Heading down to Madera Canyon I was ahead of schedule so I took a quick look at the Amado sewage pond next to I-19. It was worth the extra few miles, as amongst the assortment of ducks was a splendid drake Wood Duck, my first of the year.
My next stop was the school in Continental, the surrounding desert being a good place to find Rufous-winged Sparrows. I only found one last time in the rain, and that was hard work, but today I heard and saw one before I even got out of the car. Over the next hour I enjoyed a few desert birds and got a few passable shots of the sparrows, of which there were at least eight with several males in full song.
I deviated from my original plan and had a crack at seeing a Rufous-capped Warbler in Florida Canyon. Over the past couple of years up to three of these rare Mexican warblers have been seen off and on (mostly off in my experience) in the lush little canyon next-door to Madera, and one had been seen recently. Rufous-capped Warblers obviously prefer a specific habitat in southeast Arizona, and other traditional sites for the occasional appearance of this exciting species, such as Sycamore and French Joe Canyons, are similarly well vegetated with year round water and steep, lush desert slopes.
I met Jay Hand with Nick Bonomo , who was visiting Arizona for the first time, and after a while Nick got onto a movement in the dense stream-side vegetation which turned out to be a gorgeous Rufous-capped Warbler. At first it skulked in the undergrowth and then perched still for at least ten minutes, low in deep cover, almost invisible. Then it burst into life, feeding excitedly and calling frequently. It ranged around the stream and slightly upslope, and then came right down to investigate me and my camera. It was difficult through the forest of small branches but I was quite pleased with the results.
Next I met Ed and Jim in Madera Canyon where we had a great time hanging around the Kubo Cabins. The variety of birds attracted to the feeders was impressive, with White-breasted Nuthatch, Bridled Titmouse, Pine Siskin, Lesser Goldfinch, Acorn Woodpecker, Dark-eyed and Yellow-eyed Juncos ever present. We were able to compare Chipping and Lincoln’s Sparrows, and Spotted Towhees gave us uncharacteristic close views, as did a Canyon Wren. An Arizona Woodpecker arrived, and then so did a pair of Brown Creepers, one of which gave us good views. The star of the show was a stunning Painted Redstart which appeared right in front of us and spent a short while attempting to feed from a hummingbird feeder.
Santa Rita Lodge was equally lively, with Wild Turkeys, Mexican Jays and a big flock of Pine Siskins dominating. Dark-eyed and Yellow-eyed Juncos covered the ground, and as well as a good few Lesser Goldfinches, a couple of Cassin’s Finches were lurking in the siskin flock.
We ate a late lunch and whilst we were tucking into our sandwiches a bird let out an alarm call and everything scattered. I looked for the inevitable hawk but didn’t see it. However it was evident one had flown through, as the birds didn’t return in the next 15 minutes.
We headed down canyon and spent the late afternoon exploring the Proctor Road area. We headed downslope and followed the creek through the lower canyon. I hadn’t explored too far in this direction and although we saw very few birds, I was impressed with the habitat and the pretty scenery with lots of water flowing along the creek. My only regret was that I only had my big 100-400 lens and not a smaller one.
It was a pleasant way to round off a highly enjoyable day. 😀
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