Journal - March, 2004
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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 Wednesday, March 31, 2004
Monday, March 1, 2004
First of two days with Andy Fayer from Fort Washington, PA. On a partly cloudy and at times breezy day with an afternoon temperature somewhere in the mid 60s, we birded mostly in Santa Cruz county. Andy had the misfortune to lose his license on the journey to Tucson and was unable to get a rental car. Consequently, I ended up driving over 400 miles and put in 15 hours, hence this abbreviated report.
Sonoita -- 3+ EURASIAN COLLARED DOVES (north and south sides of 82 on east side of 82/83 intersection).
Patagonia Lake was quite productive with a few migrants contributing to a decent species tally. The RUFOUS-BACKED ROBIN was along the creek trail about 75 yards upstream from the "rag hackberry". Other continuing stuff included WESTERN GREBE, GREATER SCAUP and EASTERN PHOEBE. We worked the BRIDLED TITMOUSE and HUTTON'S VIREO flock in Nutting's wash for some time without any gnatcatcher success.
Patagonia Lake State Park (72 species recorded from 8:00am-12:00pm)
Pied-billed, Eared & Western Grebes, Double-crested & Neotropic Cormorants, Great Blue Heron, Black-crowned Night-Heron, Am. Wigeon, Gadwall, Green-winged Teal, Mallard, N. Pintail, Cinnamon Teal, N. Shoveler, Redhead, Greater & Lesser Scaup, Common Merganser, Ruddy Duck, Sharp-shinned, Cooper's & Red-tailed Hawks, Sora, Am. Coot, Killdeer, Spotted Sandpiper, Mourning, White-winged & Inca Doves, White-throated Swift, Gila & Ladder-backed Woodpeckers, N. Flicker, Eastern, Black & Say's Phoebes, Gray, Dusky & Vermilion Flycatchers, Tree & Violet-green Swallows, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Phainopepla, Rock, Bewick's & Marsh Wrens, N. Mockingbird, Curve-billed Thrasher, Hermit Thrush, Rufous-backed Robin, Bushtit, Bridled Titmouse, Verdin, Common Raven, Plumbeous & Hutton's Vireos, Orange-crowned & Yellow-rumped Warblers, Spotted, Canyon & Abert's Towhees, Chipping, Black-throated, Song, Lincoln's & Swamp Sparrows, N. Cardinal, Red-winged Blackbird, Great-tailed Grackle, House Finch, Lesser Goldfinch and House Sparrow.
A surprise STELLER'S JAY was the highlight in the Paton's yard. I now have records for them here in 3 of the past 11 years. The real surprise was that none had been present this winter so why today? Other stuff included ANNA'S and VIOLET-CROWNED HUMMINGBIRDS and numerous LAZULI BUNTINGS, looking more colorful with each visit.
Palo Duro ponds held a few ducks, VERMILION FLYCATCHER and NORTHERN ROUGH-WINGED SWALLOW.
Amado Sewage pond was disappointing and we added only RING-NECKED DUCK.
A quick stop in lower Chino Canyon quickly produced several RUFOUS-WINGED SPARROWS along with many BREWER'S SPARROWS that have been generally scarce this winter.
At Santa Rita Lodge we struck out on Painted Redstart and Arizona Woodpecker. Highlights here were MAGNIFICENT HUMMINGBIRD, a close up CANYON WREN and YELLOW-EYED JUNCO.
The exterior gate at Green Valley WWTP was closed so we couldn't even check for longspurs along the entrance road. A quick check at San Xavier Mission failed to produce a Burrowing Owl.
A long day that produced 99 species to get March underway.
Tuesday, March 2, 2004
Out again today with Andy. The weather wasn't very cooperative and for most of the day it was heavily overcast, cold and windy. We birded in Sulphur Springs Valley and the Mule and Huachuca Mountains.
Our morning in Sulphur Springs Valley began well at the Pecan Grove on Frontier Road, just south of Davis, where we saw the continuing LEWIS'S WOODPECKER. I decided to check this location more out of due diligence and hope rather than expectation. Unlike my last sighting, deep in the grove, the bird was on the last row of trees at the southern end of the grove, close to Frontier. We had excellent looks, albeit in lousy light. A definite case of "you won't win the raffle if you don't buy a ticket". Other species here included INCA DOVE, GAMBEL'S & SCALED QUAIL, BLACK-THROATED SPARROW and CARDINAL (uncommon at this location)..
We did okay on thrashers with CURVE-BILLED and CRISSAL THRASHERS on Coffman and two BENDIRE'S THRASHERS on Lee Road.
At Whitewater Draw we turned up 26 species in a quick and dirty walk round. It was sad not to see and hear the crane flocks and I was very pleased when a lone SANDHILL CRANE flew by calling. The 2 DUNLIN that overwintered are still present along with at least 1 LONG-BILLED DOWITCHER and 20 or so LEAST SANDPIPERS. The only migrant noted was a lone TREE SWALLOW. Other species included VERMILION FLYCATCHER, AMERICAN PIPIT and SWAMP SPARROW.
Next, we spent lots of time cruising around looking for PRAIRIE FALCON and eventually saw one on Rucker Canyon Road. A fair number of FERRUGINOUS HAWKS are still present as well as huge mixed blackbird flocks of BREWER'S, YELLOW-HEADED and RED-WINGED. We struck out completely on Lark Bunting.
The wind had really picked up by the time we reached Bisbee and our search for BLACK-CHINNED SPARROW looked like ending in failure. We worked hard for almost an hour without success only to find a bird back at the car as we were leaving.
A 45 minute session of feeder watching at Ash Canyon Bed and Breakfast produced the hoped for ARIZONA WOODPECKER along with a total of 20 species including MAGNIFICENT HUMMINGBIRD.
We finished the day in Scheelite Canyon where I had to work a little harder than of late to find a fairly well concealed SPOTTED OWL. Although the bird was roosting in a tree that is used very often, it was sitting a few feet away from the typical location. Those few feet meant that the bird could not be seen from my regular trailside vantage point. I followed my regular pattern of sequentially checking roost locations without success and it wasn't until I started checking in detail that I found the bird.
Day list (80 species recorded):
Pied-billed Grebe, Great Blue Heron, Gadwall, Ring-necked Duck, Ruddy Duck, N. Harrier, Red-tailed & Ferruginous Hawks, Am. Kestrel, Prairie Falcon, Scaled & Gambel's Quail, Sandhill Crane, Am. Coot, Killdeer, Long-billed Dowitcher, Least Sandpiper, Dunlin, Rock Pigeon, Mourning, White-winged & Inca Doves, Greater Roadrunner, Spotted Owl, Magnificent & Anna's Hummingbirds, Lewis's, Acorn, Ladder-backed & Arizona Woodpeckers, Black & Say's Phoebes, Vermilion Flycatcher, Horned Lark, Tree Swallow, Am. Pipit, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Phainopepla, Cactus, Canyon, Bewick's & Marsh Wrens, Bendire's, Curve-billed & Crissal Thrashers, Hermit Thrush, Bushtit, Bridled Titmouse, White-breasted Nuthatch, Verdin, Loggerhead Shrike, Western Scrub-Jay, Mexican Jay, Chihuahuan & Common Ravens, European Starling, Hutton's Vireo, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Canyon Towhee, Rufous-crowned, Chipping, Brewer's, Black-chinned, Vesper, Black-throated, Savannah, Song, Swamp & White-crowned Sparrows, N. Cardinal, Pyrrhuloxia, Eastern & Western Meadowlarks, Red-winged, Yellow-headed & Brewer's Blackbirds, Great-tailed Grackle, House Finch, Lesser Goldfinch and House Sparrow.
Friday, March 5, 2004
After two cancelled work days for different weather related reasons, I was out today with Paul and Patty Mansz from New Brunswick, Canada. Even though the day was quite cool and cloudy, it seemed like a bargain after two lousy days, especially Wednesday when it poured all day and left fresh snow in the mountains.
The birding at Patagonia Lake was pretty decent this morning and our 4.5 hour session was quite productive. The species count continues to creep up as spring approaches. We started at the west end where I heard my first LEAST BITTERN of the season, calling from the marsh near the marina. This was my earliest return date at this location by a week or so (sometimes they overwinter here, although not this year). The male COMMON GOLDENEYE continues here; WESTERN GREBE, GREATER SCAUP and BLUE-WINGED TEAL continue at the east end of the lake.
