calling in town and CLARK'S NUTCRACKERS seemed to be everywhere!
Despite the fact that it was relatively cool, heat shimmer was a problem at Sunrise Lake and I had to drive all the way around the lake to see what was on the water. CANADA GEESE were abundant. Highlights were a fishing OSPREY and a couple of WHITE-FACED IBIS working the exposed mud. VESPER SPARROWS were very common but I had to work hard to find SAVANNAH SPARROWS.
At Sierra Blanca Lake I detected VIRGINIA RAIL and SORA calling from the marsh. TOWNSEND'S SOLITAIRE called from the tree margin. A nice surprise as I approached Nutrioso on highway 180 was a fly-by NORTHERN GOSHAWK. I found PINYON JAYS at Nutrioso Reservoir; and lots of LEWIS'S WOODPECKERS, a few EURASIAN COLLARED-DOVES & BULLOCK'S ORIOLE right in town.
I almost didn't stop at Nelson Reservoir because tourists were there in droves looking at a herd of ELK grazing on a grassy area that used to be water. However, I was sure glad that I did when I came across this PHAINOPEPLA, a new species for me in the White Mountains. Another surprise here was a male WILLIAMSON'S SAPSUCKER, my first at this location. I couldn't understand why the bird was in the willows at the edge of the water. I finally figured out it was feeding on berries. At least 6 SPOTTED SANDPIPERS were on the far shore where a ROCK WREN was calling.
After scanning at Becker Lake (BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT-HERON, BLUE GROSBEAK & YELLOW-HEADED BLACKBIRD), I checked Becker Lake Road and was pleased to find an INDIGO BUNTING singing next to a BLUE GROSBEAK. Indigo Bunting is a rare but regular breeder in the White Mountains and the sighting was a nice way to end a very enjoyable day.
96 species recorded in White Mountains:
Pied-billed & Eared Grebes, Double-crested Cormorant, Ruddy Duck, Canada Goose, Am. Wigeon, Gadwall, Mallard, N. Pintail, Cinnamon Teal, Ring-necked Duck, Common Merganser, Great Blue Heron, Black-crowned Night-Heron, White-faced Ibis, Turkey Vulture, Osprey, N. Goshawk, Red-tailed Hawk, Am. Kestrel, Virginia Rail, Sora, Am. Coot, Spotted Sandpiper, Killdeer, Rock Dove, Eurasian Collared-Dove, Mourning Dove, Broad-tailed & Rufous Hummingbirds, Red-naped & Williamson's Sapsuckers, Lewis's, Hairy & Three-toed Woodpeckers, N. Flicker, Western Wood-Pewee, Dusky & Cordilleran Flycatchers, Say's Phoebe, Pinyon & Steller's Jays, Clark's Nutcracker, Am. Crow, Common Raven, Plumbeous & Warbling Vireos, Phainopepla, Am. Dipper, Western & Mountain Bluebirds, Townsend's Solitaire, Hermit Thrush, Am. Robin, N. Mockingbird, European Starling, Pygmy, Red-breasted & White-breasted Nuthatches, Brown Creeper, Rock & House Wrens, Bushtit, Violet-green, N. Rough-winged, Barn & Cliff Swallows, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Mountain Chickadee, Horned Lark, House Sparrow, Pine Siskin, Lesser Goldfinch, House Finch, Red Crossbill, Virginia's, Yellow-rumped & MacGillivray's Warblers, Common Yellowthroat, Dark-eyed Junco, Song, Savannah, Chipping & Vesper Sparrows, Green-tailed Towhee, Western Tanager, Black-headed & Blue Grosbeaks, Indigo Bunting, Bullock's Oriole, Yellow-headed & Red-winged Blackbirds, Eastern & Western Meadowlarks, Brewer's Blackbird and Brown-headed Cowbird.
Friday, July 18, 2003
I spent a final few hours birding in the White Mountains this morning then headed back to SE AZ. I stopped at a very warm Willcox in the early afternoon and was home in time to see the rain in Sierra Vista drop the temperature from 90 to 60 degrees.
South Forth was very quiet and couple of hours here were not as productive as I had hoped. Most of my time was spent along the riparian section followed by just a few minutes in the campground. Most of the birds were not vocalizing -- exceptions were SAY'S & BLACK PHOEBES, WESTERN SCRUB-JAY, PLUMBEOUS VIREO, VIRGINIA'S WARBLER & YELLOW-BREASTED CHAT. This area is perhaps the best (or at least, most well known) location in Arizona for finding GRAY CATBIRD and I saw two of them perched up by the bridge (perched until the thought "camera" crossed my mind). A "peenting" COMMON NIGHTHAWK overhead was the only one of the trip (I once saw a gathering of well over 100 at this location). The "highlight" was BULLOCK'S ORIOLE -- although I've seen them in most other riparian areas in the mountains, surprisingly, this was a location first for me
CLARK'S NUTCRACKERS were all over the rocky slopes west of the campground. As I left the area, a ROCK WREN was feeding two youngsters in the rocky area along the entrance road (a regular spot for them as well as Canyon Wren). A few WHITE-THROATED SWIFTS were overhead.
After two recent productive visits, Nelson Reservoir couldn't sustain the momentum this morning. I spent 20 minutes checking the muddy shoreline at the south end without turning up any shorebirds other than scads of KILLDEER and SPOTTED SANDPIPERS. No sign of yesterday's Phainopepla.
Most of the regular waterfowl were present at Luna Lake and the SANDHILL CRANE continues. A lone adult BALD EAGLE was on a regular perch near the nest site. I learned last week that the birds fledged one this year.
