Feb Species Seen
Journal - February, 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 Wednesday, February 29, 2012
Wednesday, February 1, 2012
published 02/02/2012 8:15am
Out today with Cody Sontag from Tucson for the second time in a week without a specific agenda ahead of group outing next week. We visited San Rafael Valley, Patagonia Lake State Park and Paton's Yard.
The temperature dipped to 18 degrees as we drove up Harshaw Canyon before sunrise. In contrast, a range of 27-34 degrees during our time in the valley was positively balmy. Later in the day we encountered low 70s in Patagonia. Southeast Arizona in winter -- sheesh!
Although our early start paid off with at least 2, possibly 3 SHORT-EARED OWLS hunting along FR58, our views were distant and quite fleeting. Unlike recent visits, the birds did not show well and we didn't see any of them sitting on the fence. The owl sightings ranged from about 0.3 to 0.6. miles from the west end of valley between 7:15-8:15am.
Sadly, we dipped on White-tailed Kite while cruising around. On the plus side, we had great success with scope views of 3 BAIRD'S SPARROWS and 2 GRASSHOPPER SPARROWS near Lone Tree (in the grass, no fence-sitters seen). Some 100 CHESTNUT-COLLARED LONGSPURS were in the grass northwest of Vaca Ranch Corral
For those who haven't visited the valley, it's a large, flat area located at
5000 feet surrounded by oak hillsides and mountains. The habitat is a vast sea
of mostly long grass with scattered trees, stock ponds and a few ranches. Although
extremely scenic, bird diversity in this environment is quite low. For example,
today from 7:15-9:15am birding along a 3 mile stretch of the east-west corridor
of Forest Road 58, in addition to birds already mentioned we saw NORTHERN
HARRIER, RED-TAILED HAWK, KESTREL, 2 MERLINS, SAY'S PHOEBE, LOGGERHEAD SHRIKE,
COMMON RAVEN, HORNED LARK, SAVANNAH & VESPER SPARROWS, BREWER'S BLACKBIRD and
The drive back to Patagonia via Harshaw Canyon produced a couple of serendipitous ARIZONA WOODPECKERS. After I heard one calling as we drove by, a short stop soon turned up the birds and we were able to get a scope view. Also present were ACORN WOODPECKER and several NORTHERN FLICKERS. A detour down the normally birdy Harshaw Creek Road was a little disappointing save for a few spiffy male LAWRENCE'S GOLDFINCHES. During a brief stop at the RV Park on the outskirts of Patagonia we saw a couple of PYRRHULOXIAS visiting a feeder.
At Patagonia Lake State Park we began along the exit road and picked RUFOUS-WINGED & BLACK-THROATED SPARROWS. Also here and near the visitor center were COMMON GROUND-DOVE, LADDER-BACKED WOODPECKER, GRAY FLYCATCHER, VERDIN, BEWICK'S WREN and RUFOUS-CROWNED & CHIPPING SPARROWS. On the lake were the usual COMMON MERGANSERS, EARED & PIED BILLED GREBES and NEOTROPIC & DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANTS. A soaring TURKEY VULTURE was a sign of the impending spring season.
Activity along the main Sonoita Creek birding trail was quite slow in the
afternoon. Highlights were a male BLACK-CAPPED GNATCATCHER between the 2nd and
3rd washes (in the
BRIDLED TITMOUSE flock accompanied by a male BLACK-THROATED GRAY WARBLER; and the continuing flock of WESTERN & MOUNTAIN BLUEBIRDS. Other stuff along the trail included several male CINNAMON TEAL, many resplendent GREEN-WINGED TEAL showing a really bright green (teal?) wing; a grunting VIRGINIA RAIL, a very vocal and eventually cooperative ASH-THROATED FLYCATCHER and a fair number of AMERICAN ROBINS (scarce here) feeding with the bluebirds near Nutting's Wash. 50 species in all which is quite low for this time of year.
Our visit to the Paton's Yard was short because neither of us could stand a very loud talking guy who insisted on regaling anyone who would listen about his birding adventures. Mitigation came in the form of a stunning VIOLET-CROWNED HUMMINGBIRD. Other birders called out what would be an early female Black-chinned Hummer but I saw only female ANNA'S. Black-chinned is casual in late February and normally doesn't return until March. A lone PINE SISKIN was in with the hordes of LESSER GOLDFINCHES, at least one of which was a Black-backed (most birds in Arizona are of the Green-backed form). ABERT'S TOWHEE was present among several regular feeder customers.
We finished up by looking for the wintering male WILLIAMSON'S SAPSUCKER on the central green in Patagonia (a bird that I've looked for several times and missed). Today the bird was in the lone, medium sized pine between the Visitor Center and the adjacent building (first spotted by Tucson birder, Diane Touret).
A pretty good day to get February underway.82 species recorded:
Tuesday, February 7, 2012
published 02/08/2012 8:15am
Out today with Cody Sontag and friends from Tucson and Seattle, a mix of experienced and new birders. We birded at Patagonia Lake and the Paton's on another very spring-like day in terms of weather (not birds). We spent almost all of our time at Patagonia Lake where the birding was not particularly productive, especially as the day warmed. No unusual early migrants despite the weather. I at least expected a swallow!
