Jan Species Seen
Journal - January, 2012
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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 Saturday, January 28, 2012
Sunday, January 1, 2012
published 01/01/2012 4:30pm
Some news for the new year. Several years ago I set my retirement date and that date has now popped up on the horizon. This is an appropriate day to let everyone know that 2012 will be my last year as a full time guide in Arizona (actually, I'll continue through January of next year). Although I'll be quitting the day to day stuff in Arizona and don't plan to accept new business beyond 2012, I intend to continue working with existing clients who have supported me over the years. I also hope to be able to continue my out of state trips.
For now, though, it's business as usual and I look forward to enjoying another year filled with birds and interesting experiences. Happy New Year everybody.
I spent far less time in the field in 2011 with only 183 "official field days" (I don't count days birding around home). This was by far my lowest total in almost 20 years, partly by design and partly due to circumstances. I have been steadily decreasing my field time over the past few years (that's the "by design" part). This year my client birding in Arizona was substantially reduced compared to any previous year due to the serious fires in the state. I received many cancellations from scheduled clients and many other potential clients who were planning trips eventually decided not to come. Business-wise in Arizona, it was my worst year since I started working as a guide. However, in contrast, I did more business and travel in other states than in most other years. I made two trips to California (March and December); two trips to Texas (February and April); and a multi-state trip in June that covered 15 states, mainly Michigan, North Dakota, Wyoming and Colorado. All in all I was on the road and out of Arizona for 82 days and traveled over 23,500 miles, all by vehicle (not the Blue Trogon, thankfully!).
During the year I recorded a total of 538 species of which 4 were new -- Falcated Duck & Masked Booby in California; and Yellow-faced Grassquit & Black-vented Oriole in Texas. I didn't look to add any new species to my Arizona state list even though there were many possibilities. In fact, I saw only 301 species in AZ during 2011, my lowest return since 1993. You can find a summary of all the species that I saw (by state) and links to all the photos by clicking the 2011 link in the index at left.
Most of the time that I'm in the field, especially when with clients,
birding comes first and I don't carry a camera. However,
I spent a little more time on photography in 2011 (mostly while
traveling) and managed to
capture images of 150 species (up from
77 in 2010). I added 29 species to my
overall ABA area photographed list that now stands at 556. Some
years ago I set myself the arbitrary goal of photographing 500 species. Now
it appears that 600 might just be within my reach. I found it difficult to select
a favorite image so I've highlighted a few candidates in several
Bird-wise, I was delighted to see 49 species of warblers, especially on my budget (nothing obscene like the Big Year big spenders). I was too lazy to "tick" Rufous-capped Warbler to round it up to 50. I particularly enjoyed the challenges of trying to find and photograph White-tailed Ptarmigan, Rock Sandpiper and Connecticut Warbler. Of course, it goes without saying that Black-billed Cuckoo remains a nemesis.
A dozen folks turned up at Sierra Vista EOP on a morning that, from a weather standpoint, was more like the first of spring than the first of the year. Still very much winter in terms of birds though. Believe it or not, a lone CHIPPING SPARROW that I originally misidentified (as Brewer's) was probably the most noteworthy species, especially at this time of year. They are common in the Huachucas and on the San Pedro River but are very rarely seen at the EOP except as a scarce migrant. I've only seen them here 16 times in 7 of 20 years and this was a first for January. Other less common species were NORTHERN FLICKER and ABERT'S & GREEN-TAILED TOWHEES.
I'd have to say that a continuing drake BLUE-WINGED TEAL first seen last Sunday was the best bird of the morning along with excellent views of a PEREGRINE FALCON that has not been around much this winter. There were actually two falcons but I didn't see the second bird well enough to identify. Also of note today was the wintering ROCK WREN.
At least 5 LESSER SCAUP and several BUFFLEHEADS were the pick of the usual duck species and a couple of RING-BILLED GULLS were of interest since we rarely see gulls at the EOP.
HORNED LARKS, AMERICAN PIPITS and WESTERN MEADOWLARKS were all common and YELLOW-HEADED BLACKBIRD numbers continue to rebound. SAVANNAH SPARROWS were quite numerous (probably abundant) but other sparrows including BREWER'S, VESPER, LARK and BLACK-THROATED SPARROWS and LARK BUNTING were present in very low numbers.
