Oct. Species Seen
Journal - October, 2007
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This log is in chronological order and the most recent entries
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The last update was on Tuesday, October 30, 2007
Monday, October 1, 2007
Out today with Gordon Chastain from Indianapolis, IN who I've birded with on one previous occasion. Mexican Chickadee was our only target and we sandwiched a short trip to the Chiricahuas between some general birding at Whitewater Draw and Willcox. The weather cooperated and we avoided the 50% threat of rain during the time that we were birding. It was a mostly cloudy, cool day and the only significant rain was on the ride home from Willcox.
The day began well on Coffman road with CURVE-BILLED, CRISSAL and BENDIRE'S THRASHERS seen in a couple of minutes with zero effort. Sparrows were everywhere. BREWER'S SPARROWS were abundant, LARK BUNTINGS common, WHITE-CROWNED fairly common; a smattering of other species included a handful of GRASSHOPPER SPARROWS.
GRASSHOPPER SPARROWS were also within the boundary of Whitewater Draw (a first for me at this location, #210). With one eye on the weather and the need to get to the mountains, we gave Whitewater Draw short shrift yet still recorded over 50 species. No Sandhill Cranes detected.
Highlights were COMMON GROUND-DOVE, a latish WILLOW FLYCATCHER (3 days shy of my latest ever SE AZ fall sighting) and the sheer spectacle of thousands of TREE SWALLOWS, something that occurs here every year at this time. Other species included SCALED QUAIL, SORA, a few LONG-BILLED CURLEWS, GREAT HORNED OWL, ORANGE-CROWNED, YELLOW & MACGILLIVRAY'S WARBLERS, my first of season lowland YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLER, BLUE GROSBEAK and a decent sized flock of YELLOW-HEADED BLACKBIRDS. 53 species total.
A check of Lee Road yielded at least 50 SWAINSON'S HAWKS and the only HORNED LARK of the day.
Lots of raptors on the drive through Sulphur Springs Valley to the Chiricahuas. Most were SWAINSON'S and RED-TAILED HAWKS with the occasional HARRIER and one COOPER'S HAWK. Highlight was a perched GOLDEN EAGLE on highway 181.
MEXICAN CHICKADEES were easy to find on the Pinery Canyon Road and we had excellent looks to boot. We didn't need to go very far (2 miles below the campground) yet still recorded over 40 species including SHARP-SHINNED HAWK, 40+ BAND-TAILED PIGEONS, WESTERN WOOD-PEWEE, a loudly calling and pristinely plumaged HAMMOND'S FLYCATCHER, my first of season RUBY-CROWNED KINGLET, 2 CASSIN'S VIREOS, TOWNSEND'S & HERMIT WARBLERS and YELLOW-EYED JUNCO.
Compared to several recent visits to Willcox, species diversity and number of individuals of most species has dropped dramatically. Less common location species were GREEN HERON, VIRGINIA RAIL and BELTED KINGFISHER, all at the golf course pond. Very few WILSON'S PHALAROPES remain and we found just one RED-NECKED PHALAROPE. Also noted were the usual and still quite plentiful AVOCETS, ~20 LONG-BILLED DOWITCHERS, 1 GREATER YELLOWLEGS a few LEAST & WESTERN SANDPIPERS and 1 BAIRD'S SANDPIPER.111 species recorded:
Wednesday, October 3, 2007
Yesterday 's heavy rain in Sierra Vista caused me to abandon my plan to visit the San Pedro this morning -- I'll give the mud a chance to dry out. Instead, I headed west to Santa Cruz County. The morning was mostly clear with lingering humidity, eventually becoming cloudy and quite warm by midday. I arrived back in Sierra Vista at 1:00pm just in time for rain and a thunderstorm.
I started the day with my first of season trip to San Rafael Valley. I'd intended to do this earlier in September but didn't get around to it ("roundtoits" are hard to get). For the past couple of years, I've pushed my personal envelope of early Baird's Sparrow sightings and had success on September 26, 2005 then September 21, 2006. This year I was remiss and I may have missed the opportunity to set a new personal early date. Not that it matters in the grand scheme of things (although mid September is the typical arrival time, there are records from mid August).
Today's visit almost ended in failure (although it depends how you define failure) but I managed to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. After a typically birdless drive in darkness through the Huachucas via Fort Huachuca West Gate, I began birding at the west end of San Rafael Valley at sunrise. My first of season BREWER'S BLACKBIRD was the only bird of note on the journey.