We met in Patagonia and enjoyed great views of the continuing male
WILLIAMSON'S SAPSUCKER in the lone pine between the Visitor Center and the
adjacent building on the central green in Patagonia. The bird hardly moved
between 7:45-8:15am. There was also a RED-NAPED SAPSUCKER, perhaps cashing in on
the work done by the Williamson's.
We began along the exit road as I often do and had trouble finding even the common species. NORTHERN CARDINALS were singing and we also noted PYRRHULOXIA plus tons of CHIPPING SPARROWS along with BLACK-THROATED & RUFOUS-WINGED SPARROWS. The most interesting bird here was a GREAT BLUE HERON sitting atop a juniper harassing/being harassed by a COMMON RAVEN.
Along the Sonoita Creek birding trail we dipped on sparrows of all flavors (how could we not see a Song Sparrow?). GADWALL, MALLARD, CINNAMON & GREEN-WINGED TEAL were in the muddy margins adjacent to the marshes. Best birds were the continuing mixed flock of WESTERN & MOUNTAIN BLUEBIRDS. A search of the bosque yielded GRAY & ASH-THROATED FLYCATCHERS (the latter eating hackberries), several COMMON GROUND-DOVES but zero gnatcatchers in with the BRIDLED TITMICE flock. Along the creek we picked up a vocalizing DUSKY FLYCATCHER and enjoyed a decent view. ABERT'S and a heard only GREEN-TAILED TOWHEE were the only other species noted along the creek.
The last minute came through in fine style on the return walk and we saw a
male BLACK-CAPPED GNATCATCHER (sans cap of course) in the mesquite bosque
between the second and third wash around 1:00pm.
Lunch at Boulder Beach produced a few NEOTROPIC CORMORANTS mixed in with DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANTS, easily visible on the snags across the lake. The regular COMMON MERGANSER flock was out on the lake along with EARED & PIED-BILLED GREBES.
We finished up in the Paton's Yard where we eventually saw three species of hummers -- ANNA'S, BROAD-BILLED and star-of-the-show VIOLET-CROWNED. As usual, LESSER GOLDFINCHES were the most common species. At least 2 PINE SISKINS were using the same feeder. GREEN-TAILED TOWHEE showed well atop a stump as did NORTHERN CARDINAL.64 species recorded:
Thursday, February 9, 2012
published 02/09/2012 5:45pm
Out today with Julie Bryson and Harold Fukuma from Cupertino, CA (not far from my old stomping ground in a former life). We visited Whitewater Draw Wildlife Area in Sulphur Springs Valley and Brewery Gulch in Bisbee. Targets for the day were Crissal Thrasher and Black-chinned Sparrow. After a very overcast, cool and wet day yesterday (that left some fresh snow atop the Huachucas), sunshine and warm early spring conditions returned today.
It was a brisk 32 degrees when we started down Coffman Road at 7:45am. Several hundred SANDHILL CRANES were streaming out of Whitewater and there were still a few milling around through 10:30am when we left.
On Coffman we saw a perched BENDIRE'S THRASHER near the first property south of Davis; Lee Road yielded prolonged scope views of CRISSAL THRASHER. Also on Lee were FERRUGINOUS HAWK, MOUNTAIN BLUEBIRD, a couple of SAGE SPARROWS and a surprise BLUE-GRAY GNATCATCHER, the 80th species that I've seen on this "patch of nothing" that should not be ignored.
To the first time visitor, Lee Road looks like it's worth about 10 seconds of your time. However, over the years I've seen quite a few interesting birds along this one mile stretch of road and it is consistently good for Crissal Thrasher. Habitat consists of bare dirt, low scrub, a fairly dense mesquite thicket and one of the few "green fields" in the southern part of the valley.
Of note at Whitewater Draw were GILDED FLICKER (a location first for me),
a PRAIRIE FALCON in flight and a perched MERLIN. Lacking feathers but also of
interest was a BOBCAT. We saw 40 species in all including heard-only
VIRGINIA RAIL, SORA, several GREATER YELLOWLEGS, 50-ish LEAST SANDPIPERS, 4
LONG-BILLED DOWITCHERS, a couple of WILSON'S SNIPE, AMERICAN PIPIT, SWAMP
SPARROW and LARK BUNTING.
Our trip into Brewery Gulch yielded BLACK-CHINNED SPARROWS but they were a little harder to find than usual in the midday heat. Other regulars present in the oak chaparral and rocky habitat included WHITE-WINGED DOVE, WESTERN SCRUB-JAY, ROCK WREN, RUFOUS-CROWNED SPARROW, CANYON TOWHEE and PYRRHULOXIA. PINE SISKIN was not as expected.
A short stop in lower Carr Canyon as we returned to Sierra Vista produced RED-NAPED SAPSUCKER and PAINTED REDSTART.
