Aug Species Seen
Journal - August, 2010
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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 Tuesday, August 31, 2010
Sunday, August 1, 2010
This morning I joined the Sunday outing at Sierra Vista EOP. Today was a rain free day as the monsoon takes a break.
Personal highlights were two new location species -- a female HOODED ORIOLE and a calling YELLOW-BREASTED CHAT; #212 and #213 respectively. Add to that a continuing VARIED BUNTING (a new location species for me last week). The latter two were seen from the Moson Road access.
There was a decent showing of shorebirds for this location with 3 SPOTTED, 1 WESTERN & 3 LEAST SANDPIPERS; and singletons of LONG-BILLED DOWITCHER and WILSON'S PHALAROPE. A single dowitcher at this season always raises hope for Short-billed but the bird called to put paid to that.
Migrants also had a good presence and we noted plenty of swallows of 5 species, particularly TREE and CLIFF; several BLUE-GRAY GNATCATCHERS, YELLOW WARBLER, LARK SPARROW, WESTERN TANAGER and numerous LAZULI BUNTINGS (probably many more hidden in the weeds than were actually seen).
Of note were a continuing CATTLE EGRET and 3 early GADWALLS. Among the other waterfowl were a few CINNAMON TEAL, RUDDY DUCK and a very secretive PIED-BILLED GREBE, No rails detected.
YELLOW-HEADED BLACKBIRDS continue to increase in number. CASSIN'S KINGBIRDS outnumbered WESTERN KINGBIRDS (the reverse is normally true).
Local breeders included BELL'S VIREO, BLUE GROSBEAK and BULLOCK'S ORIOLE.50 species recorded at Sierra Vista EOP (6:30-10:00am; partly cloudy; 70-86 degrees): SVEOP bar graph
Monday, August 2, 2010
This morning I spent a few hours birding on the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area (RNCA) near the San Pedro House. Recent rain has left some of the trails in very muddy condition (almost impassable in places) and some of the trails at the south end of Kingfisher Pond south to Garden Wash are waterlogged and impassable. No rain again today.
Yesterday while at Sierra Vista EOP I spoke with someone who had that
morning seen the female Green Kingfisher at the southwest corner of Kingfisher
Pond at 6:30am. I checked the logbook at the San Pedro House this morning and
found entries for sightings on three different days during the last week of
July. It appears that the bird is becoming more reliable at K Pond which is not
surprising really because the river is running very muddy. The southwest corner
of the pond is the most "sludge free" area and will likely be preferred by the
No Green Kingfisher for me at Kingfisher Pond but I was more than happy with a group of 14 BLACK TERNS (a new species for me on the San Pedro). The terns flew over the pond and gave it a look but continued on their journey south without stopping. In fall, Black Terns pass through southeast Arizona from July through October. My own first and last dates are July 7 and October 14. I have some June records but those birds may have been going north.
Also of note were a couple of NORTHERN BEARDLESS-TYRANNULETS. I first heard a bird giving it's characteristic and relatively quiet "eek" call then heard a loud burst of song. I followed the sound and eventually found two birds. The location was in Garden Wash at the intersection with the trail that leads to Black Phoebe Pond. I've built up a number of sightings on the SPRNCA over the years but this species is much scarcer in Cochise County than further west.
GRAY HAWKS were conspicuous along the river (calling and flying) and I saw 3 perched birds; 2 along the river and another at Black Phoebe Pond. YELLOW-BREASTED CHATS (including juveniles) were abundant and much easier to see than is often the case with this species. ABERT'S TOWHEE, SUMMER TANAGER and BLUE GROSBEAK were all common and conspicuous. LUCY'S WARBLERS were scarce.
Other species noted included 4+ COMMON GROUND-DOVES, at least 2 continuing TROPICAL KINGBIRDS at K Pond; several calling BROWN-CRESTED FLYCATCHERS and YELLOW-BILLED CUCKOOS; and a singing VARIED BUNTING on del Valle Road.
It's interesting to note that, although still vocal and active today,
Brown-crested Flycatcher is one of the earliest summer breeders to leave and
many will be gone by mid August.
Surprisingly, I didn’t hear any Cassin's Sparrows and saw very few BOTTERI'S SPARROWS.
Tuesday, August 3, 2010
First of two days with Larry and Lynn Wright from Fairfax, VA. Although we didn't see lots of birds today, we had a focused and very successful day seeing all five sought after target species -- Northern Pygmy-Owl, Spotted Owl, Cordilleran Flycatcher, Red-faced Warbler and Botteri's Sparrow.
We visited Garden, Sawmill and Scheelite Canyons. Déjà vu all over again for
However, with a change in the monsoon pattern, wet and relatively cool days have
become just a fond memory and today was a very warm, mostly clear day with just
a few sprinkles in late afternoon.
We began early in Garden Canyon grassland where we soon had scope views of CASSIN'S and BOTTERI'S SPARROWS. Other stuff in the grassland included
many VIOLET-GREEN SWALLOWS continuing to gather; BLUE GROSBEAK, CANYON TOWHEE, LARK SPARROW and multiple EASTERN (LILIAN'S) MEADOWLARKS that were particularly vocal and cooperative, perched up in mesquites offering close views.
Next stop was Sawmill Canyon where we dipped on Red-faced Warbler. Last week they were easy to see which is why I chose to visit here. Ironically, we had good views of CORDILLERAN FLYCATCHER, a bird that I rarely see in Sawmill. Murphy never takes a break. I only have four migrant records, two each in spring and fall and now two in August. The birds in August are presumably movement from local breeders.
We tracked down a calling NORTHERN PYGMY-OWL and enjoyed watching the many birds that came in to check out the owl -- including 2 ELEGANT TROGONS and several BLUE-GRAY GNATCATCHERS The gnatcatchers were of particular interest to me since some years they breed on the juniper slopes of the canyon. I've seen them in less than half the years that I've birded here. However, having not seen any on recent visits, I think they were most likely migrants.
BUFF-BREASTED FLYCATCHERS remain common throughout the first mile of the canyon. They were very vocal and active at 7:30am; much less so when we left at 10:00am. Sawmill is a fairly open canyon and it warms quite quickly. I see so many folks visit Scheelite before Sawmill. This is dumb -- Spotted Owl isn't going anywhere and will be found or not found regardless of time of day. If you plan to visit both locations on the same day, go to Sawmill first.
Among the others present were BROAD-TAILED HUMMINGBIRD, ARIZONA WOODPECKER,
too many annoyingly common WESTERN WOOD-PEWEES, SULPHUR-BELLIED FLYCATCHER
(several have moved into the canyon post-breeding); DUSKY-CAPPED FLYCATCHER,
CASSIN'S KINGBIRD, PLUMBEOUS & HUTTON'S VIREOS, HEPATIC TANAGER, YELLOW-EYED
JUNCO and a singing SCOTT'S ORIOLE (what a great song they have).
SPOTTED OWL was extremely easy to find in Scheelite Canyon and was seen by many birders, roughly halfway between the 1/2m and 5/8m markers. At least four other parties were in the canyon including a large group. A guy with a white stick was handing out tickets, I left my clients to enjoy and photograph the bird and continued on up canyon where I found a second owl in a much more difficult to see location. Had both birds been roosting together in this spot, I'm sure that most folks would have gone home disappointed.
I'd told my clients that, at this season, Red-faced Warbler is as likely in Scheelite as anywhere else. During the breeding season, their territory is fairly high up canyon above the lower roosting area for the owls. Consequently, finding an owl low in the canyon usually means that Red-faced will not be seen. However, post-breeding and during migration, they can be found throughout the canyon. Serendipity struck as we walked back down the trail and bumped into a silently foraging RED-FACED WARBLER. Payback for the work already done in Sawmill. We also saw our second CORDILLERAN FLYCATCHER of the day.