58 species recorded in White Mountains (South Fork-Nelson Reservoir-Luna
Pied-billed & Eared Grebes, Double-crested Cormorant, Canada Goose, Am. Wigeon, Gadwall, Mallard, Cinnamon Teal, Common Merganser, Great Blue Heron, Bald Eagle, Red-tailed Hawk, Am. Coot, Sandhill Crane, Spotted Sandpiper, Killdeer, Mourning Dove, Common Nighthawk, White-throated Swift, Broad-tailed & Rufous Hummingbirds, Hairy Woodpecker, N. Flicker, Western Wood-Pewee, Cordilleran Flycatcher, Say's & Black Phoebes, Western Scrub-Jay, Clark's Nutcracker, Am. Crow, Common Raven, Plumbeous Vireo, Western Bluebird, Am. Robin, Gray Catbird, White-breasted Nuthatch, Brown Creeper, Rock Wren, Bushtit, Violet-green, Barn & Cliff Swallows, House Sparrow, Lesser Goldfinch, Virginia's & Yellow Warblers, Yellow-breasted Chat, Spotted Towhee, Western Tanager, Black-headed & Blue Grosbeaks, Bullock's Oriole, Yellow-headed & Red-winged Blackbirds, Eastern & Western Meadowlarks, Brewer's Blackbird and Brown-headed Cowbird.
In two full and two partial days in the White Mountains, I recorded 118 species (see trip list) and finally managed to see Pine Grosbeak in Arizona, a 10 year state nemesis. I also picked up one new bird for my White Mountain list (Phainopepla), added a few species to some of the sites that I track, and added to my knowledge base of this wonderful area. Apart from seeing the Grosbeak, the highlight of this trip was seeing so many Three-toed Woodpeckers on the Mt. Baldy trail. Even though I wasn't specifically looking for area specialties on this trip, I still managed to see most of them. The trip was all too brief and didn't have time to get to all the places that I wanted to visit, including favorite spots like Sipe Wildlife Area, Sunrise Campground and Terry Flat.
I arrived at a very hot and serene Willcox around 1:30pm. In contrast to an hour of very pleasant birding early on Tuesday morning, 30 minutes here this hot afternoon seemed like a life sentence. Although I could see rain and a thunderstorm to the south and east, I knew it wouldn't reach me in time for any relief. Birds were motionless, just sitting there baking with their bills open. Even the GREAT BLUE HERONS that normally spook as soon as you glance at them didn't bother to fly away as I parked. AMERICAN AVOCETS and BLACK-NECKED STILTS usually voice their displeasure when you get close, but not today!
Identification of all but the closest of the small peeps was somewhat difficult because of heat shimmer. Normally, this is not a problem at Willcox because shorebirds are around the edges. However, with the extreme low water conditions, they can now be some distance away. There seemed to be a few more BAIRD'S and WESTERNS today with LEAST being the least common. GREATER & LESSER YELLOWLEGS were still in small numbers, LONG-BILLED CURLEWS numbered around 25. A single WHITE-FACED IBIS and a handful of LONG-BILLED DOWITCHERS were the only species I noted that were not present on Tuesday. Perhaps if I had forced myself to tough it out for a while longer, I might have found something good. GREATER and LESSER SCAUP, many WILSON'S PHALAROPES, REDHEAD, a few RINGED-BILLED GULLS and a single FRANKLIN'S GULL all continue.
I resume work again on Sunday and I'm scheduled in the field with clients for 28 of the next 30 days. Yikes! Perhaps I'll be ready to return to the White Mountains again when September rolls around
Sunday, July 20, 2003
First of two days with Harry and Geraldine Byrne from Oradell, NJ, who I've birded with on one previous occasion. We began in mid afternoon for what turned out to be an unsuccessful and very wet trip to California Gulch.
We left Sierra Vista at 3:30pm and watched the monsoon clouds intensify the further west we traveled. By the time that we reached the old Oro Blanco mine site at 6:30pm there was quite a storm going on in Mexico. However, conditions at the mine site were calm at this time and it didn't appear that we would be impacted. How wrong can you be.
As darkness came (early because of the clouds), I heard a BUFF-COLLARED NIGHTJAR calling around 7:40pm. Unfortunately, only I heard the three short calls and the bird never called again until we left at 9:20pm. The wind had really picked up by this time and the once distant storm was now all around us. Large puddles were forming on the road at an alarming rate as we exited the gulch road; and visibility on the Ruby Road was close to zero for several miles as torrential rain lashed down. They don't call this monsoon season for nothing! It was a pretty scary ride, definitely an "E" ticket.
It had been a pitch black evening, occasionally lit by spectacular lightning. In addition to the brief calls of the nightjar, all I heard were some brief calls by COMMON POORWILL and WESTERN SCREECH-OWL. Activity had been pretty high during the hour before darkness with about 20 species seen/or heard including YELLOW-BILLED CUCKOO, COMMON GROUND-DOVE, NORTHERN BEARDLESS-TYRANNULET, scads of MOCKINGBIRDS (some imitating Buff-collared Nightjar and Thick-billed Kingbird) and HOODED ORIOLE.
Monday, July 21, 2003
Out again today with Harry and Geraldine for a trip to Patagonia Lake State Park to try for Black-capped Gnatcatcher. Since we didn't get back to town until 12:30am this morning, I had pity on Harry and Geraldine and we left town at 5:30am (originally I had planned 5:00am). That moment of weakness on my part almost cost us the gnatcatcher (that'll teach me).