Friday, February 10, 2012
published 02/11/2012 4:45am
First of three days today with Kaye and John Thompson from Edmond, OK who have one summer visit to AZ under their belt. On this trip we'll be working on a decent sized list of possible target species. Today we visited San Rafael Valley and Patagonia Lake State Park. We had a very successful outing despite missing a couple of easy species due to a truncated visit to the state park. It was another day with a significant temperature swing from the mid 20s to the low 70s.
We left Sierra Vista in darkness and traveled east through Fort Huachuca to ensure that we reached San Rafael Valley at the optimum time to see SHORT-EARED OWL. Although we only saw one individual this morning (at least three birds are present this winter), we enjoyed excellent flight views in favorable light as well as a view of the bird sitting on the fence. Location for all activity was at the "road dip" on FR58, some 0.6. miles from the west end of the valley. We first saw the owl at 7:15am and had a couple more sightings through 7:30am.
This location mentioned above is one of the better spots for BAIRD'S SPARROW and today we had three of them sitting on the fence at 7:45am. One bird lingered on the fence for 5+ minutes and provided satisfying scope views. Some days you have to work for them but today was not such a day.
We spent a few minutes at Vaca Ranch Corral where a decent sized flock of CHESTNUT-COLLARED LONGSPURS continue.
The area around the RV Park on the outskirts of Patagonia gave us LARK &
BREWER'S SPARROWS. A stop in town at 9:00am produced the continuing male WILLIAMSON'S SAPSUCKER in the pine between the
Visitor Center and the adjacent building on the central green in town.
After an "easy" start with a half dozen targets seen in quick succession, we had to work a little for our birds at Patagonia Lake State Park. We started on the park exit road where RUFOUS-WINGED SPARROW played hard to get by staying well concealed in dense mesquite. We eventually had scope views along with excellent close up views of BLACK-THROATED SPARROWS. As a bonus, we also saw one, possibly two CASSIN'S SPARROWS. As I've mentioned many times, this is a species that is usually hard to find outside of its breeding season during the summer rains.
We had a trifecta of gnatcatcher species -- BLACK-TAILED on the exit road,
BLUE-GRAY in several locations in the mesquite bosque and the oft-elusive
BLACK-CAPPED on the hillside between the first and second wash.
Also in the bosque were PLUMBEOUS & HUTTON'S VIREOS.
Along the main birding trail, the flocks of WESTERN & MOUNTAIN BLUEBIRDS continue to delight many birders (including us).
We didn't have any targets in the Paton's Yard and our short visit served as a pleasant contrast to the rest of the day. Hummingbird visits were scarce but we did see the "current set" of ANNA'S, BROAD-BILLED and VIOLET-CROWNED.
A good start to the trip with 15 targets seen.77 species recorded:
Saturday, February 11, 2012
published 02/12/2012 6:00am
Out again today with Kaye and John. We visited Whitewater Draw Wildlife Area and Brewery Gulch in Bisbee replicating the route that I did on Thursday, albeit with less hours in the field. As on Thursday, several hundred SANDHILL CRANES left Whitewater early. If you want to see them, get here early. If you want to see a spectacle, go further north in the valley.
It was a nippy start on Coffman Road (27 degrees) but we had good success with thrashers. A perched BENDIRE'S THRASHER was once again near the first property south of Davis and CRISSAL THRASHER was easy to see on Lee Road. FERRUGINOUS HAWK and MOUNTAIN BLUEBIRDS continue on Lee. We dipped on SAGE SPARROW but had success on Slover Road further north in the valley.
The low numbers of cranes this year is due to the lack of a safe roosting area. The pump wasn't running again today and water levels remain low. Very few ducks were present. We heard at least 4 VIRGINIA RAILS but didn't lay eyes on any of them with an hour of effort. We dipped on falcons but most of the species that I reported on Thursday continue, including GILDED FLICKER (a very distant view), a large flock of LARK BUNTINGS and SWAMP SPARROW. A handful of CHESTNUT-COLLARED LONGSPURS represented the only birds seen today but not a couple of days ago.
Brewery Gulch was not as birdy today and we worked for almost an hour before finding a lone BLACK-CHINNED SPARROW, our fifth target success of a short day.64 species recorded:
Sunday, February 12, 2012
published 02/13/2012 10:55am
Out for a third and final day with Kaye and John. We only had a few early morning hours available and we spent that time in the Huachucas where we had a few potential targets. Unfortunately, it was poor day to be in the mountains -- cold and very windy throughout, especially in Sawmill Canyon.
The drive through Garden Canyon grasslands yielded very few birds and we had perhaps seen only three species by the time we reached the pictograph site. However, since one of them was SPOTTED OWL on an occasional winter day roost, the morning was already a success. After a little effort in the rocky habitat around the pictographs, we managed decent views of an elusive CANYON WREN (one of several birds were present).
In Sawmill Canyon it looked bleak for a while with only the sounds of MEXICAN
and STELLER'S JAYS rising above the wind noise. Our chances of hearing
woodpeckers were minimal and we even failed to lay eyes on Yellow-eyed Junco.
Lots of juncos were present but they were very uncooperative.