Activity in the canyon was quite low late morning (we were in the canyon from 10:20am to 12:20pm). CANYON WRENS are always present even on a bad day. WHITE-THROATED SWIFTS soared over the 1/2 mile cliffs. Several PAINTED REDSTARTS were scattered throughout the canyon (you can never see too many of these beauties). Others included ARIZONA WOODPECKER, DUSKY-CAPPED FLYCATCHER, HUTTON'S VIREO, BRIDLED TITMOUSE, SPOTTED TOWHEE, RUFOUS-CROWNED SPARROW and BLACK-HEADED GROSBEAK.
Wednesday, August 4, 2010
I was out again today target birding with Larry and Lynn. We visited upper Carr canyon looking for Virginia's and Olive Warblers. It was another warm, dry day with clouds building from midday onwards that eventually produced some pretty good thunder bumpers and heavy rain in the evening.
It was a tough day at the office with only 50% success. Post-breeding birding for some of the high elevation species can be quite difficult. This isn't something specific to this year as you can determine by reading my journal entries for other years.
VIRGINIA'S WARBLERS were actually quite plentiful and could readily be detected by their "chink" calls. At the risk of stating the obvious, if a bird doesn't call (especially a ground nesting skulker like this) locating one is going to be a tough gig. Fortunately, lack of calling wasn't a problem today. Over the course of the morning we saw several individuals and with perseverance we ended up with excellent views of a bird that can often be elusive. Regular readers will know that I refer to this species as "the hardest of the easiest warblers" -- not necessarily difficult to find but almost always not easy to see well.
OLIVE WARBLER was very difficult as can often be the case at this time of year. We found just one individual in 6 hours of searching. The bird sang only briefly and didn't stick around long enough for us to see. We diligently covered lots of suitable habitat in places where I regularly see the bird. Not surprisingly, the only bird that we found was in my "best spot".
We also saw the other breeding warblers of the habitat -- BLACK-THROATED GRAY, GRACE'S & RED-FACED WARBLER and many PAINTED REDSTARTS. Of course, Murphy wouldn't have it any other way. We didn't encounter any migrant warblers as we searched. I had half-expected Hermit Warbler (I have several late July records); and Orange-crowned, Nashville, Townsend's and Wilson's should be arriving soon. WARBLING VIREO was our only migrant of the day (and this could have been a bird that bred higher up the mountain).
Even though the birding was slow, it could be considered as "hopping" compared to my wet visit last Saturday. On that day I found just one each Buff-breasted Flycatcher and Greater Pewee (the latter not seen). Today, many adult and juvenile BUFF-BREASTED FLYCATCHERS were along the road between Reef and Ramsey Vista; and multiple GREATER PEWEES were easy to see perched atop snags and calling (although no song was heard).
SPOTTED TOWHEES were abundant and in full song. YELLOW-EYED JUNCOS (including quite a few dark-eyed streaky juveniles) were underfoot almost everywhere that we went.
The rest of what we saw was fairly routine and expected including a couple of ARIZONA WOODPECKERS, CORDILLERAN FLYCATCHER, all three regular jays with STELLER'S JAYS and WESTERN SCRUB-JAYS being more numerous than recent trips; several HEPATIC & WESTERN TANAGERS, lots of still-singing BLACK-HEADED GROSBEAKS and a couple of SCOTT'S ORIOLES.
Friday, August 6, 2010
I spent a couple of early morning hours at Willcox today. Thunderstorms were just firing up as I left home and I encountered some heavy rain traveling through Texas Canyon on I-10 at 5:00am. I had a scary moment when I started hydroplaning. Willcox was pleasantly cool (and dry) for an hour or so then warmed to the mildly uncomfortable level by 8:00am.
Although the water level on the main pond is much higher than for some time, there's still plenty of shorebird habitat. Unfortunately, it was a case of after the Lord Mayor's show and the number of birds present is way down from the recent extravaganza. For example, WILSON'S PHALAROPES numbered only around 50 (was perhaps 300 or more) and I didn't detect a single American Avocet! Hell must be freezing over at the edges.
Nevertheless, there were a few highlights to enjoy. Most notable were a single SHORT-BILLED DOWITCHER, a continuing SEMIPALMATED SANDPIPER and a SEMIPALMATED PLOVER. The dowitcher is a rare transient in SE AZ and always vastly outnumbered by its Long-billed counterpart in terms of the big picture. I'm not comfortable naming them by field marks alone at this season and was happy that the bird called (otherwise it would have been lumped in with the other dowitchers present). Semipalmated Sandpiper is another rare (mostly fall) transient. Fortunately, it's a little easier to separate out from Least and Western Sandpipers. The plover is an uncommon but very regular transient at Willcox.
The continuing female GREATER SCAUP (present since late May) was hauled out on a rock. Other stuff included ~20 BLACK-NECKED STILTS, SPOTTED, WESTERN, LEAST and BAIRD'S SANDPIPERS in moderate numbers; 7 LESSER YELLOWLEGS, a few LONG-BILLED CURLEWS and 5+ LONG-BILLED DOWITCHERS.
I was really too far away from the Yellowlegs but when have you known me not to try my luck anyway? I managed to "stalk" the bird (laughable really since there isn't an iota of cover) and get a usable image despite a lack of detail. This is my first photo of this species in Arizona. Note the "green bill" from the sludge. When the bird raised its legs out of the water it was a Greenshank!
Among the species at the golf course were CINNAMON TEAL, a few RUDDY DUCKS still in bright breeding plumage; GREAT EGRET, 3 BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT-HERONS, 3 SWAINSON'S HAWKS (adult and two juveniles); plenty of SCALED QUAIL, a couple of SORAS in full view at the small golf course pond; the usual plethora of EURASIAN COLLARED-DOVES, four swallow species including many TREE and a few BANK SWALLOWS; YELLOW-HEADED BLACKBIRD and BULLOCK'S ORIOLE. I was hoping for a few landbird migrants but it's really a bit early for this location. My checks of the main and golf course ponds and surrounding vegetation produced 50 species.
Of note as I drove back west on I-10 was a COMMON NIGHTHAWK flying south
right in front of me. This species doesn't have much of a presence in Cochise
County but is fairly common further north. I have a few records from various
locations in the county in early to mid August; presumably they are migrants.
At Holy Trinity Monastery in St. David, I arrived in timely fashion to find Kim Eckert and his group from Minnesota viewing a MISSISSIPPI KITE perched on a snag near the small
sewage pond. Apparently, the bird had just flown in to that location. This was around 9:00am. The bird flew west towards the San Pedro River at 9:30am. Just like the Yellowlegs, I was too far away from the bird for a great shot despite a good pose and excellent light.
For the first time in a few months, I failed to detect Tropical Kingbirds near their nest site. The young fledged several weeks ago so they may have moved on (or not!).
It was uncomfortably warm and humid so I didn't hang around very long. Consequently, I didn't see much else. I heard a GRAY HAWK wailing away in the distance and noted how ABERT'S TOWHEES were still singing strongly. Other species among 30+ noted were VERMILION & BROWN-CRESTED FLYCATCHERS, BELL'S VIREO, PHAINOPEPLA, noisy YELLOW-BREASTED CHATS, SUMMER TANAGER and a juvenile BRONZED COWBIRD.77 species recorded:
Saturday, August 7, 2010
This morning I visited lower Garden Canyon paying particular attention to the fishing ponds, something that I hope to do regularly throughout the migration season. After plenty of overnight rain, it was a damp and overcast morning. Most of the normally dry washes and road crossings were running, quite strongly in some cases. Rain (and hail) held off until late afternoon then became heavy again in the evening hours. Apart from grassland sparrows, bird activity was subdued under a heavy, gray sky.
BOTTERI'S and CASSIN'S SPARROWS are probably enjoying the weather and both were singing as I drove through Garden Canyon grassland. I stopped in a couple of locations to take a look at them along with CANYON TOWHEE, BLUE GROSBEAK and EASTERN MEADOWLARK.
