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May 2nd, 2017
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Five-striped Sparrows at California Gulch

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A highly enjoyable day with my good friends, Jim and Pauline, with an emotional end to a long quest for a certain sparrow…

Arivaca Lake:

This excellent but under-watched site was lively as always, including CINNAMON TEAL, PIED-BILLED GREBE, GRAY HAWK, VERMILION FLYCATCHERS feeding young, DUSKY-CAPPED FLYCATCHER, YELLOW-BREASTED CHAT, RUFOUS-WINGED and LARK SPARROWS, LAZULI BUNTING, and HOODED and BULLCOK’S ORIOLES. We’d hoped to find Thick-billed Kingbirds as this is a regular site, but they weren’t around. Maybe they’re late, or maybe they’re not coming back this year. Time will tell.

Yellow Warbler

Most surprising was a male SUMMER TANAGER, which can often be a hard bird to get good views high in the cottonwoods, taking a shine to us and perching within a few feet of us in a mesquite. Quite stunning!

Summer Tanager

Summer Tanager

Summer Tanager

Summer Tanager

Summer Tanager

A pair of SWAINSON’S HAWKS were along the road, a regular site for this attractive summer hawk.

Swainson's Hawk

Swainson's Hawk

Confluence of California Gulch & Warsaw Canyon:

One particular FIVE-STRIPED SPARROW has been very good to me lately, showing well while the others continue to be elusive, as is normal until they start singing just before the monsoon season. Today we found its mate as well, which was keeping its head down in the usual fashion, but the showy bird was especially showy today.

I’d taken Jim and Pauline to the gulch before to look for Five-stripes, without success. Today was, therefore, a big deal for all of us, and it couldn’t have gone any better. I can always tell when seeing a particular target bird means that little bit more to my clients. Rather than jumping up and down and whooping with delight, they went silent, fixed it with a steely gaze, and took it all in with perhaps a little mist in their eyes. It was a real honor to share this moment with two of my longest-standing and favorite clients.

Five-striped Sparrow

Five-striped Sparrow

Five-striped Sparrow

Five-striped Sparrow

Five-striped Sparrow

Five-striped Sparrow

Five-striped Sparrow

Five-striped Sparrow

Also here, BELL’S VIREO, BLACK-TAILED GNATCATCHER, and RUFOUS-WINGED SPARROW.

Rufous-winged Sparrow

Ruby Lakes (aka California Gulch Dam, NOT at Ruby):

We spent a while hanging out at another under-birded yet productive site, enjoying ‘MEXICAN’ MALLARD with a bunch of fluffy ducklings, GRAY HAWK, COMMON GROUND-DOVE, NORTHERN BEARDLESS-TYRANNULET, VERMILION FLYCATCHERS feeding young, VIOLET-GREEN SWALLOW, LARK and RUFOUS-WINGED SPARROWS, SUMMER TANAGER, and LAZULI BUNTING.

Ruby Lakes

We also enjoyed the dragonflies perching along the water’s edge.

Mexican Amberwing

Variegated Meadowhawk

Peña Blanca Canyon:

We had just enough time to run up the canyon a short way to see if the WHISKERED SCREECH-OWL was showing at the entrance to her nest hole, which she was, kind of – we could just see the top of her head!

Whiskered Screech-Owl

 

April 28th, 2017
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Peña Blanca Lake & Canyon, Paton Center for Hummingbirds

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Another windy but productive and fun day of birding in Santa Cruz County, from the Peña Blanca area to Patagonia.

Ruby Rd, Calabasas Campground Overlook:

At least five BOTTERI’S SPARROWS were singing, and we also found GREATER ROADRUNNER, ASH-THROATED FLYCATCHER, and BLACK-THROATED and RUFOUS-CROWNED SPARROWS.

Walker Canyon:

A 15-minute stop produced 23 species, including GRAY HAWK, COSTA’S and BROAD-BILLED HUMMINGBIRDS, DUSKY-CAPPED FLYCATCHER, RUFOUS-WINGED SPARROW, and BLACK-HEADED GROSBEAK.