I worked my "second best" Baird's Sparrow spot for almost an hour without any hint of success. In fact, sparrows of any species were almost absent, just a couple of SAVANNAH SPARROWS. Perhaps the heavy AMERICAN KESTREL presence was the problem -- numerous birds were constantly flying around. I decided to move elsewhere. As I trudged wearily through the long grass, I first heard then saw a distant BAIRD'S SPARROW. At this point you might think that I'd be happy. However, since this was a fluke sighting, I most definitely didn't feel like I had been successful. Over the years, I've always strived to find locations where I can reliably find certain birds and then I keep tabs on those locations. Long term, flukes are no good to me so to my mind I had still failed. A bit like "the operation was successful but the patient died". After enjoying scope views of my serendipitous sparrow, I moved on to my "best location".
For a while it was a case of deja vu all over again. I worked several patches within my search area without success and was just about ready to throw in the towel. I decided to stay "just a few minutes more" and those few minutes paid off. I was rewarded when this very colorful BAIRD'S SPARROW decided to perch up and take pity on me. I started shooting images then walked a step or two closer, repeatedly, until I reached that inevitable point where the bird flew away (if only that point could be known in advance!). The answer to the question "how close can you get" is always "one step less than you think". Shooting LBJs hand-held at a distance is never really going to produce great images. Nevertheless, now I was happy with my early morning efforts (especially since I got up at 4:00am to make the trip).
About 20 minutes earlier I had seen an immature GRASSHOPPER SPARROW perched in the same location. Unfortunately, just like the Baird's, I really couldn't get as close as I wanted. I didn't see many other species over a period of two hours but four hovering WHITE-TAILED KITES kept me entertained. Best birds were a few LESSER GOLDFINCHES working the weedy edges of a stock pond -- a first for me within the valley proper. 12 species in all.
Construction trucks ruined the drive down Harshaw Canyon and I didn't see many birds as I drove through this very scenic area. I recorded a few species typical of the oak and rocky areas including ACORN WOODPECKER, ROCK WREN, MEXICAN JAY and HUTTON'S VIREO. Closer to Patagonia I picked up SUMMER TANAGER and BLUE GROSBEAK. 20 species in all.
Right up to the last minute I was undecided whether to visit Patagonia Lake or Kino Springs; Kino won since I have less October data. Despite the late start of 9:00am, activity at the first pond was a little better than I expected. Highlights were both latish species -- TROPICAL KINGBIRD and LUCY'S WARBLER. Published data for Tropical Kingbird shows them leaving by mid September with a couple of records later in the month. Today's bird was only my second (and now latest) October record (previously October 1, 2002; also at Kino). Most Lucy's Warblers are gone by the end of September with a few birds lingering through mid October. I now have 6 October records with the latest being October 12, 2003 on the San Pedro.
Some of the other species at the first pond in order first encountered were a singing RUFOUS-WINGED SPARROW, a calling CRISSAL THRASHER, umpteen LAZULI BUNTINGS, GREEN HERON, several LINCOLN'S SPARROWS, GREEN-TAILED TOWHEE, at least 5 ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLERS, a calling SORA, perhaps as many as 20 LAWRENCE'S GOLDFINCHES in three groups, MACGILLIVRAY'S WARBLER, ASH-THROATED FLYCATCHER and ABERT'S TOWHEE. I didn't add much by visiting the club house area. Not many wintering waterfowl yet (still only a few AMERICAN WIGEON) but at least 10 BLACK-BELLIED WHISTLING-DUCKS (adults and immatures) continue. 45 species in all at Kino.
Activity in Marion Paton's yard was minimal during my late morning visit. I saw the expected four species of hummers for early October -- a few male and female BROAD-BILLED, VIOLET-CROWNED, many female BLACK-CHINNED and several male and female ANNA'S. Other species included at least one GRAY HAWK (in the nearby trees), WHITE-WINGED & INCA DOVES and LAZULI BUNTING. 20 species in all.80 species recorded:
Thursday, October 4, 2007
You've heard it said many times (often by me) that timing is everything. Today I made the drive up the ever worsening road to Sawmill Canyon only to quickly abandon my visit. Today and tomorrow there's a training exercise in the canyon and although only the advance guy was there when I arrived, he had two loud and obnoxious dogs. Since most of my birding at Sawmill at this time of year is near the cabin and the dogs barked like crazy as other parties arrived, I decided to bail out and didn't officially record any birds in the canyon. There may have been a small group of Cassin's Finches but they were too far away to be sure.
Before driving to Sawmill I spent some time at the fishing ponds and returned there after first checking Lower Garden Pond. Even on a "nothing day" I can always find some interesting stats. A lone INCA DOVE at the fishing ponds was a location first and only my second record for Garden Canyon. A small group of 4 WESTERN BLUEBIRDS below the middle picnic area were my earliest fall sighting in the Huachucas (previously October 15, 2004 at the Fishing Ponds).