I spent an hour working the fishing ponds where water levels at both ponds have risen considerably. Water was still pouring heavily into the larger Gravel Pit pond. The most noteworthy bird was a male YELLOW-HEADED BLACKBIRD -- not only a first for the ponds for me but also a first for the Huachucas (#250). A lone SPOTTED SANDPIPER was only my second in the Huachucas. Together they exemplified the very true phrase "you never know what you might see".
The only other definite migrants were a handful of LAZULI BUNTINGS feeding in the tall grasses. VIOLET-GREEN and CLIFF SWALLOWS feeding on insects over the water were probably local breeders.
PIED-BILLED GREBE was a bit of a surprise. I had expected they might breed here this year because of the healthy water level and marsh. However, today's bird was the first that I've detected since late February. MALLARD and COOT were the only other waterfowl. The omnipresent KILLDEER have finally stopped complaining at my presence.
Regulars included ANNA'S HUMMINGBIRD that almost always sits on the same snag; LADDER-BACKED WOODPECKER, BLACK PHOEBE, CASSIN'S & WESTERN KINGBIRDS, a handful of YELLOW WARBLERS, singing RUFOUS-CROWNED SPARROW and BLUE GROSBEAK; RED-WINGED BLACKBIRD and EASTERN MEADOWLARK.
After leaving the ponds, I drove up canyon to check the feeders above the upper picnic area and did not see a single hummingbird! While driving through the grassland, a LOGGERHEAD SHRIKE piqued my interest. This is a bird that I almost always see but I didn't remember any recent sightings. Back at home I checked and noted that I haven't seen it in 15 consecutive visits since mid May. My data for previous years doesn't show this summer breeding absence so perhaps something in the grassland wasn't to their liking this year. There's always something to learn.
I finished up with a very short visit to the 1.7mi picnic area in Huachuca Canyon. Plenty of water and few birds at this location. Only the sound of SULPHUR-BELLIED FLYCATCHERS carried above the noise of running water. The drive in yielded ACORN WOODPECKER and BROWN-CRESTED FLYCATCHER.46 species recorded:
Sunday, August 8, 2010
A handful of Southwest Wings participants joined the regulars for the Sunday outing at Sierra Vista Environmental Operations Park (EOP). The weather was fairly cooperative -- a partly cloudy sky kept the temperature down and made the humidity bearable. We tallied 50 species without finding anything really unusual.
Although it will be a while before the duck population gets into winter mode, 4 early GADWALL (first seen last week) and a single female SHOVELER provided some evidence of things to come. A few RUDDY DUCKS and 20+ CINNAMON TEAL rounded out the ducks.
Despite some decent shorebird habitat, shorebirds were limited to a lone GREATER YELLOWLEGS, 3 SPOTTED and 2 LEAST SANDPIPERS.
Several VIRGINIA RAILS were heard calling in the reeds but remained unseen. Also in the reeds, a couple of BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT-HERONS represented the least common location species. As I creep closer to 1000 visits, I only have 9 sightings in 7 different years since 1993. An immature female VERMILION FLYCATCHER (always scarce at the EOP) was a little early for this location. They are typically present from late August through March, although not every year.
PEREGRINE FALCON is a regular here in winter and the first of season bird showed up today. It was seen perched and then soaring with a couple of SWAINSON'S HAWKS. It's probably not a coincidence that the falcon shows up just as the ducks are arriving! A couple of AMERICAN KESTREL family groups and a few TURKEY VULTURES rounded out the raptors.
LAZULI BUNTINGS were not as numerous as in recent weeks but were still a "wow" bird for many. Sadly, the Varied Bunting seen for the past two weeks didn't make it three. A very close-flying LESSER NIGHTHAWK was another highlight. The sight of many YELLOW-HEADED BLACKBIRDS is always a treat.
Swallow numbers were down but there were still large numbers of TREE and CLIFF SWALLOWS (mostly juvenile birds of both species) and a few BANK. The peak of migrant Bank Swallows at the EOP occurs during the second and third weeks of August so the best is yet to come. Violet-green should be here soon
Regularly seen landbirds included BLACK & SAY'S PHOEBES, CASSIN'S & WESTERN KINGBIRDS, BELL'S VIREO, a large group of CHIHUAHUAN RAVENS, LARK SPARROW, BLUE GROSBEAK and BULLOCKS ORIOLE. Among the other species noted were COMMON GROUND-DOVE, CACTUS WREN, YELLOW WARBLER, YELLOW-BREASTED CHAT and BLACK-THROATED SPARROW. One person saw LARK BUNTING.
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
I only had a couple of hours available this morning before dropping of my vehicle for service. I used them to check lower Garden Canyon, mostly at the fishing ponds looking for migrants. It was another clear and warm morning but we did get some rain in the mountains in late afternoon.
Multiple BOTTERI'S SPARROWS continue singing but I only detected a couple of CASSIN'S SPARROWS. In the grassland I also noted PYRRHULOXIA, BLUE GROSBEAK and EASTERN MEADOWLARK.
VIOLET-GREEN SWALLOW numbers continue to build at the fishing ponds and there was a swarm of them working low of the water this morning. I scanned the swallows many times and came up with just one NORTHERN-ROUGH-WINGED and a few BARN SWALLOWS for my efforts. I watched one of the resident BLACK PHOEBES petulantly attack a passing swallow on a couple of occasions. It will be a long few weeks for the Phoebe until the swallows depart.
Numerous YELLOW WARBLERS and a few LAZULI BUNTINGS continue. I didn't detect anything new other than a juvenile COOPER'S HAWK and an immature female VERMILION FLYCATCHER. Regulars included ANNA'S HUMMINGBIRD, LADDER-BACKED WOODPECKER, many WHITE-WINGED DOVES, CASSIN'S KINGBIRD and scads of LESSER GOLDFINCHES.
At the middle picnic area feeders I once again failed too see a single hummingbird. Several SULPHUR-BELLIED FLYCATCHERS, HUTTON'S VIREO, PAINTED REDSTART and RUFOUS-CROWNED SPARROW were the only birds in the area. Even the annoyingly common WESTERN WOOD-PEWEES have become much less vocal and relatively inconspicuous. In this location, their numbers typically start to fall at the beginning of September.
I noted a single GRAY HAWK perched on a regular roadside pole below the lower picnic area.
43 species recorded:
Great Blue Heron, Cooper's, Gray & Red-tailed Hawks; Am. Coot, Killdeer, Rock Pigeon, White-winged & Mourning Doves; Black-chinned & Anna's Hummingbirds; Gila & Ladder-backed Woodpeckers; Western Wood-Pewee, Black Phoebe, Vermilion & Sulphur-bellied Flycatchers; Cassin's Kingbird, Hutton's Vireo, Mexican Jay, Chihuahuan Raven, N. Rough-winged, Violet-green & Barn Swallows; Verdin, White-breasted Nuthatch, Cactus & Bewick's Wrens; Curve-billed Thrasher, Yellow Warbler, Painted Redstart, Cassin's, Botteri's & Rufous-crowned Sparrows; Pyrrhuloxia, Blue Grosbeak, Lazuli Bunting, Red-winged Blackbird, Eastern Meadowlark, Great-tailed Grackle, House Finch, Lesser Goldfinch and House Sparrow.
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
I had limited time for birding again today but managed to get to upper Carr Canyon. The drive up the rough road around the switchbacks with the sun in my face at 6:00am was a challenge to say the least. It was a clear morning with zero wind and quite warm by 9:00am, even at 7000+ feet.
I began by walking the trail to Sawmill Spring. This is the time of year when Aztec Thrush sometimes shows up and the Chokecherry at the spring has attracted them in the past. Not much fruit and no thrush today I'm sorry to say, just plenty of juvenile SPOTTED TOWHEES -- a.k.a. the poor man's Aztec Thrush.