52 species recorded at Sierra Vista EOP (8:00am-12:00pm; sunny and calm;
Gadwall, Am. Wigeon, Mallard, Blue-winged, Cinnamon & Green-winged Teal; N. Shoveler, N. Pintail, Ring-necked & Ruddy Ducks; Lesser Scaup, Bufflehead, N. Harrier, Red-tailed Hawk, Am. Kestrel, Peregrine Falcon, Virginia Rail, Sora, Am. Coot, Killdeer, Ring-billed Gull, Rock Pigeon, Mourning Dove, N. Flicker, Black & Say's Phoebes; Loggerhead Shrike, Chihuahuan Raven, Horned Lark, Verdin, Rock & Marsh Wrens; Curve-billed Thrasher, Am. Pipit, Green-tailed & Abert's Towhees; Chipping, Brewer's, Vesper, Lark, Black-throated, Savannah, Song & White-crowned Sparrows; Lark Bunting, Pyrrhuloxia, Red-winged, Yellow-headed & Brewer's Blackbirds; Western Meadowlark, Great-tailed Grackle and House Finch.
Saturday, January 7, 2012
published 01/08/2012 3:30pm
Out today with Chris Hiatt from the Fresno area in CA. We birded in Santa Cruz County at Patagonia Lake State Park, Kino Springs and the Paton's Yard. It was a typical southeast Arizona winter day -- clear blue sky; heater in the morning; A/C in the afternoon. The temperature dipped to 24 degrees between Sonoita and Patagonia; 35-66 while birding at Patagonia Lake; 70+ in mid afternoon at Kino Springs.
Overall I'd have to say the birding was very slow and we struggled with a few common species. For example, we failed to find Curve-billed Thrasher! Just like there are no easy games in the English Premier League, there are no "easy" birds.
Today was my first visit of the year to Patagonia Lake where we enjoyed the best birding of the day (although even here the birding was far from spectacular). We chipped away and eventually tallied 65 species in four hours. Perhaps the best bird was a male BLACK-CAPPED GNATCATCHER foraging in hackberry and mesquite in the first wash (the first wash is at the bottom of the steps near the start of the birding trail). We met someone on the trail who had seen the bird here at 10:00am (we didn't find the bird when we passed that location around 9:15am). After spending a fair amount of fruitless time in the mesquite bosque working the various washes, we eventually found the bird in the first wash at 11:45am.
Our time in the mesquite bosque was fruitless in terms of the gnatcatcher but we did come across a splendiferous male HEPATIC TANAGER feeding high in a hackberry tree. After detecting movement I looked up, saw red, and said "CARDINAL", no "TANAGER". It turned out that both birds were in the same tree within feet of each other. Hepatic Tanager is casual to rare in winter but there seem to be a few around this winter (including a female at the state park on my last visit in late December).
Other birds of note today were a heard only LOUISIANA WATERTHRUSH along Sonoita Creek about 1/2 mile from the lake; and an EASTERN PHOEBE in the same location. The waterthrush fell silent preventing us from tracking it. However, tracking the bird would have meant getting quite wet. Louisiana Waterthrush has wintered in this location for a number of years now but I haven't seen any reports so far this winter. Eastern Phoebe is considered a rare transient in SE AZ and rare in winter. Despite their rare status, at least one individual is usually present at Patagonia Lake in winter and today's sighting gave me my 51st "three phoebe" day (50 in AZ, 1 in TX).
Of local interest, 3 TURKEY VULTURES were the first that I've seen here in January in 20 years. It's interesting how they are routinely present in winter just a few miles down the road at Kino Springs and Nogales, but they rarely venture east to Patagonia until February. I have to assume they were taking advantage of the warm conditions to forage further afield.
In that same "local interest" category, a large flock of AMERICAN ROBINS and a few WESTERN BLUEBIRDS continue. We also had a good view of a calling SWAMP SPARROW in the marsh opposite the second wash. Swamp Sparrow is rare in winter but fairly reliable at Patagonia Lake and Whitewater Draw.
Other species included 3 LESSER SCAUP, many COMMON MERGANSERS (all females); NEOTROPIC CORMORANT (have been scarcer than normal for several months); BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT-HERON, SPOTTED SANDPIPER, plenty of WHITE-WINGED DOVES, COMMON GROUND-DOVE, several GRAY, DUSKY & ASH-THROATED FLYCATCHERS; PLUMBEOUS (with the gnatcatcher) & HUTTON'S VIREOS, GREEN-TAILED & ABERT'S TOWHEES; RUFOUS-WINGED, BREWERS, LARK, BLACK-THROATED & LINCOLN'S SPARROWS and PYRRHULOXIA.
It was quite warm at Kino Springs and fairly windy by the time we left. We worked hard and unsuccessfully for almost two hours looking for Crissal Thrasher and Gilded Flicker. Although Kino Springs is far from the "go to" location for either species, I frequently find both of them here. Not today though. In fact, birding was very poor and we only came across 22 species as we searched. LARK, BLACK-THROATED & BREWER'S SPARROWS were numerous and we also noted RUFOUS-WINGED. Others included RED-NAPED SAPSUCKER, GRAY FLYCATCHER and PHAINOPEPLA.
