Nov Species Seen
Journal - November, 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 Sunday, November 28, 2010
Wednesday, November 3, 2010
I spent a very pleasant three hours at Willcox this morning. Although I didn't see anything rare, the birding was quite decent and I recorded 50 species. It was chilly enough to use the car heater just after dawn and I had to resist the temptation to use A/C when I left at 9:30am.
There's been a noticeable switch to "winter birds" since my last visit two weeks ago. In particular, it was good to see and hear SANDHILL CRANES again. Some 250 birds were milling around in the grassland west of the main pond. Two flocks of CHESTNUT-COLLARED LONGSPURS totaling 150 birds and at least 70 LARK BUNTINGS were additional signs of the season. Both these species were working around the temporal pond and channel south and southwest of the golf course pond respectively. The longspurs were very skittish and only occasionally came in to drink.
VESPER and SAVANNAH SPARROWS were abundant throughout; BREWER'S SPARROWS were in short supply. Interestingly, for the second consecutive trip I didn't see a single White-crowned Sparrow. Hard to believe. EASTERN and WESTERN MEADOWLARKS were loosely associated and easily seen (and heard) in the grassland near the golf course buildings.
Raptors were quite conspicuous and I noted 4 NORTHERN HARRIERS (1 male); an immature COOPER'S HAWK (scarce here), 4 RED-TAILED HAWKS, and singletons of AMERICAN KESTREL and PRAIRIE FALCON. The Prairie Falcon was on Fairway Drive (this road parallels the northern edge of the golf course). Most of my Willcox sightings have been along this road.
At the golf course pond I saw a male REDHEAD that had a problem with its "tongue" (hyoid apparatus), In fact, it may be missing its lower mandible. I shot the image from the opposite side of the pond so it's hard to tell exactly what the problem is. Also around the pond were VIRGINIA RAIL (heard only), SORA (well seen), the usual BLACK & SAY'S PHOEBES; a continuing CASSIN'S KINGBIRD, LOGGERHEAD SHRIKE, MARSH WREN, several YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLERS and LINCOLN'S SPARROW.
The main pond still has a few shorebirds/waders including a lone AMERICAN AVOCET, a few WESTERN and 30+ LEAST SANDPIPERS; 1 DUNLIN and 12+ LONG-BILLED DOWITCHERS. In addition to the usual common ducks and grebes, I saw 4 PINTAILS and 2 LESSER SCAUP. The only gulls were 3 RING-BILLED GULLS. Many HORNED LARKS and a few AMERICAN PIPITS worked the shoreline.
A fly-by immature DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANT represented a very scarce sighting for this location. I've averaged less than one every two years.55 species recorded:
Friday, November 5, 2010
On a beautiful, blue sky morning in the Sierra Vista area, I visited the highway 90 area of the San Pedro RNCA. The temperature was a fairly mild 42 degrees when I left home at dawn; colder than that on the river as evidenced by some patchy frost in a couple of shady areas. Afternoon temperature reached the mid 80s (is this really November?).
After a quick check around the San Pedro House, I walked the grassland trail to Kingfisher Pond then checked Black Phoebe Pond; returning east along Garden Wash then north along the river. Sparrows were the order of the day. I saw most of the usual suspects starting around the San Pedro House but the weedy habitat near Black Phoebe Pond was the top spot. Sparrows apart, species diversity was fairly low and I recorded only 36 species in 3 hours.
As expected, WHITE-CROWNED were the most common sparrow, although VESPER were not too far behind. BREWER'S were the next most numerous followed by SAVANNAH and CHIPPING. I noted only a few LINCOLN'S (they were very common last month). GREEN-TAILED TOWHEES continue in well above average numbers. It's ironic that the tail is partially obscured -- the bird refused to play nice and strike an unobstructed pose. A lone PINK-SIDED JUNCO represented a fairly scarce sighting in this location (Dark-eyed Juncos are few and far between on this part of the San Pedro).
Highlight for me was a spiffy male BUFFLEHEAD accompanied by a female on Kingfisher Pond. Bufflehead is my favorite duck and they are decidedly scarce in this location (I'm still in single digit sightings after 18 years).
Also of note were a handful of PINE SISKINS seen near the San Pedro House and at Black Phoebe Pond. I see them most years on the river in low numbers from late September through May. I saw my first lowland birds of the season at Patagonia Lake on October 26.
Other species included RED-NAPED SAPSUCKER (San Pedro House), GRAY FLYCATCHER (south of K pond), DUSKY FLYCATCHER and 2 sporadically singing CASSIN'S VIREOS (both species on river trail); HOUSE WREN (above average numbers, fairly common throughout); CRISSAL THRASHER on the east side of the river; numerous PYRRHULOXIAS and a handful of singing WESTERN MEADOWLARKS.42 species recorded:
Sunday, November 7, 2010
Five locals and seven visitors (most from Canada) walked around the ponds at Sierra Vista EOP this morning. Weather conditions turned out to be excellent with bright sunshine, zero wind and a temperature that didn't break the low 70s through 10:00am. Unseasonably warm days continue though and the afternoon temperature in town reached the mid 80s. Birding was fairly low key and I only managed 42 species.
