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April 19th, 2017
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Palo Duro Creek, Paton Center, Peña Blanca Lake & Canyon

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A really nice day of birding in Santa Cruz County, with migration in full swing and a number of great highlights.

Palo Duro Creek Golf Course, Nogales:

The ponds at the abandoned golf course were a good choice to start the day, with 42 species in just a couple of hours. Migration was in evidence, the most obvious participants being a flock of 14 AMERICAN AVOCET which spent a full hour flying back and forth, not sure if they should land or not.

American Avocet

American Avocet

American Avocet

American Avocet

American Avocet

American Avocet

A flock of 11 WHITE-FACED IBIS headed north, and then a group of 6 WILLET magically appeared on the shoreline of the western pond, their arrival unseen.

Willet

Willet

There was a good smattering of ducks for the time of year: a pair of GADWALL, a pair of ‘MEXICAN’ MALLARD, five CINNAMON TEAL, a pair of NORTHERN SHOVELER, and several RUDDY DUCKS. We also found PIED-BILLED GREBE, GREAT BLUE HERON, SNOWY EGRET, GRAY HAWK, SPOTTED SANDPIPER, BELTED KINGFISHER, NORTHERN ROUGH-WINGED, TREE and BARN SWALLOWS, LUCY’S and YELLOW WARBLERS, COMMON YELLOWTHROAT, ABERT’S TOWHEE, and a couple of lingering YELLOW-HEADED BLACKBIRDS. We had a ‘field guide moment’ when both CASSIN’S and WESTERN KINGBIRDS perched side by side.

Belted Kingfisher

Gadwall (left), 'Mexican' Mallard (center and right), Cinnamon Teal (back)

Snowy Egret

Yellow-headed Blackbird

S. River Rd, Nogales:

I spied a GRAY HAWK perched on a pole by the bridge crossing the Santa Cruz River, so we pulled over to get a better look. The next car that came by stopped and asked what we were looking at – passing birders, who joined us to watch the hawk. The next car, the same. And the next! Before long we had about 20 birders enjoying the hawk.

Gray Hawk

This is a regular site for nesting GRAY HAWKS, and a second bird called from a nearby cottonwood. Three BLACK VULTURES flew over, and a RUFOUS-WINGED SPARROW was singing from the mesquites.

Black Vulture

Rufous-winged Sparrow

Tucson Audubon’s Paton Center for Hummingbirds, Patagonia:

We spent a pleasant couple of hours watching and photographing a nice range of spring birds at the feeders, and the surrounding world-class riparian habitat. Highlights included GRAY HAWK, INCA DOVE, BROAD-BILLED and VIOLET-CROWNED HUMMINGBIRDS, NORTHERN BEARDLESS-TYRANNULET, DUSKY-CAPPED FLYCATCHER, LUCY’S, YELLOW, and both ‘AUDUBON’S’ and another ‘MYRTLE’ YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLER, LINCOLN’S SPARROW, ABERT’S TOWHEE, GREEN-TAILED TOWHEE, SUMMER TANAGER, a bunch of LAZULI BUNTINGS, a smart male INDIGO BUNTING, and PINE SISKIN.

Lazuli Bunting (left) and Indigo Bunting (right)

'Myrtle' Yellow-rumped Warbler

'Myrtle' Yellow-rumped Warbler

Most interesting to me was the continuing CURVE-BILLED THRASHERS, which have made a nest in a cavity in a dead tree. In the desert, Curve-billed Thrashers famously build their nests in cholla and other cacti and will utilize dense bushes and trees in other situations, but I’ve not found any reference to them nesting in tree cavities, so it’s presumably quite unusual.

Curve-billed Thrasher

Curve-billed Thrasher

Ruby Rd:

A quick stop near the Calabasas Campground produced an immature male VERMILION FLYCATCHER, plus DUSKY-CAPPED FLYCATCHER, and RUFOUS-CROWNED SPARROW.

Vermilion Flycatcher

Peña Blanca Lake:

Even though it was mid-afternoon, I fancied we’d do well at the lake, and so it proved. Raptors were magnificently in evidence. A migrant OSPREY soared over the lake, looking for fish.