An extended (two hour) visit to Paton's Yard failed to produce a hoped for Broad-billed Hummingbird (seen regularly this morning) nor Inca Dove. The least common location species among 20 noted was a GRAY FLYCATCHER.
A tour group told us about a male Williamson's Sapsucker in the pines on the central green in Patagonia. We looked for it without success seeing only a couple of ACORN WOODPECKERS. We then cruised around town looking for Curve-billed Thrasher and Inca Doves without success. Among the birds noted were a female MOUNTAIN BLUEBIRD on lower Harshaw Canyon Road and a beautiful male VERMILION FLYCATCHER on 1st Avenue.84 species recorded:
Sunday, January 8, 2012
published 01/09/2012 10:00am
Nine folks showed up today to walk around the ponds at Sierra Vista EOP. The temperature was much lower than of late (as January starts to become more like January) and we had a cold wind to deal with. Although results were fairly typical in terms of species count, we did have one exceptional bird.
Any swallow in the Sierra Vista area in early January is completely unexpected so a lone VIOLET-GREEN SWALLOW was a big surprise. Tree or even Barn might be more likely. The bird appeared from the reeds in a marshy pond (where it had presumably been roosting) and headed southwest at a good clip. Violet-green is one of the earliest migrants in southeast Arizona with the first birds often seen in early February. However, these early birds are usually seen well to the west in Santa Cruz County or Pima County. Here in Cochise County, where the temperatures are usually much cooler, we typically don't see them until later in February at the earliest and usually not until March is well underway. I only have two Violet-green January records in SE AZ. Both were at Patagonia Lake with one on January 9, 2000 almost as early as today's bird. I'm not suggesting that today's bird is an early migrant but you never know given the relatively mild conditions so far this winter. The most likely explanation is that the bird was hanging in somewhere (perhaps north of here) and was finally driven south by the weather.
Swallow apart, most of what we saw was the usual stuff although we did have a few less commonly seen species including REDHEAD (young male); COMMON MOORHEN, GREATER ROADRUNNER and GILA WOODPECKER. Also of interest were a well seen immature/female columbarius MERLIN (several scope views in different locations), a decidedly reticent ROCK WREN seen by a few; and a poorly seen SWAMP SPARROW. As usual, SORA and VIRGINIA RAIL were heard only.
Duck numbers remain low for all but Mallard and YELLOW-HEADED BLACKBIRD numbers continue exceptionally low. Sparrow numbers picked up today (especially SAVANNAH) and including LARK BUNTING, ABERT'S TOWHEE and GREEN-TAILED TOWHEE we managed 11 species of sparrows.52 species recorded at Sierra Vista EOP (7:55am-11:10am; sunny and windy; 40-48 degrees)
Friday, January 13, 2012
published 01/14/2012 12:45pm
Out today with Carlton and Carol Groff from Kirkwood, PA who are spending a month in the Sierra Vista area. This is their first birding visit to AZ so there are numerous potential new birds. Today was a casual birding day in Santa Cruz County without any specific target species. It was another fairly typical winter day and the morning began quite chilly with significant wind. Fortunately, the wind died down as the day progressed and it was pretty warm in the afternoon.
We spent the bulk of our time (8:15am-1:15pm) at Patagonia Lake State Park where initial activity was disappointingly low in the cold and windy conditions. As usual, I chipped away and we eventually tallied a decent number of species by the end of the day, including 60 at the lake.
The undoubted highlight at the state park was a male BLACK-CAPPED GNATCATCHER found in Nutting's Wash around noon. After detecting a mostly silent group of BRIDLED TITMICE at the mouth of the wash, we had to work the flock for about 30 minutes before I heard the gnatcatcher call briefly a couple of hundred yards into the wash. With the incentive of knowing the bird was present, we stepped up our efforts and eventually enjoyed some excellent views as it foraged high in a mesquite. We also picked up a couple of bonus vireos -- both HUTTON'S and PLUMBEOUS VIREOS were traveling with the flock. As I had already told Carl and Carol, it almost always pays to investigate titmice flocks in winter.
Also at the lake were a large group of mostly female MOUNTAIN BLUEBIRDS (they have been present for several weeks now) along with a few WESTERN BLUEBIRDS. Among the more regular species were several CINNAMON TEAL, 2 LESSER SCAUP, many COMMON MERGANSERS, NEOTROPIC CORMORANT, numerous WHITE-WINGED DOVES, 4 COMMON GROUND-DOVES, GRAY, DUSKY & ASH-THROATED FLYCATCHERS, PHAINOPEPLA, ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLER, GREEN-TAILED, SPOTTED & ABERT'S TOWHEES; 3-4 RUFOUS-WINGED SPARROWS and a couple of SWAMP SPARROWS.