Gray Hawk

Gray Hawk

White Rock Campground:

A quick bathroom break was taken, with GRAY HAWK and LAZULI BUNTING calling in the background.

Peña Blanca Canyon:

We spent the rest of the morning in this wonderful canyon. We only found 33 species, but it was quality over quantity, as is often the case here. Chief among the highlights was a minimum of five ELEGANT TROGONS, none of which showed particularly well. I checked a nest hole that had housed a pair of trogons the past two years, and was surprised and delighted to see a WHISKERED SCREECH-OWL poking out! Another, presumably its mate, was calling nearby.

Also in the canyon, DUSKY-CAPPED, and my first BROWN-CRESTED FLYCATCHERS of the year, ROCK, CANYON, HOUSE and BEWICK’S WRENS, PAINTED REDSTART, BLACK-THROATED, LARK and RUFOUS-CROWNED SPARROWS, LAZULI BUNTING, and HOODED and SCOTT’S ORIOLES.

Brown-crested Flycatcher

We enjoyed the other wildlife, especially the impressive butterfly show. I saw my first ever COMMON MESTRA, a rare butterfly in the US, only found with any regularity along the border in SE Arizona.

Black Swallowtail

Common Mestra

Common Mestra

Common Mestra

White-striped Longtail

We also spotted this fantastic little BLACK-NECKED GARTERSNAKE, which was caught and posed for us by a visiting herpetologist.

Black-necked Gartersnake

Black-necked Gartersnake

Black-necked Gartersnake

Peña Blanca Lake:

We ate our lunches while taking in views of NEOTROPIC CORMORANT, GREEN HERON, COOPER’S and GRAY HAWKS, BLACK-CHINNED and BROAD-BILLED HUMMINGBIRDS, DUSKY-CAPPED FLYCATCHER, and LAZULI BUNTING.

Gray Hawk

Mexican Jay

Patagonia Roadside Rest:

We made a quick stop in the heat of the afternoon in the hope of finding a Thick-billed Kingbird, but we couldn’t locate one. We did find BLACK VULTURE, WHITE-THROATED SWIFT, DUSKY-CAPPED FLYCATCHER, and LUCY’S and YELLOW WARBLERS.

Tucson Audubon’s Paton Center for Hummingbirds, Patagonia:

Even though it was mid-afternoon and there was an event being set up with marquees and lots of people, we found 33 species and had fantastic views of some beautiful, colorful birds around the feeders and continually improving native habitat at this exceptional, special place. The highlight for me was a WHITE-THROATED SPARROW, fairly rare in SE Arizona. Coincidentally, I saw one here on the same date last year.

White-throated Sparrow

White-throated Sparrow

Other birds included GRAY HAWK, INCA DOVE, BLACK-CHINNED, ANNA’S, BROAD-BILLED and VIOLET-CROWNED HUMMINGBIRDS, NORTHERN BEARDLESS-TYRANNULET, DUSKY-CAPPED FLYCATCHER, my first YELLOW-BREASTED CHAT of the year, WHITE-CROWNED and SONG SPARROWS, ABERT’S TOWHEE, SUMMER TANAGER, BLACK-HEADED GROSBEAK, and LAZULI BUNTING.

Broad-billed Hummingbird

Broad-billed Hummingbird

Broad-billed Hummingbird

Gambel's Quail

Gambel's Quail

Ladder-backed Woodpecker

Ladder-backed Woodpecker

Lazuli Bunting

Violet-crowned Hummingbird

 

April 27th, 2017
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Rock Corral Canyon

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Despite more strong winds, it was a very pleasant morning exploring the excellent Rock Corral Canyon near Tubac.

Camino Josefina x Pendleton Drive, Rio Rico:

While waiting for my clients I noted a couple of GRAY HAWKS calling from the cottonwoods along the river, plus BELL’S VIREO, LUCY’S WARBLER, and RUFOUS-WINGED and BLOACK-THROATED SPARROWS.

