Jun Species Seen
Journal - June, 2010
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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, June 29, 2010
Tuesday, June 1, 2010
Today I returned home from the White Mountains making a few stops along the way at Nelson Reservoir, Nutrioso and Luna Lake in the mountains; Glenwood Catwalk in New Mexico; and finally Willcox back in SE AZ.
A brief stop in Nutrioso produced EURASIAN COLLARED-DOVE, LEWIS'S WOODPECKER, several CORDILLERAN FLYCATCHERS, a singing GREEN-TAILED TOWHEE and a number of other common species.
Luna Lake was more productive than on Saturday, perhaps due to a combination of an earlier time of day and far less people. The most noteworthy sighting was what presumably is the same geographically challenged SANDHILL CRANE that has been summering at the lake since at least 1999. I spotted the bird on the grassy north shore hiding in plain sight amongst a flock of 85 grazing CANADA GEESE. An adult BALD EAGLE was in the same area near the annual nest site. Very little else of note on the water. YELLOW-HEADED BLACKBIRDS "sang" in the marshes and a few could be seen.
In the pines at the east end of the lake I found HAIRY WOODPECKER, WESTERN WOOD-PEWEE, PLUMBEOUS VIREO, PYGMY NUTHATCH, DARK-EYED (Red-backed) JUNCO, WESTERN TANAGER and PINE SISKIN. Big misses for this location were Western Bluebird and Grace's Warbler.
As I traveled south, roadside birds along Hwy 180 in New Mexico included STELLER'S JAY, WESTERN SCRUB-JAY, SPOTTED TOWHEE and RUFOUS-CROWNED SPARROW.
In Glenwood, I visited the Catwalk where I haven't been for years. This scenic area is in Whitewater Canyon in the Gila National Forest. The canyon bottom has many sycamores and other deciduous vegetation; the steep sides have junipers and chaparral. The 4 miles long approach road (SR 174) passes through a wide, steep-sided juniper lined section of the canyon with ideal habitat for GRAY VIREO and BLACK-CHINNED SPARROW and I encountered multiple singing individuals of both species. BLACK-THROATED GRAY WARBLERS were also singing.
In the canyon proper, the first 0.5 mile of the 1.3 mile trail is the most productive for birds. Among the birds that I found today were BLACK PHOEBE, CORDILLERAN, ASH-THROATED & BROWN-CRESTED FLYCATCHERS; GRAY (high on the slopes), PLUMBEOUS & WARBLING VIREOS; CANYON & HOUSE WRENS; recently fledged LUCY'S WARBLERS, SUMMER & WESTERN TANAGERS and BULLOCK'S ORIOLE.
Not having tired of them yesterday, I paused on the catwalk to watch an adult and two recently fledged AMERICAN DIPPERS. One youngster seemed content to forage and feed itself; the other constantly begged for food. As I watched the dipper family, copulating WHITE-THROATED SWIFTS soared overhead to the oblivion of most visitors.
As I entered AZ on Hwy 78, roadside birds in pine-oak-juniper habitat at Coal Creek and Blackjack included ACORN WOODPECKER, MEXICAN JAY and GRACE'S WARBLER.
My final birding for the day was at a very toasty Willcox in mid afternoon. A continuing female GREATER SCAUP was by far the most interesting bird. Unlike on Saturday, this time I had an excellent diagnostic view. The bird was hauled out on one of a number of rapidly emerging rock "islands". It's amazing how much the water level has dropped in just a few days. Greater Scaup has spent the summer months here in the past but this was a first June record at Willcox for me.
Also of note were three gull species (a red letter day anywhere in southeast Arizona). I saw 2 FRANKLIN'S, 1 RING-BILLED and 2 CALIFORNIA GULLS.
No sign of Saturday's Phalaropes but a lingering SPOTTED SANDPIPER was still present. What the hell is it waiting for, a written invitation to depart! Interestingly, I have sightings in SE AZ throughout June and it's hard to determine if they are departing or returning birds. However, most are in the first week of the month so they are presumably birds still heading north.
I counted at least 6 BLACK-NECKED STILTS and 30+ AVOCETS. After the proliferation of Scaled Quail on my (early morning) outbound journey, I didn't find one today. A lone SWAINSON'S HAWK was the only raptor.
A fairly productive day considering it was a travel day of 300+ miles.90 species recorded:
Saturday, June 5, 2010
The dog days of June are here and the temperature reached 100 degrees in Sierra Vista this afternoon. For those out-of-staters who are blissfully unaware, June is the hottest, driest and most unpleasant month in southeast Arizona. The birds are here but birding isn't much fun after the first few hours of the day. I normally leave town at this time (anywhere but here) although this year, for several reasons. I'm not leaving until mid month. Since I'm usually gone by now, I usually don't schedule clients in June. This works out well since few birders are crazy enough to plan a trip at this time of year and I only have one client this month.
Today I invested a few early morning in hours in the Huachucas before the heat really kicked in. I started at Garden Canyon Fishing Ponds where I only expected to find common breeding species (and so it came to pass).
At least 4 BOTTERI'S SPARROWS were singing in lower Garden Canyon immediately after sunrise.
There's more water and marshy habitat present at the ponds this year than in most years so AMERICAN COOTS and RED-WINGED BLACKBIRDS are nesting. I wouldn't be surprised if Pied-billed Grebe and Mallard are nesting but I didn't see either today. KILLDEER already have young and a lone GREAT BLUE HERON was fishing.
Among the expected landbirds were ANNA'S HUMMINGBIRD, VERMILION FLYCATCHER, CASSIN'S KINGBIRD, PHAINOPEPLA, LUCY'S & YELLOW WARBLERS, CANYON TOWHEE, RUFOUS-CROWNED SPARROW, SUMMER TANAGER, PYRRHULOXIA, several BLUE GROSBEAKS, EASTERN (LILIAN'S) MEADOWLARK and many LESSER GOLDFINCHES. Less expected were 2 singing COMMON GROUND-DOVES (uncommon but far from unprecedented at this location).
Huachuca Canyon was quite productive and I enjoyed the antics of a female and two male ELEGANT TROGONS about 0.25 miles above the 1.7m picnic area. Another Trogon (or one of the three) also visited the picnic area. The BUFF-BREASTED FLYCATCHER nest at the lower "Gila" picnic area is intact but seems abandoned (no birds seen or heard); at least one pair continues at the 1.7 picnic area.
