Birding Blog Archives

January 1st, 2009

1st January 2009

I’m going to try and see more wildlife this year. Not a bad idea, really. So for the first time since I arrived in the States, I made a conscious effort to see a few birds on New Year’s Day, as is the tradition. For the more dedicated Tucson birder with better organizational skills, a total of 100 species locally is within reach. For me, plodding around at the easy-to-reach locations close to town and taking a long lunch at Hotel Congress, I thought 60-70 would be good.

Melanie has been building up to walking with our friend, Lova, and our pooch, Katie, from one end of the Rillito River walk to the other, somewhere around 13 miles. Today was the day, so I dropped them off by the Craycroft bridge at dawn, wished them luck and headed off to Ina Road to see if that Peregrine Falcon from my Tucson CBC was roosting on a pole. I’d racked up seven species, including my first of several Harris’s Hawks, by the time I reached the intersection of Ina and First, and sure enough, there it was, a fine male Peregrine. I pulled over to admire him, and had just noticed he was eating a bird (a very early kill – it was barely light!) when a big female Peregrine came from nowhere and a short but fierce aerial battle ensued to really kick the New Year off in style!

I spent a while walking the first quarter mile of the Pima Canyon trail in an attempt to get something of the Desert on the list, and scored a surprise Black-chinned Sparrow just beyond the bridge, something you’d expect much farther into the mountains.

I made a drive-by addition with the Great Horned Owls in the apartment complex I surveyed on my Tucson CBC, and then headed to Sweetwater. I had a few target species – new ones for Arizona in fact – but I didn’t hold out much hope as I wanted to keep moving. I walked past the Orchard Oriole stakeout without more than a quick scan, but Sweetwater came good as always with species such as Green Heron, Great Egret, Sora and Plumbeous Vireo all added, plus a nice selection of ducks and some of the best views I’ve ever had of Marsh Wren.

The Blackburnian Warbler found on the Tucson CBC by Chris McCreedy was still around, so I headed off to the Santa Cruz river. This was not a part of the river I’d visited before and I have to say I was impressed – it’s a little like parts of the San Pedro, with flowing water and Cottonwoods (or some sort of big trees anyway – I’m not so hot on trees).

Melanie had been keeping me informed of her progress and before I could find the warbler it was time to collect the all-conquering trio at the western end of the walk. Katie looked more exhausted than her human counterparts, although she did go twice as far, all of it running. Melanie found a Red-naped Sapucker in the car park, and on 58 species it was time for lunch (which turned out to be breakfast as they weren’t serving lunch until 1pm, but when is there a bad time to eat eggs benedict?)

After taking the girls home for naps, I headed east and visited some of Tucson’s parks. First up was Lakeside Park. Unfortunately the Pacific Loon had departed, but the Osprey was again the first bird I saw on getting out of the car, and the next was one of my target birds, a juvenile Brown Pelican, perched on a submerged sign. Embarassingly, this is the first Brown Pelican I’ve caught up with in Arizona, so another glaring hole on the list has been filled. The Common Merganser was still there, winding its way through fishing boats and swimming dogs, looking a little bemused. One thing I should have factored in was that a lot of people do “normal people” things in parks on public holidays, so it was perhaps not the best day for birding.

I made a couple of tours through the neighborhood that’s hosting Tucson’s first ever Short-tailed Hawk, now for its second winter. It’s the first time I’ve looked for it, as it’s always been so hit and miss, but recently a few habits have been unearthed and more people have been seeing it. Not me, of course, although I only really drove around, gawping out of the window and mainly hoping I’d meet a birder with a scope trained on it! My tree ID let me down again – but I’m buggered if there was anything that looked like my idea of a poplar on the stakeout corner!

McCormick Park was heaving with hung-over parents with energetic kids, and my quick circuit revealed no Williamson’s Sapsucker. Fort Lowell Park was similar and did not give up its Northern Parula or Hooded Mergansers, although the two regular (but never common) black-and-white ducks, Lesser Scaup and Ring-necked Duck, were both on the pond. By now it was getting dark, so I headed home via Reid Park where I added the two chestnut ducks, Redhead and Canvasback, to round off a good day for ducks and a pretty good day all round. The final total was 69 species – not bad for a lazy bugger like me! 😀

Full list:

1. Northern Mockingbird
2. Mourning Dove
3. American Kestrel
4. Rock Pigeon
5. Great-tailed Grackle
6. European Starling
7. Harris’s Hawk
8. Peregrine Falcon
9. Gambel’s Quail
10. Gila Woodpecker
11. Verdin
12. House Finch
13. Black-tailed Gnatcatcher
14. Curve-billed Thrasher
15. Ruby-crowned Kinglet
16. Cactus Wren
17. Lesser Goldfinch
18. Anna’s Hummingbird
19. Black-chinned Sparrow
20. Phainopepla
21. Chipping Sparrow
22. Bewick’s Wren
23. House Sparrow
24. Northern Flicker
25. Cooper’s Hawk
26. Abert’s Towhee
27. Yellow-rumped Warbler
28. Great Horned Owl
29. Vermilion Flycatcher
30. Say’s Phoebe
31. Orange-crowned Warbler
32. Great Egret
33. Yellow-headed Blackbird
34. Killdeer
35. Ladder-backed Woodpecker
36. Plumbeous Vireo
37. Northern Shoveler
38. American Wigeon
39. Mallard
40. American Coot
41. Marsh Wren
42. Cinnamon Teal
43. Green-winged Teal
44. Northern Pintail
45. Black Phoebe
46. Gadwall
47. Ruddy Duck
48. American Pipit
49. Red-winged Blackbird
50. Green Heron
51. Pied-billed Grebe
52. Common Moorhen
53. Song Sparrow
54. Pyrrhuloxia
55. Sora
56. Eurasian Collared Dove
57. Red-tailed Hawk
58. White-crowned Sparrow
59. Red-naped Sapsucker
60. Common Raven
61. Osprey
62. Brown Pelican
63. Common Merganser
64. Brewer’s Blackbird
65. Spotted Sandpiper
66. Lesser Scaup
67. Ring-necked Duck
68. Redhead
69. Canvasback

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