We struck out completely on Rufous-backed Robin and Elegant Trogon. However, the failure was somewhat mitigated by excellent looks at the pair of BLACK-CAPPED GNATCATCHERS in Nutting's Wash (~11:10-11:25am). Unlike on Monday, checking the BRIDLED TITMOUSE and HUTTON'S VIREO flock paid off today. Although the birds were very active and forever moving around, I followed them for a few minutes, clicking away and hoping that a bird would be in the frame and in focus. I ended up with one fairly decent image of the male BLACK-CAPPED GNATCATCHER starting to show some black.
Migrant swallows were swarming all over the water. Most of them were TREE and VIOLET-GREEN with a few CLIFF SWALLOWS here and there (my first of the year). WHITE-THROATED SWIFTS became active as the day warmed up. No sign yet of Lucy's & Yellow Warblers and Bell's Vireo, but they should be back in about a week.
An ASH-THROATED FLYCATCHER was in the second wash. EASTERN PHOEBE continues in Nutting's Wash. VERMILION FLYCATCHER numbers have increased. VIOLET-CROWNED HUMMINGBIRD was near the visitor center, presumably attracted by the feeders there ( I only have two other records for this species at the lake, in March and April). GRAY FLYCATCHERS were common, DUSKY inconspicuous. A few SWAMP SPARROWS were along the marsh edges.
73 species recorded at Patagonia Lake State Park from 7:30am-12:00pm:
Pied-billed, Eared & Western Grebes, Neotropic Cormorant, Great Blue Heron, Black-crowned Night-Heron, Least Bittern, Am. Wigeon, Green-winged Teal, Mallard, Blue-winged & Cinnamon Teal, N. Shoveler, Redhead, Greater & Lesser Scaup, Common Goldeneye, Bufflehead, Common Merganser, Ruddy Duck, Cooper's Hawk, Am. Kestrel, Am. Coot, White-winged & Inca Doves, White-throated Swift, Violet-crowned & Anna's Hummingbirds, Gila & Ladder-backed Woodpeckers, Eastern, Black & Say's Phoebes, Gray, Dusky, Vermilion & Ash-throated Flycatchers, Tree, Violet-green & Cliff Swallows, Am. Pipit, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Phainopepla, Bewick's & Marsh Wrens, N. Mockingbird, Curve-billed Thrasher, Hermit Thrush, Black-capped Gnatcatcher, Bridled Titmouse, White-breasted Nuthatch, Verdin, Loggerhead Shrike, Common Raven, Hutton's Vireo, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, Spotted & Canyon Towhees, Chipping, Black-throated, Song, Lincoln's, Swamp & White-crowned Sparrows, N. Cardinal, Pyrrhuloxia, Red-winged & Yellow-headed Blackbirds, Great-tailed Grackle, House Finch, Lesser Goldfinch and House Sparrow.
An hour in Marion Paton's Yard wasn't as productive as I had hoped. The only hummers were ANNA'S and VIOLET-CROWNED. However, the LAZULI BUNTINGS were as colorful as ever. A lone STELLER'S JAY was still present.
We finished the day at Ash Canyon Bed and Breakfast in the Huachucas -- thanks to Mary Jo for the hospitality. There was always some activity at the feeders and we recorded about 20 species including COOPER'S HAWK, MAGNIFICENT and ANNA'S HUMMINGBIRDS, several LADDER-BACKED WOODPECKERS, a swarm of BUSHTITS, CANYON TOWHEE and PYRRHULOXIA. We struck out on Arizona Woodpecker, although the bird was present earlier in the day.
Saturday, March 6, 2004
Spring-like weather returned today and the afternoon temperature in Sierra Vista was in the mid 60s under a clear blue sky with zero wind. A precursor to several even warmer days forecast for early next week.
I made a mid afternoon visit to Sierra Vista EOP where I saw lots of loafing ducks, a handful of dicky birds and a few raptors. I decided to stay until I had recorded 20 species, a feat that took 1 hour and 4 minutes. The last three species took 30 minutes.
Highlights were the continuing geese -- 2 SNOW GEESE and 1 GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GOOSE. Overall duck numbers have increased although diversity remains low. At least two pairs of CINNAMON TEAL were present.
Currently, the conditions in both ponds visible from the viewing platform are fairly decent for shorebirds. I hope they remain this way for the upcoming migration season.
20 species recorded at Sierra Vista EOP:
Greater White-fronted Goose, Snow Goose, Am. Wigeon, Gadwall, Green-winged Teal, Mallard, N. Pintail, Cinnamon Teal, N. Shoveler, Ring-necked Duck, N. Harrier, Red-tailed Hawk, Am. Kestrel, Am. Coot, Killdeer, Say's Phoebe, Vesper, Savannah & Song Sparrows and Red-winged Blackbird.
Tuesday, March 9, 2004
The last few days have been unseasonably warm (~80 degrees in Sierra Vista, closer to 90 in Tucson) and I haven't felt a burning desire to go out birding. Today I visited Scheelite Canyon to continue my trail documentation activities. There was a slight nip to the air in the shady areas at the bottom of the canyon as I started up the trail around 9:00am, however, it was pretty toasty by early afternoon.
I met a couple of local birders at the trailhead (names withheld to protect the guilty!) and left them at the 1/2 mile point as I started my trail work and they went off to look for Spotted Owl. I met them again several hours later after they had looked in the lower, middle and upper roosting areas without finding an owl. Later, after I finished my trail work, I decided to look for an owl even though I was pretty pooped and it was now quite hot.
First, I went back down canyon to 1/2 mile and thoroughly checked the lower roosting area to a little beyond 5/8 mile. I was hoping that I would find an owl here because I really didn't want to head further up canyon. However, that's just what I had to do. The middle area ("left" or east fork of the canyon) is physically easier to check than the west fork so that's where I headed first. Would you believe it, I found a SPOTTED OWL in the very first reliable roosting location in a tree known as "Oak in the Hollow". I haven't written up this tree yet, although the usage stats are in the "roost site" section of my Spotted Owl data -- (access from AZ Info). The link is to a photo of the tree which is located on the east side of the canyon drainage about 200 feet up canyon from the 3/4 mile split, along the east fork of the trail. The bird was high in the leaves on the right side of the tree.
Although I've seen an owl in this location on 32 previous occasions (it ranks #7 in usage), prior to today I hadn't seen a an owl here since December 2002. The bird was sitting about 10 feet higher than "normal" and was quite hard to see. Photography was difficult because of the height -- however, I was able to take an eye level shot at some distance from the other side of the canyon -- here's that image, taken from 22-25 yards away.
When I left the canyon I made a detailed enough entry in the trail log that others would have a chance at finding it. Imagine my surprise when I received a call later in the day from someone who had found a very "easy to see owl" next to the trail along the "right fork" of the canyon. They hadn't even looked at the trail log! Of course, since I'd already found an owl, I never made it up the right fork of the canyon.
I recorded a total of only 10 species in the canyon with WHITE-THROATED SWIFT being the only non-resident breeder back on territory. HUTTON'S VIREOS, BRIDLED TITMICE and CANYON WRENS were doing lots of singing. Several flocks of BUSHTITS were in multiple locations. WESTERN SCRUB-JAYS called from high up on the slopes.
Wednesday, March 10, 2004
Today I made a routine visit to Patagonia Lake State Park. What a difference a bunch of warm, sunny days have made. Although it isn't spring on the calendar for another week and a half, the lake is certainly well into spring mode. It's only a few days since I was here (March 5) but the changes are significant -- the willows are leafing out in many places, there's a major increase in flying insects and, best of all, many birds are singing and engaging in courtship behavior. Today was another warm one, more like June than March! It was a distinct pleasure to wander around without looking for anything in particular (casual birding, what a concept), at least until the sun started to bite.
LEAST BITTERNS were singing in a couple of places in the marsh near the Marina (I detected one on March 5) and my first-of-season YELLOW WARBLERS were instantly abundant. No sign yet of Lucy's Warbler or Bell's Vireo -- they are usually a day or so behind the Yellows. VERMILION FLYCATCHERS are now very common and already doing their "sky-dances", belly proudly thrust forward, as the admiring females watched from below. WHITE-WINGED DOVES, VERDINS, BRIDLED TITMICE, BEWICK'S WRENS & NORTHERN CARDINALS were all in full voice.