Scope views of SORA and VIRGINIA RAIL were perhaps the highlights. Both are usually present in numbers (as they were today) but it's not very often that we see either of them, let alone both. PEREGRINE FALCON was also a crowd pleaser -- we saw a bird perched on a dike as well as soaring for a long period; the bird also made a half-hearted pass at a PINTAIL.
Nine regular duck species were seen along with a lone EARED GREBE. Shorebirds have tailed off with only KILLDEER and 4 LONG-BILLED DOWITCHERS noted today.
Wintering WESTERN MEADOWLARKS have been present for several weeks and today I counted at least 30 of them. Many were singing when I arrived at 7:00am (note that the walk does not start until 8:00am). Other winter species included 4 NORTHERN HARRIERS, a handful of HORNED LARKS and the typical complement of sparrows, although Brewer's was missed. Seeing large numbers of YELLOW-HEADED BLACKBIRDS is always worth the price of admission. At least 50 BREWER'S BLACKBIRDS were present.
Least common location species were ROCK WREN (a winter regular); a female VERMILION FLYCATCHER and a COOPER'S HAWK.42 species recorded at Sierra Vista EOP (7:00-10:15am; clear, calm 45-73 degrees):
Monday, November 8, 2010
Out today for some casual birding with Ryan Gehman and his mom, Loretta, from PA. We birded at Patagonia Lake State Park, Kino Springs and Paton's Yard. It was another fine weather morning; cooler than of late in the afternoon and quite windy.
We started by scanning the west end of the lake from the day use area west of the marina. The water was glassy and we were easily able to pick out the continuing COMMON (2) and PACIFIC LOONS. We also noted 2 OSPREYS, a flotilla of RUDDY DUCKS, EARED & PIED BILLED GREBES and a couple of GADWALLS.
Around the visitor center we added a flurry of species in short order including BELTED KINGFISHER, PLUMBEOUS VIREO, VERDIN, PHAINOPEPLA, ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLER, GREEN-TAILED TOWHEE, LINCOLN'S SPARROW and PYRRHULOXIA.
At the east end of the lake we ran into the Monday morning birdwalk (operated by Friends of Sonoita Creek) and they pointed out the continuing AMERICAN BITTERN (present since October 22). We had good looks at the bird as it slunk through low vegetation. The bird was still present on our return journey and obliged us with its "freeze and point-to-the sky" routine while posing in the open. Fantastic views that only come when not carrying a camera. American Bittern is a rare transient and wintering species in southeast Arizona. I have a total of 17 sightings at Patagonia Lake in 7 different years dating back to 1994; slightly more in spring than in fall (10-7).
Along the marsh-lined section of the trail we also had good looks at SORA but only heard MARSH WREN and COMMON YELLOWTHROAT. In the mesquite and willows we saw male and female LADDER-BACKED WOODPECKERS, GRAY FLYCATCHER (one seen, several others heard); two separate groups of BRIDLED TITMICE and NORTHERN CARDINAL.
After scanning the east end of the lake, where we saw little of note, the best moment of the morning came in the adjacent willow forest. As we tracked a calling ABERT'S TOWHEE, Ryan raised his glasses and said "I've got a trogon!". Sure enough, an adult male ELEGANT TROGON was perched high in a willow. Location was along a small side creek in the willow forest, some 150 yards east of the east end of the lake. Walking 100 yards or so north from this point would put you at the main creek. The bird soon flew towards us and began to feed in small willows in its typical ungainly fashion, occasionally giving its annoyed "clucking" call. We enjoyed excellent views and were able to get a couple of other birders on the bird. A trogon has wintered here each year since the winter of 98-99 which make this the 11th winter (assuming that it's the same bird).
We moved on to Kino Springs where I hoped to locate a VERMILION FLYCATCHER. Initial success was tempered by that fact that the bird was a female. However, it wasn't long before we found a stunning male. The large group of BLACK-BELLIED WHISTLING-DUCKS continue on the clubhouse pond. We also noted many AMERICAN WIGEON, several NORTHERN PINTAILS, RING-NECKED DUCK and a number of sparrow species -- many CHIPPING and a few VESPER, SAVANNAH, LARK, LINCOLN'S & WHITE-CROWNED SPARROWS.
We finished up in the Paton's Yard where we spent over an hour without seeing Violet-crowned Hummingbird. Lots of ANNA'S HUMMINGBIRDS were the only hummingbirds present. An unidentified accipter kept the birds subdued. Among the species noted were small groups of GAMBEL'S QUAIL and INCA & WHITE-WINGED DOVES.70 species recorded:
Tuesday, November 9, 2010
I was out again today with Loretta Gehman from PA. We visited Sulphur Springs Valley and lower Carr Canyon. After a couple of calm early morning hours, birding was a challenge as the wind increased and we barely managed to break 70 species.