Species at the fishing ponds included a latish WESTERN WOOD-PEWEE, a continuing GRAY FLYCATCHER (first seen on September 26), a slightly out of habitat MEXICAN JAY (common not far away but only my second sighting at the ponds) and a couple of female/immature BLUE GROSBEAKS.
Lower Garden Pond has more leafy vegetation than the fishing ponds and therefore has more migrant potential. Today I saw CASSIN'S VIREO, ORANGE-CROWNED & WILSON'S WARBLERS, SUMMER TANAGER and a few LAZULI BUNTINGS.40 species recorded:
Sunday, October 7, 2007
Today I joined the regular Sunday morning outing at Sierra Vista EOP for the first time since last January. I've made a few weekday visits since then but none more recent than July. I was unaware until I started updating my data later in the day that it was on this date in 1993 that I made my first ever visit 14 years ago (today was visit #917). Okay, enough with the stroll down memory lane. After the coolest overnight low temperature for some time in Sierra Vista last night (in the 40s where I live), conditions were very pleasant this morning -- sunny and cool, only 63 degrees at 11:00am.
Birding was typical for this time of year with a smattering of waterfowl, raptors, shorebirds and sparrows. Nothing unusual seen. The least common species was a GREEN-TAILED TOWHEE seen in the marsh. This species is just a migrant and doesn't winter at the EOP -- I have 7 records in 4 different years; 6 in fall during October & November; 1 in March).
Highlights were at least 2 (possibly 3) MERLINS (female/immature columbarius), an immaculate looking PEREGRINE FALCON and the YELLOW-HEADED BLACKBIRD spectacle.
The most numerous ducks were AMERICAN WIGEON, NORTHERN SHOVELER and NORTHERN PINTAIL. Other species included a couple of EARED GREBES, one SWAINSON'S HAWK, lots of calling SORAS and a few VIRGINIA RAILS, 3 WILSON'S SNIPE, ~10 LONG-BILLED DOWITCHERS, 2 SPOTTED SANDPIPERS, 3 LEAST SANDPIPERS, a distant GREATER ROADRUNNER, female VERMILION FLYCATCHER, many WESTERN and one CASSIN'S KINGBIRD, a handful of sparrow species including BLACK-THROATED (uncommon at the ponds proper) and a couple of drab LAZULI BUNTINGS.The official trip list may be higher but I recorded the following 53 species from 7:40 to 11:00am:
Tuesday, October 9, 2007
First of three days with Ray White from Edmonds, WA. Ray has plenty of opportunities for new species so we'll simply be covering a variety of habitats in search of whatever comes our way. Ray is also looking for photo opportunities which gives me a chance to bring my camera along, something that I don't normally do when working with non photography clients. Since Ray uses a large lens and tripod, our working pace will not be hurried. Today we visited Patagonia Lake (briefly), Kino Springs and Paton's Yard.
At Patagonia Lake, we spent a couple of hours working the mesquite area outside the park proper sifting through the common species such LADDER-BACKED WOODPECKER, ASH-THROATED FLYCATCHER, VERDIN, 2 BELL'S VIREOS (one bird very vocal), 4 wren species, GREEN-TAILED TOWHEE, RUFOUS-CROWNED, RUFOUS-WINGED (fairly common, singing) and several BLACK-THROATED SPARROWS.
Best bird for me was a late BOTTERI'S SPARROW. I only have three October records and today's bird extends my late date (previously October 3, 2005 in Garden Canyon). It's worth noting that this late sighting comes in a year when I also had my earliest sighting on the unprecedented date of April 10. Also of note was a latish NASHVILLE WARBLER (typically gone by mid October but a few records through November).
A three hour session at Kino Springs was quite productive (53 species). Highlights were a few LAWRENCE'S GOLDFINCHES, 2 BLACK-BELLIED WHISTLING DUCKS and 2 lingering GRAY HAWKS (usually quite scarce after the first week in October). I have a few November records and some birds have recently overwintered, at least into January. I fluked a half decent flight shot -- note how beat up this bird looks.
Less common species for this location were 2 DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANTS and 7 SNOWY EGRETS at the club house pond; and a BLACK-THROATED GRAY WARBLER at the first pond.
Other species included GREAT EGRET, BLACK VULTURE, 2 COOPER'S HAWKS, multiple calling SORAS at the first pond, RED-NAPED SAPSUCKER, GILDED FLICKER, a calling ROCK WREN, ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLER, a decent selection of sparrows, LAZULI BUNTING and a soon to be latish BULLOCK'S ORIOLE (most are gone by the end of September, stragglers stay through October).