Flycatchers were perhaps the most conspicuous species present in the canyon and I noted WESTERN WOOD-PEWEE (very common); multiples of DUSKY-CAPPED, ASH-THROATED & BROWN-CRESTED FLYCATCHERS; and 2-3 pairs of very active and noisy SULPHUR-BELLIED FLYCATCHERS.
Other regulars included ACORN & ARIZONA WOODPECKERS, PLUMBEOUS & HUTTON'S VIREOS; BLACK-THROATED GRAY WARBLER, PAINTED REDSTART, numerous singing SPOTTED TOWHEES; several pairs of HEPATIC TANAGERS, a few calling WESTERN TANAGERS and BLACK-HEADED GROSBEAK.62 species recorded:
Monday, June 7, 2010
I left home this morning headed for Willcox to check for potential odd gulls and terns that have showed up at other locations recently. While on the road I decided to make a stop at St. David to amortize the cost of the outing and make it a little more productive. That turned out to be a bad move. By the time I was done at St. David the temperature was already on the rise and my enthusiasm to visit Willcox had seriously waned. I decided to head up to Carr Canyon instead in search of a cooler environment.
Holy Trinity Monastery at St. David isn't one of my primary destinations and most of my visits are associated with trips to Willcox. Since I'm often out of state for most of June, filling holes in my data was the incentive for today's visit. That paid off with a new location species -- HOODED ORIOLE (#166 at the Monastery proper; not including the nearby San Pedro River).
TROPICAL KINGBIRD was of note. This is a relatively uncommon species in Cochise County (compared to further east) and as far as I'm aware this is only the second year that this species has nested at the Monastery (feel free to chime in if I'm incorrect). Other county nesting locations (again, to my knowledge) are all along the San Pedro River.
MISSISSIPPI KITES seem to be attracting lots of attention this year with everybody and his uncle visiting the Monastery of late. I'm not sure why there's an increased interest this year because the birds have bred in the vicinity since at least 2002. They are a very local nester in Arizona, mostly along the San Pedro River further north, especially near Dudleyville. St. David is the southernmost nesting location on the river. I saw two birds this morning perched in the open in cottonwoods north of the main pond and near the sewage pond.
WESTERN TANAGER was a slight surprise. I would expect migrants to have passed through by now and local breeders should already be in the mountains. As always, the birds know best.
Regulars included GRAY HAWK, 4+ COMMON GROUND-DOVES; NORTHERN BEARDLESS-TYRANNULET, VERMILION & BROWN-CRESTED FLYCATCHERS, PHAINOPEPLA, LUCY'S & YELLOW WARBLERS; YELLOW-BREASTED CHAT (great views of this often secretive bird singing high in a mesquite); ABERT'S TOWHEE, SUMMER TANAGER and BLUE GROSBEAK. 40 species in all.
It was already in the 80s by the time I started up Carr Canyon so I wasn't expecting much. The recently graded road is very dusty but otherwise in very good condition. I ventured only as far as the stand of trees about a third of a mile beyond Reef (or Reef +.3 as I deviously call it). I recorded most of the expected species.
BUFF-BREASTED FLYCATCHERS were surprisingly vocal in multiple locations (none seen feeding young which I would expect by now). At least two GREATER PEWEES were singing. The breeding warblers were also vocalizing and I found multiple OLIVE and GRACE'S, 2 singing VIRGINIA'S; BLACK-THROATED GRAY & RED-FACED WARBLERS; and 2 singing PAINTED REDSTARTS. WESTERN TANAGERS were much in evidence but I dipped on Hepatic Tanager. I also dipped on Acorn Woodpecker (but managed to avoid the binocular confiscation squad). This foraging female ARIZONA WOODPECKER flew off to deliver food soon after the image was shot.
Heading back down canyon, a stop at the waterfall overlook produced lots of WHITE-THROATED SWIFTS, WESTERN SCRUB-JAY and a singing VIRGINIA'S WARBLER.
Another 100 degree day in Sierra Vista.
73 species recorded:
Mallard, Gambel's Quail, Turkey Vulture, Mississippi Kite, Gray & Red-tailed Hawks; Rock Pigeon, Eurasian Collared-Dove, White-winged & Mourning Doves; Common Ground-Dove, White-throated Swift, Broad-tailed Hummingbird, Gila, Ladder-backed & Arizona Woodpeckers; N. Flicker, N. Beardless-Tyrannulet, Greater Pewee, Western Wood-Pewee, Buff-breasted, Vermilion & Brown-crested Flycatchers; Say's Phoebe, Tropical, Cassin's & Western Kingbirds; Bell's, Plumbeous & Hutton's Vireos; Western Scrub-Jay, Mexican Jay, Chihuahuan & Common Ravens; N. Rough-winged & Barn Swallows; Bridled Titmouse, Verdin, Bushtit, White-breasted Nuthatch, Cactus, Bewick's & House Wrens; Am. Robin, N. Mockingbird, Curve-billed Thrasher, Phainopepla, Olive, Virginia's, Lucy's, Yellow, Black-throated Gray, Grace's & Red-faced Warblers; Painted Redstart, Yellow-breasted Chat, Spotted & Abert's Towhees; Black-throated & Song Sparrows; Yellow-eyed Junco, Summer & Western Tanagers; Pyrrhuloxia, Black-headed & Blue Grosbeaks; Red-winged Blackbird, Great-tailed Grackle, Brown-headed Cowbird, Hooded Oriole, House Finch, Lesser Goldfinch and House Sparrow.
Tuesday, June 8, 2010
I spent a few early morning hours at the Hwy 90 area of the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area (aka "the river") before dropping off my vehicle for service (big trip ahead!). It was very pleasant at 5:30am (low 60s), not quite as pleasant even as early as 2 hours later.
My route was south from the San Pedro House along DeI Valle Road to Garden Wash; east on the south side of the wash to Black Phoebe Pond; then north along the river back to the San Pedro House with a stop at Kingfisher Pond. This route traverses most of the habitat zones in the area -- mesquite scrub with lots of prickly and nasty stuff; mesquite and yucca grassland; and the cottonwood-willow stands immediately adjacent to the river.