A slow, early morning drive down Coffman Road in Sulphur Springs Valley produced decent views of perched up CRISSAL and 2 BENDIRE'S THRASHERS. We had great scope views of CRISSAL THRASHER on Lee Road. LARK BUNTINGS were seen in multiple locations throughout the valley including 100 on Bagby Road.
At Whitewater Draw, water is still being pumped but levels remain low in the largest impoundment. There were more birders than usual at the Wildlife Area today (looking unsuccessfully for the presumed departed Grove-billed Ani). Seasonal highlights for us were SWAMP SPARROW and LAZULI BUNTING. The Swamp Sparrow was in the same place that I found it ten days ago on October 31 -- the first impoundment to the north as you walk west from the parking area. As before, the bird revealed its presence by its loud and repeated "chip" note.
Others birds included 7 duck species (none were particularly numerous); GREATER YELLOWLEGS, 50+ LEAST SANDPIPERS, 2 GREAT HORNED OWLS, VERMILION FLYCATCHER, a few TREE SWALLOWS, AMERICAN PIPIT and the usual common sparrows. Plenty of SANDHILL CRANES around as the morning progressed.
Elsewhere in the valley, thirty miles of cruising produced only a single FERRUGINOUS HAWK about 0.5 miles south of Elfrida on Central Highway. Just a few short years ago such a drive could easily have produced over 20 individuals. Damn those Corn and Cotton fields.
A mid afternoon visit to lower Carr Canyon was tough going. However, we did find a male OLIVE WARBLER at the picnic area above the second stream crossing (regular here in winter); and several ARIZONA WOODPECKERS and an (oddly plumaged) female WILLIAMSON'S SAPSUCKER on the trail south of the third stream crossing (this is near Carr House). CASSIN'S KINGBIRD continues in the residential section.
The most interesting bird of the day for me was a lone TURKEY VULTURE being blown every which way on Hwy 92 in Sierra Vista. Apart from a few birds in Douglas, TVs withdraw from Cochise County in winter and this was only my second November sighting (the other was back in 2000).
71 species recorded:
Gadwall, Am. Wigeon, Mallard, N. Shoveler, N. Pintail, Green-winged Teal, Ruddy Duck, Gambel's Quail, Turkey Vulture, N. Harrier, Cooper's, Red-tailed & Ferruginous Hawks; Am. Kestrel, Sora, Am. Coot, Sandhill Crane, Killdeer, Greater Yellowlegs, Least Sandpiper, Rock Pigeon, Eurasian Collared-Dove, Mourning Dove, Great Horned Owl, Acorn, Ladder-backed & Arizona Woodpeckers; Williamson's Sapsucker, N. Flicker, Black & Say's Phoebes; Vermilion Flycatcher, Cassin's Kingbird, Loggerhead Shrike, Mexican Jay, Chihuahuan & Common Ravens; Horned Lark, Tree Swallow, Bridled Titmouse, Verdin, White-breasted Nuthatch, Bewick's & Marsh Wrens; Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Bendire's, Curve-billed & Crissal Thrashers; Am. Pipit, Olive & Yellow-rumped Warblers; Common Yellowthroat, Chipping, Brewer's, Vesper, Black-throated, Savannah, Song, Lincoln's, Swamp & White-crowned Sparrows; Lark Bunting, Dark-eyed Junco, Lazuli Bunting, Red-winged, Yellow-headed & Brewer's Blackbirds; Western Meadowlark, Great-tailed Grackle, House Finch and Lesser Goldfinch.
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
It was a gorgeous morning in Cochise County after the first serious overnight freeze of the season. I visited the ponds at Willcox and Benson sewage pond.
Birding at Willcox was fairly routine and the most interesting sighting was watching SCALED QUAIL and LARK BUNTINGS ice skating on the small pond just south of the cattle guard at the entrance to the main pond. More Scaled Quail were at the composting dump site. A male NORTHERN HARRIER eventually came by and scattered all the birds off the ice. At least three Harriers were present and they continually scared up HORNED LARKS, AMERICAN PIPITS and 50+ CHESTNUT-COLLARED LONGSPURS from the margins of the main pond and adjacent grassland.
I failed to find any geese (Snow and Ross's were seen here yesterday) and a hoped for Bonaparte's Gull. The only gull was RING-BILLED GULL. By my own records, Bonaparte's Gulls typically show up at Willcox from late October through November. I've been seeing reports from states further north for some time and on each recent visit to Willcox I've expected to see this species. Not so far though.
Five species of ducks were present with AMERICAN WIGEON being the most numerous. I noted a single AMERICAN AVOCET along with a few LONG-BILLED DOWITCHERS and many LEAST SANDPIPERS. I saw all of the expected sparrow species except White-crowned. Other species included the usual EURASIAN COLLARED-DOVES, multiple SAY'S PHOEBES & LOGGERHEAD SHRIKES; MARSH WREN, WESTERN MEADOWLARK and a few YELLOW-HEADED BLACKBIRDS. 34 species in all at Willcox.