I was extremely surprised and pleased to hear the alarm call, or, perhaps better stated the annoyed call of ELEGANT TROGON (this is a clucking, squirrel-like call that is not typically included in the available trogon recordings). We found the bird (a male) on the hillside above the boggy area near the former cabin site. If there was a downside, it's that our views were not great. Still, a trogon at this elevation in February is an excellent bird. Taking the conditions into account, perhaps I should buy a lottery ticket. I've seen wintering trogons in Sawmill in four different years but this was only my second February record.
It was still windy at lower elevation in Garden Canyon but the birding was a little better. We managed to track down a calling HAMMOND'S FLYCATCHER and a silently foraging RED-NAPED SAPSUCKER that was more skittish than usual. These birds are normally quite confiding. Examination of a BRIDLED TITMOUSE flock produced a TOWNSEND'S WARBLER among a few common regulars.
Although we saw very few birds on the outing, we miraculously managed to eke out 5 targets and Kaye and John went home from their second trip to AZ with 25 new species.
29 species recorded:
Gambel's Quail, N. Harrier, Am. Kestrel, Rock Pigeon, White-winged & Mourning Doves; Spotted Owl, Anna's Hummingbird, Elegant Trogon, Red-naped Sapsucker, Hammond's Flycatcher, Steller's & Mexican Jays; Chihuahuan Raven, Bridled Titmouse, White-breasted Nuthatch, Canyon Wren, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Hermit Thrush, Curve-billed Thrasher, Townsend's Warbler, Canyon Towhee, Vesper Sparrow, Dark-eyed Junco, Pyrrhuloxia, Great-tailed Grackle, House Finch, Lesser Goldfinch and House Sparrow.
Wednesday, February 15, 2012
published 02/16/2012 9:10am
Out today with Dinah Hoyle from Toronto, ON. We birded in San Rafael Valley and at Patagonia Lake State Park. I've visited both locations a number of times in recent weeks so stop me if I sound like a broken record. After yesterday's wind, rain and snow, I expected bird activity to be good today but it was generally slow in all locations.
We had to travel the long way to San Rafael Valley since we couldn't go through Fort Huachuca. The temperature dipped to 17 degrees on the drive through Harshaw Canyon then climbed to a balmy 22 degrees as we crested out in the valley. We cruised the first mile back and forth a couple of times and saw the first SHORT-EARED OWL on the south side of FR58 0.6mi from the west end of the valley at 7:30am. The bird was soon joined by a second and we eventually had a scope view of one of them sitting on the fence.
We stayed in the same area to work on BAIRD'S SPARROW and had an excellent close range scope view on the fence at 8:00am. GRASSHOPPER SPARROWS were also present. Further east, we had the usual fleeting glimpses of CHESTNUT-COLLARED LONGSPURS at Vaca Ranch Corral. Fewer birds were present today and they didn't take flight much. We had to be satisfied with scoping a couple of drab females on the fence. A magnificent WHITE-TAILED KITE was atop an Agave as we left the valley at 9:00am.
A brief stop in Patagonia once again produced the continuing male WILLIAMSON'S SAPSUCKER in the pine between the Visitor Center and the adjacent building on the central green in town. We watched the bird change locations so it's not stuck to the tree!
Birding at Patagonia Lake State Park was slow going. We began along the exit road where RUFOUS-WINGED SPARROW proved a very tough nut to crack. It probably took us the best part of an hour checking multiple locations before we laid eyes on a couple of very furtive and silent birds. Harder to find than Baird's Sparrow! However, we eventually managed satisfying views for our efforts. As a bonus, we saw two TOWNSEND'S SOLITAIRE'S near the entrance to the sewage treatment plant. Even better, the birds were singing (a song perhaps only bettered by Brown-backed Solitaire). We also picked up GREEN-TAILED TOWHEE during the search.
We worked the birding trail at the east end of the lake walking as far as Sonoita Creek. Best birds were the continuing flocks of WESTERN & MOUNTAIN BLUEBIRDS, the latter much easier to see today out in the open near Nutting's Wash. The Westerns were associated with AMERICAN ROBINS and mostly stayed concealed in the mesquites and willows. It's worth noting that bluebirds and robins are not present at the lake in most years so the assemblage this year is a rare treat. GREEN-WINGED and CINNAMON TEAL once again offered close range views in the channel adjacent to the marsh. Others saw Virginia Rail but not us. NORTHERN ROUGH-WINGED SWALLOW over the lake was a harbinger of spring.
On the return walk I decided to check Nutting's Wash on a hunch, but let's call it "guide's intuition". About 200 yards into the wash we found a foraging HUTTON'S VIREO then, almost immediately, a male BLACK-CAPPED GNATCATCHER. The bird was mostly silent but called a couple of times before we lost sight after a minute or so. Later, on the main trail, we noted a BLUE-GRAY GNATCATCHER to emphasize the need for caution with identification. These species are superficially similar at this time of year. Apart from voice, bill length and color are the best diagnostic aids.
In all we came across 50 species at the lake including LESSER SCAUP, COMMON MERGANSER, TURKEY VULTURE (another harbinger of spring), COMMON GROUND-DOVE, the usual GRAY & ASH-THROATED FLYCATCHERS (the latter feeding on hackberries); PHAINOPEPLA, ABERT'S TOWHEE and BREWER'S BLACKBIRD (rare at the lake as a spring and fall migrant).