VARIED BUNTING is quite rare in this (Hwy 90) location. To give some perspective, I've seen them just twice in 637 previous visits over the past 18 years. Consequently, it came as quite a shock to find 5 males this morning! I found 4 singing birds along the Del Valle Road, two of which I tracked down. One was a typical adult male with various shades of red, blue and purple that give rise to the bird's name. The other was a mostly brown immature male showing some red about the head.
Interestingly, all birds sang a slightly shorter version of the song that I typically hear. The habitat along the west side of Del Valle seems a bit marginal for this species (mostly creosote and mesquite) which may explain why I haven't seen them anywhere near regularly. Further north along the NCA near Fairbank, habitat is more typical and the buntings are sometimes present there. At the end of my walk, I checked the logbook at the San Pedro House and noted a few Varied Bunting entries in May. For whatever reason, a fair number of them are using the Hwy 90 area of the San Pedro this year.
While looking and listening along the Del Valle Road, I had a briefly deflating moment. BLUE GROSBEAKS and VARIED BUNTINGS were both singing. Although to some folks they sound the same, it's not too difficult to sort them out with practice. I heard one bunting singing quite close to me and I set off to find it -- only to see a Grosbeak perched atop a mesquite in the direction of the sound. I had trouble believing what I was seeing -- while my eyes often fail me, I place great trust in my ears. My ego soon recovered when I saw the sneaky little Bunting sitting just below the Grosbeak.
Also along Del Valle Road I detected at least 6 BOTTERI'S SPARROWS singing at regular intervals on the east (grassland) side of the road.
A presumed pair of TROPICAL KINGBIRDS were at Kingfisher Pond. I saw one bird on the east side of the pond while another gave its unmistakable metallic twittering from the cottonwoods on the west side. VARIED BUNTING #5 (another immature male showing some red) was in the weedy stuff on the east side of the pond.
Highlights along the river were 2 YELLOW-BILLED CUCKOOS (one at the intersection with Garden Wash; the other near the intersection with the San Pedro House trail) and a fitz-bewing WILLOW FLYCATCHER due east of the south end of Kingfisher Pond.
Apart from the above, it was pretty typical breeding fare. Species seen included 2 GRAY HAWKS, a few COMMON GROUND-DOVES, GREATER ROADRUNNER, VERMILION, ASH-THROATED and BROWN-CRESTED FLYCATCHERS; 3 BELL'S VIREOS, many singing LUCY'S WARBLERS (Del Valle); even more YELLOW WARBLERS along the river; untold numbers of unseen YELLOW-BREASTED CHATS; surprisingly few ABERT'S TOWHEES and a handful of SUMMER TANAGERS. 43 species in all.52 species recorded:
Thursday, June 10, 2010
This morning I made a routine visit to Garden Canyon in a continuing effort to fill holes in my June data. Unfortunately, it was quite windy during the first couple of hours after dawn and I'm sure that impacted my results. Daytime temperature in Sierra Vista was only in the high 90s today.
BOTTERI'S SPARROWS were vocal in the lower grassland and I counted at least 8 singing individuals between the Range Control building and Antelope Way. Several hours later I only heard one.
The presence of 2 adult and 5 young MALLARDS at the fishing ponds confirmed my suspicion of breeding. BROWN-CRESTED FLYCATCHER was a major surprise at the ponds (first one that I've seen here). There are very few large trees present and a suitable nesting site would seem hard to find. The bird was here for a reason though. Better habitat starts less than 2 miles further up canyon but even there they are far from common (and certainly not annual). A calling SCALED QUAIL represented another uncommon location species (they tend to be present on the east side of Garden Canyon Road).
Otherwise, species were as expected and a similar mix to what I saw last week. Among the 30 species noted were COMMON GROUND-DOVE, GILA & LADDER-BACKED WOODPECKERS; VERMILION FLYCATCHER, CASSIN'S & WESTERN KINGBIRDS; PHAINOPEPLA, LUCY'S & YELLOW WARBLERS; CANYON TOWHEE, RUFOUS-CROWNED & LARK SPARROWS, BLUE GROSBEAK and several singing EASTERN MEADOWLARKS.
Continuing through the grassland, I added GAMBEL'S QUAIL, BLACK-THROATED SPARROW and many more EASTERN MEADOWLARKS.
An hour spent around the upper picnic area didn't yield an Elegant Trogon. This area has declined as the "premiere" trogon spot on the east side of the Huachucas and Huachuca Canyon is now a more reliable location. I think there are probably several trogons present in Garden Canyon but I neither saw nor heard one today.
Species here included DUSKY-CAPPED & SULPHUR-BELLIED FLYCATCHERS, PLUMBEOUS & HUTTON'S VIREOS; BLACK-THROATED GRAY WARBLER, PAINTED REDSTART, HEPATIC TANAGER and BLACK-HEADED GROSBEAK.
Hummers seen at the nearby feeders were male and female BROAD-BILLED; male and female MAGNIFICENT and many BLACK-CHINNED (mostly males).58 species recorded:
Friday, June 11, 2010
Today I made a rare afternoon outing. I visited Ash Canyon B&B to get used to working with a lens that I have rented for my upcoming trip. It was extremely windy and I didn't see many birds nor manage any useful photos, especially of hummingbirds. It doesn't matter what lens you use and how well the image stabilization functions -- if the subject is moving then results are in the hands of the gods. Anyway, that didn't really matter. I was able to get a feel for using a larger and heavier lens than I've used before.
I felt sorry for the windswept hummingbirds. Over a period of 90 minutes, the most common species by far was ANNA'S in various plumage flavors; BROAD-BILLED and BLACK-CHINNED were also frequent visitors; male MAGNIFICENT stopped by just a couple of times. I was fortunate to be looking in the right direction at the right time when a male LUCIFER made the briefest of visits at 5:20pm.
With the exception of LADDER-BACKED WOODPECKERS, other species were scarce. I watched young birds being fed by an adult that only had to "forage" a few feet away at a suet feeder. ACORN, GILA and ARIZONA WOODPECKERS were also present.
Even with my round-trip drive plus yard birds at home, I failed to tally 30 species.29 species recorded:
Tuesday, June 15, 2010
Out today with Denny Granstrand and Chris Reid from Yakima, WA. This rare June outing (I normally don't accept clients in AZ in June) was scheduled back in January and it's my last day in the state until the July 4th holiday. We spent the morning target birding in the Huachucas and managed to find all target lifers plus a number of ABA target species. The day began pleasantly cool (in the 60s) then became quite warm by noon, even at elevation.
