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A classic birding and photography trip ‘up the mountain’, starting at Agua Caliente Park in east Tucson and heading to the top of Mt. Lemmon.
Agua Caliente Park:
The park was lively, and we found plenty of the usual desert birds, including nesting GILA WOODPECKERS, a friendly CACTUS WREN, several PHAINOPEPLAS, BELL’S VIREO, and RUFOUS-WINGED SPARROW.
Also in the park, BELTED KINGFISHER, NORTHERN BEARDLESS-TYRRANULET, ASH-THROATED FLYCATCHER, lots of LUCY’S WARBLERS, YELLOW WARBLER, ABERT’S TOWHEE, and HOODED ORIOLE.
The prize for cutest birds of the day went to these splendid baby VERMILION FLYCATCHERS, which could only have been out of the nest for a day at most.
A quick stop at the base of the mountain gave us more BELL’S VIREOS and a cooperative BLACK-THROATED SPARROW.
Incinerator Ridge Rd:
It seemed quiet on the ridge and we only spent an hour walking the first part of the road, which gave us HAIRY WOODPECKER, MOUNTAIN CHICKADEE, BROWN CREEPER, calling OLIVE WARBLER, HERMIT WARBLER, and three RED-FACED WARBLERS.
Sometimes a bathroom break can be good for more than one reason, and this was one such occasion. We found an OLIVE WARBLER in female-type plumage, presumably an immature male as it was singing, as well as PYGMY NUTHATCH, YELLOW-EYED JUNCO, and PINE SISKIN.
Incinerator Ridge Rd:
We headed back to Incinerator Ridge and drove to the overlook at the end of the road, where we were treated to good views of ZONE-TAILED HAWK, as well as HAIRY WOODPECKER, STELLER’S JAY, and OLIVE, TOWNSEND’S, RED-FACED and a skulking VIRGINIA’S WARBLER.
The feeders at Mt. Lemmon Realty were mostly empty and the office closed, presumably with the realtors on vacation. However, we still found BROAD-TAILED HUMMINGBIRD, STELLER’S JAY, PYGMY NUTHATCH, a calling OLIVE WARBLER, plenty of YELLOW-EYED JUNCOS, a couple of BLACK-HEADED GROSBEAKS and a couple of PINE SISKINS.
We ate our picnic lunches while enjoying excellent views of a RED-FACED WARBLER. A young ROCK SQUIRREL tried his best, but couldn’t quite out-cute the flycatchers from this morning.
The very top of the mountain was exceptionally quiet during the mid-afternoon lull and we only found a shockingly poor three species in over an hour. However, when one of them is a fine male OLIVE WARBLER, it would be churlish to complain.
Near Rose Canyon Lake:
As we headed back down the mountain, we stopped to try our luck with a LEWIS’S WOODPECKER that had been seen recently. Our luck was good.
Our final meaningful stop of the day was to look for BLACK-CHINNED SPARROWS, which were present but typically shy and we only got brief glimpses and no photos.
We thought that bird activity would increase a little in the evening, but Middle Bear was dead (not literally) so we headed home, more than happy with our day on the mountain.