Osprey

We were delighted to see a COMMON BLACK HAWK and get great views as it also circled above us, on the lookout.

Common Black Hawk

Common Black Hawk

Common Black Hawk

By the nest site, a ZONE-TAILED HAWK watched us suspiciously from a regular perch.

Zone-tailed Hawk

Also at the lake, NEOTROPIC CORMORANT, WHITE-THROATED SWIFT, BELTED KINGFISHER, PACIFIC-SLOPE and DUSKY-CAPPED FLYCATCHERS, CASSIN’S and WESTERN KINGBIRDS, BELL’S VIREO, COMMON YELLOWTHROAT, BLACK-THROATED, LARK and LINCOLN’S SPARROWS, and LAZULI BUNTING.

Black-throated Sparrow

Black-throated Sparrow

Black-throated Sparrow

Lark Sparrow

Northern Flicker

Northern Flicker

Pacific-slope Flycatcher

There’s good news and bad news concerning wren nests at the lake. Sadly it seems that the CANYON WREN nest I’ve been watching lately has been predated, as there were no chicks in it today, and they weren’t close to the stage of fledging the nest on their own. An adult bird was singing from the nearby hillside. On the bright side, there are two ROCK WREN nests, one in the parking lot and another only a hundred yards away. Both sets of parents are feeding young, which can be heard squeaking every time the adults drop between the rocks with food.

Rock Wren

Rock Wren

Peña Blanca Canyon:

We didn’t arrive until early evening, but it was still worth it. We wanted to find an ELEGANT TROGON, and we did, but we didn’t get great views.

Elegant Trogon

We also found GREATER ROADRUNNER, COSTA’S and BROAD-BILLED HUMMINGBIRDS, ARIZONA WOODPECKER, HAMMOND’S, DUSKY-CAPPED and ASH-THROATED FLYCATCHERS, and BRIDLED TITMOUSE.

Canyon Wren

Hammond's Flycatcher

As the sun went down and we headed back to the car, we heard a pair of ELF OWLS calling. Then another, neighbors in the same part of the canyon. A fifth bird began vocalizing as we got nearer to the car. It struck me that I hadn’t birded the canyon at night, something of an oversight that I’ll fix in the near future. I’ve heard ELF OWLS calling during the day further up the canyon at two different spots, so it begs the question: just how many Elf Owls are in the canyon? And what else could be lurking at night? When I find out, I’ll let you know…

Elf Owl

Elf Owl

 

April 17th, 2017
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Five-striped Sparrow, Buff-collared Nightjar

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A day of target birding in Santa Cruz County, at first frustrating, but ultimately successful.

Rock Corral Canyon:

I’ve had good luck with Five-striped Sparrow here lately, seeing one every time I tried this month. So it was a surprise that we couldn’t rustle one up today, despite it being our main target and spending most of the morning exploring the whole area of their habitat in great detail. Such is birding.

While we were failing with the sparrow, we did find SHARP-SHINNED and GRAY HAWKS, COSTA’S and BROAD-BILLED HUMMINGBIRDS, NORTHERN BEARDLESS-TYRANNULET, PACIFIC-SLOPE, VERMILION, DUSKY-CAPPED and ASH-THROATED FLYCATCHERS, loads of BELL’S and a pair of HUTTON’S VIREOS, BLACK-TAILED GNATCATCHER, ORANGE-CROWNED, lots of LUCY’S, ‘AUDUBON’S’ YELLOW-RUMPED and a nice migrant VIRGINIA’S WARBLER, RUFOUS-WINGED and LINCOLN’S SPARROWS, GREEN-TAILED TOWHEE, several SUMMER TANAGERS, my first two WESTERN TANAGERS of the year, BLACK-HEADED GROSBEAK, LAZULI BUNTING, and SCOTT’S and HOODED ORIOLES.

Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet

Hooded Oriole (top left) and Western Tanager (bottom right)

Confluence of California Gulch & Warsaw Canyon:

We headed in via Arivaca and Warsaw Canyon Rd, and planned to bird at the ‘traditional’ spot to try our luck for Five-striped Sparrow. However, my ankle was hurting and I wanted to give it a few minutes’ rest, so I decided to stop at the confluence. Lo and behold, we found a FIVE-STRIPED SPARROW right away and had excellent views! Again, such is birding.

Five-striped Sparrow

Five-striped Sparrow

Five-striped Sparrow

Ruby Lakes (California Gulch Dam):

After our good luck with the sparrow, we had some time to kill before night birding, so we spent a while at this nice little site. There was nothing out of the ordinary, but the general birding was good, including ‘MEXICAN’ MALLARD, NORTHERN BEARDLESS-TYRANNULET, a migrant WARBLING VIREO, COMMON YELLOWTHROAT, several YELLOW WARBLERS, a migrant WILSON’S WARBLER, and a few gorgeous HOODED ORIOLES.

Confluence of California Gulch & Warsaw Canyon again:

We arrived at dusk to listen for nightjars. A CRISSAL THRASHER was calling, as were BLACK-TAILED GNATCATCHER and GREEN-TAILED TOWHEE.

One of the BUFF-COLLARED NIGHTJARS started singing on the usual hillside at 7:20 p.m. We didn’t stay to see it, we were just happy to know he was there. We also heard ELF OWL and GREAT HORNED OWL before we left.

 

April 14th, 2017
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Peña Blanca Lake & Canyon, Paton Center

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A great day of birding and photography in Santa Cruz County, from the Peña Blanca area to Patagonia.

Ruby Rd:

A couple of quick roadside stops yielded GRAY HAWK, calling MONTEZUMA QUAIL, and three singing BOTTERI’S SPARROWS.

Botteri's Sparrow

Botteri's Sparrow

Botteri's Sparrow

Walker Canyon:

Another roadside stop in this productive area gave us a pair of GRAY HAWKS, three INCA DOVES, several calling GREATER ROADRUNNERS, COSTA’S HUMMINGBIRD, DUSKY-CAPPED FLYCATCHER, RUFOUS-WINGED SPARROW, GREEN-TAILED TOWHEE, and a beautiful pair of HOODED ORIOLES.

Hooded Oriole

Hooded Oriole

Inca Dove

Rufous-winged Sparrow

Peña Blanca Canyon:

Our main quarry was ELEGANT TROGON, and we found a male that didn’t want to show himself, as is often the way.

Elegant Trogon

We also found BLACK VULTURE, GRAY HAWK, ZONE-TAILED HAWK, DUSKY-CAPPED and ASH-THROATED FLYCATCHERS, HUTTON’S VIREO, NASHVILLE and BLACK-THROATED GRAY WARBLERS, RUFOUS-WINGED SPARROW, HEPATIC TANAGER, and LAZULI BUNTING.

Ash-throated Flycatcher

Bell's Vireo

Bridled Titmouse

Zone-tailed Hawk

Zone-tailed Hawk

Turkey Vulture (left) and Zone-tailed Hawk

Turkey Vulture (left) and Zone-tailed Hawk

Peña Blanca Lake:

The lake was pretty quiet by late morning, but we did see a surprise flock of eleven BLACK-NECKED STILTS flying around, looking for suitable habitat (of which there isn’t any).

Black-necked Stilt

S. River Rd, Nogales:

A GRAY HAWK posed by the bridge, a regular site for this pleasing raptor.

Gray Hawk

Tucson Audubon’s Paton Center, Patagonia:

Lots of birds, as always, including BLACK VULTURE, GRAY HAWK, INCA DOVE, ANNA’S, BROAD-BILLED and VIOLET-CROWNED HUMMINGBIRDS, at least two ‘MYRTLE’ YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLERS among the many ‘AUDUBON’S’, WILSON’S WARBLER, WHITE-CROWNED SPARROWS of both the regular ‘GAMBEL’S’ and less frequent migrating ‘MOUNTAIN’ subspecies, LINCOLN’S SPARROW, SUMMER TANAGER, BLACK-HEADED GROSBEAK, LAZULI BUNTING, and PINE SISKIN.