We started birding at the lake shortly after 6:30am and I proceeded to do a first pass through each of the washes in sequence. As we reached the site of the first (successful) nest, I could hear the calls of two BLACK-CAPPED GNATCATCHERS and we soon found a female foraging in a mesquite. The birds moved off fairly quickly to the south and despite lots of searching we never heard nor saw them again. We worked all of the washes several times but in the end we had to settle for the female. Still, a big improvement on last night.
I recorded the following 40 species at the lake from
Neotropic Cormorant, Black-bellied Whistling-Duck, Mallard, Great Blue Heron, Turkey Vulture, Gray Hawk, Am. Coot, Mourning & White-winged Doves, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Broad-billed Hummingbird, Gila & Ladder-backed Woodpeckers, N. Beardless-Tyrannulet, Vermilion, Ash-throated & Brown-crested Flycatchers, Cassin's Kingbird, Bell's Vireo, Phainopepla, White-breasted Nuthatch, Bewick's Wren, Black-capped Gnatcatcher, Bushtit, Cliff Swallow, Lesser Goldfinch, House Finch, Lucy's & Yellow Warblers, Common Yellowthroat, Yellow-breasted Chat, Black-throated, Botteri's & Rufous-crowned Sparrows, Canyon Towhee, Summer Tanager, Black-headed Grosbeak, N. Cardinal, Great-tailed Grackle and Brown-headed Cowbird.
In late morning we visited Ash Canyon Bed and Breakfast. As soon as we arrived we heard the dreaded words "the bird was here 7 minutes ago" bird=Plain-capped Starthroat. We hung around for an hour as the midday sun slowly baked us and hummingbird activity gradually dwindled. Harry and Geraldine will have to come back and pay their dues in order to (hopefully) see the bird. Hummers seen were mostly ANNA'S and BLACK-CHINNED, a few BROAD-BILLED, an adult male RUFOUS and a few RUFOUS/ALLEN'S. All three Myiarchus species were calling nearby (only BROWN-CRESTED seen).
Tuesday, July 22, 2003
First of two days with Kurt Hennige from Kingston, ON. A day of oddball target birding starting with a (rare for me) morning owling session in the Huachucas followed a trip to Patagonia and then back in the Huachucas. Although the monsoon season is now in full swing, the days are still warm and it was 95 degrees in Sierra Vista by late morning. Clouds brought relief later in the day.
The morning began with GREAT HORNED OWL on the wing. WESTERN SCREECH-OWLS were fairly numerous and vocal but definitely not very cooperative. They would alternately perch and call (usually from a dense tree) then move off to another location. I've seen this type of behavior often at this season. Our only other target, Elf Owl, was a no show. Also present were COMMON POORWILL and WHISKERED SCREECH-OWL.
Daylight brought an end to the proceedings and we headed over to Patagonia Lake State Park. In contrast to yesterday, I had relatively little trouble locating the pair of BLACK-CAPPED GNATCATCHERS on the hillside near the site of the first nest. We had excellent looks at both birds as they foraged in a mesquite just a few feet from our location for about 5 minutes -- very satisfying. BOTTERI'S SPARROWS were easy to hear and see along the entrance road.
At the Patagonia Roadside Rest area it was impossible to miss our target THICK-BILLED KINGBIRD. The birds were numerous, raucous and very active, flying every which way. Getting them to sit still in the clear was the hardest part but we did manage scope views.
With the Fort Huachuca canyons still closed we headed up Carr Canyon where we easily found several BUFF-BREASTED FLYCATCHERS (including recently fledged young) near Reef Campground. Next, we worked on VIRGINIA'S WARBLER, a bird that is a master at staying concealed if it so desires -- and it often so desires! We had to work for about an hour before finally seeing a very secretive bird. GREATER PEWEES were in full voice here. HEPATIC TANAGER was easy to see.
During the afternoon, Kurt visited Ash Canyon Bed and Breakfast and was able to pick up PLAIN-CAPPED STARTHROAT and LUCIFER HUMMINGBIRD; plus WHITE-EARED HUMMINGBIRD in Miller Canyon.
Day list (73 species recorded):
Pied-billed Grebe, Neotropic Cormorant, Mallard, Great Blue Heron, Turkey Vulture, Swainson's & Red-tailed Hawks, Am. Kestrel, Am. Coot, Spotted Sandpiper, Rock Dove, Mourning & White-winged Doves, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Western & Whiskered Screech-Owls, Great Horned Owl, Common Poorwill, Broad-billed & Magnificent Hummingbirds, Acorn & Gila Woodpeckers, N. Flicker, N. Beardless-Tyrannulet, Greater Pewee, Western Wood-Pewee, Buff-breasted, Vermilion, Dusky-capped, Brown-crested & Sulphur-bellied Flycatchers, Cassin's, Thick-billed & Western Kingbirds, Mexican Jay, Chihuahuan & Common Ravens, Bell's, Plumbeous & Warbling Vireos, Phainopepla, Hermit Thrush, Am. Robin, N. Mockingbird, White-breasted Nuthatch, Brown Creeper, Canyon & Bewick's Wrens, Verdin, Black-capped Gnatcatcher, Bushtit, Cliff Swallow, Bridled Titmouse, House Sparrow, Lesser Goldfinch, House Finch, Virginia's, Yellow & Black-throated Gray Warblers, Common Yellowthroat, Yellow-breasted Chat, Song, Black-throated, Botteri's & Rufous-crowned Sparrows, Spotted & Canyon Towhees, Hepatic, Summer & Western Tanagers, N. Cardinal, Blue Grosbeak, Great-tailed Grackle and Brown-headed Cowbird.
