Birding Blog Archives

May 25th, 2010
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Pena Blanca Lake, Sycamore Canyon, California Gulch

Pipevine-Swallowtail-Pena-Blanca-Lake-10-0526-03I joined Dick Filby and Denise Landau, residents of both the UK and Colorado, for two excellent days of SE AZ birding. I met them early at Madera Canyon and after a cup of tea we headed out of the canyon and, via a quick stop to pick up RUFOUS-WINGED SPARROW and BELL’S VIREO, we went south to sample the delights of the Pajarito Wilderness…

Sycamore Canyon is many people’s absolute favorite birding site in SE Arizona, and I’m no exception. We only birded the first mile downstream from the parking area and we didn’t find much during the middle of the day, but it’s such a fantastic place! A female SCOTT’S ORIOLE kept perching on a car in the parking area, and SUMMER TANAGERS, BLACK-HEADED GROSBEAKS, EASTERN BLUEBIRD and stunning VERMILION FLYCATCHERS were along the way.

Elegant-Earless-Lizard-Sycamore-Canyon-10-0527-04Flame-Skimmer-Sycamore-Canyon-10-0527-03Arizona-Metalmark-Sycamore-Canyon-10-0527-01There were scads of Elegant Earless Lizards and the butterflies and dragonflies were cooperative. I was pleased to find Arizona Metalmark amongst the Tiny Checkerspots and this Flame Skimmer was so intent on defending its few yards of creek that it ignored Dick and I with our cameras.

This is probably my favorite part of SE Arizona. It was nice to see Pena Blanca Lake really getting back to its best after a pollution incident lead to it being emptied, dredged and tons of earth removed. Plenty of birds were in evidence, nothing amazing but BRONZED COWBIRD, GRAY HAWK, BLUE GROSBEAK, SUMMER TANAGER, PLUMBEOUS VIREO, WESTERN WOOD-PEWEE, BROWN-CRESTED and ASH-THROATED FLYCATCHERS and SPOTTED SANDPIPER were all noted. We spent a while photographing stunning Pipevine Swallowtails.

Five-striped-Sparrow-California-Gulch-10-0527-04I’d be hard pressed to name a top ten of birding sites in Arizona but California Gulch would be another one close to the top. A ZONE-TAILED HAWK was hunting over the valley midway to the gulch from Ruby Road. A stop at the dam produced VARIED BUNTING and WESTERN TANAGER and a surprise COMMON MOORHEN amongst others. In the gulch, FIVE-STRIPED SPARROWS were vocal and reasonably easy to find. At least five birds were tallied between the first and second stream crossings, as well as a good number of VARIED BUNTINGS.

In the next valley over, the Oro Blanco Mine site, a COMMON GROUND-DOVE flew up from the grassy area when we pulled up and another was calling nearby. Despite giving it a pretty good go after dark, NO Buff-collared Nightjars were heard. We did hear plenty of COMMON POORWILLS and a WESTERN SCREECH-OWL before the journey back to Madera Canyon.

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