Activity on the water has picked up with a big increase in LESSER SCAUP, CINNAMON TEAL (10 pairs), CANVASBACKS (~10) and REDHEADS (4 pairs). Also present were the continuing WESTERN GREBE, GREATER SCAUP, 2 male COMMON GOLDENEYES at the west end of the lake (I had only seen one all winter), 2 pairs of BUFFLEHEADS and a pair of BLUE-WINGED TEAL.
My short session along the creek produced the continuing WINTER WREN, about 100 yards upstream from the creek fork, on the north side of the creek. A few WILSON'S SNIPE were in this very muddy area.
News flash: No matter what equipment you have and how good a photographer you are, getting good images of dicky birds is tough! They are either constantly flitting, obscured by foliage, in poor light, or posing badly. Sometimes all of the above. Today I managed to get fairly decent shots of three species that I'd never managed to photograph before -- BRIDLED TITMOUSE, BEWICK'S WREN and SWAMP SPARROW. Everyone has to start somewhere.
By 11:30am it was uncomfortably hot and I started to trudge up the steps to leave. I was about halfway up when I noticed two gnatcatchers in the hackberry across the trail from the bottom of the steps. Thinking that I had struck gold, I ran back down the steps to check them out. I watched them come together and interact and the fuss that they made burst my Black-capped bubble. I followed them to confirm visually what I had heard -- they turned out to be a male BLACK-TAILED GNATCATCHER and a female BLUE-GRAY GNATCATCHER. Bummer.
Driving out along the entrance road, a RUFOUS-WINGED SPARROW was singing near the gate. I only have a handful of records for this species at the State Park, probably because I don't spend much time in their preferred habitat.
73 species recorded at Patagonia Lake State Park:
Pied-billed, Eared & Western Grebes, Double-crested & Neotropic Cormorants, Great Blue Heron, Black-crowned Night-Heron, Least Bittern, Am. Wigeon, Gadwall, Green-winged Teal, Mallard, Blue-winged & Cinnamon Teal, N. Shoveler, Canvasback, Redhead, Greater & Lesser Scaup, Common Goldeneye, Bufflehead, Common Merganser, Ruddy Duck, Cooper's Hawk, Gambel's Quail, Common Moorhen, Am. Coot, Wilson's Snipe, Spotted Sandpiper, Mourning & White-winged Doves, Belted Kingfisher, Gila & Ladder-backed Woodpeckers, N. Flicker, Black & Say's Phoebes, Gray & Vermilion Flycatchers, N. Rough-winged Swallow, Am. Pipit, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Phainopepla, Bewick's, Winter & Marsh Wrens, Curve-billed Thrasher, Hermit Thrush, Blue-gray & Black-tailed Gnatcatchers, Bushtit, Bridled Titmouse, White-breasted Nuthatch, Verdin, Common Raven, Hutton's Vireo, Yellow & Yellow-rumped Warblers, Canyon Towhee, Rufous-winged, Chipping, Song, Lincoln's, Swamp & White-crowned Sparrows, N. Cardinal, Pyrrhuloxia, Red-winged &Yellow-headed Blackbirds, Great-tailed Grackle, House Finch, Lesser Goldfinch and House Sparrow.
Thursday, March 11, 2004
Today was a rescheduled day after a postponement due to bad weather early last week. Northern Pygmy-Owl was our only target and a snowy day in the mountains wouldn't have been much fun and probably not successful. Today we had planned to try again, however, last night my client cancelled because he didn't want to risk the Pinery Canyon Road in the Chiricahuas (still officially closed) nor walk the trails in the higher elevations of the Huachucas. This was a little frustrating for me since I had turned down other work for today.
On a weird weather day, I decided to head to Carr Canyon in the Huachucas to look for a Pygmy-Owl anyway. The day began partly cloudy and mild and held the promise of cooler temperatures than of late. Storm clouds built throughout the morning and by noon I experienced thunder, hail, rain and high winds. Fortunately, I was able to find an owl before that happened. The rain moved into town in the afternoon and around 5:00pm I was on French Fry Boulevard watching an impressive lightning storm in the San Pedro Valley. Much of the southern section of the Huachucas was obscured at this time.
Carr Canyon road was almost free of snow and I had none of the underwear threatening excitement of two weeks ago. I left the Comfort Spring trailhead at 9::00am and after an hour and a half of stop and go hiking (~2 miles into the upper Ramsey Canyon drainage with several elevation losses and gains), I heard the unmistakable tooting of a NORTHERN PYGMY-OWL. Aaah, the sound of success. The aches and pains in my weary legs didn't seem important anymore as I paused to savor the moment. At this time of year, if you hear a Pygmy-Owl you are almost certainly going to see the bird. That was certainly the case in spades today.
It took just a couple of minutes to track the owl down in a regular territory. The bird was extremely confiding and I stayed with it for about 30 minutes taking almost 150 photographs. For much of the time I was actually too close and I should have reduced the focal length of my lens or backed away. However, I didn't want to spook the bird. Ha! There was no way it was going anywhere and it didn't even flinch when my battery died and I had to fumble around on a slope to change it, making all kind of noise as I snapped twigs. Unfortunately, most of the images were either very overexposed or only partly in the frame. I selected three to publish:
Photo #1 - sadly, the best I could salvage; Photo #2 - eyes in the back of the head; Photo #3 - for the delightful facial expression that seems to say "are you messing with me?"
With storm clouds building, I started back for Ramsey Vista campground at a fair pace. I wasn't paying much attention to anything but the trail and was suddenly taken by surprise when a COMMON RAVEN swooped down and perched very close to me. The bird started to peck at the wood of a dead tree -- whether it was for food or for nest lining I have no idea. Light conditions for a photo were lousy (a black bird against a bright background!) but I started taking photos anyway (a photo first for me). It wasn't until I viewed the images later that I noticed the bird was banded. Photo #2 shows the band and a bit of wood in the bird's mouth. The markings on the band look like two words "AVISE" and "RITE" and the numbers "2327" or "2321", possibly only "232". If anyone can decipher this, let me know.
Near the campground I came across perhaps the 10th twittering flock of BUSHTITS of the morning -- and I had tried in vain to get a photograph on each previous occasion. This time I was fortunate to get a bird in the frame and in focus. Owl notwithstanding, my favorite image of the day was of this BUSHTIT (another photo first). Look how the bird is hanging on to a tiny leaf!
The canyon was much birdier than my visit of February 25 when there was plenty of snow on the ground. WHITE-THROATED SWIFTS and VIOLET-GREEN SWALLOWS were back on territory and the resident HUTTON'S VIREOS, CANYON WREN'S, YELLOW-EYED JUNCOS and SPOTTED TOWHEES were singing up a storm (literally!). I recorded over 30 species including 2 RED-NAPED SAPSUCKERS, ARIZONA WOODPECKER, STELLER'S and WESTERN SCRUB-JAYS, BROWN CREEPER, EASTERN BLUEBIRD and OLIVE WARBLER.
A good day (except financially).
Friday, March 12, 2004
Although the real nasty weather passed through overnight, clouds remained this morning and we had a few showers in the afternoon. I visited the San Pedro River (highway 90 area) and Sierra Vista EOP.
Many places along the river have greened up quite well and bird activity was mostly concentrated in those area. I was hoping for an early migrant but that didn't happen. VERMILION FLYCATCHERS are back in numbers, present every 150-200 yards along the trail that parallels the river. I walked about 1/2 mile or so south of Kingfisher pond and counted well over 20. The only other returning breeders that I noted were YELLOW WARBLERS (singing in several locations) and a few NORTHERN ROUGH-WINGED SWALLOWS.
Kingfisher pond held a continuing? SORA (one has been here all winter). RED-WINGED BLACKBIRDS (a photo first) were singing here but there hardly seems enough habitat for them to nest. ABERT'S TOWHEES were very active and vocal throughout and I saw a few CANYON & GREEN-TAILED TOWHEES in Garden Wash. I missed Spotted for the first time in a while -- perhaps they have already moved back to the mountains. LESSER GOLDFINCHES and YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLERS were abundant, feeding in the weeds and budding-out cottonwoods respectively.
Singing WESTERN and EASTERN MEADOWLARKS greeted me in the fields at Sierra Vista EOP. Shorebird conditions remain good but I didn't detect any. A group of 21 RING-BILLED GULLS and a few BUFFLEHEADS were the only noteworthy birds.