Bridled Titmouse

Broad-billed Hummingbird

Gambel's Quail

Lazuli Bunting

Myrtle' Yellow-rumped Warbler

Myrtle' Yellow-rumped Warbler

Myrtle' Yellow-rumped Warbler

Myrtle' Yellow-rumped Warbler

'Myrtle' Yellow-rumped Warbler

Summer Tanager

Violet-crowned Hummingbird

White-winged Dove

 

April 13th, 2017
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Five-striped Sparrow, Rufous-capped Warbler

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Target birding at its finest at two of our most fabulous canyons.

Rock Corral Canyon:

The desert grassland hillside en route gave us RUFOUS-WINGED, CASSIN’S, GRASSHOPPER, BREWER’S, and BLACK-THROATED SPARROWS.

Our main target was further up-canyon, and after a brief search of the same area as previous sightings, we found a FIVE-STRIPED SPARROW. Excellent!

Five-striped Sparrow

The sparrows have found a really nice spot. This is their view of the upper canyon.

Rock Corral Canyon

The canyon was lively, and we counted 45 species in five hours. The highlights were calling MONTEZUMA QUAIL, BLACK VULTURE, GOLDEN EAGLE, NORTHERN HARRIER, SHARP-SHINNED and GRAY HAWKS, COSTA’S and BROAD-BILLED HUMMINGBIRDS, NORTHERN BEARDLESS-TYRANNULET, DUSKY-CAPPED, ASH-THROATED and a ‘WESTERN’ type FLYCATCHER, five WREN species (ROCK, CANYON, HOUSE, BEWICK’S and CACTUS), CRISSAL THRASHER, ORANGE-CROWNED, LUCY’S and BLACK-THROATED GRAY WARBLERS, GREEN-TAILED TOWHEE, SUMMER TANAGER, and LAZULI BUNTING.

Ash-throated Flycatcher

Golden Eagle

Gray Hawk

I also took the opportunity to study some butterflies and found a few nice ones, including an ERICHSON’S WHITE-SKIPPER, a new one for me.

Erichson's White-Skipper

Erichson's White-Skipper

Arizona Powdered-Skipper

Bordered Patch

Empress Leilia

Giant Swallowtail

Pipevine Swallowtail

Spring Azure

Green Valley:

The usual desert species were present, including GILDED FLICKER.

Continental Mulberry Trees:

This will soon be a great place to watch a wide range of species gorging on mulberries. Today, a lot of PHAINOPEPLAS were taking advantage of the early-ripening fruit, as were a flock of 30 CEDAR WAXWINGS.

Florida Canyon:

The pair of RUFOUS-CAPPED WARBLERS in the lower part of the canyon gave us great looks, and meant we didn’t have to climb further up-canyon – a win-win!

Rufous-capped Warbler

Rufous-capped Warbler

Rufous-capped Warbler

Rufous-capped Warbler

Hummingbird numbers are increasing, as is diversity, with six species feeding on the abundant flowers in the canyon: BLACK-CHINNED, ANAN’S, COSTA’S, BROAD-TAILED, RUFOUS, and many BROAD-BILLED HUMMINGBIRDS.

Despite being a warm afternoon, we totalled 40 species in under four hours in the canyon, including GREATER ROADRUNNER, NORTHERN BEARDLESS-TYRANNULET, four PACIFIC-SLOPE FLYCATCHERS, VERMILION, DUSKY-CAPPED and ASH-THROATED FLYCATCHERS, a calling BLACK-CAPPED GNATCATCHER, AMERICAN ROBIN, a ‘MYRTLE’ YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLER, many ‘AUDUBON’S’ YELLOW-RUMPED, single BLACK-THROATED GRAY and WILSON’S WARBLERS, LINCOLN’S SPARROW, GREEN-TAILED TOWHEE, HEPATIC TANAGER, LAZULI BUNTING, and HOODED and SCOTT’S ORIOLES.

Hepatic Tanager

Hooded Oriole

Hooded Oriole

Pacific-slope Flycatcher

Another canyon, another new butterfly, this time a PYTHON SKIPPER.

Python Skipper