VIOLET-CROWNED HUMMINGBIRD made a couple of feeder visits during a 30 minute stop in the Paton's yard. ANNA'S was the only other hummer. A few PINE SISKINS continue with the hordes of LESSER GOLDFINCHES. A hoped for Lazuli Bunting was a no show.
Interestingly, MEXICAN JAYS were on Harshaw Road almost right in the town of Patagonia and we saw more on Hwy 82 just outside town. I've seen them in both locations before but it's definitely an unusual occurrence to see them away from their preferred habitat of oaks in the mountains. Perhaps a weather related event.
73 species recorded:
Mallard, Cinnamon & Green-winged Teal; N. Shoveler, Lesser Scaup, Common Merganser, Ruddy Duck, Pied-billed Grebe, Great Blue Heron, Turkey Vulture, White-tailed Kite, N. Harrier, Red-tailed Hawk, Merlin, Am. Coot, Rock Pigeon, Eurasian Collared-Dove, White-winged & Mourning Doves; Common Ground-Dove, Short-eared Owl, Anna's & Violet-crowned Hummingbirds; Gila & Ladder-backed Woodpeckers; Williamson's Sapsucker, N. Flicker, Gray & Ash-throated Flycatchers; Black & Say's Phoebes; Hutton's Vireo, Mexican Jay, Chihuahuan & Common Ravens; Horned Lark, N. Rough-winged Swallow, Bridled Titmouse, Verdin, White-breasted Nuthatch, Bewick's & Marsh Wrens; Blue-gray & Black-capped Gnatcatchers; Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Western & Mountain Bluebirds; Townsend's Solitaire, Am. Robin, N. Mockingbird, Curve-billed Thrasher, Phainopepla, Chestnut-collared Longspur, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Green-tailed & Abert's Towhees; Rufous-winged, Chipping, Vesper, Lark, Savannah, Baird's, Song, Lincoln's & White-crowned Sparrows; N. Cardinal, Pyrrhuloxia, Red-winged & Brewer's Blackbirds; Eastern Meadowlark, House Finch, Pine Siskin and Lesser Goldfinch.
Friday, February 17, 2012
published 02/18/2012 9:50am
Out today with Kieran Kilday and Melinda Robinson from North Palm Beach, FL looking for a handful of target species. It certainly wasn't Palm Beach weather and for much of the day we worked under heavy overcast conditions in Sulphur Springs Valley and snow in the Huachucas. Although we had a fair amount of success with targets, It was a day of few birds in general.
We started in Sulphur Springs Valley looking for thrashers that were decidedly uncooperative and didn't want to be seen. I worked my standard "thrasher route" and after an hour we had only managed a single BENDIRE'S THRASHER on Coffman. Absolutely no sign of Crissal in locations where they have been singing on territory in recent weeks. A surprising result given that this is thrasher breeding season. We persevered and eventually earned the reward of an excellent scope view of a CRISSAL THRASHER in the south mesquite thicket at Whitewater Draw. A successful walk-away ending with both target thrashers seen after investing over three hours of effort.
Among the more interesting birds seen while searching for thrashers were FERRUGINOUS HAWKS on Lee Road and at Whitewater Draw; and the continuing flock of MOUNTAIN BLUEBIRDS on Lee. Other species included SANDHILL CRANE, TREE SWALLOW, AMERICAN PIPIT, YELLOW-HEADED BLACKBIRD and lots of LARK BUNTINGS.
We left the valley and headed over to Bisbee where we had instant success with RUFOUS-CROWNED and BLACK-CHINNED SPARROWS. Excellent views of both species in short order. We certainly paid our dues earlier in the morning.
Unfortunately, we couldn't finish with a flourish though and dipped on Spotted Owl as snow started to fall in the Huachucas.43 species recorded:
Wednesday, February 22, 2012
published 02/23/2012 4:40am
Out today with Jill & Alex Johnson and Mason Rose, all from MA and all wintering in Patagonia. We visited Sulphur Springs Valley looking for thrashers and sparrows. It was an unseasonably warm afternoon after a chilly start (22 degrees on the drive over from Sierra Vista). A very brief report today.
We spent most of our time at the south end of Sulphur Springs Valley where
the best sighting was a LEWIS'S WOODPECKER. This species winters sparingly in
southeast Arizona and they have been scarcer than usual this winter. The bird
was on Mormon Road, approximately midway between Jefferson Rd. and Gleeson Rd.,
flycatching from a stand of leafless trees on the east side of Mormon, just
south of Chaparral Lane. This location is just east of Elfrida. Also on this
short stretch were FERRUGINOUS HAWK, MERLIN, PRAIRIE FALCON and a few common
birds including many LARK BUNTINGS and a small flock of YELLOW-HEADED
Whitewater Draw yielded 2 BENDIRE'S THRASHERS, 1 SAGE THRASHER and several SAGE SPARROWS in the south mesquite thicket and associated open land. The sparrows were very secretive and gave us the runaround before we finally got a scope view. I struck out at all my regular Crissal Thrasher spots, including Lee Road where FERRUGINOUS HAWK and MOUNTAIN BLUEBIRDS continue.