48 species recorded :
Am. Wigeon, Gadwall, Green-winged Teal, Mallard, N. Pintail, Cinnamon Teal, N. Shoveler, Ring-necked Duck, Bufflehead, N. Harrier, Gambel's Quail, Sora, Am. Coot, Killdeer, Ring-billed Gull, Mourning & White-winged Doves, Gila & Ladder-backed Woodpeckers, N. Flicker, Black & Say's Phoebes, Vermilion Flycatcher, N. Rough-winged Swallow, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Bewick's & Marsh Wrens, Bushtit, White-breasted Nuthatch, Chihuahuan Raven, Yellow Warbler, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, Green-tailed, Canyon & Abert's Towhees, Chipping, Vesper, Song, Lincoln's & White-crowned Sparrows, Pyrrhuloxia, Red-winged Blackbird, Eastern & Western Meadowlarks, House Finch and Lesser Goldfinch.
Sunday, March 14, 2004
With shorebird migration season fast approaching, I decided to check the ponds at Willcox this morning. My hope was that yesterday's thunderstorms and rain might have grounded a few birds. [Practical note: with gas prices being what they are right now, I doubt that I'll be checking very often!] On the ride over I encountered foggy conditions in the San Pedro Valley near Benson and especially in the Sulphur Springs Valley after I dropped down from Texas Canyon. Fortunately, the fog cleared as I entered Willcox and it was a splendid morning -- a few white clouds in an otherwise clear blue sky and a very fresh feel after the rain. I had pleasant and enjoyable few hours of birding without seeing anything spectacular.
The entrance road to Twin Lakes Golf Course (S. Rex Allen Jr. Drive) was teeming with birds in the puddles and wet fields. Large flocks of RED-WINGED and BREWER'S BLACKBIRDS were making a hell of a noise and both EASTERN and WESTERN MEADOWLARKS were perched up singing. Also perched up "singing" was this very cooperative SCALED QUAIL, posing well in good light and showing why it's so named (and nicknamed "Cottontop") -- it's not very often that Murphy gets screwed in this manner! GAMBEL'S QUAIL were actually more common today.
I spent the first hour working around the golf course ponds and buildings. Apparently, the City of Willcox have been taking lessons from the folks at Sierra Vista EOP on how to "debirdify" the area. The marsh vegetation on the interior ponds has been severely cut back and the smaller of the two accessible ponds is completely denuded. Much of the marsh on the larger golf course pond is still intact, although the weedy vegetation under the big willow at the east end has been cleared. I felt sorry for the soon to be nesting Red-wings. Lots of song from several MARSH WRENS, MOCKINGBIRDS and CURVE-BILLED THRASHERS; a single CANYON TOWHEE was also singing; LADDER-BACKED WOODPECKER and COMMON YELLOWTHROAT were both calling. I tried to raise a Sora without success.
The main pond continues at a very high water level and water is still being pumped in at a good rate. There isn't much in the way of shorebird habitat. However, the temporal ponds hold some promise, especially those just southwest of the golf course ponds. In addition to scads of KILLDEER, today I found just one each of AMERICAN AVOCET, LONG-BILLED DOWITCHER and LONG-BILLED CURLEW. When I first arrived, the smaller of the two golf course ponds held these two cracking male CINNAMON TEAL and a handsome pair of NORTHERN SHOVELERS (abundant on the main pond).
The few migrants that I noted were all singletons -- a fly-by FERRUGINOUS HAWK, RING-BILLED GULL and NORTHERN ROUGH-WINGED SWALLOW.
The wintering flock of several hundred AMERICAN WIGEON were grazing on the golf course grass; the hybrid EURASIAN WIGEON stuck out like a sore thumb. A few small groups of SANDHILL CRANES were still around, certainly no more than 50 birds.
37 species recorded at Willcox ponds from 7:45 to 10:30am:
Pied-billed Grebe, Great Blue Heron, American (and hybrid Eurasian) Wigeon, Green-winged Teal, Mallard, Cinnamon Teal, N. Shoveler, Ruddy Duck, Ferruginous Hawk, Scaled & Gambel's Quail, Sandhill Crane, Am. Coot, Am. Avocet, Killdeer, Long-billed Dowitcher, Long-billed Curlew, Ring-billed Gull, Mourning Dove, Ladder-backed Woodpecker, Say's Phoebe, N. Rough-winged Swallow, Marsh Wren, N. Mockingbird, Curve-billed Thrasher, Chihuahuan Raven, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, Canyon Towhee, Savannah & Song Sparrows, Red-winged & Brewer's Blackbirds, Eastern & Western Meadowlarks, Great-tailed Grackle and House Sparrow.
Monday, March 15, 2004
Today I made routine visits to Sawmill and Scheelite Canyons and Sierra Vista EOP. Another sunny and fairly warm day.
My earliest Buff-breasted Flycatcher return date in Sawmill is March 16 and I was hoping to "push the envelope" today. Unfortunately, I couldn't make it happen on this my 500th visit to the canyon. It was quite frosty near the cabin when I arrived a little before 8:00am so perhaps those little flycatchers know a thing or two. Just two birds worthy of mention -- PAINTED REDSTART (my records indicate that, on average, they move into the canyon on March 21, with March 12 being the earliest that I've seen them here); and WESTERN BLUEBIRD (rare anytime in Sawmill, I have 10 records in 7 different years from November to March).
Otherwise, it was standard fare for the time of year. Several ARIZONA WOODPECKERS were drumming and chasing each other around. HUTTON'S VIREO, BEWICK'S WREN and YELLOW-EYED JUNCO were all singing. STELLER'S and MEXICAN JAYS were very common and noisy.
In Scheelite, I found two SPOTTED OWLS roosting separately about 200 feet apart and I also had good looks at a NORTHERN PYGMY-OWL. Disappointingly, I did not detect any migrants or newly arrived birds. WESTERN SCRUB-JAYS were squawking from high up on the slopes. WHITE-THROATED SWIFTS screamed overhead. HUTTON'S VIREOS were annoyingly common with their persistent and highly unmusical "song".
It was warm and windy at Sierra Vista EOP at midday and only a calling SORA was of note. A handful of CINNAMON TEAL were conspicuous. Apart from ducks, the only migrants were a couple of TREE SWALLOWS.
Day list (50 species recorded):
Am. Wigeon, Gadwall, Green-winged Teal, Mallard, Cinnamon Teal, N. Shoveler, Ring-necked Duck, Am. Kestrel, Sora, Am. Coot, Killdeer, Mourning Dove, Spotted Owl N. Pygmy-Owl, White-throated Swift, Ladder-backed & Arizona Woodpeckers, N. Flicker, Say's Phoebe, Tree Swallow, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Phainopepla, Canyon & Bewick's Wrens, Western Bluebird, Hermit Thrush, Am. Robin, Bushtit, Bridled Titmouse, White-breasted Nuthatch, Brown Creeper, Verdin, Loggerhead Shrike, Western Scrub-Jay, Steller's & Mexican Jays, Chihuahuan & Common Ravens, Hutton's Vireo, Painted Redstart, Spotted Towhee, Chipping, Vesper & Song Sparrows, Yellow-eyed Junco, Eastern & Western Meadowlarks, Yellow-headed Blackbird, House Finch and Lesser Goldfinch.
Wednesday, March 17, 2004
Out today with Carolyn and Chuck Fields from Palatine, IL. We spent this fairly warm spring-like day in the Patagonia area.
A six hour session at Patagonia Lake produced over 70 species. Both the Elegant Trogon and Rufous-backed Robin were seen by others (along the creek trail close to where it feeds the lake). Our highlight was the pair of BLACK-CAPPED GNATCATCHERS foraging in the second wash about 8:00am. Both birds were very active and calling constantly. The male's black cap continues to develop -- compare photo #1 and photo #2 with one taken on March 5. Also, notice how the tail feather graduation is obvious in photo #2 and not apparent at all in photo #1.
Returning birds were much in evidence today -- LUCY'S WARBLERS are instantly very common. VERMILION FLYCATCHERS were absolutely everywhere and we watched one female already building a nest. YELLOW WARBLERS are also thick. BELL'S VIREOS are back and singing their very persistent and bubbly song. LEAST BITTERNS are now more common and we heard them at the west and east ends of the lake. Only one CASSIN'S KINGBIRD was noted.