Kino Springs was quiet in the heat of the afternoon and we didn't find anything of real note. We focused our efforts around the club house pond and pines and the sewage pond. Highlights were a male BUFFLEHEAD, a secretive RED-NAPED SAPSUCKER and a GRAY FLYCATCHER.
Paton's yard was loaded with people and birds in mid afternoon. Among the
early sightings were many GAMBEL'S QUAIL (surprisingly unconcerned by the
crowd), ANNA'S HUMMINGBIRD, ABERT'S TOWHEE, lots of LARK SPARROWS, a very
reticent WHITE-THROATED SPARROW (one of 3 birds present in the yard at the
moment), CARDINAL and PYRRHULOXIA. We needed to hang around until a large group
left before picking up a fairly colorful LAZULI BUNTING (seen as we threatened
to leave). At the same time we also spotted a female AMERICAN GOLDFINCH in with
the abundant LESSER GOLDFINCHES.
Before heading home, we spent some time on the central green in Patagonia looking for the previously reported Williamson's Sapsucker. We checked all of the pines, a number of which had fresh running sap but, sadly, no sapsucker. We did see several ACORN WOODPECKERS and a male HEPATIC TANAGER that got away before everyone had a decent view.
Our final birds of the day were 3 NORTHERN HARRIERS hunting over the Sonoita grasslands close to Hwy 82.85 species recorded:
Tuesday, January 17, 2012
published 01/17/2012 5:45pm
Today I birded in the St. David area. More correctly, I mostly stood still in the St. David area looking for a couple of rarities -- Brown Thrasher and Rufous-backed Robin. My objectives for the morning were to try to photograph both species to improve on the rather poor Robin photos that I have and to obtain an Arizona image of the Thrasher. I was somewhat successful with the Robin but failed to find the thrasher. Both species have been in the area for a week or so. None of the birders who I spoke with today had seen the Thrasher; most saw the Robin.
I started on Golden Bell Road a little after 8:00am. It was a quite nippy and inactive so I moved over to the Monastery to look for the thrasher. A return trip to Golden Bell much later in morning was more productive and yielded 2 RUFOUS-BACKED ROBINS but not without much patient hanging around and the help of Tony Battiste of Battiste's B&B. The birds mostly stayed back from the road in the hackberry trees but eventually came out to a small ditch with running water. This was the only time that I saw two birds at the same time and there was a little argy-bargy between them. This was also the time that I obtained a decent image despite very poor light -- note the shutter speed of 1/80s.
Other photos that I managed were GRAY FLYCATCHER (very reliable at the Monastery in winter), SAY'S PHOEBE and LARK SPARROW. The robin and flycatcher were taken with a 400mm tripod mounted lens; the phoebe and sparrow with a 300mm hand-held lens. Readers unfamiliar with Gray Flycatcher may be surprised by the green and yellow plumage but this is not unusual in winter. The Say's Phoebe is a novelty shot of a bird without a tail. It was managing okay but whenever it flew I could detect that the bird was laboring a little. I was fairly pleased with the Lark Sparrow image, especially since the opportunity was fleeting. Note how the bird is staring at me -- it soon decided that it would rather be somewhere else.
Very little of note save for the robin -- SHARP-SHINNED HAWK on Golden Bell and SWAMP SPARROW in the marsh at the Monastery north pond were the most interesting birds.
49 species recorded:
Gadwall, Am. Wigeon, Mallard, N. Shoveler, Green-winged Teal, Ring-necked Duck, Gambel's Quail, Sharp-shinned & Red-tailed Hawks; Am. Kestrel, Rock Pigeon, Eurasian Collared-Dove, White-winged, Mourning & Inca Doves; Gila & Ladder-backed Woodpeckers; N. Flicker, Gray Flycatcher, Black & Say's Phoebes; Loggerhead Shrike, Chihuahuan Raven, Verdin, White-breasted Nuthatch, Bewick's Wren, Rufous-backed & Am. Robins; N. Mockingbird, Curve-billed Thrasher, Phainopepla, Orange-crowned & Yellow-rumped Warblers; Green-tailed, Canyon & Abert's Towhees; Chipping, Brewer's, Lark, Song, Lincoln's, Swamp & White-crowned Sparrows; N. Cardinal, Pyrrhuloxia, Great-tailed Grackle, House Finch, Lesser Goldfinch and House Sparrow.
Wednesday, January 18, 2012
published 01/19/2012 6:00am
Today qualified as a bad day at the office. I made my first visit of the year to Scheelite Canyon where I worked long and hard without finding a Spotted Owl. Fortunately, I was birding alone so nobody else had to share my pain (figuratively and literally). I spent almost four hours in the canyon searching the lower, middle and upper roosting areas without success. Anyone who has birded in these areas will know what that entails. Ironically, my clients for tomorrow saw an owl yesterday!