It was eerily quiet at Whitewater Draw without the sound of Sandhill Cranes. We didn't specifically look for them, but none were seen or heard between Whitewater Draw and a mile or so north of Elfrida between 7:15am and 12:30pm. I suspect that most birds that haven't departed are now up at Willcox where 5000 were recently seen.
Thursday, February 23, 2012
published 02/24/2012 4:45am
First of two days with Chris Johnson from Orange County, CA. We visited San Rafael Valley and the Patagonia Area looking for a large selection of potential targets. It was another ridiculous early spring warm weather day with a 22-73 degrees swing in temperature.
We started in San Rafael Valley where our early start soon paid dividends. We
traveled via Fort Huachuca west gate in darkness and entered the valley just
before 7:00am. First birds of the day were a flock of MEXICAN JAYS in the gloom
before sunrise. About 15 minutes later we enjoyed watching two hunting
SHORT-EARED OWLS on FR 58 between 0.3mi and 0.6mi from the west end of the
valley. We also had a scope view of one bird sitting on the fence. Turning our
attention to sparrows, we managed scope views of at least 2 BAIRD'S SPARROWS and
3 GRASSHOPPER SPARROWS in the same area as the owls.
A short vigil at Vaca Ranch Corral produced a flock of 40-ish CHESTNUT-COLLARED LONGSPURS and a MERLIN. Not many other species in the valley (which is normal); just the usual scads of HORNED LARKS along with a few NORTHERN HARRIERS, VESPER & SAVANNAH SPARROWS and EASTERN MEADOWLARKS.
We noted a roadside RED-NAPED SAPSUCKER as we drove through Harshaw Canyon plus ACORN WOODPECKER and LINCOLN'S SPARROW. A feeder stop on Harshaw Creek Road produced more MEXICAN JAYS and ACORN WOODPECKERS along with CURVE-BILLED THRASHER and PYRRHULOXIA.
We checked the pine between the buildings on Patagonia common for the Williamson's Sapsucker at 10:00am without success. Later checks at 1:15pm and 2:15pm were also unsuccessful. There's still plenty of running sap so the bird is likely still present.
Patagonia Lake State Park was very quiet (bird-wise) in the heat of the day. The campsites are filling up during the peak snowbird season and scads of RVs were rolling in.
We worked first on sparrows along the exit road and had good views of RUFOUS-WINGED and BLACK-THROATED. Also here were WHITE-WINGED-DOVE. LADDER-BACKED WOODPECKER, VERDIN and CARDINAL. The main birding trail wasn't very birdy and we didn't find the normally conspicuous GRAY FLYCATCHER for quite some time. Highlight was a male BLACK-CAPPED GNATCATCHER near the mouth of Nutting's Wash. I heard the chatter of a BRIDLED TITMOUSE flock then someone called us over to the gnatcatcher. The hanger-on HUTTON'S VIREO was also present. We saw nothing else in the wash. nor did we see the flocks of Western and Mountain Bluebirds and Am. Robins that have been around for a while. Perhaps they have departed? More titmice and a BLUE-GRAY GNATCATCHER were in the second wash and emphasized the need for caution with identification, as I've mentioned before. Among the birds noted on the water were CINNAMON TEAL, LESSER SCAUP, COMMON MERGANSER, EARED GREBE and NEOTROPIC CORMORANT.
The Paton's Yard was busy with people and birds but, disappointingly, we didn't see any hummers during our 30 minute stop (Anna's, Broad-billed and Violet-crowned had been seen earlier). Our successes were GAMBEL'S QUAIL, GILA WOODPECKER, GREEN-TAILED & ABERT'S TOWHEE and PINE SISKIN. Also present were LARK SPARROW, PYRRHULOXIA and LAZULI BUNTING.
By my count we ended the day with 26 targets seen.63 species recorded:
Friday, February 24, 2012
published 02/25/2012 7:30am
Out again today with Chris Johnson for another bout of light target birding, mostly in Sulphur Springs Valley.
We arrived at Whitewater Draw at 6:55am just in time to see SANDHILL CRANES departing to feed further north. We chased after them and managed to catch up with 100 birds near Elfrida where we enjoyed a nice view of the birds overhead in flight.
After seeing the cranes we focused on thrashers, ending up with two of our
three targets. BENDIRE'S THRASHERS were seen on Coffman and Hopkins Roads. SAGE
THRASHER and SAGE SPARROWS were once again in the south mesquite thicket at
Whitewater and we saw both species well despite noisy construction equipment and
truck traffic. I had an interesting experience on Lee Road while looking for
Crissal. I heard a very distant singing bird but couldn't pinpoint its location.