Most of our targets were mountain species but we made a brief detour into Garden Canyon grassland at 6:00am to pick up BOTTERI'S SPARROW. We didn't have to go any further than the range control building to find a very cooperative individual singing atop a mesquite. Also here were CANYON TOWHEE and BLUE GROSBEAK.
Huachuca Canyon was very productive and we knocked off the target flycatchers without much effort -- BUFF-BREASTED, DUSKY-CAPPED, BROWN-CRESTED and SULPHUR-BELLIED FLYCATCHERS were relatively easy to see. However, they all stayed high and photo opportunities were minimal (although Denny managed some digiscoped images).
Nesting ELEGANT TROGON continues to be reliable at the first transverse drainage above the 1.7m picnic area. Our first PAINTED REDSTART was a juvenile "Blackstart"; we later saw a more colorful adult. Juvenile ARIZONA WOODPECKERS were active and vocal. HEPATIC TANAGER was a little harder to find than of late.
Also present among 30 species noted in the canyon were MAGNIFICENT HUMMINGBIRD, ACORN WOODPECKER, ASH-THROATED FLYCATCHER, PLUMBEOUS & HUTTON'S VIREOS, BLACK-THROATED GRAY WARBLER, BLACK-HEADED GROSBEAK and WESTERN TANAGER.
We had to work a little harder for our birds in upper Carr Canyon, although a singing RED-FACED WARBLER at Reef + 0.3m was an exception. We enjoyed excellent, close views of a cooperative individual singing as it foraged. In the same area, we also found a singing adult male OLIVE WARBLER (aka "Orange-headed Warbler") but the bird insisted on staying mostly out of sight in a dense fir tree and our views could certainly have been better. The bird made a deliberate foray to chase off a GRACE'S WARBLER that was minding its own business (hey, didn't know it was *your* tree!). A singing VIRGINIA'S WARBLER was uncharacteristically cooperative, perhaps because it wasn't a target!
BUFF-BREASTED FLYCATCHERS were quite numerous and surprisingly vocal in Reef Campground and nearby. Last year must have been a good year for this species because they are certainly more common than usual this year and they are showing up in non traditional locations throughout SE AZ.
Other species in Reef Campground included several BAND-TAILED PIGEONS, GREATER PEWEE, CORDILLERAN FLYCATCHER and plenty of singing GRACE'S WARBLERS. VIOLET-GREEN SWALLOWS and WHITE-THROATED SWIFTS were seen overhead.62 species recorded:
Wednesday, June 16, 2010
Sadly, I had to cancel my road trip at the last minute. Months of planning wasted. Reports will resume in AZ when I recover from this unexpected setback.
Thursday, June 17, 2010
First, let me assure all of you who contacted me after I cancelled my road trip that I am not sick and I am not injured. In fact, I'm hastily trying to arrange a scaled down trip starting next Monday. This morning I headed over to Holy Trinity Monastery in St. David where I spent a few pleasant heat and wind free hours. I had two objectives. First and foremost I wanted to fill a hole in my data since I have zero visits during the third week in June. I also wanted to continue testing a lens that I recently rented.
An early start yielded GREAT HORNED OWL and LESSER NIGHTHAWKS on Charleston
Road as I left Sierra Vista.
At the Monastery, the MISSISSIPPI KITE show seems to be over and I only saw one bird perched in the dead tree at the Hermitage Pond from 5:30-5:50am. No other sightings through 8:30am.
It was a good morning for kingbirds and I had an extremely rare-for-Cochise County four kingbird species day -- all seen from the same location. I saw one THICK-BILLED KINGBIRD in the cottonwoods adjacent to the RV Park. The bird was mostly silent (heard just once) and not very active. The pair of TROPICAL KINGBIRDS were vocal and active. I watched the pictured kingbird attack a passing GREAT BLUE HERON and both kingbirds were interacting and squabbling with neighboring WESTERN KINGBIRDS.
Young birds and adults feeding young were the order of the day. In this category were NORTHERN BEARDLESS-TYRANNULET, BELL'S VIREO, LUCY'S WARBLER, LESSER GOLDFINCH and ABERT'S TOWHEE. I followed a juvenile Tyrannulet around for almost 30 minutes and only managed obstructed images. Ditto that for the vireo. I had success with a fairly clueless juvenile LESSER GOLDFINCH -- the bird sat in the same location for what seemed like an age, occasionally nibbling on a leaf until an adult came by and presumably informed the youngster that it wasn't really a good food source.
Other species noted included at least 6 COMMON GROUND-DOVES, YELLOW-BILLED CUCKOO, VERMILION FLYCATCHER, ASH-THROATED & BROWN-CRESTED FLYCATCHERS many PHAINOPEPLAS and YELLOW-BREASTED CHATS (the latter extremely vocal); and a few SUMMER TANAGERS. 44 species in all.
I spent late afternoon until dusk at Ash Canyon B&B in the Huachucas. Thanks to Mary Jo Ballator for the hospitality. It was generally quiet until the heat of the day subsided, although all the regular hummers were sporadically present. Male and female LUCIFER HUMMINGBIRDS first showed at 5:15pm and 5:25pm respectively then became more regular towards nightfall. Unfortunately, the light was gone from the feeding area and my images were poor (shooting a bird on a swinging feeder at 1/50s shutter speed is not likely to produce a useful result).
Other species seen and/or heard from the yard included GAMBEL'S QUAIL, WILD
TURKEY, GRAY HAWK (brief fly-by);
WHITE-WINGED DOVE, ACORN, GILA & LADDER-BACKED WOODPECKERS;
DUSKY-CAPPED, ASH-THROATED & SULPHUR-BELLIED FLYCATCHERS; plentiful MEXICAN
JAYS, BRIDLED TITMOUSE, a presumed family group of BUSHTITS, WHITE-BREASTED
NUTHATCH and BLUE GROSBEAK.
My day ended as it began with LESSER NIGHTHAWKS, this time on Hwy 92 near Ramsey Canyon Road.