Two male COMMON GOLDENEYES and two WESTERN GREBES were on the lake along with lots of female COMMON MERGANSERS and NEOTROPIC CORMORANTS (plus one DOUBLE-CRESTED). Two BLUE-WINGED TEAL continue. EARED GREBES are looking very dapper in breeding plumage. Also present were a fly-by OSPREY, a calling VIRGINIA RAIL (they have been scarce this winter at the lake) and 10 RING-BILLED GULLS.
Empids were in short supply and we heard just one DUSKY and saw one GRAY FLYCATCHER. We made up for that with a very vocal NORTHERN BEARDLESS-TYRANNULET.
70 species recorded at Patagonia Lake State Park from 6:50am-12:50pm:
Pied-billed, Eared & Western Grebes, Double-crested & Neotropic Cormorants, Great Blue Heron, Black-crowned Night-Heron, Least Bittern, Gadwall, Green-winged, Blue-winged & Cinnamon Teal, Mallard, N. Shoveler, Common Goldeneye, Common Merganser, Ruddy Duck, Turkey Vulture, Osprey, Cooper's Hawk, Virginia Rail, Am. Coot, Ring-billed Gull, Mourning & White-winged Doves, Greater Roadrunner, Broad-billed Hummingbird, Gila & Ladder-backed Woodpeckers, N. Flicker, N. Beardless-Tyrannulet, Gray, Dusky & Vermilion Flycatchers, Black & Say's Phoebes, Cassin's Kingbird, Am. Pipit, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Phainopepla, Bewick's, House & Marsh Wrens, Hermit Thrush, Black-capped Gnatcatcher, Bushtit, Bridled Titmouse, Verdin, Common Raven, Bell's Vireo, Lucy's, Yellow & Yellow-rumped Warblers, Common Yellowthroat, Canyon Towhee, Chipping, Black-throated, Song, Lincoln's, Swamp & White-crowned Sparrows, Dark-eyed (Oregon) Junco, N. Cardinal, Pyrrhuloxia, Red-winged, Yellow-headed & Brewer's Blackbirds, Great-tailed Grackle, Brown-headed Cowbird, House Finch, Lesser Goldfinch and House Sparrow.
A trip to Kino Springs didn't produce a hoped for Gray Hawk. Even when the birds return, they may not stay to nest at this traditional spot because of habitat loss. It's very depressing to bird here now. The only bird of note was a GREAT EGRET at the club house pond -- plenty of ducks were here despite bulldozer activity. CASSIN'S KINGBIRD was at the dry first pond and BELL'S VIREO at the sewage pond.
We heard WHITE-THROATED SWIFTS at the Roadside Rest but never laid eyes on them.
Marion Paton's yard was quiet in the heat of mid afternoon. Six species of hummers are being seen but we only saw BROAD-BILLED, VIOLET-CROWNED and ANNA'S (missed Black-chinned, Costa's and Rufous).
Thursday, March 18, 2004
Out today with the Tate family. Pat & Juanita from Annapolis, MD (who I've birded with on four previous occasions) and Jamie from Bisbee, AZ. We birded a long loop from Bisbee into and over the Chiricahuas to Willcox ponds; then south through the Sulphur Springs Valley to Whitewater Draw.
A short stop at Willow Tank on Stateline Road produced PEREGRINE FALCON, SAGE & CRISSAL THRASHERS (both in the scrub across the road from the pond) and a few common species.
We birded our way slowly up Rustler Park Road until we finally found a mixed species flock a little below Onion Saddle. Here we found our target MEXICAN CHICKADEE along with HAIRY WOODPECKER, STELLER'S JAY, RUBY-CROWNED KINGLET, WHITE & RED-BREASTED NUTHATCHES, BUSHTIT, BROWN CREEPER, OLIVE WARBLER, SPOTTED TOWHEE and YELLOW-EYED JUNCO.
We continued on up to Rustler Park (the road had just a couple of tricky spots with snow). Rustler Park is still snowbound and the road into the campground is closed to vehicles. Here we added numerous PYGMY NUTHATCHES, more MEXICAN CHICKADEES and AMERICAN ROBIN.
Dropping down Pinery Canyon Road we stopped to track down a singing PAINTED REDSTART and found more MEXICAN CHICKADEES.
Willcox ponds were fairly productive in the early afternoon. Although the large flock of ~150-200 LONG-BILLED CURLEWS that we saw were a target bird, a much better bird was a lone BLACK-BELLIED PLOVER on a temporal pond at the west end of the main pond. This was my first spring record in AZ (they are rare but regular in fall). Other shorebirds present included 6 AMERICAN AVOCETS, 2 GREATER YELLOWLEGS, 1 LONG-BILLED DOWITCHER and a fair number of LEAST SANDPIPERS. Other species included BLUE-WINGED & CINNAMON TEAL, LESSER SCAUP, BUFFLEHEAD, SORA, 100+ SANDHILL CRANES still hanging around, SCALED QUAIL and the hybrid AMERICAN x EURASIAN WIGEON on the golf course pond.
A stop on Rucker Canyon Road looked bleak for FERRUGINOUS HAWK until we found this individual (eventually, two). A few LARK BUNTINGS were in the roadside weeds.
Whitewater Draw had many of the same species as at Willcox. We recorded almost 30 species between 3:30 and 4:30pm including CINNAMON TEAL, REDHEAD, BUFFLEHEAD, 30 LONG-BILLED CURLEWS, GREATER YELLOWLEGS, VERMILION FLYCATCHER and a handful of AMERICAN PIPITS. Highlight for me was my first two BARN SWALLOWS of the year.
Day list (78 species recorded):
Pied-billed Grebe, Great Blue Heron, Am. Wigeon, Gadwall, Mallard, Blue-winged Teal, Cinnamon Teal, N. Shoveler, Redhead, Ring-necked Duck, Lesser Scaup, Bufflehead, Ruddy Duck, N. Harrier, Red-tailed & Ferruginous Hawks, Am. Kestrel, Peregrine Falcon, Scaled & Gambel's Quail, Sandhill Crane, Sora, Am. Coot, Am. Avocet, Black-bellied Plover, Killdeer, Long-billed Dowitcher, Long-billed Curlew, Greater Yellowlegs, Least Sandpiper, Mourning, White-winged & Inca Doves, Ladder-backed & Hairy Woodpeckers, N. Flicker, Black & Say's Phoebes, Vermilion Flycatcher, Horned Lark, Barn Swallow, Am. Pipit, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Cactus, Bewick's & Marsh Wrens, N. Mockingbird, Sage, Curve-billed & Crissal Thrashers, Am. Robin, Bushtit, Mexican Chickadee, Bridled Titmouse, Pygmy, Red-breasted & White-breasted Nuthatches, Brown Creeper, Loggerhead Shrike, Steller's Jay, Chihuahuan Raven, Olive & Yellow-rumped Warblers, Painted Redstart, Spotted & Canyon Towhees, Lark Bunting, Vesper, Black-throated, Song & White-crowned Sparrows, Dark-eyed & Yellow-eyed Juncos, Red-winged & Brewer's Blackbirds, Eastern & Western Meadowlarks and House Sparrow.
Friday, March 19, 2004
Out today with Harry Maas from NYC, NY. We birded in several different habitats (mostly in Santa Cruz County) to maximize the number of AZ specialties without spending much time looking for anything in particular. It was another depressingly warm day for March. Spring break brought the crowds to Patagonia Lake (campground full) and Madera Canyon (what else is new).
Patagonia Lake was delightfully cool at sunrise -- what a pity that didn't last. Highlights were the RUFOUS-BACKED ROBIN sitting high in a cottonwood along Sonoita creek trail (near the creek fork) at 8:45am; and the pair of BLACK-CAPPED GNATCATCHERS foraging in a hackberry near the mouth of Nutting's Wash at 9:15am. Other species included WESTERN GREBE, 2 OSPREYS, several singing NORTHERN BEARDLESS-TYRANNULETS, calling but unseen GRAY & DUSKY FLYCATCHERS, CASSIN'S KINGBIRD, 15+ CEDAR WAXWINGS, my first WARBLING VIREO of the season and scads of VERMILION FLYCATCHERS and LUCY'S WARBLERS.
Highlights in Marion Paton's yard were VIOLET-CROWNED HUMMINGBIRD and LAZULI BUNTING.