After changing location by a hundred yards or so, this happened again and it was
a very frustrating experience to say the least. In the end I was forced to
conclude that what I had heard was the thrasher-like whisper song of a BLUE-GRAY
GNATCATCHER that we saw foraging very close to the road (presumably the same
individual that I saw here on February 9). FERRUGINOUS HAWK continues on Lee but
for the first time this year I missed Mountain Bluebirds and they may have
departed. GREATER ROADRUNNER was a consolation.
Water levels at Whitewater continue to dwindle and ducks were few. The main marshy pond is now mostly dry (in terms of area) but numerous SORAS and at least 2 VIRGINIA RAILS (heard only) continue. No sign of either of the Swamp Sparrows that wintered here. Shorebirds noted were GREATER YELLOWLEGS, LEAST SANDPIPER, LONG-BILLED DOWITCHER and WILSON'S SNIPE. At least one AMERICAN AVOCET has returned but I doubt that there's enough water present for them to breed here this year unless something changes soon. Also present were FERRUGINOUS HAWK, MERLIN several TREE SWALLOWS, PYRRHULOXIA and scads of LARK BUNTINGS.
Further north in the valley, LEWIS'S WOODPECKER continues on Mormon Road in the same location that I described on Wednesday, midway between Jefferson and Gleeson Roads. No Prairie Falcon though despite driving around in suitable habitat. Lots of YELLOW-HEADED BLACKBIRDS were on Bell Road.
We rounded out the day in Brewery Gulch, Bisbee where we quickly found and enjoyed a singing BLACK-CHINNED SPARROW. The bird was just starting to acquire a black chin. We also had excellent views of CANYON TOWHEE and RUFOUS-CROWNED SPARROW.
We picked up 9 targets on the day for a total of 35 over two days. I had expected closer to 50 but we weren't able to get into enough habitats.67 species recorded:
Monday, February 27, 2012
published 02/28/2012 4:50am
First of two days target birding with Matthew Rymkiewicz from NY. Today we birded in San Rafael Valley and Patagonia. The forecasted high winds started to just as we left the valley and increased in velocity throughout the rest of the day. Did I ever mention that I hate wind!
Short-eared Owl wasn't a target in the valley so I started later than most recent visits. We didn't look hard for owls and didn't see any. Our target sparrows were very cooperative and we had scope views of 3 BAIRD'S SPARROWS and 2-3 GRASSHOPPER SPARROWS (all fence-sitting) on Forest Road 58. As usual, CHESTNUT-COLLARED LONGSPURS were at Vaca Ranch Corral and are now starting to acquire decent breeding plumage. MERLIN continues but we didn't see any White-tailed Kites.
The drive down Harshaw Canyon produced a beautiful male EASTERN BLUEBIRD.
In Patagonia, Williamson's Sapsucker was not present in "its pine" between the buildings on Patagonia common.
It was very windy at Patagonia Lake State Park and I was happy to find RUFOUS-WINGED SPARROW before the wind became a problem. Despite the wind we did okay. Highlight was a female RUDDY GROUND-DOVE on the hillside adjacent to the second wash. Matthew first spotted the bird sitting on a rock then we then saw it on the ground. Calling COMMON GROUND-DOVES were in the same area. Interestingly, I have several February sightings of Ruddy Ground-Dove at the lake in previous years. Common Ground-Doves have been around all winter.
We had two sightings of BLACK-CAPPED GNATCATCHER. The first on our outbound
walk was a lone bird in the long stretch of mesquite between the third and
fourth wash. Later, as we returned, two birds were in the bosque between the
second and third wash. Also in the bosque were GRAY & ASH-THROATED FLYCATCHERS, PLUMBEOUS
& HUTTON'S VIREOS and
BLACK-THROATED GRAY WARBLER.
AMERICAN ROBINS continue but Western and Mountain Bluebirds were not seen for the second consecutive visit. VERMILION FLYCATCHERS have returned in numbers since my last visit and are now instantly common. No real migrants save for ROUGH-WINGED and VIOLET-GREEN SWALLOWS.
The upper portion of Nutting's Wash was quite active and we saw ROCK WREN,
PHAINOPEPLA, GREEN-TAILED TOWHEE and RUFOUS-CROWNED, CHIPPING, BREWER'S &
ANNA'S was the only hummer at Paton's from 1:50-2:30pm. LAZULI BUNTING and LAWRENCE'S GOLDFINCH were some consolation. Fewer species than normal were active, perhaps due to a marauding SHARP-SHINNED HAWK and the windy conditions.
Tuesday, February 28, 2012
published 02/29/2012 4:45am
Out again with NY birder Matthew Rymkiewicz for another day of target birding. We spent all of our time in Sulphur Springs Valley where it was much milder than usual early this morning (40s instead of the more normal mid 20s). Thankfully, it was a much less windy day than yesterday. We focused on thrashers, raptors and sparrows.
Thrashers were the first order of business and we eventually found several BENDIRE'S THRASHERS (one on Coffman, one on Central near Lee and another on Mormon north of Jefferson); SAGE THRASHER and SAGE SPARROW in the south mesquite thicket at Whitewater Draw; and CRISSAL THRASHER on Mormon. It's worth noting that Crissal Thrashers are far less vocal and generally inconspicuous at the moment during their nesting phase.