Scheelite at this time of year has few birds so there was no mitigation in the trip and the return on my investment of time and physical effort was very low. I noted just a dozen birds in the canyon, the best of which were RED-NAPED SAPSUCKER, HERMIT THRUSH and YELLOW-EYED JUNCO. Otherwise it was the common stuff such as HUTTON'S VIREO, BRIDLED TITMOUSE, RUBY-CROWNED KINGLET and DARK-EYED JUNCOS (Gray-headed and Oregon).
Garden Canyon was also quiet and an earlier stop at the fishing ponds yielded little in the way of sparrow diversity. How could I have missed White-crowned Sparrow? The only bird of relative note was a continuing female BELTED KINGFISHER which means that there must still be some food in the ponds despite the low water level. A lone AMERICAN PIPIT foraging in a temporal pond and a SPOTTED TOWHEE were the least common location species.
Driving back down Garden Canyon on my way home, I was pleased to see a PEREGRINE FALCON perched near the wind power generator. A day with a Peregrine sighting can't be written off as all bad.43 species recorded:
Thursday, January 19, 2012
published 01/20/2012 9:45am
Out again today with Carlton and Carol Groff from Kirkwood, PA who are in the Sierra Vista area for a month. Last week we spent a day in Santa Cruz County without a specific agenda. Today we were quite focused and looked for 6 target species -- Scaled Quail, Bendire's & Crissal Thrashers, Sage & Black-chinned Sparrows and Rufous-backed Robin (all seen). At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I'll mention that it was another beautiful "winter" day, albeit warmer than normal. We saw a low of 28 degrees and a high of 75 degrees when we returned to Sierra Vista in late afternoon (this is well above average for Sierra Vista in mid January).
We traveled east to Sulphur Springs Valley where we began on Coffman Road, a very reliable location for thrashers and quail. This is the start of the breeding season for thrashers and we quickly found a couple of perched up BENDIRE'S THRASHERS and enjoyed a scope view. An excellent start to the day. Hopes of a quick twofer were dashed when a small group of quail turned out to be GAMBEL'S QUAIL.
We moved on to nearby Lee Road, a location that has proven to be my most successful spot for Crissal Thrasher over the years as well as a very good location for SCALED QUAIL. We had a brief look at a perched up quail but dipped on the thrasher. However, we picked up a bonus SAGE SPARROW that saved us driving a few miles further north. Swings and roundabouts as they say in the old country. Sage Sparrows are regularly present in the scrubby flats and mesquite thicket on Lee Road but more often than not they are too far from the road (the area is posted and cannot be walked which is why I normally go elsewhere).
We moved 1/2 mile south to Bagby Road to view the south side of the mesquite thicket and again dipped on Crissal. A perched up GREATER ROADRUNNER was some compensation.
Our next port of call was the mesquite thicket south of the south berm at Whitewater Draw Wildlife Area. We stayed focused on the thrasher and didn't do any other birding at the wildlife area, something that I was happy to do even though I very much enjoy birding here. I don't think that I've ever seen as many birders present as there were today -- wall to wall people. It was hard to find a parking spot.
The area that we visited typically attracts very few birders and we had the place to ourselves. After about 15 minutes of effort our reward came in the form of two cooperative CRISSAL THRASHERS. Once again we enjoyed a scope view and some brief song from what turned out to be our toughest target of the day. Among the incidental species were a MERLIN that perched cooperatively allowing us to get a scope view, a couple of GREATER YELLOWLEGS and our second SAGE SPARROW of the morning.
Now came a bit of a drive south to Bisbee for Black-chinned Sparrow. When I'm in Sulphur Springs Valley I usually go to the Granite's for the sparrow but we didn't have a high clearance vehicle required for that location. Although it was pretty warm in Brewery Gulch between Noon and 1:00pm, activity was fairly high and we didn't have any trouble locating BLACK-CHINNED SPARROW. Great views from close range.
Of note in the gulch was a female HEPATIC TANAGER. I heard the bird calling and we eventually saw it perched on a power line adjacent to an oak. It was only the second that I've seen in the gulch and probably the first that I've seen perched on a wire! I've already mentioned a couple of times this month that there are more of these birds than usual around this winter, Other birds present included a somewhat out of habitat male NORTHERN HARRIER and several regular gulch denizens -- WESTERN SCRUB-JAY, BUSHTIT, RUFOUS-CROWNED SPARROW, CANYON TOWHEE and numerous PYRRHULOXIAS.
We drove north to St. David and briefly stopped at the Monastery to eat lunch. We didn't do any active birding and only a few WESTERN BLUEBIRDS were of note (I've seen them here a few times before in winter).