Wednesday, July 23, 2003
Out again today with Kurt. Our 12:30am early start for California Gulch didn't pay off and we failed to even hear Buff-collared Nightjar. GREAT HORNED OWL and COMMON POORWILL were along a very wet and slick Ruby Road (especially tricky near Sycamore Canyon). Several deep puddles were on California Gulch Road near the entrance -- too deep for a small car. If you plan to walk into the south end of the gulch in the next few days, be prepared to climb up the hillside or bring hip waders, my wellies were not sufficient for the southernmost steam crossing.
We arrived at the old Oro Blanco mine site at 3:45am and soon had good looks at WESTERN SCREECH-OWL. Conditions were cool and cloudy with a short period of rain and we didn't hear the nightjar through daybreak. In the gulch, we didn't have any trouble finding FIVE-STRIPED SPARROW and VARIED BUNTING.
42 species recorded along California Gulch
Great Blue Heron, Turkey Vulture, Gray Hawk, Mourning & White-winged Doves, Common Ground-Dove, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Greater Roadrunner, Western Screech-Owl, Common Poorwill, Broad-billed Hummingbird, Gila & Ladder-backed Woodpeckers, N. Beardless-Tyrannulet, Black Phoebe, Vermilion, Dusky-capped, Ash-throated & Brown-crested Flycatchers, Cassin's & Thick-billed Kingbirds, Mexican Jay, Common Raven, Bell's Vireo, N. Mockingbird, White-breasted Nuthatch, Canyon & Bewick's Wrens, Verdin, Bushtit, Yellow-breasted Chat, Black-throated, Five-striped & Rufous-crowned Sparrows, Canyon Towhee, Summer Tanager, Northern Cardinal, Blue Grosbeak, Varied Bunting, Hooded Oriole and Bronzed & Brown-headed Cowbirds.
The return journey on the Ruby Road produced BOTTERI'S SPARROW near I-19 and RUFOUS-WINGED SPARROW near Via Frontera. A couple of BLACK-BELLIED WHISTLING-DUCKS left Palo Duro ponds as we arrived.
Good News: Fort Huachuca canyons open again on Friday. Except for Mt. Lemmon, pretty much all areas that were closed because of fire danger have now reopened.
I'm tired, perhaps the Buff-collared Nightjar will take pity on me and not show up next year.
Thursday, July 24, 2003
First of two days with Simon Mair from England. I left town at 3:00am for a "normal" trip to California Gulch (actually, much of what I do might not be construed as normal by "normal" people). [The good news for me is that I'll be with my next clients for 10 days so at least I don't have many more trips to California Gulch in my immediate future!] The gulch had more water than yesterday and my wellies didn't cut it again at the south end (squelch). Temperature in Sierra Vista at 1:00pm was 95 degrees with monsoon clouds building.
We encountered at least 5 COMMON POORWILLS on the Ruby Road in the hour before dawn and had excellent looks at one individual that didn't want to fly away.
FIVE-STRIPED SPARROWS were easy to locate today -- 4-5 individuals were singing between the 2nd and 4th stream crossings. VARIED BUNTINGS were very numerous, albeit flighty, and it took some time to get a long scope look at a bird in excellent light. They are quite spectacular in the right light. All the regulars were present including GRAY HAWK and THICK-BILLED KINGBIRD.
Birds on the Ruby Road between California Gulch and Peña Blanca Lake included ROCK WREN, EASTERN BLUEBIRD and SCOTT'S ORIOLE. On the stretch between the lake and I-19 we had scope looks at singing RUFOUS-WINGED and BOTTERI'S SPARROWS. It was very hot and humid here to say the least.
We stopped by at Kino Springs in hope of seeing Tropical Kingbird at what now resembles a war zone with all the trees removed. What a crying shame.
A brief visit to the Paton's easily produced VIOLET-CROWNED HUMMINGBIRD.
Simon went feeder watching in the afternoon and, in addition to all the more common and regular hummers, he saw PLAIN-CAPPED STARTHROAT and LUCIFER HUMMINGBIRD at Ash Canyon Bed and Breakfast, WHITE-EARED HUMMINGBIRD in Miller Canyon and BERYLLINE HUMMINGBIRD in Ramsey Canyon.
Our evening owling expedition in the Huachucas was an instant success (literally). The wind picked up and rain greeted us as we got started but that didn't seem to deter the owls. Several WHISKERED SCREECH-OWLS started calling about 30 minutes after sunset -- we headed towards the birds but changed direction to follow a WESTERN SCREECH-OWL that started calling shortly afterwards. We walked under a chattering ELF OWL along the way. We hurried to beat the rain and before long we had seen both target screech owls, all in a matter of minutes. In fact, I distinctly heard one of the owls muttering "wham bam, thank you human".
Day list (64 species recorded):
Turkey Vulture, Gray & Red-tailed Hawks, Am. Kestrel, Wild Turkey, Rock, Mourning, White-winged & Inca Doves, Common Ground-Dove, Western & Whiskered Screech-Owls, Elf Owl, Common Poorwill, Broad-billed, Violet-crowned & Black-chinned Hummingbirds, Acorn, Gila & Ladder-backed Woodpeckers, N. Beardless-Tyrannulet, Say's & Black Phoebes, Vermilion, Dusky-capped, Ash-throated & Brown-crested Flycatchers, Cassin's & Thick-billed Kingbirds, Mexican Jay, Common Raven, Bell's Vireo, Loggerhead Shrike, Phainopepla, Eastern Bluebird, N. Mockingbird, Curve-billed Thrasher, White-breasted Nuthatch, Rock, Canyon & Bewick's Wrens, Verdin, Bushtit, Barn & Cliff Swallows, Bridled Titmouse, House Sparrow, Lesser Goldfinch, House Finch, Lucy's Warbler, Yellow-breasted Chat, Black-throated, Five-striped, Botteri's, Rufous-winged & Rufous-crowned Sparrows, Summer Tanager, Blue Grosbeak, Varied Bunting, Hooded & Scott's Orioles, Great-tailed Grackle and Bronzed & Brown-headed Cowbirds.