Activity at the spring was quite good and I picked up 20 species in 15 minutes just standing in one spot. I enjoyed great views of multiple VIRGINIA'S WARBLERS (at least 5) -- this alone was well worth the hike. The wonderful view of the San Pedro Valley far below was a bonus. Among the other species were ANNA'S, BROAD-TAILED & RUFOUS HUMMINGBIRDS; GREATER PEWEE, BUFF-BREASTED & DUSKY-CAPPED FLYCATCHERS; PLUMBEOUS & HUTTON'S VIREOS; STELLER'S JAY, many VIOLET-GREEN SWALLOWS high overhead, my first of season ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLER, HEPATIC & WESTERN TANAGERS; and scads of BLACK-HEADED GROSBEAKS & SPOTTED TOWHEES.
Along the trail I added WESTERN SCRUB-JAY, GRACE'S and OLIVE WARBLERS and saw more GREATER PEWEES and BUFF-BREASTED FLYCATCHERS. Additional species near Reef included BROWN CREEPER, PAINTED REDSTART, YELLOW-EYED JUNCO and SCOTT'S ORIOLE. I also saw more GRACE'S & OLIVE WARBLERS.
The most interesting bird of the day came as I drove back down the mountain -- a calling CRISSAL THRASHER. The bird was on a slope (mostly Manzanita and Oak) at 5800 feet about 0.8 miles above the third stream crossing. This was a location first for me (I know, I just need to get out more). Interestingly, they show up on the slopes of Scheelite Canyon in late August and usually stay through mid winter.51 species recorded:
Friday, August 13, 2010
As last Friday, I spent a couple of early morning hours at Willcox today. Sadly, Friday 13 didn't bring me any luck in terms of unusual shorebirds and for the most part it was a routine visit. It was surprisingly cool with a light breeze at 6:00am but it didn't take long for the day to warm. Sierra Vista was close to 100 this afternoon as the monsoon remains on hold (well, hopefully just on hold rather than done).
I started at the main pond where, with a few exceptions (the rarer stuff. of course), many of the species recently reported continue.
WILSON'S PHALAROPE numbers have rebounded and I counted 330 of them as I scanned in vain for Red-necked (one was seen later in the day). I noted 21 BLACK-NECKED STILTS, 13 AVOCETS, 4 LESSER and 3 GREATER YELLOWLEGS, 3 SPOTTED, 2 WESTERN and ~50 LEAST SANDPIPERS; and 20 LONG-BILLED DOWITCHERS. I heard but did not see LONG-BILLED CURLEW. I failed to detect Semipalmated, Baird's and Stilt Sandpipers. The female GREATER SCAUP was again hauled out on a rock.
The most notable birds were both first of season for me -- a female NORTHERN HARRIER in the grassland at the southeast corner of the main pond and a MARSH WREN in the cattails at the large golf course pond.
There's been a suspicion of Harriers breeding in recent years with a few summer sightings. Ignoring those summer birds, today's bird agrees favorably with my first sighting dates at Willcox that fall within the range August 5-13 in the past 15 or so years.
The Marsh Wren was more impressive and represents my earliest ever fall sighting in SE AZ (previously August 16 last year at Sierra Vista EOP). Looking back at my records, I can see a slight but noticeable trend of earlier arrival over the years.
Other birds at the golf course pond included a GREAT EGRET (2 more in flooded fields on Haskill Ave); 2 SWAINSON'S HAWKS, SORA, YELLOW WARBLER and YELLOW-HEADED BLACKBIRD.
I got excited when I saw some well marked, medium sized birds running around on the golf course grass with KILLDEER and SCALED QUAIL. My excitement quickly faded when I glassed them and realized they were juvenile STARLINGS (actually quite a scarce bird at Willcox). Fun while it lasted though.
I recorded 40
species, down 10 from last week. In addition to the three shorebirds already
mentioned, I only found one swallow species versus four last week. Those two
families alone account for more than half of the deficit.
Big Bang Theory: The Willcox Fly Conundrum (apologies to those who don't watch the TV show)
How is it that I can drive slowly around the main pond with windows barely cracked and end up with a car full of nasty flies. Then, I drive home 75 miles to Sierra Vista with the windows open and can't get rid of them! One of the abiding mysteries of life.
Sunday, August 15, 2010
Today I headed down to Sierra Vista EOP to join a few (fool)hardy locals; only 5 of us today. Although it wasn't a particularly warm morning (85 degrees when we quit at 10:00am), humidity was high and it was certainly uncomfortable tramping around the dikes. Yesterday was ~100 degrees in Sierra Vista with some evening rain. Today looks like more of the same.
Although the overall species total was down 5 from last week's 50, we still picked up a couple of noteworthy birds (depending on your interest, of course). At least one early GADWALL continues (4 have been seen for the past two weeks). New this week were a couple of AMERICAN WIGEON. The date is consistent with their arrival generally in SE AZ, but a little early for the EOP. They become regular here by mid September and I only have one other August record.
A small temporal pond continues to attract the few shorebird that we saw. In fact, the shorebird showing was decent for this location with 1 SPOTTED, 3 WESTERN & 2 LEAST SANDPIPERS; 1 LESSER YELLOWLEGS (with a longer than normal bill and a Lesser's call); and 7 WILSON'S PHALAROPES.
PEREGRINE FALCON was around for the second consecutive week and should be regularly present from now until next March. The bird was initially seen perched on a dike. Scads of RED-WINGED & YELLOW-HEADED BLACKBIRDS spooked when it left. Raptors were scarce today and Swainson's was missed.
LAZULI BUNTING'S were everywhere, probably several hundred of them. It's impossible to get an accurate count since most of them disappear quickly into the dense vegetation. I wonder if there's a Painted Bunting lurking in one of the weed-choked ponds. To my knowledge two have shown up at the EOP in August.
I was hoping that we might get the full complement of swallows today but two absentees prevented that. Northern Rough-winged should be regular but has been missed more often than seen recently. It's time that Violet-green put in an appearance but it was a no-show today. You see, this is why we go birding. If we knew for sure what would be around we could stay home and just write down the list.45 species recorded at Sierra Vista EOP (6:15-10:00am; thin clouds; 70-85 degrees):
Monday, August 16, 2010
I had planned to visit Kino Springs this morning and was quite dismayed to find that the overnight rain was still coming down when I peeked outside at 4:00am. I decided to go ahead anyway. Sierra Vista was completely socked in when I got underway and it rained for almost the entire 70 minutes journey. I arrived at Kino Springs just after dawn (6:00am) not long after the rain stopped. For the next couple of hours it was cloudy, cool and very pleasant.
A male RUDDY GROUND-DOVE near the clubhouse was a pleasant surprise. I first saw the bird in a willow on the south side of the clubhouse pond. Eventually, it flew to the north towards the larger pond. Be aware that there are numerous COMMON GROUND-DOVES in this area to cause a potential identification problem. Although Ruddy Ground-Dove is essentially a rare fall through spring bird in southeast Arizona, it has had an increasing presence in recent years with some summer records and even a breeding record. This is the second time that I have seen one here in August. Whether it summered here or is an early fall arrival is open to speculation.
In the various weedy areas it was a case of "a bunting too far" and I had to settle for the trifecta of many LAZULI BUNTINGS, 2 INDIGO BUNTINGS and multiple VARIED BUNTINGS. The latter two were at the first "pond" (a.k.a. weed patch); Lazuli Buntings were present throughout. I only spent a few minutes looking for the previously reported Painted Bunting. I could probably have spent hours staring into the weeds and still not seen the bird. Not my bag of chips at all.
The birding was very good and I recorded a total of 48 species before the mosquitoes got the better of me. I was hoping for a good showing of migrants but only came up with WARBLING VIREO and WILSON'S WARBLER. As with other visits this summer, I failed to detect Gray Hawk and Tropical Kingbird.
Regulars included 7 BLACK-BELLIED WHISTLING-DUCKS, YELLOW-BILLED CUCKOO, VERMILION FLYCATCHER, BELL'S VIREO, numerous PHAINOPEPLAS, YELLOW-BREASTED CHAT, ABERT'S TOWHEE, at least 5 singing RUFOUS-WINGED SPARROWS and plentiful BLUE GROSBEAKS.