We finished up our birding for the day on Golden Bell Road just a mile or so north of the Monastery. There was very little activity in the heat of the afternoon, especially in the thicket opposite house #234. Of interest to me as we waited was another calling HEPATIC TANAGER. After about 10 minutes of staring into the thicket we saw a couple of "robin sized" birds fly in and they turned out to be the two continuing RUFOUS-BACKED ROBINS. The birds moved around from one end of the thicket to the other but one of them sat still long enough for us to get a scope view.
A very good ending to a successful day.60 species recorded:
Sunday, January 22, 2012
published 01/23/2012 11:00am
Five locals and four visitors found 54 species at Sierra Vista Environmental Operations Park this morning. My total was significantly less on a truncated visit.
Shortly after I left Hwy 90 and entered the EOP gate I noted some yellow dots in a bare mesquite. As I got closer I was able to count 23 LESSER GOLDFINCHES as I carefully scanned for Lawrence's. No luck with that. However, during the course of the morning out on the dikes we spotted 6 LAWRENCE'S GOLDFINCHES. Five females and a stunning male were alternately perching in the reeds and coming in to drink. This was the best bird of the outing for me (only the third time that I've recorded them at the EOP), although a Sage Sparrow that I didn't see was certainly more unexpected.
The only other bird of note was a perched PEREGRINE FALCON. Less commonly seen species were COMMON GALLINULE and COMMON GROUND-DOVE (so much for the common denominator!).
Most of the usual sparrows were present with LARK BUNTINGS in higher than normal numbers (a recurring theme in southeast Arizona this winter).43 species recorded at Sierra Vista EOP (8:00am-10:00am; hazy and calm; 40-48 degrees):
Tuesday, January 24, 2012
published 01/25/2012 5:45am
Out today with Dianna and Don Ricky from Santa Barbara, CA. We birded in San Rafael Valley and at Patagonia Lake State Park looking for a few target species. We met in Patagonia early enough to start in the valley before sunrise. At 30 degrees it was pretty mild by valley standards.
We had early success on the second pass along FR58 seeing a SHORT-EARED OWL sitting on the fence at 7:25am, 0.6miles from the crossroads at the west end of the valley. The bird had just flushed from the fence as the school bus passed by then returned and allowed us to approach quite closely. Dianna snapped away getting some good images while I fumed about leaving my camera behind in Patagonia. We saw the same bird (or another individual) multiple times through 9:00am hunting mostly on the north side of FR58, sometimes on the south side.
After viewing the owl we started looking for longspurs and sparrows. A flock of 30 CHESTNUT-COLLARED LONGSPURS were in the vicinity of Vaca Ranch Corral but the birds didn't cooperate in terms of providing quality views. As we cruised back west, a WHITE-TAILED KITE was sitting on the fence in same location as the owl.
Except for many VESPER and SAVANNAH SPARROWS that were mostly confined
to a couple of often sparrowy locations, most of the stretch of FR58 between the
corral and the crossroads was devoid of birds. Careful scrutiny only produced
NORTHERN HARRIER, a couple of HORNED LARKS and EASTERN MEADOWLARK. We continued to
work the area and eventually found a single BAIRD'S SPARROW perched on the on
the fence due north of "Lone Tree" at 8:45am. I managed to get the bird in the
scope but our views were fleeting.
I picked up my camera as we passed through Patagonia and we headed to the State Park. We started at the west end of the lake and picked up a couple of easy targets despite surprisingly low activity. Sparrows were rather hard to come by (other than tons of CHIPPING) but we eventually came across RUFOUS-CROWNED, RUFOUS-WINGED, BREWER'S and BLACK-THROATED SPARROWS. At Boulder Beach we were able to compare side by side NEOTROPIC and DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANTS. The latter have been absent/reduced in number during December and early January (as often happens) but at least five were present today.
was our first target at the east end of the lake and we saw one, possibly two,
birds "on the corner" opposite the 2nd wash on both outbound and return walks.
The birds were in the company of SONG and LINCOLN'S SPARROWS and all were
constantly moving around making photography difficult. The published image is
the best that I managed of 55 shots taken. I think Dianna fared better.
Moving on we began the search for BLACK-CAPPED GNATCATCHER. Over a period of an hour we came across two different males between the 2nd and 3rd washes (one in the company of BLUE-GRAY GNATCATCHER). The birds were high in mesquites and constantly on the move and I soon gave up on trying to get a shot. The birds were loosely associated with BRIDLED TITMICE but on this occasion I heard the gnatcatchers calling before I heard the titmice.
Next up we looked for flycatchers and over time we saw the usual suspects - ASH-THROATED, GRAY, HAMMOND'S and DUSKY FLYCATCHERS (the latter unfortunately heard only).