Marion Paton's yard was fairly quiet between noon and 1:00pm. Highlight here was the star of a 6 species hummingbird show -- VIOLET-CROWNED HUMMINGBIRD. The second state record (I think) RUBY-THROATED HUMMINGBIRD put in a couple of brief appearances. The bird has been around for 2.5 weeks and seems to have developed a problem with its throat/neck. At least one GRAY HAWK continues.76 species recorded:
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
Day 2 with Ray. Today we visited the southern end of Sulphur Springs Valley where we spent most of our time at Whitewater Draw. We finished up with a brief visit to the San Pedro House. Summer weather has returned (hopefully, just for a last hurrah) and it was 90 degrees in Sierra Vista at 2:00pm.
Coffman Road was loaded with birds early this morning. BREWER'S SPARROWS and LARK BUNTINGS were extremely numerous. CRISSAL and BENDIRE'S THRASHERS were both perched up and easy to see. However, only Bendire's was photographically cooperative for Ray. Other species on Coffman included SWAINSON'S HAWK, EURASIAN COLLARED-DOVE, SCALED QUAIL, GREEN-TAILED TOWHEE and BREWER'S BLACKBIRD.
Our time at Whitewater Draw was productive but it was tough going towards the end as the temperature climbed. SANDHILL CRANES have been back for a few days now but only 500 or so are present. Their ranks will swell to 25,000 +/- in a few weeks. One flock of cranes contained a single GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GOOSE. A flock of 33+ AMERICAN WHITE PELICANS were resting on the water when we arrived. They left the area around 9:30am at which time I managed a flight shot.
Water levels throughout are too high for shorebirds and wintering waterfowl have not arrived in numbers yet. Among those present today were 10+ EARED GREBES, a few WIGEON, GREEN-WINGED & CINNAMON TEAL, PINTAIL (most common duck); ~30 AMERICAN AVOCETS, 15+ LONG-BILLED DOWITCHERS, undetermined numbers (heard only) of LONG-BILLED CURLEWS, GREATER YELLOWLEGS & SPOTTED SANDPIPERS; and ~6 RED-NECKED PHALAROPES.
Of note in the willows on the north berm were 3 INCA DOVES. I only have 5 records from 4 different years at Whitewater, all in October (presumably seasonal movement). Other species included GREATER ROADRUNNER and SCALED QUAIL (both near the HQ buildings), BARN OWL, GREAT HORNED OWL, BELTED KINGFISHER, several VERMILION FLYCATCHERS, lots of kingbirds of both regular species; at least 5000 TREE SWALLOWS (perhaps many more), several ORANGE CROWNED and one each YELLOW & WILSON'S WARBLERS, PYRRHULOXIA, LAZULI BUNTING and a few YELLOW-HEADED BLACKBIRDS. 60 species in all.
It was very warm near the San Pedro House around 1:00pm and not much was stirring. Ray worked on photographing WHITE-WINGED DOVES hiding deep in the shade of mesquites and decidedly uncooperative. I caught one during a weak moment.75 species recorded:
Thursday, October 11, 2007
The third and final day with Ray in the Huachucas was cut short by vehicle problems. After a brief check of Garden Canyon fishing ponds, we spent several hours in Sawmill Canyon and never made it to Scheelite Canyon. Although recent days have been quite warm (as was today), it was surprisingly cold in the shady areas of upper Garden Canyon (upper 30s).
An enforced stop in upper Garden Canyon produced male and female HEPATIC TANAGERS and a few PINE SISKINS.
In Sawmill, we tramped around for over two hours before finding our primary target -- and even then we could have used better looks at a spiffy male WILLIAMSON'S SAPSUCKER. During the search we also picked up YELLOW-EYED JUNCO and CASSIN'S FINCH (at least 2 males present). On average, Cassin's Finch is present every other year in Sawmill from approximately October through April.
Numerous PINE SISKINS and a single calling RED-BREASTED NUTHATCH were difficult birds for me to "classify". This year seems like a major irruption year for these two (and other) species from northern states. However, since Pine Siskin is regular in Sawmill in October (sometimes from September) and continues to as late as May, these birds may just be local rather than birds from further north. The nuthatch is a tougher call since they have become irregular in Sawmill (they tend to frequent the higher elevations of the Huachucas). Although formerly regular and present each year from 1994 through 1998, since then I only have a single sighting in 2003 and three from 2005.
Other regularly occurring species included several ACORN & ARIZONA WOODPECKERS, RUBY-CROWNED KINGLET (fairly common already), calling EASTERN BLUEBIRDS, HERMIT THRUSH, numerous AMERICAN ROBINS, several BROWN CREEPERS, the usual MEXICAN & STELLER'S JAYS, a very elusive OLIVE WARBLER and several calling HEPATIC TANAGERS. Hepatic Tanagers remain fairly common in the canyon for much of October and a few stick around until mid November.