My second surprise of the day came near the marina at Patagonia Lake State Park where I saw a ROSEATE SPOONBILL lazily flying east over the lake. After making a quick phone report, I attempted to relocate the bird; first at Boulder Beach and then by hoofing it over to the northeast corner of the lake. No luck I'm afraid and that corner of the lake had only GREAT BLUE and GREEN HERONS and GREAT EGRET. However, there were a number of coves that I didn't check due to mud and soggy, dense vegetation. The bird could still be around. I also scanned the west end of the lake near the spillway.
Roseate Spoonbill is considered "casual" in southeast Arizona. I'm not sure
how many records there are but it's probably between 10 and 20. This was only my
second sighting in the state (previously at Nogales sewage ponds way back in
1996). It was also a new species for me at the state park (#268 and slowly
I didn't spent much time at the lake other than my efforts to relocate the spoonbill. I noted 40+ species including GRAY HAWK, NORTHERN BEARDLESS-TYRANNULET, LUCY'S WARBLER (can be a difficult bird to find after mid August); at least 6 singing VARIED BUNTINGS (3 seen) and a good showing of sparrows on the grassland approaches -- I saw RUFOUS-WINGED, CASSIN'S, BOTTERI'S, RUFOUS-CROWNED, LARK & BLACK-THROATED SPARROWS. All except Lark Sparrow were singing.
I made a short visit to the Paton's Yard where I saw GRAY HAWK and a couple of VIOLET-CROWNED HUMMINGBIRDS among 20 regular species.
I finished up with a brief stop at the south entrance of Las Cienegas. Sparrow activity has diminished since my last visit but I still saw multiple CASSIN'S, BOTTERI'S and GRASSHOPPER SPARROWS within 100 yards of Hwy 82.75 species recorded:
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
This morning I checked Whitewater Draw Wildlife area at the south end of Sulphur Springs Valley. Although the birding was reasonably good, I didn't stay as long as I had planned and probably missed a bunch of species. I could handle the heat and humidity; and the cloying mud that increases height at the rate of 1/2 inch per footstep (requiring constant removal), but I could not handle the flies. They simply would not leave me alone. All in all, a very unpleasant experience. Now I know why I haven't visited here very often in August despite the migrant potential.
The water level in all impoundments is up significantly compared to last month and water birds currently plenty of choice regarding location. Consequently, many of the birds were quite distant. However, with good light, zero wind and plenty of scanning, I managed pick out a number of shorebirds. In southeastern Arizona terms, SOLITARY SANDPIPER was the least common species that I came across. Although this is an uncommon transient and to be expected, it certainly can't be put into the category of "visit a shorebird spot during migration and you will definitely see one".
Other shorebirds were 2 GREATER & 10 LESSER YELLOWLEGS,
15 WILSON'S PHALAROPES, SPOTTED SANDPIPER and moderate numbers of LEAST & WESTERN SANDPIPERS.
I also noted 35 WHITE-FACED IBIS and a lone AVOCET.
Still too early for much in the way of winter ducks. GREEN-WINGED TEAL is one of the early returning ducks and there were plenty of them along with the regular CINNAMON TEAL. Also present were tons of MALLARDS including many young of the year.
Just like everywhere else that has a weed patch at the moment, LAZULI BUNTINGS and LARK SPARROWS were abundant. I noted one migrant WILSON'S WARBLER. Apart from TREE and CLIFF SWALLOWS, I didn't see any additional migrants. The weedy ponds annually attract lots of Tree Swallows and every year in October there are many thousands of them staging here. Seeing 5000+ perched swallows is quite a spectacle. The cool down in mid October seems like an impossible dream at the moment.
Among the other species at Whitewater were GAMBEL'S QUAIL, GREAT HORNED OWL, LADDER-BACKED WOODPECKER, VERMILION FLYCATCHER and a flock of ~100 YELLOW-HEADED BLACKBIRDS.
After leaving the wildlife area I cruised around numerous back roads,
ostensibly looking for Lark Buntings. This is an interesting bird in terms of
its presence in Arizona. They are abundant in winter and when you consider late
departing birds and early arriving birds, there isn't a month when they
definitely can't be seen (least likely to be seen from late May through June).
There have been a few reports already but I came up empty today despite checking
many of their regular haunts.
I had to work for thrashers and eventually found a juvenile BENDIRE'S THRASHER on Lee Road, CRISSAL THRASHER on Coffman Road and a juvenile CRISSAL on Bell Road. SWAINSON'S HAWKS were numerous throughout, particularly on Central Highway. Other species seen included multiple SCALED QUAIL, GREATER ROADRUNNER, approximately one billion WESTERN KINGBIRDS, LOGGERHEAD SHRIKE, PYRRHULOXIA, BLUE GROSBEAK and numerous singing BLACK-THROATED SPARROWS and EASTERN MEADOWLARKS.
During my early morning drive and return drive along Davis Road, I heard lots of singing CASSIN'S SPARROWS on both sides of the road between mile markers 5 and 14. I also noted 3 LESSER NIGHTHAWKS.60 species recorded:
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
Today I checked Sawmill Canyon on Fort Huachuca. Lots of rain has fallen this week (including plenty last night) and all of the stream crossings in upper Garden Canyon were running strongly. There was also water on the road and it may be difficult to reach Sawmill in a small vehicle for the next day or so (or longer if more rain falls).
Sawmill Canyon itself had much more running water than usual. Early bird activity was really subdued until the sun broke through at 8:00am.
BUFF-BREASTED FLYCATCHERS remain reasonably easy to locate even though they are not very vocal now. I did encounter some chase activity and calling today. Their numbers start to fall off a little in the last week of August and they become more difficult to find in September, especially by the last week. I have a few records for first week of October but they certainly can't be relied upon at all after late September. Buff-breasted Flycatchers have been more widespread than normal this year and have appeared in non-traditional locations. Perhaps some of them will stick around a little longer.
Although I didn't encounter a hoped for mixed migrant flock, I did find my first of season HERMIT WARBLER. My average first fall sighting date in Sawmill is August 31 with an early date of August 6. Later here than further north. Funny how that works.
For the second successive visit I found a calling NORTHERN PYGMY-OWL and the attendant mobsters that included BROAD-TAILED & MAGNIFICENT HUMMINGBIRDS and the aforementioned flycatcher and warbler.
Other stuff elsewhere in the canyon included ARIZONA WOODPECKER, GREATER PEWEE, DUSKY-CAPPED and SULPHUR-BELLIED FLYCATCHERS, STELLER'S JAY, BROWN CREEPER, EASTERN BLUEBIRD, PAINTED REDSTART, YELLOW-EYED JUNCO and HEPATIC TANAGER.
As I headed back down Garden Canyon, a female ELEGANT TROGON flew ahead of me then perched obligingly in an oak. This was in the riparian section just above the rappel cliffs.
Earlier, before heading to Sawmill, I spent 30 minutes in Garden Canyon grassland where BOTTERI'S SPARROWS continue numerous and vocal. Somewhat surprisingly though, I did not hear Cassin's in locations where I've regularly seen birds skylarking and singing. I get the impression that there are fewer Cassin's than normal this year; for Botteri's it's just the opposite.
Saturday, August 21, 2010
First of two days with Mark and Thea Sinclair from Hickory, NC. On a very cloudy and humid morning, we visited Sawmill and Scheelite Canyons in search of 5 target species. Although we didn't see many species, we certainly had success with all our target species. Upper Garden Canyon road had far less running water today and we made it up to Sawmill in a low clearance vehicle.
No targets in Garden Canyon grasslands so we didn't linger and headed directly up the mountain. BLUE GROSBEAKS were prolific with singing birds perched every few hundred yards as we drove by. Ditto for singing BOTTERI'S SPARROWS.