Among the additional species seen were several spiffy male CINNAMON TEAL, a large raft of COMMON MERGANSERS, the continuing mixed flock of MOUNTAIN and WESTERN BLUEBIRDS along the birding trail near Nutting's Wash; and the usual dickey birds including a nicely posed BEWICK'S WREN. 54 species in all despite an afternoon visit and a narrow focus.72 species recorded:
Wednesday, January 25, 2012
published 01/26/2012 12:00pm
Out today with Cody Sontag from Tucson, AZ for a day of "guide's choice" casual birding ahead of another group outing in a couple of weeks. I decided to visit the southern end of Sulphur Springs Valley and St. David. It was a very pleasant day with plenty of sunshine; continuing a little cooler than the unseasonably warm days earlier in the month. The temperature ranged from 28 to 62 degrees.
If felt quite nippy around 8:00am as we worked the roads in the vicinity of Whitewater Draw (Coffman, Lee and Central). Sparrows were not very conspicuous during this period and it was much later in the day before we saw most of the usual suspects. Thrashers were far more conspicuous as is often the case at this time of year during the early part of their breeding season. CURVE-BILLED THRASHERS were singing in multiple locations and we also came across several CRISSAL THRASHERS and BENDIRE'S THRASHER.
SANDHILL CRANES were streaming north of of Whitewater Draw as we started down Coffman Road. Lee Road yielded a perched CRISSAL THRASHER presumably enjoying the warmth of the morning sun. Lee Road has the distinction of having one of the few remaining "green fields" in the south valley as corn and cotton devours most of the former wheat dominated habitat. Present there today were a regal looking FERRUGINOUS HAWK atop an irrigation rig and a few MOUNTAIN BLUEBIRDS working low at the edge of a field. A second pass along Coffman Road produced BENDIRE'S THRASHER.
The morning had warmed somewhat by the time we reached Whitewater Draw at 9:00am and an hour walking around the dikes was very engaging and enjoyable. The most interesting bird for me was a lone TREE SWALLOW working over the first marshy pond. It's a little early for them to be in eastern Cochise County but I do have several records at this very spot in late January. We failed to see the wintering American Bitterns and only heard VIRGINIA RAIL, SORA and SWAMP SPARROW (although we didn't look hard for any of them). A single COMMON GALLINULE was of note since they are quite scarce at this location. Eight species of ducks were conspicuous with GREEN-WINGED TEAL being the most numerous. Shorebirds noted were GREATER YELLOWLEGS, LONG-BILLED DOWITCHER and WILSON'S SNIPE.
The return journey along Coffman Road produced our second perched up CRISSAL THRASHER of the morning along with now plentiful sparrows.
We headed north towards the Granite's in the Swisshelm Mountains but never actually made it. A detour on Slover Road to pick up an "easy" Sage Sparrow consumed over an hour and nary a Sage Sparrow where they are normally easy to find. This is never a birdy area (scrubby flats and low mesquite thickets) but we did see a few typical species including our third CRISSAL THRASHER, GREEN-TAILED TOWHEE, scads of BREWER'S & VESPER SPARROWS, a few BLACK-THROATED SPARROWS and plentiful LARK BUNTINGS.
Forsaking the Granite's, we headed over to St. David and easily found one of the continuing RUFOUS-BACKED ROBINS on Golden Bell Road. The bird was sitting motionless in the thicket opposite the mailbox of #234 at 1:25pm.
A stroll around the Monastery grounds was very pleasant in mid afternoon. Highlights were REDHEAD on the north pond, GRAY FLYCATCHER and three species of towhees - GREEN-TAILED, SPOTTED and ABERT'S.
Before leaving St. David we cruised along Curtis Flats Road, 2.5 miles south of the Monastery on the west side of Hwy 80. Greater White-fronted, Snow and Ross's Geese have been present here recently but they have managed to avoid me during the times that I have checked the area. The first pond was loaded with ducks including a couple of CANVASBACKS. A continuing COMMON GOLDENEYE (female or first winter male) and a VERMILION FLYCATCHER were at the second pond.
An adult COOPER'S HAWK atop a pole on Charleston Road in Sierra Vista was our last bird of the day.77 species recorded:
Friday, January 27, 2012
published 01/28/2012 6:00am
First of two days with Cal Walters from Piedmont, CA. We'll be looking for a number of target species along with photo opportunities and today we probably didn't strike the right balance between the two activities. We spent the day in Santa Cruz County visiting San Rafael Valley, Harshaw Canyon, Peņa Blanca Lake, Patagonia Lake State Park and Paton's Yard. Another beautiful day in southeast Arizona with a full 50 degree swing in temperature -- 23 to 73 degrees.
Conditions in San Rafael Valley were excellent (no wind) after a chilly start. We were
present before dawn but weren't rewarded with a repeat of a closely perched
SHORT-EARED OWL as on Tuesday (of course not since I had a camera ready).
