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July 8th, 2015
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Buff-collared Nightjar, Five-striped Sparrow

Another successful target-birding mission, with more memorable experiences in the wonderful Atascosa Mountains and Pajarito Wilderness.

Peña Blanca Lake:

The day didn’t start well. When we arrived at the ZONE-TAILED HAWK nest site I was heartbroken to discover that the big dead tree in which the hawks’ nest was located had come down in a monsoon storm. The adult hawks were still in attendance and got very agitated when I went to look at the fallen tree, which was in fairly thick vegetation. Maybe a chick survived the fall and was hidden on the ground, or had managed to get up into a bush or small tree. I hope so, but I didn’t want to annoy the hawks any further, so we retreated.

Zone-tailed Hawk

Also at the lake, RUDDY DUCK, PIED-BILLED GREBE, BLACK VULTURE, all three myiarchus flycatchers (DUSKY-CAPPED, ASH-THROATED and BROWN-CRESTED), BUSHTIT, SUMMER TANAGER, and BLUE GROSBEAK.

Ruby Rd:

HUTTON’S VIREO, RUFOUS-WINGED SPARROW and HOODED ORIOLE at White Rock Campground. Pair of GRAY HAWKS at Yank’s Canyon. Also along the road, COMMON GROUND-DOVE, GREATER ROADRUNNER, BLUE GROSBEAK, and a nice SONORAN WHIPSNAKE.

Gray Hawk

Rufous-winged Sparrow

Sycamore Canyon:

Just around the parking area we found SUMMER TANAGER, and ‘AZURE’ EASTERN BLUEBIRD.

Ruby Lakes (pond near California Gulch, NOT Ruby):

We had a real treat when an adult GOLDEN EAGLE appeared over the near ridge and landed on the slope, then flew up and down a couple of times at close range. There is a breeding site nearby, but I haven’t seen one close like this here before.

Golden Eagle

Golden Eagle

Golden Eagle

Golden Eagle

The THICK-BILLED KINGBIRDS were still present, this time between the old dam by the road and the pond. Also there, GRAY HAWK, NORTHERN BEARDLESS-TYRANNULET, YELLOW WARBLER, SUMMER TANAGER, and HOODED ORIOLE.

California Gulch Rd:

To my great delight I found my fourth BROWN VINESNAKE in the Atascosa Highlands / Pajarito Wilderness area in the last ten months. I’ve been very fortunate to have so many encounters with this nationally rare and highly enigmatic reptile. This one was again in cryptic pose on the road, but unlike the previous vinesnakes, it was rocking its head up and down, and didn’t hang around on the road in a frozen posture like the others. It’s incredible how they disappear as soon as they work their way into a tree or shrub.

Brown Vinesnake

Brown Vinesnake

Brown Vinesnake

Unusually, at one point we had four woodpecker species in view: GILA, LADDER-BACKED, and ARIZONA WOODPECKERS, and a NORTHERN FLICKER.

California Gulch:

Our first target bird was FIVE-STRIPED SPARROW, and there were double-figures up and singing throughout the gulch. The first one we heard was only a hundred yards down the trail, the highest I’ve encountered one here. Also in the gulch, PURPLE MARTIN, BLACK-TAILED GNATCATCHER (but no Black-capped again), YELLOW-BREASTED CHAT, BLACK-HEADED and BLUE GROSBEAKS, and VARIED BUNTING.

Confluence of California Gulch and Warsaw Canyon:

Arriving before dusk so we could see the lie of the land, we found two more pairs of FIVE-STRIPED SPARROWS, plus BROWN-CRESTED FLYCATCHER, VARIED BUNTING, and HOODED ORIOLE.

We got ourselves in position for our second target bird at dusk, and at 8:00 we had a brief view of a BUFF-COLLARED NIGHTJAR on the ground. A coulple of minutes later, two birds began chasing each other around. We got close enough views to determine that it was two males, with extensive white in their tails. Both birds landed, one in view, which then gave a single snatch of song. Other than that, and a couple of clicks and chucks, we didn’t hear any other vocalizations. We did, however, get more great views of birds in flight and perched, including a female that perched up nicely for several minutes. We left, fully satisfied, at 8:17.

Female Buff-collared Nightjar

Female Buff-collared Nightjar

Female Buff-collared Nightjar

We also heard COMMON POORWILL, and ELF OWL.

California Gulch Rd again:

A GREAT HORNED OWL flushed from the roadside on the way out.

Ruby Rd again:

There was no eye-shine, but I saw a familiar shape on the road and managed to stop the car in time. The distinctive lump turned out to be a rather sick and probably moribund COMMON POORWILL, maybe a casualty of a collision with a car. There wasn’t anything I could do for it other than move it away from the road in the hope that it recovered.

Common Poorwill

Common Poorwill

Common Poorwill

Richard with Common Poorwill

We also encountered several SONORAN DESERT TOADS and TARANTULAS along the road, always fun.

Sycamore Canyon again:

Elf Owls have been easy around the parking area lately, with several birds calling and at least one showing well, but tonight – nothing. Presumably the young have fledged and the family moved on, but I’ll look again in the coming weeks.

 

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