A stop at the Roadside Rest easily produced lots of WHITE-THROATED SWIFTS and a NORTHERN BEARDLESS-TYRANNULET.
Palo Duro Ponds and Amado sewage pond held nothing of real interest.
At the intersection of Elephant Head Road and Frontage Road we found a singing RUFOUS-WINGED SPARROW that cooperated by showing its rufous wing.
At and around Santa Rita Lodge, it was a toss up whether there were more birds than people or vice versa. Nevertheless, we fared pretty well overall and got off to a good start when we immediately tracked down a calling ARIZONA WOODPECKER. We had to work a little harder for a couple of singing PAINTED REDSTARTS. Not so for a RED-NAPED SAPSUCKER that found us and a DUSKY FLYCATCHER that we stumbled into. MAGNIFICENT HUMMINGBIRD put in an appearance at the feeders.
At Procter Road we worked hard without reward when singing ROCK WREN and RUFOUS-CROWNED SPARROW failed to reveal themselves. A couple of RUFOUS-WINGED SPARROWS were also singing here.
We turned the tables and got the upper hand on Box Canyon Road with good views of ROCK and CANYON WRENS, RUFOUS-CROWNED and BLACK-THROATED SPARROWS, another RED-NAPED SAPSUCKER and more WHITE-THROATED SWIFTS.
Day list (96 species recorded):
Pied-billed, Eared & Western Grebes, Double-crested & Neotropic Cormorants, Great Blue Heron, Am. Wigeon, Gadwall, Green-winged Teal, Mallard, Cinnamon Teal, N. Shoveler, Ring-necked Duck, Lesser Scaup, Ruddy Duck, Turkey Vulture, Osprey, Cooper's & Red-tailed Hawks, Am. Kestrel, Virginia Rail, Am. Coot, Wilson's Snipe, Rock Pigeon, Eurasian Collared-Dove, Mourning & White-winged Doves, White-throated Swift, Broad-billed, Violet-crowned, Magnificent & Anna's Hummingbirds, Acorn, Gila, Ladder-backed & Arizona Woodpeckers, Red-naped Sapsucker, N. Flicker, N. Beardless-Tyrannulet, Gray Flycatcher, Dusky & Vermilion Flycatchers, Black & Say's Phoebes, Cassin's Kingbird, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Phainopepla, Cedar Waxwing, Cactus, Rock, Canyon, Bewick's & Marsh Wrens, N. Mockingbird, Curve-billed Thrasher, Hermit Thrush, Rufous-backed Robin, Black-capped Gnatcatcher, Bushtit, Bridled Titmouse, White-breasted Nuthatch, Verdin, Loggerhead Shrike, Mexican Jay, Chihuahuan & Common Ravens, Bell's, Hutton's & Warbling Vireos, Lucy's, Yellow & Yellow-rumped Warblers, Common Yellowthroat, Painted Redstart, Canyon Towhee, Rufous-crowned, Rufous-winged, Chipping, Vesper, Black-throated, Song, Lincoln's, Swamp & White-crowned Sparrows, Dark-eyed Junco, N. Cardinal, Lazuli Bunting, Red-winged, Yellow-headed & Brewer's Blackbirds, Great-tailed Grackle, House Finch, Lesser Goldfinch and House Sparrow.
Sunday, March 21, 2004
After several consecutive days with ridiculously high temperatures so early in the season, today was forecast to be cloudy and cooler. Although I had scheduled the day to work on de-winterizing my swamp coolers, I also found the time to make a short visit to Sawmill Canyon.
Driving up Garden Canyon, I was dismayed to find a newly installed chain barrier blocking the road just above the lower picnic area. I turned around to head back home just as an MP arrived to open the road. I asked him what was going on and it now appears that the road is closed overnight -- enforcing a long standing "closed during hours of darkness" regulation. I asked about opening time and was told that although at the moment it was nominally 5:30am, it depends on how busy the MPs are due to the previous night's activity and may be as late as 7:00am as it was this morning. That time was okay today but it's going to be problematical for early morning birding in a month or so when I like to be in Sawmill at or before sunrise. It would be feasible to walk to the upper picnic area or even Scheelite Canyon, but certainly not Sawmill! I'll try to get some more definitive information.
With the arrival of spring there was a noticeable increase in song as I drove through Garden Canyon. At least four NORTHERN MOCKINGBIRDS were singing in the lower grassland and I heard one bird imitate Kestrel, Acorn Woodpecker, Ash-throated Flycatcher and Scrub-Jay in the time took to pass by the bird! PAINTED REDSTARTS were singing near the upper picnic area.
The onset of spring was mild, cloudy and windy in Sawmill when I arrived at 7:20am. Nevertheless, activity was quite high, especially around the small pond near the cabin. AMERICAN ROBINS and YELLOW-EYED JUNCOS were very vocal and conspicuous. Also singing here were HUTTON'S VIREO, BROWN CREEPER and PAINTED REDSTART. In fact, in the hour that I birded, I didn't even walk up the canyon and saw about 20 species in the immediate vicinity of the cabin.
On my most recent visit to Sawmill (March 15), I unsuccessfully tried to confirm the arrival of BUFF-BREASTED FLYCATCHER -- today I was successful. I heard several birds and managed to track one of them down and was fortunate enough to get a decent photograph on my very first attempt. They were reported yesterday so they arrived somewhere between March 15 and March 20. My average return date in Sawmill is March 21.
As if this were not enough, I was also delighted to find a couple of female WILLIAMSON'S SAPSUCKERS. The light was very poor and I'm not really happy with my photo efforts. Photo #2 shows the yellow belly. I'm of the opinion that these are migrants rather than birds that wintered in the canyon. It was a poor winter for Williamson's in Sawmill and this was my first sighting since December 4, 2003 (I did not detect any on 6 visits between that date and today).
Back in town, several TURKEY VULTURES were drifting over French Fry Boulevard -- on average, right about on time for this location A good morning despite the road closure issue which will undoubtedly become a problem for me. Now it was time to go home and get up on the roof. What jolly fun.
Monday, March 22, 2004
I didn't really have time to go birding today but I went anyway! I hate to waste a spring morning, especially one that's partly cloudy and relatively cool. I spent a little time on the San Pedro and at Sierra Vista EOP.
Disappointingly, I didn't detect much in the way of new migrants or returning birds on the river, just a few BARN SWALLOWS around the San Pedro House and a migrant BELTED KINGFISHER. However, the species that have returned are certainly present in numbers -- VERMILION FLYCATCHER and LUCY'S & YELLOW WARBLERS, all of which were very vocal.
Spring has encouraged SPOTTED and GREEN-TAILED TOWHEES to sing although neither breed on the river. Also singing were lots of BREWER'S SPARROWS that have suddenly increased in numbers, presumably bolstered by birds that wintered further south. I watched a group of BUSHTITS foraging in the leafing out willows at the big pond. The bird in the photo looks quite hopeful, although of what I'm not sure -- there wasn't much in the direction that it was looking. I took advantage of weird light to photograph a singing RED-WINGED BLACKBIRD.
The first bird that I saw at Sierra Vista EOP was a fly-by PEREGRINE FALCON. Still nothing in the way of shorebirds and the only non duck migrants were a resting flock of 34 RING-BILLED GULLS. Three flavors of swallows worked over the ponds -- TREE, VIOLET-GREEN and BARN
57 species recorded on San Pedro and Sierra Vista EOP:
Am. Wigeon, Gadwall, Green-winged Teal, Mallard, Cinnamon Teal, N. Shoveler, Ring-necked Duck, Turkey Vulture, N. Harrier, Red-tailed Hawk, Am. Kestrel, Peregrine Falcon, Gambel's Quail, Am. Coot, Killdeer, Ring-billed Gull, Mourning & White-winged Doves, Belted Kingfisher, Gila & Ladder-backed Woodpeckers, N. Flicker, Vermilion Flycatcher, Horned Lark, Tree, Violet-green, N. Rough-winged & Barn Swallows, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Cactus & Bewick's Wrens, Bushtit, White-breasted Nuthatch, Verdin, Chihuahuan Raven, European Starling, Lucy's, Yellow & Yellow-rumped Warblers, Green-tailed, Spotted & Abert's Towhees, Chipping, Brewer's, Vesper, Savannah, Song, Lincoln's & White-crowned Sparrows, Eastern & Western Meadowlarks, Red-winged & Yellow-headed Blackbirds, Great-tailed Grackle, House Finch, Lesser Goldfinch and House Sparrow.