Friday, July 25, 2003
Out again today with Simon. We visited a delightfully cool Carr Canyon early this morning and a very hot and muggy San Pedro during late morning. Monsoon clouds formed early today and built much faster than of late. The rain kicked in before 5:00pm (some good sized hail fell where I live) and torrential rain fell during the early evening (just as well we were owling last night).
Despite excellent conditions in upper Carr Canyon, almost all of our target species proved difficult to find. This is quite typical at this time of year as many birds stop or reduce their singing and concentrate on feeding young. Through perseverance, we eventually succeeded in seeing thirteen of fifteen potential high elevation species that Simon wanted to see. We birded the trails around Reef Campground, the road and several locations between Reef and Ramsey Vista, and the Comfort Spring trail.
BUFF-BREASTED FLYCATCHER was our first success. Even though several were calling early on, they were nonetheless quite elusive. GREATER PEWEE was an enigma. Not a single burst of song or a call during the first hour. After we finally heard one individual giving a few "peek-peek" calls, it then took us fifteen minutes to see this normally conspicuous bird. Later, many of them were singing continuously to the point of being annoying as I tried to listen for other birds. We gradually chipped away and picked up a mostly silent PLUMBEOUS VIREO, a recently fledged family of YELLOW-EYED JUNCOS, a singing BROWN CREEPER, a sporadically singing HUTTON'S VIREO and silent HEPATIC TANAGER.
Warblers were the least vocal and least numerous of all species and took the most time to find. Ironically, the often hard-to-see VIRGINIA'S WARBLER was seen well without much effort. A foraging and calling group of three BLACK-THROATED GRAY WARBLERS were also easy to locate and see. It was tough going after that and, after a long sequence of no warblers at all, it took a visit to my most reliable location to track down single GRACE'S & OLIVE WARBLER'S. We rounded out the warblers with singletons of PAINTED REDSTART and RED-FACED WARBLER.
46 species recorded in Carr Canyon from 5:30-10:30am:
Turkey Vulture, Cooper's Hawk, Wild Turkey, Band-tailed Pigeon, Black-chinned & Broad-tailed Hummingbirds, Acorn Woodpecker, N. Flicker, Greater Pewee, Western Wood-Pewee, Cordilleran, Buff-breasted, Dusky-capped & Sulphur-bellied Flycatchers, Cassin's Kingbird, Steller's & Mexican Jays, Western Scrub-Jay, Common Raven, Hutton's & Plumbeous Vireos, Eastern Bluebird, Hermit Thrush, Am. Robin, White-breasted Nuthatch, Brown Creeper, Canyon, Bewick's & House Wrens, Bushtit, Bridled Titmouse, Lesser Goldfinch, Olive, Virginia's, Black-throated Gray, Grace's & Red-faced Warblers, Painted Redstart, Yellow-eyed Junco, Rufous-crowned Sparrow, Spotted Towhee, Hepatic & Western Tanagers, Black-headed Grosbeak, Scott's Oriole and Brown-headed Cowbird.
After hearing Arizona Woodpecker in the upper canyon and unsuccessfully trying to find one in the lower canyon, we moved on to the highway 90 area of the San Pedro river where the temperature was in the mid 90s. Our target here was Tropical Kingbird so we headed to a very humid "big pond" where conditions were just a tad uncomfortable. Although kingbirds were not in short supply (we saw many CASSIN'S and a few WESTERN), they were completely silent. After 30 minutes or so I told Simon that Tropical would probably also be silent and that I believed it to be here. (I saw one earlier in the season and the birds have nested at the pond since at least 1993). I decided to walk around the pond and we eventually got our reward with good looks at a perched TROPICAL KINGBIRD.
Among the 30 species recorded in a about an hour were several calling YELLOW-BILLED CUCKOOS, COMMON GROUND-DOVE, VERMILION & BROWN-CRESTED FLYCATCHERS, BELL'S VIREO, lots of YELLOW-WARBLERS and YELLOW-BREASTED CHATS, SUMMER TANAGER and ABERT'S TOWHEE.
Monday, July 28, 2003
Out today with Martha Davis and Polly Nicely, both from Indianapolis, IN. For the next ten days we'll be traveling around the state working on a fairly large target list as well as stopping to smell the roses by taking the time to look at whatever comes our way. I left home at 2:00am to meet the ladies in Phoenix. Our route for the day took us from central Arizona to SE Arizona, specifically from Slate Creek Divide - Sunflower - Roosevelt Lake - Winkleman - Dudleyville - Aravaipa Canyon -Tucson. Although it was over 100 degrees at times, it was a mostly cloudy and tolerable day despite some high humidity. We finally got a pretty good monsoon rain as we left Aravaipa in late afternoon (dropping the temperature to 64 degrees!). It was also a successful day as we picked up some key target species for the areas visited.
The Tonto National Forest at Slate Creek Divide is still closed so we birded along the northern section of the old Beeline highway (now Sycamore Creek Road). Although GRAY VIREOS were plentiful and at times quite vocal, it took us a long time to get a decent look at this often elusive bird. We won by attrition -- one bird eventually got sloppy and perched in the open. The area was quite cool and birdy -- among the 25 species recorded were COOPER'S HAWK, a singing GRAY FLYCATCHER, WESTERN SCRUB-JAY, a couple of calling and briefly seen CRISSAL THRASHERS, lots of LARK SPARROWS and HOODED ORIOLE.