[Photo notes: I can see that the Canon 500mm f/4 IS lens that I've rented is ultimately going to cost me a lot of money (since I'm already lusting after purchasing one, not that I can afford it). Even after a few hours of use on a couple of occasions I can see that it's far and away better than any lens that I've used previously (and at $6000+, it should be!). The difference is startling -- like stereo versus mono, color versus black and white; and high-speed wireless internet versus dial-up modems. You get the picture. If there's anyone out there with pots of money that you don't know what to do with, please feel free to contribute to the Stuart Healy lens purchase fund. Think of it as payment for many years of free entertainment and information in these pages.
Although almost all of today's images were shot at rather steep angles, the intrinsic quality of the lens was immediately apparent to me. Most noticeable was the increased reach and the smooth "bokeh"; i.e. blurring of background. Most smaller lenses produce concentric circles rather than a smooth out of focus background that makes the subject stand out. Just imagine what I could do with this lens if I actually knew what I was talking about when it comes to photography.]67 species recorded:
Saturday, June 19, 2010
This morning I spent a few hours in low elevation locations of Garden Canyon in the Huachucas. An early start and light weekend traffic produced a GREATER ROADRUNNER casually walking across across Fry Boulevard heading towards a doughnut shop.
I began at the fishing ponds where I've been trying to determine which species are breeding. As I mentioned earlier this month, this area has more water and riparian vegetation than most years. However, there aren't many large (or even medium sized) cottonwoods. Apparently, though, there's enough to support breeding YELLOW WARBLERS. I've been seeing and hearing them on each visit and today I saw a recently fledged family of youngsters. For those who have never seen juvenile plumaged birds, it can be quite puzzling at first blush -- the birds are generally pale gray with just a hint of yellow, mostly on the tail.
COMMON GROUND-DOVES continue to sing and I have to believe they are nesting here. Ditto RUFOUS-CROWNED SPARROW (adjacent dry slopes) and SUMMER TANAGER. I was again surprised to see (and hear, for positive id.) BROWN-CRESTED FLYCATCHER in the mesquite-grassland just above the ponds. Other species included MALLARD; a few WILD TURKEYS strolling around like they owned the place; GREAT BLUE HERON, VERMILION & ASH-THROATED FLYCATCHERS, both regular Kingbirds; VERDIN, many PHAINOPEPLAS and LUCY'S WARBLER.
Continuing through the grassland I detected perhaps 3-4 BOTTERI'S SPARROW singing less vigorously than in recent weeks. They are waiting for the monsoons along with many area inhabitants. Several BLUE GROSBEAKS and EASTERN MEADOWLARKS were also singing. As I reached the oaks and junipers, I picked up singing HUTTON'S VIREOS and BEWICK'S WRENS (the latter was particularly vocal today).
I was headed to the upper picnic area when I became seriously sidetracked by a NORTHERN PARULA, a rare transient and casual summer visitant in southeast Arizona. This was my seventh record in the state and my second this year (May 3, Carr Canyon).
The bird was in small, lush section of the canyon between the middle and
upper picnic areas. More precisely, it was in the sycamore/cottonwood/willow
stand just above the only divided section of the road where there's a concrete
structure marked 14250. I heard the bird singing as I drove by. The song, while
instantly recognizable, was less buzzy and slightly more melodic than what I'm
used to hearing. I stayed with the bird from 6:30-7:00am and watched it singing
in a sycamore then foraging in a willow. Although the bird stayed high, I managed a couple of documentary images (image #1, image #2) thanks to the reach of the rented 500mm lens that I'm currently using.
As I tracked the warbler, other species that caught my eye in this area included DUSKY-CAPPED FLYCATCHER, BRIDLED TITMOUSE, BUSHTIT, PAINTED REDSTART and HEPATIC TANAGER.
I didn't stay long at the upper picnic area and once again didn't detect a trogon (nor Sulphur-belled Flycatcher today). The most noteworthy bird was a VIOLET-CROWNED HUMMINGBIRD visiting the feeders just above the picnic area. This species is typically found in riparian habitat at lower elevation. However, since this is my second sighting at this location this year and a bird has been reported by others, breeding in the area is certainly possible. Alternatively, this could be an unmated, non-breeding individual.53 species recorded:
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
Today I made a third (and successful) attempt to hit the road, albeit just for a few days. If you ever wonder why I'm so convinced that Murphy is constantly looking for ways to screw me, read on.
I was scheduled to depart last Wednesday and it was literally at the last minute that I realized I needed to be in Sierra Vista on Sunday (a serious oversight on my part). Drat and double drat. This year I had planned a very different kind of trip looking for a few species that I've only seen once as well as exploring some new locations. My main destinations were to have been Arkansas, Missouri, Michigan and Wisconsin (with a few days in Wyoming at the end of the trip).
These June trips are the highlight of my birding year and I was pretty bummed that many months of planning did not come to fruition, especially as I had rented a 500mm f/4 lens hoping to photograph a bunch of eastern species. Not wishing to forgo a trip entirely, I decided to put together a shorter expedition with less traveling (there was no way I could cram the original 3 week trip into 2 weeks). My new objective was to spend a week in Wyoming and a few days in Colorado working on improving my knowledge of those states. This wasn't a great disappointment since Wyoming is my favorite state and I always enjoy my time there.
I made a series of reservations taking me through to July 4. Late Sunday I loaded the vehicle with everything I needed for an extended trip. Early yesterday morning (2:00am) I got in the vehicle ready to drive 1000 miles to Idaho Falls, Idaho, only to find that my vehicle would not start. Thirty minutes of cranking later it still wouldn't start. For over a year now I've had an intermittent start problem (usually when hot) but the problem has yet to manifest itself to my mechanic. Lots of parts have been changed and money spent to no avail. Not wishing to tempt fate and get stuck in the wilds of Wyoming, I decided to cancel the trip. This problem is very frustrating because the vehicle runs well and starts normally 99% of the time. True to form, when I tried the vehicle a few hours later it started in a nanosecond. Told you that Murphy is not my friend. Q .E .D.
Now what. I decided to leave the vehicle with my mechanic and spend a couple of days in the White Mountains using a rental. Not really what I wanted to do but it's better than baking in 100 degree days in Sierra Vista. Perhaps the Blue Trogon problem will occur while I'm gone, although I'm not hopeful given the capriciousness over the past year.
This morning I left home early enough to see a literal swarm of LESSER NIGHTHAWKS at the Border Patrol checkpoint on Highway 90. I'm not sure how many birds were present but certainly more than I've seen there before. It was quite a sight.
