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July 26th, 2009
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No Solitaire

Southeast Arizona always attracts interesting birds from Mexico, but so far this year the birds have been surprising – a Gray-collared Becard (or maybe two, depending on who saw what) in the Chiricahuas, and now a Brown-backed Solitaire in the Huachucas, first at Miller Canyon, then at Ramsey Canyon (or are there two of these as well? Maybe.)

There is the possibility that the bird has escaped from captivity as Brown-backed Solitaire, being a supreme songster, is a popular cage bird in Mexico. But with various species clearly spreading north, these birds are perhaps more likely to be the pioneers of advancing populations.

Bruce and Brenda Barrett from California came in to visit, and Bruce and I headed down to Ramsey to look for the solitaire.

Well, to cut a long story mercifully short, the day we chose turned out to be the only day the bird was not seen at Ramsey (although one/it was seen later at Miller). But a couple of other sightings saved the day – my first Coati in Arizona, an unfortunately brief view as one crossed the path in front of me – and a gorgeous Black-tailed Rattlesnake.

There was a Violet-crowned Hummingbird at the feeders and it was nice to see several Blue-throated Hummingbirds as well as Sulphur-bellied and Dusky-capped Flycatchers.

Around lunchtime it started to pour with rain so we headed out of the Huachucas and stopped off at Florida Canyon in the Santa Rita Mountains on the way home. I had a different kind of Arizona first here – it was hot and cloudy, and walking the stream in the steep, vegetated canyon, my camera steamed up! Never thought I’d see the day…

It was hard work, being so hot and humid, and we didn’t stay long enough to see either the Rufous-capped Warblers or Five-striped Sparrow that had been there of late. We did manage to see one group of Black-capped Gnatcatchers though, and hear another. There were some nice butterflies around, with Dorantes Longtail being a new one for me.

When we got home I went to check on the garden and was shocked to find that some miserable bugger had plucked all the leaves and several chilies from my best chili plant. I didn’t have to go far to find the culprit…

It was one of the biggest caterpillars I’ve ever seen, which is not surprising seeing as it will turn into one of the biggest moths I’ve ever seen, a Rustic Sphinx. Their food plants are members of the nightshade family so I can probably expect more chilies to go the same way.

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