Back in Garden Canyon, a RED-NAPED SAPSUCKER was near the pictograph site and 3 female CASSIN'S FINCHES and a few WESTERN BLUEBIRDS were at the middle picnic area.41 species recorded:
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
The drop in temperature that is so characteristic of mid October is well underway. Mornings are already on the cool side and it won't be long before daytime highs become acceptable (to me at least, some like it hot). Unfortunately, I haven't been able to get into the field in recent days to enjoy the welcome change. Today I managed a few uninspiring hours on the San Pedro where it became increasing windy after the early morning calm.
I spent most of my time working the weedy areas around the San Pedro House and around Kingfisher Pond. Although it was a milestone 600th visit, I saw nothing of special note to mark the occasion and I had to be content with adding to my knowledge of regularly occurring species. The water level along the river has dropped considerably and all trails are mud free. There's plenty of good Green Kingfisher habitat (clear, shallow, gently flowing water) but I was unable to come up with a bird (there was a single report last month). The water at K Pond water is still quite high and murky.
Least common location species were KILLDEER (near the SP House!) plus a small flock of PINE SISKINS and a single RED-NAPED SAPSUCKER, both at K Pond and along the river. The presence of Siskins is perhaps more evidence of the ongoing irruption of that species this year. Arguing against that is the fact that I have seen them infrequently on the river in 12 of the past 15 years in all months from September through May.
Other than WHITE-CROWNED SPARROWS (very common), sparrows were not particularly conspicuous today and, inexplicably, I missed Brewer's Sparrow completely. I saw all three regular towhees -- GREEN-TAILED, ABERT'S & CANYON but none were particularly numerous. CASSIN'S KINGBIRDS continue to be quite vocal -- they normally stick around through the early part of November.
Fall migrant ANNA'S HUMMINGBIRDS were much in evidence at the SPH feeders (always the case in October). An arriving WESTERN MEADOWLARK was right about on time for this location. My average first sighting date on the river is November 4 but I do have one record as early as late September and quite a few in mid October. Of course, I haven't been here for a few days so they could have arrived much earlier. The bird was actually too far away for me to identify by sight so I was happy that it called.
At K Pond, MARSH WRENS were much more numerous than usual (~10 seen or heard). A noisy BELTED KINGFISHER moved from perch to perch and rattled its disapproval as I circled the pond. In the surrounding weedy stuff, I found numerous PYRRHULOXIAS, a few LAZULI BUNTINGS still showing some color; and a couple of female/immature BLUE GROSBEAKS.
Some of you will have noticed that some time ago I fixed the dates for White Mountains birding next summer. The first dates to be snapped up always seems to be the transition period that allows a client to bird with me on consecutive days in SE AZ and the White Mountains. Next year, those days have already gone (July 26-July 29). Most dates at the back end of my trip (through September 11) are earmarked for routine migration work. I advise anyone thinking about hiring me for target birding to choose dates between the end of July to mid August when the most sought after species are easier to find.
Thursday, October 18, 2007
This morning I headed east to Whitewater Draw at the southern end of Sulphur Springs Valley. Conditions from dawn (~6:40am) through 10:30am were sunny and clear; initially chilly then pleasantly warm after 9:00am. No wind. Water levels remain quite high but there's an increasing amount of shorebird habitat. Willows are still in full leaf. While I saw nothing unexpected, I was able to enjoy some solitude and record a solid 70 species.
First. the comings and goings. SANDHILL CRANES have not increased significantly in numbers since this time last week. Shortly to be departing WESTERN KINGBIRDS have dwindled from ~100s to 20. A few CASSIN'S KINGBIRDS continue. WESTERN MEADOWLARKS slightly outnumbered EASTERN MEADOWLARKS and both could be seen singing and calling side by side. I missed Swainson's Hawk for the first time in a while and it's likely that most have now headed south (I don't have many records after mid October anywhere in SE AZ). TURKEY VULTURES continue to drift south in moderate numbers.
Highlights were singletons of MERLIN and PRAIRIE FALCON, the continuing spectacle of many thousands of TREE SWALLOWS staging before departure, my season first AMERICAN PIPIT and a CASSIN'S VIREO in the south willow grove (singly briefly).
Less common location species were RING-BILLED GULL and BELTED KINGFISHER.
Regulars (some seasonal) included PIED-BILLED GREBE with striped youngsters, several SCALED QUAIL, SORA, 4 AVOCETS, 12 LONG-BILLED DOWITCHERS, 7 GREATER YELLOWLEGS, 6 SPOTTED SANDPIPERS, GREATER ROADRUNNER, GREAT HORNED OWL, 2 BARN OWLS, 4+ VERMILION FLYCATCHERS, BENDIRE'S THRASHER, ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLER, many LARK BUNTINGS, PYRRHULOXIA, 10+ LAZULI BUNTINGS and the usual sparrows.