Our time in Sawmill Canyon was highlighted by good views of NORTHERN PYGMY-OWL,
although not without expending some physical effort to reach the bird. The owl
called sporadically (with long periods of silence) but enough to allow us to
track its movement. I eventually figured it was in a tall pine and Thea spotted
it a few minutes later. I was blocked by a foreground juniper and would never
had seen it from my position. Today marked the third successive visit that I
have looked for and seen the bird. I was concerned that I would go to the well one
times and find it dry. Thankfully, that wasn't the case.
As earlier in the week on Wednesday, BUFF-BREASTED FLYCATCHERS remain fairly common and we enjoyed good views after initially encountering several very stubborn birds.
I've dipped on finding a mixed flock thus far this "fall", I was very pleased
to come across
one today, especially since it contained a family group of OLIVE WARBLERS. The
downside was the really crappy light looking high in the pines against a heavy, gray sky. GRACE'S and HERMIT WARBLERS were in the flock and probably other stuff. However, given
bad light and no target warblers other than Olive, we moved on.
Other species in the canyon included BROAD-TAILED & MAGNIFICENT HUMMINGBIRDS; ARIZONA WOODPECKER, SULPHUR-BELLIED FLYCATCHER, PLUMBEOUS, HUTTON'S and WARBLING VIREOS; BROWN CREEPER, PAINTED REDSTART, HEPATIC TANAGER, LAZULI BUNTING (rare here) and YELLOW-EYED JUNCO. Lazuli Buntings are mostly a lowland migrant in southeast Arizona and I've seen them very infrequently in Sawmill (7 total records in 5 different years, all but two in fall).
We moved on to Scheelite Canyon where, given the very humid conditions, I was relieved to find a pair of SPOTTED OWLS without having to walk very far. We also had excellent unobstructed views. A double "Murphy gets screwed moment" of which I am so fond. As is often the case, the owls were completely unconcerned by our presence and hardly bothered to open their eyes. Very few other species in the canyon; just 8 total species in fact.
We had planned to reconvene in the evening for another expedition into the Huachucas for Western Screech-Owl. Unfortunately, there was a significant thunderstorm at owling time with spectacular lightning and heavy rain that forced us to forfeit the chance of the third owl species of the day.45 species recorded:
Sunday, August 22, 2010
Out again today for another bout of target birding with Mark and Thea. We visited Patagonia Lake, Kino Springs and Montosa Canyon looking for four species of which we found three, but only had satisfactory looks at two. Unlike yesterday we didn't get the benefit of early clouds and it was a warm, humid and buggy day. Ironically, after last night's rainout, very little rain fell in the evening.
We started with a very brief visit to Patagonia Lake to "guarantee" good views of VARIED BUNTING. Although there are many places to find this bird, the state park offers an excellent, undisturbed, opportunity to see the bird while standing on blacktop. As we enjoyed scope views of a cooperative bunting, the continuing immature BROWN PELICAN was seen circling over the west end of the lake. As the day progressed, numerous other buntings were heard at Kino Springs and Montosa Canyon.
Next stop was Kino Springs where it didn't take long to locate a spontaneously calling CRISSAL THRASHER in the wash west of the first pond. Unfortunately, the bird soon left without deigning to show itself. The wash had plenty of birds including my first of season MACGILLIVRAY'S WARBLER. Also present were ASH-THROATED FLYCATCHER, tons of PHAINOPEPLAS, LUCY'S WARBLER, YELLOW-BREASTED CHAT, CANYON & ABERT'S TOWHEES, RUFOUS-WINGED, RUFOUS-CROWNED & BLACK-THROATED SPARROWS and BLUE GROSBEAK.
Our visit to Montosa Canton was much more satisfying. We entered the (dry) streambed at the concrete crossing at 8:20am. BLACK-CAPPED GNATCATCHERS were first heard at 8:45am some 100 yards upstream. The birds moved upstream and called only sporadically as we continued to track them over a period of 45 minutes. Our reward came at 9:30am with excellent views of 2, probably 3 birds about 250 yards above the stream crossing. We saw only female/immature birds; nothing remotely resembling a black cap. The streambed was loaded with annoying gnats and other bugs and everyone was happy to be done!
As we searched, NASHVILLE WARBLER was my second season-first bird of the day. Other birds included WARBLING & BELL'S VIREOS; calling ROCK & CANYON WRENS; countless PHAINOPEPLAS, BLACK-HEADED GROSBEAK and VARIED BUNTING.
We returned to Kino Springs at 10:30am by which time it was already quite toasty. Nevertheless, a little persistence produced brief looks at two CRISSAL THRASHERS as they scurried away while a third was calling. Unfortunately, I managed a much better look than Mark and Thea.
We finished up in Patagonia looking for Zone-tailed Hawk without success. GRAY HAWK was the only raptor, one of six that that we saw throughout the day.
Despite dipping on the final bird of the day, we enjoyed good success over the two days and Mark and Thea left with enthusiasm to return for a winter visit.46 species recorded:
Monday, August 23, 2010
Out today with Dan Gesualdo and his mom, Lynn, from Cleveland, Ohio. Dan was here on an organized trip last month and returned so that his mom could experience the area. We spent all of our time on Fort Huachuca in Garden, Sawmill and Huachuca Canyons without looking for any hard targets. It was a muggy morning and rain came early (before noon). Birding was generally quite slow with long periods of nothing.
Garden Canyon grasslands yielded the usual BOTTERI'S & RUFOUS-CROWNED SPARROWS, BLUE GROSBEAKS and other regulars. No Cassin's Sparrows heard. VIOLET-GREEN SWALLOWS continue to gather and there was also quite a collection of BARN SWALLOWS today.
The most interesting bird was a single SOLITARY SANDPIPER in a roadside puddle just above Antelope Way. Puddles form every year in this location during the rainy season and this is the third year that I've seen Solitary Sandpiper at this spot. I was 10 feet from the bird without a camera.
SULPHUR-BELLIED FLYCATCHERS continue as noisy as ever from the middle picnic area up to the pictograph site.
Further up canyon closer to Sawmill, a soaring raptor, first glimpsed as we were driving, turned out to be a GOLDEN EAGLE. We quickly exited the vehicle and watched the bird until it dropped out of sight. While scanning a ridgeline, more in hope than expectation, I spotted the bird perched in a dead tree and we were able to get scope views. A real crowd pleaser -- well, it pleased Dan and Lynn and another birder who happened to pass by at the time.
Up in Sawmill Canyon, BUFF-BREASTED FLYCATCHERS were fairly quiet and inconspicuous today and it took quite some time to get a decent view. DUSKY-CAPPED FLYCATCHER and the still annoyingly common WESTERN WOOD-PEWEES were the only other flycatchers.
Warblers were limited to YELLOW-RUMPED, BLACK-THROATED GRAY, HERMIT
and GRACE'S WARBLER; and PAINTED REDSTART. This is right about on time
for Yellow-rumps to show up in Sawmill; adding their "whit" calls to the mix to
detecting the "pit" calls of Buff-breasted that much more difficult.
The NORTHERN PYGMY-OWL well was finally dry today and the bird was a heard-only. It led us on as we worked our way upslope towards it then stopped calling a few seconds before
we figured out where it was.
YELLOW-EYED JUNCOS were abundant and I noted several heavily streaked, dark-eyed juveniles. The real Dark-eyed Juncos could be here as soon as three weeks from now.
Back in Garden Canyon a GRAY HAWK was perched at the middle picnic area, a little higher up canyon than normal. SCALED QUAIL was seen near the Sportsman's Center. A midday stop at the fishing ponds produced hoped for LAZULI BUNTINGS.
Huachuca Canyon was deathly quiet in the early afternoon. No sign of Trogons and ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLER was the only addition to the day list.