On my way up to the mountains I stopped at Willcox from 5:30-7:00am. The most interesting bird was a female GREATER SCAUP that has been seen sporadically since it was first detected at the end of May. Presumably, it also spends time at the nearby sewage ponds. I managed a documentary quality image even though the bird was well offshore. The only other ducks were a pair of Mexican MALLARDS, 2 drake BLUE-WINGED TEAL and the usual RUDDY DUCKS.
I counted well over 100 adult AVOCETS and only a handful of chicks. Other
stuff included 12+ BLACK-NECKED STILTS, 30+ female WILSON'S PHALAROPES (already
done breeding and heading south?) and a single MARBLED GODWIT. No sign of the
recently reported Snowy Plovers.
PEREGRINE FALCON was a mild surprise in June. I don't see them at Willcox very often even during the winter months. I watched the bird unsuccessfully try for a phalarope. I recorded 30 species including adult and juvenile BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT-HERON, many SCALED QUAIL, ASH-THROATED FLYCATCHER, HORNED LARK, a handful of CLIFF SWALLOWS and a pair of BULLOCK'S ORIOLES.
My next stop was at Luna Lake in the White Mountains where I saw two birds of note around midday. A single TREE SWALLOW perched on the solar array at the tackle shop might be breeding species. There are a few records in the White Mountains (including Luna Lake) so breeding wouldn't be unprecedented.
Also of note was my personal location first ZONE-TAILED HAWK (an extremely ratty looking individual). The bird was in the pines along Little Creek at the east end of the lake. I watched the bird working over the tree tops and figured it was a TV until it suddenly made a quick maneuver and stooped to the ground on unsuspecting prey. As far as I'm aware, there are no breeding records in Apache County.
Among the regulars in the pine were several WESTERN WOOD-PEWEES, PLUMBEOUS VIREO, GRACE'S WARBLER, CHIPPING SPARROW and DARK-EYED (Red-backed) JUNCO on a nest.
So far, I'm not getting much relief from the heat down south and it was still 90 degrees when I visited Wenima Wildlife Area in the early evening. Due to a combination of heat and mosquitoes, I didn't stay very long. Very little was stirring save for a WESTERN SCRUB-JAY feeding a fledgling. I also saw a a pair of BLUE GROSBEAKS and a beautiful male LAZULI BUNTING singing its heart out.83 species recorded:
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
Today was another warm day in the White Mountains. At 38 degrees, it began chilly enough at Big Lake Lookout but that didn't last long even in the high country. It was already over 80 degrees by the time I departed Sheep Crossing at 9:00am and up to 95 degrees in Springerville at 2:00pm. Yikes! Just as in SE AZ at the moment, productive and pleasant birding is limited to a narrow early morning window.
I drove up to Big Lake via Hwy 261 that quickly climbs from the 7000 feet level west of Springerville-Eagar to over 9000 feet. The initial climb is via a series of switchbacks through pine forest until the road tops out (beyond Mexican Hay Lake) into expansive meadows with views of Mt. Baldy at 11,400 feet.
Mexican Hay Lake still has plenty of water for late June (this lake usually dries up quickly in drought years). Not many birds on offer though and I didn't linger long. CINNAMON TEAL was the best of a small bunch. Lots of grazing Elk were a fine sight. I also saw Pronghorn in the meadows.
I made a brief stop at Crescent Lake where I noted 2 OSPREYS, a pair of REDHEADS, MOUNTAIN BLUEBIRD and singing VESPER SPARROWS.
The top of Big Lake Lookout (~9300 feet) was relatively quiet in the early morning chill. However, the solitude, views, flutelike song of HERMIT THRUSH and seemingly random musical tones of TOWNSEND'S SOLITAIRE were ample rewards for my early start. I was intrigued to see a male WESTERN TANAGER attempt to drive off the Solitaire whenever it sang. Why I wonder? Do they do this dance every day?
I lingered for almost two hours without seeing Dusky Grouse, although I did hear one flapping in the trees down the trail (I can hardly count that as a "heard only"). After a slow start I saw most of the expected common species (chickadees, nuthatches, etc.). Best bird was a male WILLIAMSON'S SAPSUCKER, quite uncommon at this location. Although there's breeding habitat not far away, I don't see them very often at the very top of the lookout (on less than 10% of visits in fact).
After reluctantly leaving the lookout, I traveled west 10+ miles to Sheep Crossing with its willow riparian habitat amidst lots of fir trees along the Little Colorado River.
RED CROSSBILL was the first bird that I encountered at the parking area. I soon heard a singing LINCOLN'S SPARROW, a bird that had not arrived at this location 3 weeks ago. I tried very hard to get a photo without success. The dippers had long since fledged from the nest at the Railroad Grade bridge and I didn't see or hear them in the vicinity. An OSPREY sat atop a tall fir until I pointed my lens in its direction. CORDILLERAN FLYCATCHER and GREEN-TAILED TOWHEE were both vocal.
After a late breakfast/early lunch at the Rendezvous Diner in Greer, I spent some time at West Fork. I worked methodically along the river until I found an AMERICAN DIPPER then returned to my vehicle for a camera. I relocated the bird and got the runaround from a juvenile that simply didn't want to be photographed. The bird stayed in the shadows and was constantly on the move as it foraged. Eventually, I caught the bird having a stretch.
While following the dipper I came across a DARK-EYED (Red-backed) JUNCO feeding a single fledgling. I shot this image as the bird paused to check me out before delivering food and the red back is not visible. However, note the two tone bill.
EURASIAN COLLARED-DOVE at the Red Setter Inn (now part of the Greer Lodge Resort monstrosity) was an indication of just how pervasive this species has become. Habitat here at 8500 feet is mostly fir, hardly where you would expect to see the bird. I first detected them in Greer in 2007. Other birds seen in West Fork included my second male WILLIAMSON'S SAPSUCKER of the day, PYGMY NUTHATCH, GREEN-TAILED TOWHEE and BLACK-HEADED GROSBEAK.
Incidentally, it seems that the guy who owns Greer Lodge Resort is intent on destroying as much habitat as possible. New cabins are being built immediately alongside the Little Colorado adjacent to the former Four Seasons property (also gobbled up by Greer Lodge). It's time for the city fathers of Greer to wake up before it's too late and all the green is gone (perhaps they are only interested in another kind of green).