Next, we checked Sunflower where my expectations were realized -- an empty nest and no sign of Common Black-Hawk. Many of the same birds seen at Slate Creek Divide were present here along with BROWN-CRESTED FLYCATCHER and LUCY'S WARBLER.
A stop along Tonto Creek north of Roosevelt Lake yielded PEREGRINE FALCON and a couple of WHITE-FACED IBIS. At the lake, WESTERN and CLARK'S GREBES were easy to see, side by side for ease of comparison. From Windy Hill we could see some distant and completely unidentifiable gulls. Despite the near 100 degree temperature, we decided to walk over a mile to have a shot at figuring out what they were. The effort paid off when we found a couple of hoped for CALIFORNIA GULLS in with a handful of RING-BILLED GULLS and a lone FRANKLIN'S GULL.
After a short stop in Globe-Miami, we continued south and chose exactly the right place to stop along the Gila River north of Winkleman. I spotted a COMMON BLACK-HAWK perched in a cottonwood and the bird stayed put long enough for us to get a scope on it. Two birds then left the tree and we got some great flight views as they flew across the river below us.
A quick check of the river from the Winkleman bridge was unproductive and very uncomfortable as the afternoon heat and humidity kicked in. However, we pulled off a nice save passing through Dudleyville when Martha spotted a soaring MISSISSIPPI KITE that eventually perched in a cottonwood.
Even though we'd seen Black-Hawk, we spent a little time in Aravaipa Canyon unsuccessfully trying to track a calling GILDED FLICKER. Nothing much of note save for PURPLE MARTINS and many LESSER NIGHTHAWKS feeding in the pre-rain gloom. The rain finally started as we left and there was a tremendous downpour as we headed south to Tucson.
We finished the day at Sweetwater Wetland where I was surprised to find the gate already closed at 5:30pm. However, it wasn't really a problem since we had no trouble locating HARRIS'S HAWK at the usual spot on Roger Road. A good end to a long day.
Day list (69 species recorded):
Pied-billed, Western & Clark's Grebes, Double-crested Cormorant, Mallard, Great Blue Heron, White-faced Ibis, Turkey Vulture, Mississippi Kite, Common Black-Hawk, Cooper's, Harris's, & Red-tailed Hawks, Peregrine Falcon, Gambel's Quail, Killdeer, Ring-billed, California & Franklin's Gulls, Rock, Mourning, White-winged & Inca Doves, Lesser Nighthawk, Black-chinned Hummingbird, Gila & Ladder-backed Woodpeckers, Gilded Flicker, Western Wood-Pewee, Say's & Black Phoebes, Gray, Ash-throated & Brown-crested Flycatchers, Cassin's & Western Kingbirds, Western Scrub-Jay, Common Raven, Gray Vireo, Loggerhead Shrike, Phainopepla, Curve-billed & Crissal Thrashers, Cactus, Canyon & Bewick's Wrens, Verdin, Blue-gray & Black-tailed Gnatcatchers, Purple Martin, Bridled Titmouse, House Sparrow, Lesser Goldfinch, House Finch, Lucy's & Yellow Warblers, Yellow-breasted Chat, Lark & Black-throated Sparrows, Spotted, Canyon & Abert's Towhees, Summer & Western Tanagers, Black-headed Grosbeak, N. Cardinal, Blue Grosbeak, Hooded Oriole and Great-tailed Grackle.
Tuesday, July 29, 2003
Day 2 with Martha and Polly. Today we visited Tucson Mountain Park, Avra Valley WWTP and the Santa Rita Mountains. After a warm start in the desert it was a relatively cool and cloudy late morning and early afternoon in the mountains with rain starting early around 2:30pm. The temperature back in Tucson was almost 100 in mid afternoon but quickly cooled to the mid 70s when rain started there in late afternoon.
We began in Tucson Mountain Park where we soon heard a fair number GILDED FLICKERS. Seeing them was another story and we spun our wheels for a while without getting more than a fleeting glimpse. We birded in several locations before we finally managed to get a bird in the scope. Other desert denizens included GREATER ROADRUNNER, GAMBEL'S QUAIL, many GILA WOODPECKERS, BROWN-CRESTED FLYCATCHER, lots of VERDINS, a few BLACK-TAILED GNATCATCHERS, CURVE-BILLED THRASHER, CACTUS WREN and NORTHERN CARDINAL. Out of the park proper, where we eventually had good looks at the flicker, we added PYRRHULOXIA, RUFOUS-WINGED SPARROW and BRONZED COWBIRD .
A stop at Avra Valley WWTP was generally quite productive for shorebirds and we saw a handful of BAIRD'S SANDPIPERS, our primary target here. Present in low numbers were GREATER YELLOWLEGS, LONG-BILLED DOWITCHER, LEAST & WESTERN SANDPIPER, WILSON'S PHALAROPE, AMERICAN AVOCET and BLACK-NECKED STILT. Other species seen included CINNAMON TEAL, SNOWY EGRET, COMMON GROUND-DOVE, LARK SPARROW and YELLOW-HEADED BLACKBIRD.
Despite a late morning arrival, BLACK-THROATED, RUFOUS-WINGED, BOTTERI'S & CASSIN'S SPARROWS were all singing to varying degrees on the road up to Madera Canyon. We managed reasonable looks at Botteri's but never even glimpsed Cassin's. However, thanks to the rain we were able to see BOTTERI'S and CASSIN'S virtually side by side at close range, as we drove out in the afternoon.