Lee Road produced the continuing MOUNTAIN BLUEBIRDS and SAGE SPARROW but not
the normally reliable Ferruginous Hawk.
LEWIS'S WOODPECKER continues on Mormon Road (see Feb 22 journal). The bird seems to alternate its time between the stand of leafless trees on Mormon and in the Pecan trees at the property to the east (a little south of Chaparral Lane). LARK BUNTINGS were abundant on Mormon and many places throughout the valley.
Our search for PRAIRIE FALCON was instantly successful with a bird on Mormon
just north of Thompson. This is close to where I saw a bird last Wednesday. The
bird was still present some time later as we returned south on Mormon, this time
south of Webb.
FERRUGINOUS HAWK was a tough nut to crack today and we covered lots of ground both east and west of Hwy 191 (as far north as Zuck Farms) before finding a very cooperative individual on Moore Road just north of Courtland. The bird was atop a pole and we were able to get great scope views of front and rear by staying a respectable distance either side of the bird. We also saw the bird in flight looking very white and magnificent with the sun behind it. This area (fields along Courtland Road) was formerly a great spot to see concentrations of Ferruginous Hawks before land use changes occurred. It's depressing to witness the decline of wintering numbers of this species in Sulphur Springs Valley over the past 10 years. Think about that the next time you put Ethanol in your green vehicle.
We finished up with a couple of generally unproductive early afternoon hours in the Granites. Very few birds in this normally birdy area (~20 species) and we dipped on Black-chinned Sparrow. I'd initially expected to go to Brewery Gulch for the sparrow but we decided against a late afternoon visit. BLACK-THROATED SPARROWS were initially very conspicuous but over the course of a couple of hours they evaporated and the area became very quiet. On the plus side, we had great views of a target CANYON WREN singing its heart out. Other species included SHARP-SHINNED HAWK, VERDIN, CACTUS WREN, GREEN-TAILED & CANYON TOWHEES, CHIPPING, BREWER'S & VESPER SPARROWS, CARDINAL and PYRRHULOXIA.
Wednesday, February 29, 2012
published 03/01/2012 8:15am
Out today with Richard and Kay Porter from my old stomping ground of Bellingham, WA. We didn't have any real targets although we did get sucked in to looking for the wintering Elegant Trogon. We started in San Rafael Valley where the temperature at Vaca Ranch Corral at 7:00am was 16 degrees. Yikes!
Perhaps due to the low temperature or the fact that they had been battered by wind for two days, sparrows were mostly AWOL. Even the normally common SAVANNAH SPARROWS were hard to come by, at least through 8:30am. We saw very few birds on the fences and I had to go to the old standby of "lone tree" at the west end of FR58 to find a single BAIRD'S SPARROW that afforded us a prolonged scope view. Unfortunately, GRASSHOPPER SPARROW was heard only.
For the second time this week (Monday and today) I didn't see any Short-eared Owls so perhaps they have left. This is in keeping with Jim Burns' report of owls seen last Friday and Saturday but not Sunday.
As we left the valley and headed to Patagonia, a beautiful BLACK-CHINNED SPARROW sporting a full black chin was spontaneously singing on Harshaw Creek Road about 1/2 mile from the "up canyon" intersection with Harshaw Canyon Road. Yesterday I worked unsuccessfully for two hours in the Granite's for this bird! My life is full of birding ironies such as this.
At Patagonia Lake State Park, for the first time in a while I didn't work the mesquite areas along the exit road for sparrows. Instead we began by scanning the west end of the lake where we saw a couple of WESTERN GREBES. Another of those ironies (or should I say a "Murphy sticks it to me moment") -- on Monday I looked unsuccessfully for this species in the exact same location. Other stuff on the water included LESSER SCAUP, COMMON MERGANSER, EARED GREBE, GREAT EGRET and numerous NEOTROPIC & DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANTS. At the east end of the lake we added GADWALL, CINNAMON and GREEN-WINGED TEAL and a few others.
Lots of birders present today as snowbird season peaks. The wintering male ELEGANT TROGON was seen along the creek by many and we decided to give it a try despite receiving piss poor directions. Not only did we not see the bird, we walked way too far not seeing it! To make matters worse, we were shown the correct location as we walked back but didn't stick around. Later we learned that the bird was seen again shortly afterwards. Another downside to this episode is that we burned lots of daylight that we could have used to enjoy other birds. Murphy has definitely got his licks this week.
We didn't spend any time in the washes looking for Black-capped Gnatcatcher and saw only BLUE-GRAY GNATCATCHER. We saw VERMILION and ASH-THROATED FLYCATCHERS and I heard DUSKY and GRAY.
The only bird of note was a migrant CASSIN'S VIREO, my earliest ever sighting (not counting wintering birds). My previous early date for a migrant Cassin's was March 13. The only other migrant seen today was a SPOTTED SANDPIPER.
During a short stop in the Paton's Yard we had brief visits from BROAD-BILLED & VIOLET-CROWNED HUMMINGBIRDS and LAZULI BUNTING.76 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 Wednesday, February 29, 2012
Feb Species Seen
Journal - February, 2012
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