Before heading back to Springerville, I briefly checked Greer Lakes where GRACE'S WARBLER was the only bird of note.52 species recorded:
Thursday, June 24, 2010
This morning I left Springerville at 5:00am, birded in the White Mountains until 9:00am; then drove home with a stop at Willcox.
I gave Sipe Wildlife Area a cursory look by driving the main entrance road to the headquarters area then drove out via the the back road. I saw very little of note save for both bluebird species. The back road rejoins Hwy 180 near Nelson Reservoir and that was my next stop. YELLOW-HEADED BLACKBIRDS were common and I saw two pairs of REDHEADS.
Next, I worked various areas in Nutrioso on both sides of 180. CASSIN'S KINGBIRD was the highlight in town (a first for me in "downtown" Nutrioso). Regulars included EURASIAN COLLARED-DOVE, CORDILLERAN FLYCATCHER, MOUNTAIN BLUEBIRD and WARBLING VIREO.
I had to work a little for LEWIS'S WOODPECKER -- a regular spot on CR 2269 near CR 2276 finally came through.
On my way to Luna Lake I stopped at the old corral on the north side of FR 249 just off Hwy 180, north of Alpine. My main reason to visit here was for PURPLE MARTIN (regular at this location) and several birds duly obliged. While waiting for the Martins to put in an appearance, I heard GRACE'S WARBLER singing on the south side of the road and went to investigate. Although I soon saw the warbler, I immediately became distracted when I heard the song of an OLIVE WARBLER. I watched a very active pair chasing around at the top of the pines. I tried my luck with a whistled imitation of their "phew" call and the birds came in to the tree next to me. Of course, my camera was back in the car. This is the first time that I've seen Olive Warbler here. My only reliable locations for this species in the White Mountains have been Luna Lake and Hulsey Lake.
As I tracked the warblers, ACORN & HAIRY WOODPECKERS and NORTHERN FLICKER were having a woodpecker convention. Not to be outdone in the wood-pecking game, WHITE-BREASTED & PYGMY NUTHATCHES chipped in. Get it? Also present were PLUMBEOUS VIREO and BLACK-HEADED GROSBEAK..
I moved on to Luna Lake where I learned that the Bald Eagle nest failed this year and a second attempt with a single egg is underway. I didn't see any eagles except for fish eagle -- OSPREY. Out on the lake, CANADA GEESE were present in numbers. I stopped counting at 130. A single drake RING-NECKED DUCK may indicate nesting, I have quite a few June records in the White Mountains but this species was not confirmed as a breeder by the Breeding Bird Atlas project. Several handsome EARED GREBES in full breeding attire were present (a definite nester).
Cloud cover and temperature increased as I drove south and I saw a few signs that the monsoon season in southeast Arizona is (hopefully) drawing closer. High temperatures (I encountered 105 degrees in Safford) coupled with cloud buildup spawned some thunderstorm activity. When I reached I-10 east of Willcox it appeared that the western flank of the Chiricahua Mountains was receiving some rain, although it might just have been virga (term for precipitation that evaporates before reaching the ground). The Horseshoe fire is still burning so the rain is much needed. Further west I could see lighting in the Whetstone Mountains and when I reached the community of Whetstone it was raining a little. The temperature dropped from 104 in Benson to 84 in Whetstone in less than 20 miles. It's a start.
It was baking at 104 degrees when I reached Willcox. Believe it or not, a few crazy guys were out playing golf (along with this crazy birder). Most of the birds that I reported on Tuesday were still present. The female Greater Scaup was a notable exception. Some species had increased in number -- 3 drake BLUE-WINGED TEAL, 2 MARBLED GODWITS and 65 WILSON'S PHALAROPES were present.
Lots of HORNED LARKS were scattered around the periphery of the main pond at the edge of the water. Having only just come into this world, they are probably wondering if it's always going to be so hot. Bring on the rain.72 species recorded:
Friday, June 25, 2010
This morning I spent a few hours at Patagonia Lake State Park. I arrived before sunrise to beat the heat and focused my attention in grassland habitat along the entrance road and mesquite habitat in washes at the periphery of the park.
While tracking sparrows, I was pleasantly surprised to obtain a usable ASH-THROATED FLYCATCHER image in the filtered early morning light (early morning dark would be a better phrase). Lots of sparrows were singing but it wasn't until later in the morning on a second pass that I managed an image of BOTTERI'S SPARROW. Although curious, this particular individual wasn't very cooperative and stayed in the shadows of a mesquite. Other species in grassland and mesquite habitat included RUFOUS-WINGED, RUFOUS-CROWNED & BLACK-THROATED SPARROWS; BLUE GROSBEAK and HOODED ORIOLE near a nest site. I only saw female and juvenile orioles, no adult males.
One of my objectives for the morning was to photograph a female Varied Bunting. There came a time when I thought that I was successful only to see the "female" that I was looking at start to sing. Therefore, I'm calling this bird a first summer male VARIED BUNTING. Several that I saw at the San Pedro recently looked similar to this but with just a hint of red about the head. I have no idea how long it takes for males of this species to attain full adult plumage. In fact, I was surprised by how little color (almost zero) is shown on a bird that is probably 9-10 months old (I've seen fledglings being fed in September). I also photographed an adult male VARIED BUNTING.
While wandering around in mesquite, I came across many juvenile LUCY'S WARBLERS. Note how buffy this bird appear (adults are gray). Note also a hint of wing bars not shown by adults. Abundant YELLOW-BREASTED CHATS were extremely vocal and only barely visible. Among the others species that I noted were BROWN-CRESTED FLYCATCHER, BELL'S VIREO, CANYON TOWHEE and BRONZED COWBIRD
Of note at the lake was an immature BROWN PELICAN that has been present since at least May 25. Out of state folks may be surprised to learn that Brown Pelican is a regular (annual) visitor to the state. I have 33 personal records from 13 different years. Over half of those records are from Patagonia Lake and almost all are immature birds. I'd say that the photo is documentary evidence but a flying bird against a blue sky could have been taken anywhere. So much is made of photos to document birds these days but, in reality, they only document identification not location (in most cases). If anyone really wanted to be devious, it would be quite easy to fake such evidence.