I also didn't find any geese or gulls at Benson. However, duck diversity was better than Willcox (8 species) with 10+ CANVASBACKS being the pick. RING-NECKED DUCK was the most common species. Several hundred LARK BUNTINGS were in the weed patch between the north pond and the (dry) south pond. I saw all the same sparrows as at Willcox plus WHITE-CROWNED. A female VERMILION FLYCATCHER was another addition.
It's puzzling to me that I've failed to see White Crowned Sparrow regularly at Willcox this fall. I saw one on October 1 but not on four subsequent visits. They are certainly present in numbers in other usual locations so there's presumably something lacking for them habitat-wise at Willcox.
49 species recorded:
Gadwall, Am. Wigeon, Mallard, N. Shoveler, Green-winged Teal, Canvasback, Ring-necked & Ruddy Ducks; Scaled Quail, N. Harrier, Sharp-shinned & Red-tailed Hawks; Am. Kestrel, Am. Coot, Killdeer, Am. Avocet, Least Sandpiper, Long-billed Dowitcher, Ring-billed Gull, Rock Pigeon, Eurasian Collared-Dove, Mourning Dove, Gila Woodpecker, Black & Say's Phoebes; Vermilion Flycatcher, Loggerhead Shrike, Chihuahuan Raven, Horned Lark, Marsh Wren, Curve-billed Thrasher, European Starling, Am. Pipit, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, Brewer's, Vesper, Savannah, Song, Lincoln's & White-crowned Sparrows; Lark Bunting, Chestnut-collared Longspur, Pyrrhuloxia, Western Meadowlark, Yellow-headed Blackbird, Great-tailed Grackle, House Finch and House Sparrow.
Sunday, November 14, 2010
Just a brief report today.
|Website note: As many of you will have noticed, my website was down for several days early last week. Although I've been with the same website host for 12 years, I feared the worst when my calls to tech support went unreturned and I reluctantly decided to find a new host. Unfortunately, the change isn't going smoothly and there are many unresolved issues at the moment. Consequently, you could well find many broken links. I may decide to change host again. Please bear with me and feel free to drop me an email if you need any info that is inaccessible. As if this wasn't enough to deal with, I currently have issues with my car tires, car audio and home DVR. If it weren't for bad luck I'd have no luck at all.|
Despite still being mired in website problems, I decided to head down to Sierra Vista EOP this morning. Three locals and two visitors from Holland walked around the ponds. I skipped the Moson Road access and recorded 48 species (missing Snow Goose among others).
Best birds for me were GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GOOSE and a female WOOD DUCK, both fairly rare at the EOP (especially Wood Duck). Other less common location species were singletons of LESSER SCAUP and RING-BILLED GULL.
The highlight of the morning was seeing a PEREGRINE FALCON interacting with a low flying male NORTHERN HARRIER and then soaring with three harriers. I think there were a total of five harriers present along with COOPER'S HAWK and several RED-TAILS,48 species recorded at Sierra Vista EOP (7:45-10:30am; high, thin clouds; calm; 39-69 degrees):
Friday, November 19, 2010
After almost a week of computer work following an enforced change of website host, I managed to return to the field this morning. I visited the ponds at Willcox then stopped at Benson sewage pond on the way home. We've had a few cold days recently but today was a significant improvement with an overnight low above freezing and a warm afternoon.
There have been a few interesting reports from Willcox recently. I failed on all possibilities and my results simply reaffirmed the veracity of the statement "your mileage may vary". No Western Grebe, Snow Goose, gulls, cranes, Western Sandpiper nor Long-billed Dowitchers for me. However, I was able to redeem the 150+ miles round trip drive with a SWAMP SPARROW, a first for me at Willcox. The bird was in the reeds at the east end of the golf course pond. It was a real skulker -- after I heard the bird calling I managed only two brief views in 15 minutes.
Otherwise, it was a fairly routine outing. A pair of BUFFLEHEADS were the "best" ducks among the proletariat. The continuing flock of CHESTNUT-COLLARED LONGSPURS worked around the temporal pond southwest of the golf course pond. They milled around, seemingly aimlessly, and occasionally settled at the edge of the water for barely a second at a time. I may have seen McCown's Longspur but couldn't convince myself.
Least common location species was a LADDER-BACKED WOODPECKER in the willows at the golf course pond. Lots of sparrows, mostly SAVANNAH, VESPER and BREWER'S with a few WHITE-CROWNED for the first time in five visits. At least 30 SCALED QUAIL were at the compost dump site on Fairway Drive. I recorded only 35 species in two hours.