66 species recorded:
Mallard, Scaled Quail, Turkey Vulture, Gray & Red-tailed Hawks; Golden Eagle, Am. Coot, Solitary Sandpiper, Rock Pigeon, Eurasian Collared-Dove, Mourning Dove, N. Pygmy-Owl, Black-chinned & Anna's Hummingbirds; Acorn, Gila, Ladder-backed & Arizona Woodpeckers; N. Flicker, Western Wood-Pewee, Buff-breasted, Dusky-capped & Sulphur-bellied Flycatchers; Black & Say's Phoebes; Cassin's & Western Kingbirds; Loggerhead Shrike, Plumbeous & Hutton's Vireos; Steller's & Mexican Jays; Chihuahuan & Common Ravens; Violet-green & Barn Swallows; Bridled Titmouse, Verdin, Bushtit, White-breasted Nuthatch, Brown Creeper, Canyon & Bewick's Wrens; Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Am. Robin, Curve-billed Thrasher, Phainopepla, Orange-crowned, Yellow, Yellow-rumped, Black-throated Gray, Hermit & Grace's Warblers; Painted Redstart, Spotted Towhee, Botteri's & Rufous-crowned Sparrows; Yellow-eyed Junco, Hepatic & Western Tanagers; Blue Grosbeak, Lazuli Bunting, Eastern Meadowlark, House Finch, Lesser Goldfinch and House Sparrow.
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
I really didn't have any time at all for birding today but I went out anyway! I decided to head to Sierra Vista EOP for two reasons: 1) - I missed the Sunday outing and 2) - a trip to the EOP has the least amount of overhead in terms of travel time. The downside to a weekday visit (when there's no access to internal areas) is the lack of open water visible from the viewing platform. I had to be content with whatever I could see in the marsh from the viewing platform and whatever was flying around, perched on poles, or perched in the few trees that are present.
I actually fared pretty well. Initial successes were an ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLER and an immature/female HOODED ORIOLE in the small pines south of the parking area. Both these species are super scarce at the EOP. Small numbers of LARK SPARROWS and LAZULI BUNTINGS were in the same location.
I heard the distinctive peet-weet call of SOLITARY SANDPIPER and saw two of them in flight.
I enjoyed scope views of SWAINSON'S HAWK and PEREGRINE FALCON, albeit at a distance. As I've mentioned before, YELLOW-HEADED BLACKBIRDS are always worth the price of admission. I never tire of looking at a marsh full of these babies.31 species recorded from the vicinity of the viewing platform at Sierra Vista EOP (6:15-7:35am; 67-83 degrees; thin clouds):
Thursday, August 26, 2010
Once again, I had limited time available for field work today. I'm working on client trip plans for next April and June (this also entails updates to my trip planning software); and I'm plodding through some ongoing and seemingly never-ending website revisions. Nevertheless, I managed to fit a fair amount of birding into my day by staying local. There was quite a contrast in weather conditions over a few miles and a short period of time this morning. It was very cool, windy and wet at the southern end of the Huachuca Mountains; sunny and 85 degrees at the EOP.
I started by checking lower Carr Canyon where I mainly focused on the picnic area above the second stream crossing. I had difficulty listening for birds because of stream noise. GRAY HAWK (possibly two) near the third stream crossing was the most interesting bird of the morning. Habitat here is predominantly dense oak and juniper, although it's not too far from riparian habitat. I have very few records for Gray Hawk in Carr. It's possible that they could breed in this area but my own lack of records and lack of reports from others argues against that.
Otherwise, it was typical fare. Among the species at the picnic area were ACORN, LADDER-BACKED & ARIZONA WOODPECKERS, PHAINOPEPA, BLACK-THROATED GRAY WARBLER, HEPATIC TANAGER and BLACK-HEADED GROSBEAK.
Additional species in the lower residential section (predominantly mesquite-grassland) included GILA WOODPECKER, CURVE-BILLED THRASHER, CANYON TOWHEE, BOTTERI'S SPARROW and BLUE GROSBEAK.
I continued south to Coronado National Memorial. The lush grassland in the first half mile from Highway 92 had singing GRASSHOPPER, CASSIN'S & BOTTERI'S SPARROWS in that order of increasing abundance. In the vicinity of the picnic area near the visitor center, I counted over 10 singing RUFOUS-CROWNED SPARROWS. Apparently, just like Gene Kelly, sparrows like to sing in the rain.
The unpaved section of the road up to Montezuma Pass is in very good condition. This section of the road is often extremely washboarded -- not so today. In fact, a grader was still working on the road. Unfortunately, the clouds, rain and wind conspired against me -- no birds and the normally spectacular view from the top of the pass was completely obscured. Otherwise, perfect!
I beat a hasty retreat from the mountain and headed down to Sierra Vista EOP where conditions were much better. I noted several indicators of seasonal movement -- a big push of TURKEY VULTURES heading south along the San Pedro Valley; many SWAINSON'S HAWKS gathered on an irrigation rig; and WESTERN KINGBIRDS gathered en masse along the fences.
Furthermore, despite the lack of ducks, the presence of LAZULI BUNTINGS, LARK SPARROWS and passage swallows gave me a strong feeling of fall. However, what I really want is late October.
Given the fact that there's only a few peek-a-boo views of water, I was happy to see WHITE-FACED IBIS, a couple of LEAST SANDPIPERS and over 40 WILSON'S PHALAROPES.
60 species recorded:
Mallard, Cinnamon Teal, Ruddy Duck, White-faced Ibis, Turkey Vulture, Gray, Swainson's & Red-tailed Hawks; Am. Coot, Killdeer, Least Sandpiper, Wilson's Phalarope, Rock Pigeon, White-winged & Mourning Doves; Anna's & Broad-tailed Hummingbirds; Acorn, Gila, Ladder-backed & Arizona Woodpeckers; Western Wood-Pewee, Say's Phoebe, Cassin's & Western Kingbirds; Mexican Jay, Chihuahuan Raven, Tree, Barn & Cliff Swallows; Bridled Titmouse, Verdin, Bushtit, White-breasted Nuthatch, Cactus, Canyon & Bewick's Wrens; N. Mockingbird, Curve-billed Thrasher, Phainopepla, Black-throated Gray Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, Canyon Towhee, Cassin's, Botteri's, Rufous-crowned, Lark, Grasshopper & Song Sparrows; Hepatic Tanager, Black-headed & Blue Grosbeaks; Lazuli Bunting, Red-winged & Yellow-headed Blackbirds; Eastern Meadowlark, Great-tailed Grackle, House Finch, Lesser Goldfinch and House Sparrow.
Sunday, August 29, 2010
There was an above average sized group at Sierra Vista EOP this morning and the birding was also above average, particularly in terms of shorebirds.
Best bird of the outing for me was also the first bird -- an OSPREY perched on a tall pole near the entrance gate. Personally, it was my 4th record at the EOP (seen in three different years) and a first for August. It was certainly the least seen amongst today's group tally of 57 species. You never know what you might see!
A group of 7-9 BULLOCK'S ORIOLES in a Palo Verde near the viewing platform was a good omen before we got underway. A couple of YELLOW WARBLERS worked the same tree. For those not familiar with the EOP, trees are at a premium at this location.
The highlight for all (except the unfortunate teal involved) was seeing a PEREGRINE FALCON nail a CINNAMON TEAL in mid air. The falcon proceeded to decapitate the teal then flew off (with difficulty) to enjoy its meal at a safe distance. Nature in the raw. The only negative aspect of this incident was that we had to adjust our teal count downward by one.
Duck numbers and diversity are picking up a little with moderate sized groups of GREEN-WINGED TEAL and NORTHERN SHOVELERS joining those already present. RUDDY DUCKS with youngsters were seen to confirm breeding.
The first MARSH WRENS of the season were chattering in at least two of the interior marshy ponds, perhaps three birds total. Last year was the first year that I have recorded a Marsh Wren in August at the EOP (first bird was on August 16, 2009). Most years they have first shown up in early September. This year I had an extremely early bird at Willcox on August 13.