Tuesday, March 23, 2004
Out today with Donna Poppe from Redondo, WA, who I've birded with once before. We visited French Joe and Sawmill Canyons and largely struck out on target birds.
We spent about 7 hours in French Joe (highway 90-highway 90) and never came close to laying eyes on RUFOUS-CAPPED WARBLER. In mid morning a bird sang briefly near the upper waterfall, however, we couldn't go to that location. We spent all of our time in the vicinity of the spring, hoping that the birds would come by. Unfortunately, that short burst of song was the only evidence of the warbler's presence, so brief that it's somewhat of a fudge to put it on my day list.
We had mixed success with two secondary targets. A pair of CRISSAL THRASHERS were cooperative -- we heard them singing and calling several times and eventually saw them perched and in flight. Although fairly numerous (as usual), BLACK-CHINNED SPARROWS were decidedly reticent singing fairly high up on the canyon slopes.
HERMIT THRUSHES continue very common and were constant visitors at the spring. ROCK WRENS were extremely vocal on the slopes, CANYON WRENS a little less so. WHITE-THROATED SWIFTS provided some aerial entertainment as did a RED-TAILED HAWK drifting effortlessly over the spring "bowl" carrying nesting material. The only hummingbird noted was a fly-by male BROAD-TAILED HUMMINGBIRD.
Among the less common species for the canyon were a continuing STELLER'S JAY and two migrant PAINTED REDSTARTS (both in the lower oaks) and a calling BLUE-GRAY GNATCATCHER at the spring.
33 species recorded in French Joe Canyon:
Mourning & White-winged Doves, White-throated Swift, Broad-tailed Hummingbird, Ladder-backed Woodpecker, N. Flicker, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Cactus, Rock, Canyon, Bewick's & House Wrens, N. Mockingbird, Crissal Thrasher, Hermit Thrush, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Bushtit, Bridled Titmouse, Steller's Jay, Western Scrub-Jay, Mexican Jay, Common Raven, Hutton's Vireo, Painted Redstart, Rufous-capped Warbler, Spotted Towhee, Canyon Towhee, Rufous-crowned, Black-chinned & Black-throated Sparrows, N. Cardinal and House Finch.
Sawmill Canyon was very quiet in the afternoon and we essentially struck out on our target ARIZONA WOODPECKER (becoming a nemesis for Donna after five trips to Arizona). Last spring break we searched for one unsuccessfully in Madera Canyon. Today we improved a little on that and actually located a calling bird. We tracked it for a while, managing only a flight view before it gave us the finger and disappeared. A beautiful PAINTED REDSTART drinking at a small pool in the rocks was some consolation, although, ironically, had we not stopped to look at it we might have got on the woodpecker! We saw little else in the canyon save for omnipresent YELLOW-EYED JUNCO, a photo first for me.
Thursday, March 25, 2004
First of two days looking for photo opportunities with Herbert and Helga Staerker from Vienna, Austria. We visited Patagonia Lake and Paton's yard.
It's not so often that I don't enjoy a visit to Patagonia Lake but the birding there was quite poor today -- perhaps the wall to wall people didn't help (let's move spring break to June when I'm out of state). For whatever reason, birds were very hard to come by and photo opportunities were few and far between. Our best birding came during the early morning session at the west end of the lake where we saw 2/3 of the species total for the morning before hitting the trails. Apart from a brief session on the creek (quite dead), we didn't look for any of the rarities present.
Later, we spent an inordinate amount of time chasing down two very elusive NORTHERN BEARDLESS-TYRANNULETS. Even the normally abundant VERMILION FLYCATCHERS seemed less conspicuous as they get down to the business of nesting. BELL'S VIREOS were as elusive as ever. Good luck photographing YELLOW and LUCY'S WARBLERS.
Waterfowl diversity has dropped of considerably, perhaps due to increased boat traffic, perhaps due to the season. Continuing birds included two WESTERN GREBES and one male COMMON GOLDENEYE. Among the migrants were OSPREY and RING-BILLED GULL. I also picked up my first WESTERN KINGBIRD of the season. LEAST BITTERNS called unseen from the marsh.
52 species recorded at Patagonia Lake State Park from 7:00-11:30am:
Pied-billed, Eared & Western Grebes, Double-crested & Neotropic Cormorants, Least Bittern, Green-winged Teal, Mallard, Ring-necked Duck, Lesser Scaup, Common Goldeneye, Ruddy Duck, Turkey Vulture, Osprey, Am. Coot, Wilson's Snipe, Ring-billed Gull, White-winged Dove, Broad-billed Hummingbird, Gila & Ladder-backed Woodpeckers, N. Flicker, N. Beardless-Tyrannulet, Say's Phoebe, Vermilion Flycatcher, Cassin's & Western Kingbirds, Am. Pipit, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Bewick's Wren, Curve-billed Thrasher, Bridled Titmouse, Verdin, Common Raven, Bell's Vireo, Orange-crowned, Lucy's, Yellow & Yellow-rumped Warblers, Canyon Towhee, Chipping, Song & White-crowned Sparrows, Northern Cardinal, Red-winged, Yellow-headed & Brewer's Blackbirds, Great-tailed Grackle, Brown-headed Cowbird, House Finch, Lesser Goldfinch and House Sparrow.
Although Marion Paton's yard was also packed with people, there were a few birds of note including 6 species of hummingbirds -- BROAD-BILLED, VIOLET-CROWNED, BLACK-CHINNED, ANNA'S, COSTA'S and RUFOUS. Robin Baxter had seen MAGNIFICENT earlier in the day -- a rarity at this location (I have 4 spring and 2 fall records here). The "best" bird was probably a WHITE-THROATED SPARROW although the assembled masses would be more likely to choose 3 soaring GRAY HAWKS and several brightly colored LAZULI BUNTINGS.
Friday, March 26, 2004
Out again today with Herbert and Helga. Although our visits to Sawmill and Scheelite Canyons produced far less birds than yesterday, we did find a few photo opportunities which was the object of the exercise.
On my last trip to Sawmill a few days ago I saw two Williamson's Sapsuckers near the cabin. Today it was the turn of two RED-NAPED SAPSUCKERS (photo #2), also foraging near the cabin. Even though we were able to approach quite closely, I can hardly say that the birds were cooperative and we had to work at it to get a photograph (much tougher for Herbert since he uses a tripod). BUFF-BREASTED FLYCATCHER was nearby although I wasn't able to improve on my photo efforts of last Sunday.
BUFF-BREASTED FLYCATCHERS have increased in numbers since their recent arrival and multiple birds were singing throughout the canyon today. PAINTED REDSTARTS were numerous and extremely vocal. I also heard OLIVE WARBLER. New arrivals noted were DUSKY-CAPPED FLYCATCHER (my earliest record by 2 days) and GRACE'S WARBLER (average return date in Sawmill is March 29; I have two records earlier than today's sighting).
SPOTTED OWL was very easy to see but required some effort to locate in Scheelite Canyon. Our success didn't come until I'd put in a lot of hard work! I checked the lower roosting area thoroughly and then double checked it before reluctantly deciding that we needed to go higher up the canyon. By this time I was already pooped. We trudged on to the 3/4 mile split where I was surprised to hear an owl calling, something that rarely happens during the day. Another birder was just ahead of us and he came across the bird before we did, roosting in a very obvious location at the side of the trail. This little used roost site is on the upper edge of the middle roosting area and I haven't seen an owl here since October, 1996.
Saturday, March 27, 2004
Out today with Steve Ballentine from Avon, CT. in search of general photo opportunities. Recently, I've had several clients who have hired me for photographic work rather than pure birding. There appears to have been an increase since I purchased the Canon 10D camera and IS lens (three of five have had the same equipment). Perhaps there's some truth to the Field of Dreams theory -- "if you build it they will come"? However, it certainly wasn't intentional on my part.
Steve was only able to spend less than half a day so we had to skimp
on my normal route at Patagonia Lake. We didn't spend much time scanning the
lake nor did we look for rarities. Also, rather than waste any daylight, we
started a little early before the activity had really picked up. Nevertheless,
in spite of these compromises, I recorded the following 56 species in about 3.5
hours at the state park. After a quite chilly start the day warmed quickly.