At Benson WWTP, the number of ducks were way down compared to a week ago. Still plenty of RING-NECKED DUCKS (30+) and at least 6 CANVASBACKS. I also noted a lone female plumaged HOODED MERGANSER (probable female rather than an immature male, but I wasn't sure).44 species recorded:
Saturday, November 20, 2010
I typically don't venture out on Saturday unless I'm working with a client. However, I've been stuck at the keyboard for far too long so I headed to Garden Canyon where I haven't visited for almost five weeks. The canyon remains closed above the upper picnic area so I was limited to the mesquite-grassland and picnic areas (no access to Scheelite and Sawmill Canyons). As things turned out, I should have stayed at home. It was extremely windy, hat-removing windy in fact. As regular readers will know, I absolutely hate birding in the wind.
I started at the fishing ponds where it was tough going in the wind. I stuck it out for an hour an managed a paltry 17 species, the best of which was a MERLIN (very scarce at this location). Ducks were the only conspicuous species. I almost missed the normally abundant LESSER GOLDFINCHES. Habitat is excellent for seed-eating species so I have to assume that it isn't an irruption winter for Lawrence's Goldfinch. I don't recall a single report from anywhere in SE AZ yet.
Sparrows were fairly plentiful at the west end of the small pond. I checked lots of CHIPPING and BREWER'S hoping for Clay-colored. I also saw many SAVANNAH & VESPER and a few LINCOLN'S but, surprisingly, no White-crowned.
I continued up canyon where I checked the lower and middle picnic areas. The Madrone crop was poor in places that I looked (other canyons may be better) and HERMIT THRUSH was the only fruit-eating species that I noted. Typical fare in the oak-juniper habitat consisted of MEXICAN JAY, many RUBY-CROWNED KINGLETS and two flavors of DARK-EYED JUNCO (Gray-headed and Pink-sided). The only bird of note was a PAINTED REDSTART at the middle picnic area. One or two can usually be found at these picnic areas throughout the winter months.
Roadside birds in the mesquite grassland were few and far between and I noted only a lone RED-TAILED HAWK, 2 NORTHERN HARRIERS, 2 KESTRELS, LOGGERHEAD SHRIKE and a small group of WESTERN MEADOWLARKS.
I'm in the field with a client for the next two days and the wind is forecast to be around 20mph on both days!32 species recorded:
Sunday, November 21, 2010
First of two days with Kaye Lafreniere from Colorado Springs, CO, who I've birded with on one previous occasion. Today we visited Sulphur Springs Valley, the Mule Mountains in Bisbee and Carr Canyon in the Huachucas in search of a handful of target species. Last time Kaye and I birded it was a cold and windy November day six years ago. Guess what, today was another windy day.
We started in Sulphur Springs Valley working Coffman Road and other roads near Whitewater Draw for Bendire's. It didn't look good for a while and a large dose of persistence was required. Finally, after almost 80 minutes, we found a very cooperative BENDIRE'S THRASHER on Central Highway. Somewhat surprisingly in the wind, the bird was perched on a fence post. We crept towards it and enjoyed excellent views from the Blue Trogon.
While looking for Bendire's we found CURVE-BILLED THRASHER (Coffman) and 2 CRISSAL THRASHERS on Lee. Also on Lee were a few CHESTNUT-COLLARED LONGSPURS. This road is one of the few left in the southern part of the valley that has a "green field" as opposed to fields of corn and cotton. Other species noted while cruising around included several small groups of SCALED QUAIL, 3-4 NORTHERN HARRIERS, the usual sparrow species (including BREWER'S, VESPER & SAVANNAH); lots of LARK BUNTINGS (very common this year) and PYRRHULOXIA.
A few miles to the north, we managed to get payback for the time expended on the thrasher finding our target SAGE SPARROW with minimal effort. We enjoyed scope looks at this handsome sparrow, perhaps 3 or 4 birds in the company of BLACK-THROATED SPARROWS.
Before leaving the valley, we indulged ourselves with 45 minutes at Whitewater Draw. The wind was really strong here as we walked the dikes. Highlights of 25 species noted were 14 SNOW GEESE including a couple of juveniles; 3 adult VERMILION FLYCATCHERS (2 males, 1 female); and the continuing SWAMP SPARROW. As we left at 10:45am, hundreds of SANDHILL CRANES were returning from their morning feeding session and I expect that their numbers increased as the morning progressed.
We had good success in Bisbee with excellent views of 6-8 BLACK-CHINNED SPARROWS, again with minimal effort. If Sage Sparrow is handsome, Black-chinned is dapper -- always a delight to see. We also had great looks at a couple of other targets -- RUFOUS-CROWNED SPARROW and ROCK WREN. Unfortunately, we dipped on Canyon Wren.
Other species in agave-oak-chaparral habitat on rocky slopes were LADDER-BACKED WOODPECKER, a lone MEXICAN JAY (Scrub-Jay is more expected here); BEWICK'S and HOUSE WRENS, CANYON TOWHEE, several LINCOLN'S SPARROWS and tons of CHIPPING SPARROWS.
Lower Carr Canyon was our final destination and results there were very poor. In addition to the unfavorable time of day, the wind was at its worst and we struggled to find birds. Arizona Woodpecker was our main target and we didn't get a sniff. Trying to listen for tapping was next to impossible. The only woodpeckers were ACORN and a heard-only LADDER-BACKED.