Also of note on the water was a female WOOD DUCK, another bird that has been around for a while. In June, this is actually much rarer and less expected than the Pelican. I didn't check the shallow, east end of the lake and the only other duck species that I saw was BLACK-BELLIED WHISTLING-DUCK.
[Photo notes: One of my many ongoing challenges in trying to obtain decent images of birds is maintaining an adequate depth of field. I don't have any background in photography and don't have a good feel for setting the correct aperture based on distance to the bird, size of bird and other factors, especially in the heat of a photo moment. In fact, I usually try to set the highest shutter speed that I can and let the aperture fall wherever it may for correct exposure. This results in images with parts of the bird out of focus when the bird is not at right angles to me (see the first summer male Varied Bunting for an example of this). I'd appreciate any words of wisdom from any real photographers reading this.]
I made a brief stop at Paton's Yard on the way home. A combination of heat and insects quickly drove me away. Highlights were VIOLET-CROWNED HUMMINGBIRD, GAMBEL'S QUAIL with a dozen or more quailudes; LARK SPARROW and an ABERT'S TOWHEE gathering nest material. GRAY HAWKS were screaming away nearby. I saw 5 species of doves in the yard -- EURASIAN COLLARED-DOVE, WHITE-WINGED, MOURNING & INCA DOVES; and COMMON GROUND DOVE.
We had a cooling rain in Sierra Vista this afternoon. It wasn't much but it's certainly a positive sign for an early monsoon season. Fingers crossed.60 species recorded:
Monday, June 28, 2010
This morning I left home in darkness to spend the first hour after dawn at Whitewater Draw Wildlife Area. I followed that with a visit to Ash Canyon B&B. I was home by 9:30am when the temperature was already up to 97 degrees. You have to get the birding done early! We got a little relief from clouds and a sprinkle of rain by late afternoon in Sierra Vista.
LESSER NIGHTHAWKS were active on Charleston Road as I left town.
Whitewater Draw is a place that I rarely visit in June -- and with good reason. A better name right now would be the "the big flat empty". To be fair, the first pond closest to the parking area has water and the surrounding vegetation is quite lush. However, not many birds were present there (save for lots of CLIFF SWALLOWS) and I didn't find many birds in other locations within the wildlife area. This could change in the coming weeks during southbound migration if we get some decent rain. Right now there's always a chance of a rare post-breeding straggler from Mexico but for the most part only the common breeding birds can be expected. It's frustrating that the south willow grove is closed to entry (to protect roosting owls) since this is probably the best place for birds at the moment. I checked the logbook and saw a recent entry for Sandhill Crane (probably erroneous but you never know!).
SWAINSON'S HAWKS were numerous on all of the roads surrounding Whitewater Draw. SCALED QUAIL with young were perhaps the highlight. KILLDEER distraction displays and constant wailing were certainly a distraction. Expected species included COMMON GROUND-DOVE, a single GREAT HORNED OWL in the barn; LUCY'S & YELLOW WARBLERS, BLACK-THROATED SPARROW. PYRRHULOXIA, BLUE GROSBEAK, EASTERN MEADOWLARK and BULLOCK'S ORIOLE.
On the return journey I detoured a couple of miles along Coronado Memorial Road to see if the recent rain had awakened any Cassin's Sparrows. No luck -- I only heard and saw BOTTERI'S SPARROWS.
I spent 90 minutes (7:45 to 9:15am) at Mary Jo's Ash Canyon Bed and Breakfast. The feeders were fairly busy for the first hour and I saw the usual suspects in terms of hummingbirds. BROAD-BILLED, BLACK-CHINNED & ANNA'S were present most of the time. Star of the show LUCIFER put in a couple of appearances as did MAGNIFICENT.
Other species included ACORN, GILA & LADDER-BACKED WOODPECKERS; DUSKY-CAPPED & BROWN-CRESTED FLYCATCHERS; LARK SPARROW and BLACK-HEADED GROSBEAK.63 species recorded:
Tuesday, June 29, 2010
This morning I spent three productive hours (5:30-8:30am) on the San Pedro River near Sierra Vista. Most of that time was spent at Kingfisher Pond. It was delightfully cool and bug free until 7:00am.
Since February of this year, Green Kingfisher has been sporadically reported from various locations on the river (mostly north of the Hwy 90 bridge) and there was a report last Friday of a bird at Kingfisher Pond (alas, I didn't see or hear a bird today). Green Kingfisher was formerly a regular breeder on the river through 1997 and may be attempting to nest here again this year.
The most interesting bird was a singing male INDIGO BUNTING at the Oxbow
(this is labeled "Meander Scar/Cottonwood Grove" on page 151 in the current
edition of Tucson Audubon Society's "Finding Birds in Southeast Arizona"). The bird was at the south end of the Oxbow closest to K
I have very few (8) records for Indigo Bunting on the upper San Pedro. As I looked through my images (none good enough even for documentation), I noticed that the bird has a small but distinct upward hooked extension to the upper mandible. Unfortunately, I was unable to obtain an image good enough for documentation, let alone my normal publishing standard. Here's a rather poor, small head shot showing the bill abnormality.
Speaking of Buntings, I bumped into Peter Walsh who reported the continued
presence of VARIED BUNTING on the del Valle Road (I didn't check there today).
As I reported on June 8, it's an unusual year for this species
on the San Pedro.
There was plenty of activity at Kingfisher Pond and always something to look at. Highlights were at least 3, possibly 4 YELLOW-BILLED CUCKOOS (2 seen); a pair of TROPICAL KINGBIRDS and the continuing WILLOW FLYCATCHER at the south end of the pond. I heard the flycatcher singing at 6:00am but not again through 8:30am. GRAY HAWKS called along the river from time to time.
YELLOW-BREASTED CHATS were abundant. A single LESSER NIGHTHAWK made three passes over the pond (at 30 minute intervals) skimming something off the water on each pass. Too fast for my lens. Juveniles of several species were present around the periphery of the pond including BLACK PHOEBE, VERMILION FLYCATCHER, COMMON YELLOWTHROAT, SONG SPARROW, and many SUMMER TANAGERS.
I managed images of a juvenile female VERMILION FLYCATCHER (note the hint of yellow on the flanks) and a juvenile SUMMER TANAGER. Sadly, today was my last day using the rented 500mm lens.47 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, June 29, 2010
Jun Species Seen
Journal - June, 2010
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