Among the birds in the canyon (in various locations) were lots of BAND-TAILED PIGEONS feeding awkwardly and noisily in the treetops, quite a few noisy "rubber-ducky" SULPHUR-BELLIED FLYCATCHERS, several recently fledged BLACK-THROATED GRAY WARBLERS and HEPATIC TANAGERS, PAINTED REDSTART and a very small looking GREATER PEWEE that I initially mistook for the more numerous WESTERN WOOD-PEWEES. At Procter Road we added a good looking VARIED BUNTING, singing away as the rain began. Hummingbirds were very scarce throughout, including three sets of feeders that we checked (Chuparosa B&B, Madera Kubo and Santa Rita Lodge)
Day list (79 species recorded):
Mallard, Cinnamon Teal, Snowy Egret, Great Blue Heron, Turkey Vulture, Red-tailed Hawk, Am. Kestrel, Gambel's Quail, Greater Yellowlegs, Long-billed Dowitcher, Western, Least & Baird's Sandpipers, Wilson's Phalarope, Black-necked Stilt, Am. Avocet, Killdeer, Rock Dove, Band-tailed Pigeon, Mourning, White-winged, & Inca Doves, Common Ground-Dove, Greater Roadrunner, Broad-billed, Black-chinned & Broad-tailed Hummingbirds, Acorn, Gila & Ladder-backed Woodpeckers, Gilded Flicker, Greater Pewee, Western Wood-Pewee, Dusky-capped, Brown-crested & Sulphur-bellied Flycatchers, Cassin's & Western Kingbirds, Mexican Jay, Common Raven, Bell's & Plumbeous Vireos, Phainopepla, N. Mockingbird, Curve-billed Thrasher, White-breasted Nuthatch, Brown Creeper, Cactus, Canyon & Bewick's Wrens, Verdin, Black-tailed Gnatcatcher, Tree, Barn & Cliff Swallows, Bridled Titmouse, House Sparrow, Lesser Goldfinch, House Finch, Black-throated Gray Warbler, Painted Redstart, Lark, Black-throated, Botteri's, Cassin's & Rufous-winged Sparrows, Hepatic & Summer Tanagers, Black-headed Grosbeak, N. Cardinal, Pyrrhuloxia, Blue Grosbeak, Varied Bunting, Hooded Oriole, Yellow-headed Blackbird, Eastern Meadowlark, Great-tailed Grackle and Bronzed & Brown-headed Cowbirds.
Wednesday, July 30, 2003
Day 3 with Martha and Polly. We left Tucson at 3:00am and rolled into Sierra Vista at 3:00pm after productive and enjoyable visits to California Gulch, Patagonia Roadside Rest and the Paton's yard. The weather was kind to us throughout the day -- a cool and cloudy (albeit humid) start in California Gulch and early afternoon rain in Patagonia. The puddles along the first stretch of California Gulch road have deepened (don't even think about going in a little car), however, the big puddle at the south end of the gulch is down a bit and I could get through in wellies without a problem.
COMMON POORWILLS were fairly numerous along the Ruby Road -- we saw at least 8 including a couple that sat still for long enough for a decent look.
FIVE-STRIPED SPARROWS were easy to locate at the south end of the gulch, although a little difficult to see well because of poor light on the east slope. We managed good scope views with a little persistence. At least two males were singing on the east slope of the gulch immediately west of California Gulch (I've recorded them here in about 5 of the last 10 years). THICK-BILLED KINGBIRDS continue noisy and conspicuous. VARIED BUNTINGS were mainly conspicuous by their absence -- just one seen and that was 1 mile north of the gulch proper. Several NORTHERN BEARDLESS-TYRANNULETS were quite vocal but not particularly cooperative. Ditto for GRAY HAWK. By way of compensation, we had excellent scope views of a perched YELLOW-BILLED CUCKOO, a bird that is often difficult to see well. We recorded 35 species in the gulch.
Back on the Ruby Road we had good looks at ASH-THROATED FLYCATCHER, HUTTON'S VIREO, SCOTT'S ORIOLE and a number of other common species, The highlight of the morning so far came exactly 2 miles before we reached the blacktop at Peña Blanca Lake when Martha spotted a male MONTEZUMA QUAIL at the edge of the road. We were fortunate because the female and ~6 quailudes were on one side of the road while the male and a single quailude were stranded on the other side. We had excellent looks at the male then backed up -- the single chick scooted across the road to join the others and the male quickly followed. The whole family then slowly worked their way up slope. What a great serendipitous moment. Most of my Montezuma Quail sightings happen this way.
Along the blacktop section of the Ruby Road we had singing RUFOUS-WINGED, BOTTERI'S and CASSIN'S SPARROWS and a soaring GRAY HAWK near mile 4 (they nest in this location annually).
Our timing at Patagonia Roadside Rest area wasn't impeccable but it was still pretty damn good! We arrived at noon and joined a number of folks who were looking for the Becard. Around 12:40pm I heard the bird calling several times but I got the distinct impression that nobody present believed me (other than Martha & Polly!). As the rain began, I kept the faith and very shortly tracked down what turned out to be a male ROSE-THROATED BECARD to where it was perched, quite low and in the clear on a dead vertical twig. Everyone had a good look as the bird preened for about a minute. Now I had some believers. The rain came down a little heavier as we left
We finished up in the Paton's yard and managed about 30 minutes of birding before the rain caught up with us. The resplendent VIOLET-CROWNED HUMMINGBIRDS were obliging as usual.