Given the conditions, we had surprisingly good looks at a very cooperative HAMMOND'S FLYCATCHER showing all the structural features, field marks and behavior required for identification of a silent bird. At least two individuals were present. We also had side by side views of HUTTON'S VIREO and RUBY-CROWNED KINGLET (like a comedy sketch -- it's a kinglet, no it's a vireo).
As I pulled into my driveway, SAY'S PHOEBE and RUBY-CROWNED KINGLET were uncommon visitors. Regular EURASIAN COLLARED-DOVE and WHITE-WINGED DOVE were hanging out in a juniper sheltering from the wind.67 species recorded:
Monday, November 22, 2010
Out again today with Kaye Lafreniere looking for a few more target species. We visited San Rafael Valley, Patagonia Lake State Park and Paton's Yard. It was a much colder day with plenty of early morning frost on the grass. Thankfully, however, the wind wasn't a problem today. I was certainly happy with that, especially since I'd flipped the days around from the original plan -- no way I wanted to be looking for sparrows in San Rafael Valley in the wind. Winter grassland birding is usually tough even in ideal conditions.
Our main targets in the valley were Baird's Sparrow, Grasshopper Sparrow and White-tailed Kite. Chestnut-collared Longspur was a secondary target. We started out through the west gate of Fort Huachuca in the pre-dawn gloom. I should have suspected that it was going to be a good day when we crested out at Canelo Pass (approx. elevation one mile) and saw the splendid view several hundred feet below us. San Rafael Valley was shrouded in low lying fog and words cannot begin to describe the view.
We started birding in the fog at Vaca Ranch Corral, initially seeing lots of SAVANNAH and VESPER SPARROWS. However, within ten minutes we had seen 10-12 GRASSHOPPER SPARROWS. I eventually spotted a BAIRD'S SPARROW but a truck blasted by in true Murphy fashion and the opportunity was gone before Kaye laid eyes on the bird.
We continued west along FR58 soon breaking out of the fog and into the sunshine. A few minutes later I couldn't believe my eyes. I spied a BAIRD'S SPARROW and no sooner had I said to Kaye "there's a Baird's Sparrow" I followed with "there's another, and another, my god" -- there were a total of 9 BAIRD'S SPARROWS perched on the fence wires and fence poles all in a row. Wow. What a sight! I've seen 6 on the same day in the valley but so many in one binocular view was pretty remarkable to say the least (they were seen at 8:15am on FR58 approximately 0.6mi east of the crossroads at the west end of the valley where Harshaw Canyon begins).
Even more remarkable was the fact that the birds seemed very reluctant to fly
was able to get out of the vehicle and grab a camera. I walked towards them and
started shooting. As things turned out, I would probably have had time to set up a bigger lens and
tripod for some really good images. Nevertheless, I fared okay.
Here are a few of the images shot hand-held:
Baird's Sparrow #1,
Baird's Sparrow #2,
Baird's Sparrow #3 a.k.a. "the punkster" and
Baird's Sparrow #4 even B(a)ird's lose their balance sometimes. At least three
different individuals from the nine are involved here.
Sadly, we couldn't follow the two sparrow successes with a White-tailed Kite sighting. We cruised around for about 45 minutes on the east-west and north-south segments of FR58 to no avail. Some consolation was provided by a perched PRAIRIE FALCON in the field north of Vaca Corral and 6 BONAPARTE'S GULLS on the "Lone Tree" stock pond at the west end of FR58. We also had good looks at a handful of CHESTNUT-COLLARED LONGSPURS perched on a fence wire at close range.
The middle part of our day wasn't very productive and a three hour stint (10:30am-1:30pm) at Patagonia Lake didn't produce any targets. Elegant Trogon had been seen earlier in the morning but we missed the bird. I focused in the area where I saw the trogon two weeks ago and came up empty.
With such a focused search our tally at the lake was a quite low. Selected species from only 40 recorded were a lone CANVASBACK in Marina Cove (a bird wintered in the same spot last year); COMMON LOON (the continuing Pacific Loon was seen earlier in the day); both cormorant species, SHARP-SHINNED HAWK, a briefly seen SORA, heard only VIRGINIA RAIL, GRAY & DUSKY FLYCATCHERS; ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLER and GREEN-TAILED & ABERT'S TOWHEES.
In contrast, our mid afternoon stop at the Paton's was extremely productive. I briefly saw the
RUDDY GROUND-DOVE behind the water feature but the bird did not reappear
over the next hour+. Unfortunately, Kaye missed the bird but still ended up with
After talking with Michael Marsden and learning that VIOLET-CROWNED HUMMINGBIRD had not been seen since November 15, I was resigned to missing the bird. However, Kaye spotted
a spiffy adult sitting in a mesquite and the bird soon visited a feeder. This was close to my latest sighting at the Paton's (November 24, 2000). Lifer #1.