The most interesting observation was on the drive down Coffman Road -- several small flocks of BROWN-HEADED COWBIRDS (Horsebirds?), each flock perched on a horse's back picking off bugs77 species recorded:
Monday, October 22, 2007
After a few days working at home it was a welcome change to get outside birding again today. I headed over to Willcox where I spent almost 5 hours working the main lake and golf course ponds. I left home early to beat the forecasted winds but it was already fairly windy when I started birding just after sunrise at 6:40am. At that point I was wishing that I'd stayed home another day. Fortunately, the wind subsided at 7:30am for about an hour and then gradually increased over the next several hours without ever becoming a serious problem (and you know how I hate the wind!).
I started birding on the north shore just in time to see the recently discovered SNOWY PLOVER departing from the south shore. This was my 9th record at Willcox in only 4 of the 14 years that I've birded here. The bird was first seen a couple of days ago.
Highlight of the morning was a immature GREATER SCAUP (female plumaged but possibly an immature male). I was scanning a large group of ducks including a fair number of LESSER SCAUP when one bird jumped out at me because of its slight but discernibly larger size, larger bill, rounded head and more white where the bill meets the face. Although I was happy enough with my diagnostics, the identification was confirmed when the bird raised its wings -- a rare "Murphy gets screwed moment" that I always enjoy so much. Dave Beaudette was able to relocate the bird after a little time and effort.
Also of note was a spiffy male MERLIN (only my 4th record at Willcox). At first I only had a couple of flight views but eventually I was able to get a scope view of the bird perched enabling me to identify it as the richardsonii race.
A couple of DARK-EYED JUNCOS (one Pink-sided and one Oregon) were noteworthy for me (a location first) but hardly earth shattering. The birds were feeding on the golf course grass.
Other less common species listed in increasing order of personal records at Willcox were NORTHERN FLICKER, GREEN HERON, BELTED KINGFISHER, VERMILION FLYCATCHER, BREWER'S BLACKBIRD, VIRGINIA RAIL (2 at golf course pond) and a few fly-by CHESTNUT-COLLARED LONGSPURS.
Shorebird numbers are dropping and none of the species present today were very numerous. A couple of BAIRD'S SANDPIPERS were on the late side. Duck numbers have increased noticeably since my visit at the beginning of the month. Now that it's later, the later arriving ducks are arriving! Funny how that works. Very reassuring. In addition to the more common stuff, I saw 30 GADWALL, 50 PINTAIL, 2 CANVASBACKS and 20 REDHEADS (all approximate numbers).
A large flock of RING-BILLED GULLS started out at 40 then became 60. A flock of 31 FRANKLIN'S GULLS flew in around 10:00am.
I invested much of my time trying a new photo setup. I've owned a 2X teleconverter for years but have rarely used it because of the difficulty in hand holding the higher power (I hardly ever use a tripod). Today I used the 2X with my 400mm DO lens and scope tripod (which is quite flimsy). Conventional wisdom is to disable image stabilization when using a tripod so that's what I did. However, since it was so windy I should probably not have done so. I took shots of common species when the opportunity arose. Although none turned out particularly well, I was pleased with the fact that 2X allowed me to get images that I wouldn't have managed with the 1.4X. The difference between 560mm and 800mm is significant (and that's before the 1.3X effective focal length multiplier of the camera body). Click for a list of images. Except for the Shoveler, all shots were taken using a tripod with image stabilization disabled. A couple of the images are soft because of distance/shake but overall the results weren't too bad in the wind.
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
This morning I headed to that hotbed of bird activity, San Rafael Valley (to those unfamiliar with my style, yes, my tongue is firmly in cheek). The valley is certainly not the place for quantity but it has a few special birds and some magnificent scenery. For those who have never visited this area, here are a couple of images taken today to give you some sense of the place: 1 - looking northwest to the Santa Rita Mountains and 2 - looking northeast to the Huachuca Mountains. Of course, photos never do justice to any landscape and such small images really can't convey the beauty or vastness of the place.
Baird's Sparrow is almost always my reason to visit the valley in winter and today was just a routine check for the bird. Grassland birding is not everybody's cup of tea but what else am I going to do, chase Blackburnian Warblers and Black Scoters? For the second day in a row I left home in darkness to arrive at the west end of the valley at sunrise. More often than not, the early birder catches the Baird's and judging by my results today and earlier this month, it's shaping up to be a good winter for Baird's Sparrow (or at least birders looking for Baird's Sparrow). Today I located 4 or 5 including 3 in the same binocular view. I started looking for sparrows at 6:45am and was immediately successful (if only it could always be so). This was just as well because it was already quite windy and it got steadily worse as the morning progressed. By 8:15am. I'd had my fill of BAIRD'S SPARROW and GRASSHOPPER SPARROW -- multiple looks at multiple individuals of both species. Here's a second BAIRD'S SPARROW (not the same individual) shot 30 minutes earlier than the first image in different light and on a different perch.