CASSIN'S SPARROWS normally start singing a little later than Botteri's (perhaps because they are residents and don't feed the need to rush) -- however, I'd say that they are in full swing now. They were singing up a storm along highway 82 near highway 90 in Whetstone.
Day list (69 species recorded):
Black & Turkey Vultures, Gray & Red-tailed Hawks, Am. Kestrel, Scaled, Gambel's & Montezuma Quail, Rock, Mourning, White-winged & Inca Doves, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Common Poorwill, Broad-billed, Violet-crowned & Black-chinned Hummingbirds, Acorn, Gila & Ladder-backed Woodpeckers, N. Beardless-Tyrannulet, Western Wood-Pewee, Black Phoebe, Vermilion, Dusky-capped, Ash-throated & Brown-crested Flycatchers, Cassin's & Thick-billed Kingbirds, Rose-throated Becard, Mexican Jay, Chihuahuan & Common Ravens, Bell's & Hutton's Vireos, N. Mockingbird, White-breasted Nuthatch, Rock, Canyon & Bewick's Wrens, Verdin, Bushtit, Bridled Titmouse, House Sparrow, Lesser Goldfinch, House Finch, Lucy's & Yellow Warblers, Yellow-breasted Chat, Song, Black-throated, Five-striped, Botteri's, Cassin's, Rufous-winged & Rufous-crowned Sparrows, Canyon Towhee, Summer Tanager, Black-headed Grosbeak, N. Cardinal, Pyrrhuloxia, Blue Grosbeak, Varied Bunting, Hooded, Bullock's & Scott's Orioles, Great-tailed Grackle and Brown-headed Cowbird.
Thursday, July 31, 2003
Day 4 with Martha and Polly turned out to be a really tough day at the office. I was very much looking forward to birding on Fort Huachuca this morning -- due to my vacation and the closure because of fire danger, it's been over 2 months since my last visit. Sadly, our results were very poor. Although it was a cloudy and delightfully cool morning (in the mid 60s to start), most species were in short supply, generally silent and difficult to find.
After a few brief stops in lower Garden Canyon grassland where CASSIN'S and BOTTERI'S SPARROWS were both singing, we spent over 2 hours looking unsuccessfully for ELEGANT TROGON. We located just one individual that was scolding a COOPER'S HAWK about .5m below the upper picnic area, however, when the hawk flew away the trogon headed upslope and stopped calling. Other species from 35 recorded around the upper picnic area (+/- .5m) included MAGNIFICENT HUMMINGBIRD, tons of SULPHUR-BELLIED FLYCATCHERS (about the only bird that was easy to see and hear), HUTTON'S & PLUMBEOUS VIREOS, PAINTED REDSTART, male and female WESTERN & HEPATIC TANAGERS and SPOTTED TOWHEE.
Activity in Sawmill Canyon was even lower -- only BUFF-BREASTED FLYCATCHER was really vocal and easy to find. Many were present near the cabin and along the first mile of the main canyon trail. We did finally catch up with ELEGANT TROGON and had good views of a female. Two calling males made sure to stay out of our way. A calling MONTEZUMA QUAIL was near the cabin. Further up canyon we had a tough time getting good looks at ARIZONA WOODPECKER. A family of YELLOW-EYED JUNCOS were a little more cooperative. By far the biggest disappointment, however, was the absence of warblers. We walked one mile of the Sawmill trail and didn't see or hear a single warbler! Other species included GREATER PEWEE, STELLER'S JAY, WHITE-THROATED SWIFT and HEPATIC TANAGER.
A session on the San Pedro from 12:30-2:30pm was also tough going, although we did find two species that we looked for. Unlike my recent visit here, a couple of TROPICAL KINGBIRDS were vocalizing and easier to find today. However, they certainly weren't easy to see well and we spent an hour wandering around the big pond before being satisfied. ABERT'S TOWHEE was very common and easy to hear, however, once again we had to work outrageously long and hard to see one.
Rain washed out our chances for evening owling and we ended the day with 8 target species seen and recorded the following 70
Green Heron, Turkey Vulture, Cooper's & Red-tailed Hawks, Am. Kestrel, Montezuma Quail, Am. Coot, Rock, Mourning & White-winged Doves, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, White-throated Swift, Magnificent Hummingbird, Elegant Trogon, Acorn, Gila, Ladder-backed & Arizona Woodpeckers, N. Flicker, Greater Pewee, Western Wood-Pewee, Black Phoebe, Buff-breasted, Vermilion, Dusky-capped & Sulphur-bellied Flycatchers, Tropical, Cassin's & Western Kingbirds, Steller's & Mexican Jays, Chihuahuan Raven, Hutton's & Plumbeous Vireos, Am. Robin, N. Mockingbird, Curve-billed Thrasher, White-breasted Nuthatch, Brown Creeper, Cactus, Canyon & Bewick's Wrens, Verdin, N. Rough-winged & Barn Swallows, Bridled Titmouse, Lesser Goldfinch, House Finch, Yellow & Black-throated Gray Warblers, Common Yellowthroat, Painted Redstart, Yellow-breasted Chat, Yellow-eyed Junco, Song, Lark, Botteri's and Cassin's Sparrows, Spotted, Canyon & Abert's Towhees, Hepatic, Summer & Western & Black-headed & Blue Grosbeaks, Pyrrhuloxia, Eastern Meadowlark, Great-tailed Grackle and Brown-headed Cowbird.
This log is in chronological order and the most recent entries
are at the bottom of the page.
The last update was on Thursday, July 31, 2003
Journal - July, 2003
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