Not satisfied with that, Kaye said "there's an oriole or a tanager". Sure enough, a female HEPATIC TANAGER was feeding in a Pyracantha bush. This was only my second sighting
at the Paton's. Lifer #2
I heard some vireo chatter and immediately thought "Cassin's Vireo". The bird soon skedaddled but was quickly relocated and turned out to be a PLUMBEOUS VIREO (color me crestfallen!). But wait -- there was also a CASSIN'S VIREO in the same tree for lifer #3 and a fine finale. It's remarkable how many times I've seen both Plumbeous and Cassin's Vireos together in SE AZ (Plumbeous is a common summer breeder, rare in winter; Cassin's is a fairly common migrant, rare in winter). I checked my records and it has happened three times so far this year.
A good day at the office despite not seeing the wintering Elegant Trogon. The kind of day that justifies my decision to get out the the high tech industry.73 species recorded:
Thursday, November 25, 2010
Thanksgiving morning began cold and sunny in Sierra Vista then became increasingly cloudy and windy. Despite the cool and blustery conditions, I enjoyed some good birding in Garden Canyon. Although I didn't see anything rare, birding at the fishing ponds was excellent and I recorded 45 species (just one shy of my highest ever single day total at this location). It was a "perfect storm" -- in addition to many expected species, I saw a few marginal species that occur here infrequently and a couple of unexpected species; all coming together on this Thursday morning in November.
Ducks represented a significant component. Before today I'd seen a cumulative total of 12 species and never more than 6 species on a single visit. Today I saw 9 species including one new for the location -- BLUE-WINGED TEAL, my first November sighting in Cochise County. No doubt the unusually high water levels are a major factor. Other ducks were 6 GADWALL (7), 1 AMERICAN WIGEON (7), 8 MALLARD, 3 GREEN-WINGED TEAL, 20 NORTHERN SHOVELER, 3 NORTHERN PINTAIL (2), 10 RING-NECKED DUCK and 2 RUDDY DUCK (8). To give some perspective, I've included the number of previous sightings in parentheses for the less common location species.
Other species on the water and in the marshy habitat included PIED-BILLED GREBE, GREAT BLUE HERON, SORA, 20+ COOTS and 2 MARSH WRENS (only my third sighting).
Given the presence of so many ducks, I guess I shouldn't have been surprised to see a PEREGRINE FALCON. However, since I only have one previous sighting I was a little surprised! The Peregrine sure stirred up the ducks and eventually singled out a Ring-necked Duck that was slowly but surely being gained upon. The duck started high then, either by design or fatigue, dropped down almost to the oaks which caused the falcon to lose interest. I tried to get a flight shot without success.
Other raptors noted were several NORTHERN HARRIERS, RED-TAILED HAWK and MERLIN. Seeing the Merlin turned out to be an exercise in frustration. The bird was posed very nicely on a stump and I decided to try for a photo (same stump where I photographed a Great Blue earlier this year on July 27). Unfortunately, it was a little too far for my small hand-held lens and I opted to set up my bigger lens and tripod. You can probably guess what happened -- by the time I was ready the Merlin had departed.
Sparrows were another component of the perfect storm and I saw 8 species plus 2 towhees. There may also have been a Swamp Sparrow. Unfortunately, I was unable to track it down and with several BLACK PHOEBES present I couldn't rely on a heard-only for a location rarity. Although the call of Swamp Sparrow is flatter and can easily be separated from the similar but sharper call of Black Phoebe, it's better to err on the side of caution. I've seen Swamp Sparrow at the ponds 4 times in 3 different years, all in October and November.
Other species included a surprise AMERICAN ROBIN (2 previous sightings in spring this year), multiple PHAINOPEPLAS, PYRRHULOXIA and a singing WESTERN MEADOWLARK.
After leaving the ponds, I continued further up canyon to the middle picnic area. Roadside birds noted were several KESTRELS, LOGGERHEAD SHRIKE, MOCKINGBIRD and at least 6 PHAINOPEPLAS.
Although I wasn't expecting much at the picnic area (and activity certainly wasn't high), results were pretty good. Highlights were a very vocal and active HAMMOND'S FLYCATCHER, a few CEDAR WAXWINGS, a continuing PAINTED REDSTART and a very cooperative TOWNSEND'S WARBLER on the trail south of the stream. Light was poor but I managed a couple of useful images -- image #1 (the inquisitive look when the bird first appeared) and image #2 (a much better "field guide" pose).
[Photo note for the "real" photographers out there. After years of not thinking much when taking shots, I'm now trying to make a conscious effort to use settings that produce a decent depth of field. The first image of a "front to back" bird represented a challenge in poor light. I tried to use a high f stop to keep all the bird in focus but the tail didn't quite make it. However, if I had gone higher than f/9 the shutter speed would have dropped below 1/125s and I would have been in trouble on sharpness. All in all though, not a bad result.]62 species recorded (45 at the fishing ponds marked with *):
Saturday, November 27, 2010
Overnight low temperatures in Sierra Vista have been in the mid 20s this week with days being breezy and cool. Today was a little warmer. I made a rare, late morning outing to Huachuca Canyon that turned out to be quite productive.