Rock Corral Cayon:

We spent six hours exploring the canyon, finding 46 species despite a stiff breeze keeping the small birds mostly hunkered down. We didn’t find Five-striped Sparrow today, but we didn’t go off trail to look. I’m sure they’re still there somewhere.

Our highlights included a pair of MONTEZUMA QUAIL which we saw as they sneaked off through the long grass, plus GRAY HAWK, GREATER ROADRUNNER, BLACK-CHINNED, COSTA’S and BROAD-BILLED HUMMINGBIRDS, NORTHERN BEARDLESS-TYRANNULETS, HAMMOND’S, DUSKY-CAPPED and ASH-THROATED FLYCATCHERS, BELL’S and WARBLING VIREOS, CANYON, BEWICK’S and CACTUS WRENS, BLACK-TAILED GNATCATCHER, LUCY’S, TOWNSEND’S, and WILSON’S WARBLERS, CANYON and GREEN-TAILED TOWHEES, RUFOUS-CROWNED SPARROW, SUMMER and WESTERN TANAGERS, PYRRHULOXIA, BLACK-HEADED GROSBEAK, LAZULI BUNTING, and HOODED ORIOLE.

Black-tailed Gnatcatcher

Black-tailed Gnatcatcher

Black-tailed Gnatcatcher

Canyon Wren

Hooded Oriole

Hooded Oriole

Rufous-crowned Sparrow

We also enjoyed some of the other interesting wildlife the canyon has to offer.

Flame Skimmer

Giant Swallowtail

Marine Blue

Whirlygig beetle

The grassy ridge on the way in/out of the canyon was alive with RUFOUS-WINGED, LARK and BLACK-THROATED SPARROWS.

Black-throated Sparrow

 

April 26th, 2017
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Elf Owl, Whiskered Screech-Owl, Mexican Whip-poor-will

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Night birding in Madera Canyon, with good results.

Santa Rita Lodge, Madera Canyon:

Before dusk we spent a while watching the feeders and birding around the lodge, which produced WILD TURKEY, the roosting TURKEY VULTURE flock in the big sycamores by the creek, COOPER’S and GRAY HAWKS, MAGNIFICENT, BLACK-CHINNED, BROAD-TAILED and BROAD-BILLED HUMMINGBIRDS, DUSKY-CAPPED FLYCATCHER, VIOLET-GREEN SWALLOW, BRIDLED TITMOUSE, AMERICAN ROBIN, PAINTED REDSTART, a ‘GRAY-HEADED’ DARK-EYED JUNCO, LINCOLN’S SPARROW, GREEN-TAILED TOWHEE, HEPATIC TANAGER, a load of BLACK-HEADED GROSBEAKS, and a LAZULI BUNTING.

Bridled Titmouse

'Gray-headed' Dark-eyed Junco

Green-tailed Towhee

Hepatic Tanager

Wild Turkey

We also enjoyed watching a couple of WHITE-LINED SPHINX MOTHS feeding on salvias.

White-lined Sphinx Moth

White-lined Sphinx Moth

White-lined Sphinx Moth

White-lined Sphinx Moth

White-lined Sphinx Moth

White-lined Sphinx Moth

White-lined Sphinx Moth

As dusk fell, we joined a small crowd outside’s Steve’s house to see the female ELF OWL poking her head out of a nest hole in a telephone pole. As we ventured further, we started to hear more and more ELF OWLS, up to eight different birds. It really is quite a common bird when you take the time to listen for them in the right habitat.

A LESSER NIGHTHAWK appeared briefly over the skyline, a COMMON POORWILL was calling in the distance, and a couple of MEXICAN WHIP-POOR-WILLS struck up a conversation without us ever getting close to a view, as usual.

We also started to hear WHISKERED SCREECH-OWLS, another bird that is quite common in this habitat. One bird seemed particularly interested in us and we ended up getting excellent close views.

Whiskered Screech-Owl