However, the bird was still actively hunting on the north side of FR58 at 8:30am
about 0.6 miles east from the west end of the valley. A single WHITE-TAILED KITE
was once again in the same area,
We didn't find any "easy" fence-sitting BAIRD'S SPARROWS and had to work for them. However, it didn't take too much effort to obtain excellent scope views of two birds that we summoned from the long grass near "Lone Tree". We also had close up views of a couple of GRASSHOPPER SPARROWS in the same area.
A continuing flock of 30 or so CHESTNUT-COLLARED LONGSPURS provided fly-by views at Vaca Ranch Corral.
Leaving the valley we lingered in Harshaw Canyon where Cal attempted to get some photos of MEXICAN JAY, CANYON TOWHEE and PYRRHULOXIA.
Our next stop was at Peņa Blanca Lake where it was generally pretty quiet from 11:00am-1:00pm. However, we did find a few targets including LEAST GREBE, COMMON GROUND-DOVE, RED-NAPED SAPSUCKER and CANYON WREN; 30 species in all. Somewhat surprisingly, we saw just one Least Grebe in West Thumb Cove. The bird quickly disappeared and I consider us pretty fortunate to have seen it without much effort. The lake is the only known breeding location in Arizona and over 20 adults and juveniles were reported in 2011 (perhaps some have now dispersed to other areas).
It was already warm by the time we reached Patagonia Lake so I decided to work on sparrows first since they are in the open areas. Although we had quick success locating RUFOUS-WINGED and BLACK-THROATED SPARROWS, getting photos proved quite time consuming. Next, we quickly checked the lake to pick up NEOTROPIC CORMORANT and it was 3:00pm before we started the main birding trail. Activity here was minimal and we dipped on Black-capped Gnatcatcher and Swamp Sparrow.
We finished up in Paton's Yard where ANNA'S was the only hummingbird. Highlights were LAZULI BUNTING and ABERT'S TOWHEE.76 species recorded:
Saturday, January 28, 2012
published 01/29/2012 6:45am
Out again today with Cal Walters for another round of looking for target species and photo opportunities. Although we managed to strike a better balance between the two almost mutually exclusive activities today, we still ended up looking for tough birds in the heat of the day and others at the back end of the day. There's simply not enough morning hours in a day! We spent all of our time in Cochise County visiting Sulphur Springs Valley, St. David and the Huachucas. We fared well in the morning but our afternoon results were poor.
We started working the "thrasher roads" near Whitewater Draw with excellent results. By the time we departed the south end of the valley we had seen 3 BENDIRE'S, 3 CRISSAL and several CURVE-BILLED THRASHERS on the Coffman/Lee/Central loop. FERRUGINOUS HAWK and ~40 MOUNTAIN BLUEBIRDS continue on Lee.
Following the thrasher search we checked the first pond at Whitewater Draw Wildlife Area looking for SWAMP SPARROW. Although the sparrow was heard fairly early in the proceedings, we failed to lay eyes on it despite the investment of almost an hour! Cal may have seen the bird but I never caught even a glimpse. At least one TREE SWALLOW was working over the marshy pond and several GREATER YELLOWLEGS were present along with a singing (not grunting) VIRGINIA RAIL.
Unlike my last visit to Slover Road on Wednesday, SAGE SPARROW was fairly easy to find today and we eventually enjoyed a decent scope view. We also anjoyed a bonus GOLDEN EAGLE being harassed by a RED-TAILED HAWK. Other species in this area of sparse habitat included BREWERS & BLACK-THROATED SPARROWS, LARK BUNTING and GREEN-TAILED TOWHEE.
By this time we had a half-dozen targets under out belt but that was essentially the end of our success. We headed to the Granites for Black-chinned Sparrow where an investment of two hours (11:30-1:30) at this normally reliable spot failed to pay dividends. Among the birds noted were GREATER ROADRUNNER, GRAY FLYCATCHER, many CACTUS WRENS, CANYON WREN, GREEN-TAILED TOWHEE, loads of BREWER'S SPARROWS, BLACK-THROATED SPARROW, CARDINAL and PYRRHULOXIA.
Next we journeyed over to St. David only to crash and burn again; this time with the Rufous-backed Robin. I've seen one or two RBROs at this location three times recently but not today from 2:30-3:30pm. We saw a couple of AMERICAN ROBINS and there's still plenty of fruit remaining on the hackberry trees so there's no reason to assume that the birds have departed.
Our streak of failures continued for the last hour of the day in the Huachuca Mountains. First, we dipped on Spotted Owl at its winter day roost in Garden Canyon (plenty of fresh whitewash but no owl). We then followed that with a hurried and unsuccessful search for Arizona Woodpecker as daylight ran out on us.
Looking at the big picture over the two days we had decent success but the finale was anything but grand!72 species recorded:
This log is in chronological order and the most recent entries
are at the bottom of the page.
The last update was on Saturday, January 28, 2012
Jan Species Seen
Journal - January, 2012
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