Best bird was an ELEGANT TROGON feeding in a large fruiting Madrone tree near the 1.7mi picnic area. Actually, the tree is just shy of the picnic/parking area in a large clearing with a single picnic table. This particular tree has hosted a wintering trogon in previous years. However, fruit is not prolific this year and it won't last very long (depending on how many species take advantage).
HEPATIC TANAGER was
feeding in the tree today along with several woodpeckers. Hepatic Tanager is the
only expected tanager in the winter months; rare in November and
December, casual after that. I've seen then throughout the winter months with 43
records in all from November to March. Most after November are from low
Also of interest was a female YELLOW-SHAFTED FLICKER (poorly photographed, but good enough for documentation). I noted a gray nape with red crescent, brown face, no moustachial marks and yellow tinges where yellow should be. The bird appears pure to me. The Yellow-shafted form of Northern Flicker is considered casual in winter in southeast Arizona but I don't recall any reports from mountain locations. Over the years I've seen several hybrids and a couple of pure birds.
The area was quite woodpeckery with numerous ACORN WOODPECKERS, ARIZONA WOODPECKER, several RED-NAPED SAPSUCKERS and multiple "regular" FLICKERS. More tapping than a wheel tappers and shunters convention. I actually managed images of all species but the quality was poor due to their insistence on choosing shady locations.
Other species included HAMMOND'S FLYCATCHER and a continuing CASSIN'S KINGBIRD (getting late for mountain locations, although I have a December 3 record from Garden Canyon). I bet it was close to 20 degrees overnight last night in Huachuca Canyon but there were plenty of bugs present around noon. Most Cassin's Kingbirds leave by late October with a few lingering into November. It appears that more have stuck around this year with reports still coming in from multiple locations. Some years it's possible to find a wintering bird in the warmer locations.
On the way home I made a spur of the moment decision to check the fishing ponds in Garden Canyon, an inspired move as it turned out. I was pleased to locate a calling SWAMP SPARROW that I heard here (but did not count) a couple of days ago. The sparrow was a very dull individual.
Fishermen ensured that most of the ducks seen on Friday were gone today and a male BELTED KINGFISHER was the only new species compared to Friday.
Sunday, November 28, 2010
Ten folks (8 locals) walked around the ponds at Sierra Vista EOP this morning. The weather mostly cooperated with clear, calm and surprisingly mild conditions. The wind picked up very strongly after 10:30am and made birding difficult on the east side Moson Road access (where we often find a few landbirds).
The best birds were a continuing GREATER-WHITE-FRONTED GOOSE (40/9) and a location first-of-season SWAMP SPARROW (10/6). Both birds are relatively scarce at the EOP, especially the sparrow which is rare anywhere in Arizona. The numbers show my total sightings and years recorded over the past 18 years. In the non-avian department, two young JAVELINAS provided amusement for all as they struggled to keep up with an adult.
Otherwise, it was a fairly routine outing. Less common species were a calling BLUE-GRAY GNATCATCHER in the east-side mesquites, ROCK WREN in what has become a regular winter spot and three female BUFFLEHEADS.
Apart from 4-5 NORTHERN HARRIERS, raptors were scarce today and we even missed the "regular" Peregrine Falcon.
On the plus side, there was a decent showing of sparrows -- listed in decreasing order of numbers they were 100+ SAVANNAH (probably a gross underestimate of the number actually present), VESPER, LARK (not often seen at the EOP at this time of year), WHITE-CROWNED, BREWER'S, SONG, LINCOLN'S and SWAMP SPARROW. We also noted 8 LARK BUNTINGS.
Overall, MALLARD was probably the most common duck today (not often the case) with "Green-headed" Mallard being particularly common on the east side, well outnumbering "Mexican" MALLARD. For those unaware, we only get regular mallards in winter. Other than the previously mentioned Buffleheads, LESSER SCAUP (two females) was the least common duck noted. With the exception of 50+ RING-NECKED DUCKS and a fair number of GADWALLS, numbers of other species seemed lower.
There were singletons of EARED and PIED-BILLED GREBES. Lots of calling SORAS in the marshes (one seen briefly) but only one or two calling VIRGINIA RAILS. We had uncharacteristically good looks at MARSH WREN. Shorebirds are down to the dregs and we detected just 2 LEAST SANDPIPERS and 3 LONG-BILLED DOWITCHERS.
The typical blackbird species were seen with YELLOW-HEADED BLACKBIRD being the most common as always. WESTERN MEADOWLARKS were also common today (perhaps as many as 40). A handful of HORNED LARKS and perhaps 20 AMERICAN PIPITS were noted.48 species recorded at Sierra Vista EOP (7:50-11:30am; clear; calm until 10:30am then windy; 41-55 degrees):
This log is in chronological order and the most recent entries
are at the bottom of the page.
The last update was on Sunday, November 28, 2010
Nov Species Seen
Journal - November, 2010
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