Generally, the west end of the valley was quiet while I was messing with the sparrows. I saw a couple of WHITE-TAILED KITES, many HARRIERS, SAY'S PHOEBE, HORNED LARK, a few fly-by CHESTNUT-COLLARED LONGSPURS (all singletons, no flocks) and EASTERN & WESTERN MEADOWLARKS.
As I left to make the short drive to Bog Hole along the Meadow Valley Flat road, I spotted an oddly plumaged raptor perched some distance away. I drove towards the bird then began to stealthily stalk on foot what turned out to be a partial albino RED-TAILED HAWK. Now, remember the "Murphy gets screwed moment" yesterday? Well, today it was my turn to get screwed. That Murphy guy gets his licks. Just as I had worked myself into a position to take a photo, a truck drove by and the bird flushed (many expletives deleted). All was not lost though -- I recovered my composure enough to fluke a flight shot of the bird as it took to the air. [Note: posted 03/25/09. I initially identified the Red-Tail as an "Eastern" but it was later pointed out to me by Matt Hysell that I was incorrect and that the bird is a partial albino. I went back to my camera originals and found a second shot that shows this to be true. I updated the image and included the second image as an inset.]
More WHITE-TAILED KITES were in the vicinity (now almost "guaranteed" in San Rafael Valley -- until you need to find one, that is). A few WESTERN BLUEBIRDS had ventured into the grasslands to visit a stock pond.
Now came my reward for getting up early and getting my sparrow -- some casual birding at Bog Hole Wildlife Area. I worked slowly around the pond for about 90 minutes and recorded over 30 species. The interior weeds were loaded with LESSER GOLDFINCHES and PINE SISKINS (the latter being a valley first for me). SPOTTED TOWHEE was another valley first. Two immature RUFOUS-CROWNED SPARROWS were a little unexpected (although like the Towhee, suitable habitat isn't too far away). A few boys of summer were still around. Raucous CASSIN'S KINGBIRDS didn't stop calling the entire time. A beautiful male VERMILION FLYCATCHER was silently seeking those elusive vermilion flies.
Out on the water, a late breeding PIED-BILLED GREBE had a couple of very tiny youngsters in tow. Ducks were not plentiful and I only saw a few RING-NECKED DUCKS and SHOVELERS. The reed lined edges of the pond had uncountable chattering MARSH WRENS, a few LINCOLN'S SPARROWS and a couple of calling SORAS. Overhead, a latish TURKEY VULTURE was drifting south and a NORTHERN HARRIER flew low until it saw me and veered away at the last second.
All in all, a good day at the office.52 species recorded:
Friday, October 26, 2007
This morning I visited Carr Canyon where I found solitude and a few interesting birds. Fall colors are not too impressive yet but I couldn't complain about the weather -- plenty of sunshine, mild temperature and zero wind. I entered the canyon at 7:00am, worked the road as far as Ramsey Vista then returned to finish up at Reef Campground which was very active from 9:30-10:30am. I recorded 47 species in the Canyon
Highlight of the morning was an immature NORTHERN GOSHAWK perched in the open. I watched the bird for a few minutes until it decided that it needed to be elsewhere. Just two minutes later, I had decent views of a NORTHERN (MOUNTAIN) PYGMY-OWL. The owl responded to my tooting as I tried to generate some activity. Unfortunately, it didn't stay interested for very long. Both birds were approximately 1/2 mile above Reef on the road to Ramsey Vista.
Other species of note were 4 BAND-TAILED PIGEONS, 2 WILLIAMSON'S SAPSUCKERS (a male feeding on Madrone berries along the road above Reef and a female at Reef campground); several EASTERN BLUEBIRDS, 2 TOWNSEND'S SOLITAIRES, 5 OLIVE WARBLERS (several locations); 1 TOWNSEND'S WARBLER (Reef Campground) and a few HEPATIC TANAGERS.
Widespread species that I encountered at multiple high elevation locations included ACORN and HAIRY WOODPECKERS, NORTHERN FLICKER (abundant), RUBY-CROWNED KINGLET, HERMIT THRUSH (very common), AMERICAN ROBIN, RED-BREASTED (4+) & WHITE BREASTED NUTHATCHES, BROWN CREEPER, WESTERN SCRUB-JAY, HUTTON'S VIREO, PINE SISKIN, SPOTTED TOWHEE and YELLOW-EYED JUNCO.
Given their pervasiveness already this season, I fully expected to find Cassin's Finch. I was ready to proclaim success but a flock at Reef turned out to be 10 HOUSE FINCHES, somewhat unexpected but not unprecedented at this elevation in the Huachucas.