Shorebird presence was excellent today. In addition to an early WILSON'S SNIPE that I missed, we saw 2 SPOTTED, a single SOLITARY, 2 WESTERN, perhaps as many as 30 LEAST (main area + Moson Access) and 5 BAIRD'S SANDPIPERS; and many WILSON'S PHALAROPES. It was difficult to get an accurate count of phalaropes because they were scattered throughout. I'd be surprised if there were less than 50. None could be turned into Red-necked. There was also a group of 37 WHITE-FACED IBIS.
A couple of EURASIAN COLLARED-DOVES flying over the marsh represented an uncommon sighting. They are sometimes seen at the property boundary near residences.
SORAS were heard on the main walk and seen on the eastern side of the area (accessed from Moson Road). Ditto for BLACK-THROATED SPARROW and LAZULI BUNTING (bunting numbers were way down today). Species on the east side and not on the main walk were 5 WHITE-WINGED DOVES, a singing BELL'S VIREO (but much quieter today) and HOUSE FINCH.
YELLOW-HEADED BLACKBIRDS seem to like the Moson ponds and probably as many as a 1000 birds were present there today (mostly females and immature birds).
Swallow numbers were generally lower than in recent weeks and only TREE SWALLOWS were numerous among five species (still no Violet-green at this location yet).
WESTERN KINGBIRD was the most common flycatcher (albeit in less numbers than usual). We also saw a couple of CASSIN'S KINGBIRDS, BLACK and SAY'S PHOEBES and VERMILION FLYCATCHER.
The group total was 57. I missed Rock Pigeon (so devastating), Wilson's Snipe and Bewick's Wren.54 species recorded at Sierra Vista EOP (6:15-10:15am; partly cloudy; light breeze; 64-86 degrees):
Monday, August 30, 2010
I had limited field time available today so I decided check on Spotted Owls in Scheelite Canyon for what I hoped would be a quick in and out visit. Disappointingly, it turned into a Spotted Owl-less visit.
When I saw and heard the amount of water flowing in Garden Canyon creek I already feared the worst. Water was also flowing in Scheelite Canyon, although nowhere near as strongly. I suspected that owls wouldn't be present in the lower roosting area due to the water noise and that turned out to be the case. My roosting data over the years shows that the owls spend more time in the middle and upper roosting areas in late August and September -- perhaps because of the above reason.
Unfortunately, since I didn't have the time to continue searching further up canyon, I reluctantly had to leave to slave over a hot keyboard. I'd bumped into recent transplant from California, Alan Schmierer, at the trailhead and we walked up canyon together. He continued on, perhaps with success?
The walk up canyon produced one mixed flock consisting only of BRIDLED TITMICE and BLACK-THROATED GRAY & TOWNSEND'S WARBLERS.
Among the heard-only species were SULPHUR-BELLIED FLYCATCHER, CANYON WREN, a singing BROWN CREEPER, several singing RUFOUS-CROWNED SPARROWS on the canyon slopes and HEPATIC TANAGER.
My walk out yielded CASSIN'S VIREO, WESTERN SCRUB-JAY, PAINTED REDSTART and BLACK-HEADED GROSBEAK.
A single HERMIT THRUSH about 1/2m into the canyon represented a fairly early date for this location, 10 days earlier than my previous early sighting of September 9. These birds breed at higher elevation in the Huachucas and move down for the winter. No way to tell if it was a local breeder or a bird from further north.
Earlier, I stopped at Garden Canyon fishing ponds and enjoyed considerably more success. While scanning the many VIOLET-GREEN SWALLOWS for an early Vaux's Swift, a ZONE-TAILED HAWK appeared in my field of view as it slowly drifted south.
Other migrants/seasonal movers at the ponds among 25 species noted were OLIVE-SIDED and GRAY FLYCATCHERS (both f-o-s for me), WILSON'S WARBLER, SUMMER TANAGER and LAZULI BUNTING.
Numerous BOTTERI'S SPARROWS continue extremely vocal in the grassland. I failed to detect Cassin's Sparrow. BLUE GROSBEAKS also continue to be conspicuous singers.52 species recorded:
Tuesday, August 31, 2010
This morning I visited San Rafael Valley with the sole aim of finding an early Baird's Sparrow. It's a dirty job but somebody has to do it. Those with good memories might recall that I found a bird in early September a couple of years ago (September 4, 2008, to be exact). At the time I vowed to try on August 31. Last year I was busy on that date but today I made the effort. Unfortunately, the sparrows were not on the same page. Hell, they didn't even get the memo.
After a pleasantly cool start, the day warmed rapidly and it was the warmest day for some time as the monsoon starts to wind down. September is almost upon us and, as I've mentioned many times before, September is really June in disguise.
I left home at 5:00am and headed out through Fort Huachuca west gate. Driving through the fort, multiple CANYON TOWHEES, a few BOTTERI'S SPARROWS and untold numbers of BLUE GROSBEAKS were singing in the pre-dawn gloom. As I entered the valley at dawn, conditions were clear and a little chilly (although that didn't last very long). As always, views were spectacular and well worth the price of admission (in this case, getting up in the middle of the night).
Not surprisingly with such a productive monsoon this year, the valley is extremely lush from end to end. GRASSHOPPER SPARROWS are absolutely abundant and it's not an exaggeration to say that I saw over 100 and heard many more. I saw them along FR 799 starting near the eastern entrance to Little Outfit Ranch (the "official" start of the valley for my bookkeeping purposes) and along FR 58 all the way to the west end of the valley at the top of Harshaw Canyon, a distance of about six miles. I saw the sparrows both on the road itself and perched on the fences. Many were carrying food.
The grass is very high and it was a challenge searching for Baird's Sparrow. How does that song go -- "the grass is high and the chiggers are jumpin'". I gave it 90 minutes in two locations and came up empty. No other sparrows noted apart from Grasshopper. When they arrive, Baird's, Savannah & Vesper Sparrows are going to find excellent conditions for their winter sojourn.
A female BLACK-CHINNED HUMMINGBIRD perched in "lone tree" was a novelty and a valley first for me. I saw the usual suspects including AMERICAN KESTREL, CASSIN'S KINGBIRD, HORNED LARK and EASTERN MEADOWLARK. No Harriers or Kites and no waterfowl noted on the stock ponds.
I took the long way home via Patagonia and exited the valley via Harshaw Canyon. I always enjoy driving this route and today was as pleasant and interesting as ever. CHIPPING SPARROWS were present in numbers including many streaked juveniles. Plenty of RUFOUS-CROWNED SPARROWS were singing from the rocky slopes. On Harshaw Creek Road I stopped to check out the call of a MACGILLIVRAY'S WARBLER and saw a male in the same willow as two VIRGINIA'S WARBLERS. I also saw PHAINOPEPLA, WESTERN TANAGER, BLACK-HEADED GROSBEAK and SCOTT'S ORIOLE.
Along SR 82 east of Sonoita I stopped at Las Cienegas south entrance (I hadn't seen enough Grasshopper Sparrows). GRASSHOPPER, BOTTERI'S and CASSIN'S SPARROWS were all going at it very close to the highway. This is always a productive location for grassland sparrows.
I bought the ticket today but didn't win the raffle (a.k.a. "grunt work").
37 species recorded:
Turkey Vulture, Swainson's & Red-tailed Hawks; Am. Kestrel, Rock Pigeon, Mourning Dove, Black-chinned Hummingbird, Acorn Woodpecker, Black Phoebe, Cassin's & Western Kingbirds; Mexican Jay, Chihuahuan & Common Ravens; Horned Lark, Barn Swallow, Bridled Titmouse, Verdin, Bewick's Wren, Curve-billed Thrasher, Phainopepla, Virginia's & MacGillivray's Warblers; Spotted & Canyon Towhees; Cassin's, Botteri's, Rufous-crowned, Chipping & Grasshopper Sparrows; Western Tanager, Black-headed & Blue Grosbeaks; Eastern Meadowlark, Yellow-headed Blackbird, Scott's Oriole and Lesser Goldfinch.
This log is in chronological order and the most recent entries
are at the bottom of the page.
The last update was on Tuesday, August 31, 2010
Aug Species Seen
Journal - August, 2010
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