Pied-billed Grebe, Neotropic Cormorant, Great Blue Heron, Black-crowned Night-Heron, Least Bittern, Gadwall, Green-winged Teal, Mallard, Blue-winged & Cinnamon Teal, N. Shoveler, Canvasback, Common Merganser, Ruddy Duck, Turkey Vulture, Am. Coot, Killdeer, Mourning & White-winged Doves, Greater Roadrunner, Broad-billed & Black-chinned Hummingbirds, Gila & Ladder-backed Woodpeckers, N. Flicker, N. Beardless-Tyrannulet, Say's Phoebe, Gray & Vermilion Flycatchers, Cassin's Kingbird, Am. Pipit, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Bewick's & Marsh Wrens, Bridled Titmouse, Verdin, Common Raven, Bell's Vireo, Lucy's, Yellow & Yellow-rumped Warblers, Common Yellowthroat, Abert's Towhee, Rufous-crowned, Chipping, Song & White-crowned Sparrows, Pyrrhuloxia, Red-winged, Yellow-headed & Brewer's Blackbirds, Great-tailed Grackle, Brown-headed Cowbird, House Finch, Lesser Goldfinch and House Sparrow.
Several male and female COMMON MERGANSERS were the first that I've seen since March 17 (missed them on 19 & 25). My records indicate that they thin out dramatically at the lake starting in mid March (check the AZ Info bar-graph section) and they are normally gone from here by the end of the first week in April.
In recent weeks I haven't detected many COMMON YELLOWTHROATS but they were singing today. This was confirmed at a glance as a regular occurrence when I checked my bar graph data (I knew there was reason that I spent the time to write that software!).
RUFOUS-CROWNED SPARROWS were singing from the dry hillsides today. NORTHERN BEARDLESS-TYRANNULETS were vocal and easy to detect (but not to photograph!). Several beautiful pairs of CINNAMON TEAL and a pair of BLUE-WINGED TEAL were on the lake. It seemed impossible that we couldn't see a calling LEAST BITTERN, apparently right in front of us and in the open, judging by the sound.
Steve took lots of photographs, I was a little more reserved. I think that I've finally reached the point where I only try if I know there's a reasonable chance of a decent image, especially on species that I've already photographed. Furthermore, from now on I'll generally only publish an image if it's better than what I already have (with exceptions for documentation of rarities, etc). Although I ended up taking 120 shots today, I rejected the vast majority of them. At the lake I managed images of two different SAY'S PHOEBES -- photo #1 perched nicely and photo #2 gathering nesting material near the visitor center; and a CURVE-BILLED THRASHER trying to catch some rays as the sun was just starting to peep over a ridge photo #1, photo #2. Among the "also rans" were the first KILLDEER that I've seen at the lake for almost a month. Many BROWN-HEADED COWBIRDS were at the visitor center.
We spent our final hour in the Paton's yard which was relatively people free for most of the time and yielded ~30 species. Highlights were a couple of soaring GRAY HAWKS and a calling NORTHERN BEARDLESS-TYRANNULET. Also present were the same 6 species of hummingbirds that I saw here a couple of days ago, LUCY'S WARBLER and several colorful LAZULI BUNTINGS.
I managed to photograph a couple of species for the first time -- COSTA'S HUMMINGBIRD hovering while feeding at some flowers and a LINCOLN'S SPARROW looking askance (not often I can work in "askance").
Tuesday, March 30, 2004
After a couple of days feeling like I was at death's door, today I was back at it for the first of two days with Ron Jensen from Swift Current, Saskatchewan.. We visited Sawmill and Scheelite Canyons and the San Pedro River. The day began fairly clear and cool then became warm and windy quite quickly. Clouds built throughout the day and by late afternoon there were a few thunderheads that any monsoon would be proud of.
Near the fishing ponds in lower Garden Canyon we saw COOPER'S HAWK, LUCY'S WARBLER and RUFOUS-CROWNED SPARROW. Continuing on, the drive through Garden Canyon produced ASH-THROATED & DUSKY-CAPPED FLYCATCHERS, BLACK-THROATED GRAY WARBLER, PAINTED REDSTART and SCOTT'S ORIOLE.
I was hoping to find that Greater Pewee had returned to Sawmill but we didn't detect any. Activity in general seemed lower than of late. As we tracked a tapping ARIZONA WOODPECKER and singing BUFF-BREASTED FLYCATCHER and GRACE'S WARBLER, the distant tooting of a NORTHERN PYGMY-OWL drifted down canyon. Despite the wind and distance we decided to go after the bird. Fortunately, the owl continued to call as we huffed and puffed about 1/2 mile up a hillside where we finally tracked it down at the top of a medium sized juniper. A narrow viewing angle and swaying vegetation didn't offer much in the way of a photo opportunity (especially compared to my good results earlier this month), however, I did manage to photo document the occasion. Of course, Ron was happy just to see the bird!
ARIZONA WOODPECKER was at the Scheelite Canyon trailhead and we saw a RED-NAPED SAPSUCKER about 50 yards along the trail. After being ill for a couple of days (and chasing after the pygmy-owl!), I was hoping that SPOTTED OWL would be easy to find. That turned out to be the case and we found this bird in the "Jaws" Oak. Nearby was a PAINTED REDSTART and VIRGINIA'S WARBLER.
It was quite warm at the San Pedro House when we arrived there shortly before noon. Nevertheless, activity was reasonable in the shade of the cottonwoods along the river. It wasn't only birds that were active -- it was literally raining caterpillars due to the wind and they were building into some very weird formations. Less than two hours produced over 30 species including a couple of target birds -- GREEN-TAILED TOWHEE and BULLOCK'S ORIOLE. Other species included a calling GRAY HAWK and ASH-THROATED FLYCATCHER, BELTED KINGFISHER, BUSHTITS gathering nesting material, BARN & NORTHERN ROUGH-WINGED SWALLOWS and the usual scads of VERMILION FLYCATCHERS and LESSER GOLDFINCHES.
Not counting trash birds in town we recorded about 65 species.
Wednesday, March 31, 2004
Out again today with Ron. We visited both ends of the Sulphur Springs Valley and the Chiricahua mountains. It was a strange weather day for the end of March. If I'd just returned from a trip to Mars and didn't know the date, I would perhaps have said July or August. After a clear sky start, monsoon type clouds built quickly in the Chiricahuas. As we headed up Pinery Canyon Road I thought we might see a sprinkle, but I underestimated just a tad and we ended up leaving the mountain because of significant rain.
Our day began well on Coffman Road where we found BENDIRE'S and CRISSAL THRASHERS in no time at all, both singing at the same location. That prompted me to indulge in some casual birding at Whitewater Draw (WWD) which, because of the rain in the mountains, turned out to be a bad move. We didn't see much at WWD, certainly nothing resembling the recent Baird's Sandpiper (apparently continuing and seen by others today). Shorebirds noted were AM AVOCET, WILSON'S SNIPE, GREATER YELLOWLEGS, LONG-BILLED DOWITCHER and several groups of LEAST SANDPIPERS. Other species included my first spring record for BLUE-WINGED TEAL at this location, a few migrant TREE SWALLOWS and AMERICAN PIPIT.
Our journey north on Highway 191 yielded 7 SWAINSON'S HAWKS.
After striking out on Barn Owl, we headed into the mountains. The clouds looked quite innocuous as we started up Pinery Canyon Road to look for MEXICAN CHICKADEE. Although it didn't take long to find a mixed flock that contained chickadees, we didn't get to enjoy them for very long because heavy rain began and we bailed out and drove to Willcox.
The tale of woe continued at Twin Lakes where I was unable to raise a Scaled Quail (it was pretty warm here). Among the highlights here were two SE AZ record dates for me-- my earliest spring record for CATTLE EGRET (previous early date April 10, 1998 at Willcox); and my latest spring record for SANDHILL CRANE (~200 birds), previous late date was March 20, 2001 at Whitewater Draw. On this the last day of the month in a year that many birds seem to be early, the Egret was the only "early" arrival that I recorded during the month.
Other species at Willcox included EARED GREBE, SWAINSON'S HAWK, AMERICAN AVOCET, GREATER YELLOWLEGS, 4 RING-BILLED GULLS and WESTERN KINGBIRD.
This log is in chronological order and the most recent entries
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The last update was on Wednesday, March 31, 2004
Journal - March, 2004
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