I had single sightings of SHARP-SHINNED HAWK and ARIZONA WOODPECKER.
Species seen only in the lower canyon included WHITE-WINGED DOVE (regular here even in winter), CASSIN'S KINGBIRD and PYRRHULOXIA.52 species recorded (italics not in Carr Canyon):
Monday, October 29, 2007
Out today with Dona Coates from from Cox's Creek, KY and three friends from CO, KY and England. I've birded with Dona on four previous occasions and she didn't have any targets. Spotted Owl was the primary target for the others. Before heading into the Huachucas, we spent a couple of morning hours at Whitewater Draw at the southern end of Sulphur Springs Valley.
The drive down Coffman road produced SCALED QUAIL and BENDIRE'S THRASHER which is often the case. Lots of BREWER'S SPARROWS and LARK BUNTINGS were present.
Activity at Whitewater Draw has dropped off considerably since last week but a short visit still yielded 54 species. The TREE SWALLOW extravaganza is over and we only saw 6. Balancing that out, the SANDHILL CRANE population has certainly increased. The most numerous ducks were PINTAIL, LESSER SCAUP (30+) and RUDDY DUCK. Two BARN OWLS were in the main willow grove (one seen, one heard). Missed Great Horned Owl.
Less common location species were 4 INCA DOVES (my only 5 sightings have all been in October); GREAT-TAILED GRACKLE, ABERT'S TOWHEE and a few heard only CHESTNUT-COLLARED LONGSPURS.
Highlights for me were three season firsts -- 11 SNOW GEESE, 2 female BUFFLEHEADS and a FERRUGINOUS HAWK.
Scheelite Canyon was generally quiet in the early afternoon apart from one noisy feeding flock (mostly comprising BRIDLED TITMICE). Only 15 species recorded in the canyon and most were heard only. A single SPOTTED OWL wasn't too hard to find but it was a little off the beaten path and far from a slam dunk.78 species recorded:
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
Out today with Jean Myers from Gilroy, CA who I've birded with on one previous occasion. We began in the San Rafael Valley then birded our way down Harshaw Canyon and finished up at Patagonia Lake. It was an excellent day bird wise and weather wise, albeit a tad warm for me at the end of October. Chilly and calm to start becoming warm and windy later. We saw a 50 degree swing in temperature -- 35 degrees near Patagonia at 6:15am, 85 degrees at Patagonia Lake at 1:00pm.
It was surprisingly mild in San Rafael Valley (low 40s) and it didn't take long to find our target BAIRD'S SPARROW. We saw two of them (Jean managed photos) along with at least 10 GRASSHOPPER SPARROWS. We then had to work a little for CHESTNUT-COLLARED LONGSPURS. After seeing several small flocks in flight totaling perhaps 40 birds, we had good views of a few birds perched on a fence wire.
Among the other species in the valley were a couple of WHITE-TAILED KITES, a PRAIRIE FALCON seen streaking across the grassland, numerous HARRIERS and the usual HORNED LARKS & EASTERN MEADOWLARKS.
A couple of stops in Harshaw Canyon were very productive. Our only target was EASTERN BLUEBIRD and we found a couple near Hale Ranch. Highlights were killer looks at a male MONTEZUMA QUAIL at extremely close range (Jean should have some great images); and a GOLDEN EAGLE being harassed by a couple of COMMON RAVENS. Jean stopped to photograph a cricket at the precise location where the Quail was just sitting at the side of the road! We also had good looks at ARIZONA WOODPECKER and several RED-NAPED SAPSUCKERS. The Eastern RED-TAILED HAWK that I saw and photographed last week was still around. 30 species noted between the valley and Patagonia.
It was quite warm by the time we reached Patagonia Lake and activity wasn't high. Fortunately, we didn't have any serious targets here. Highlights along the entrance road were CASSIN'S SPARROW and RUFOUS-WINGED SPARROW. I heard the Cassin's chipping as we drove by and we were able to park, walk back, and locate the bird. Great views of singing Rufous-winged.
In the park proper, we heard BLACK-CAPPED GNATCATCHER near the bench at the start of trail then saw the bird in flight. Jean had seen the gnatcatcher on her last trip with me in 2005 so we didn't give chase. Other stuff included GREAT EGRET, COMMON MOORHEN, RED-NAPED SAPSUCKER, 2 GRAY FLYCATCHERS, HUTTON'S VIREO, 2 ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLERS and 2 BLACK-THROATED GRAY WARBLERS.74 species recorded:
This log is in chronological order and the most recent entries
are at the bottom of the page.
The last update was on Tuesday, October 30, 2007
Oct. Species Seen
Journal - October, 2007
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