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Saturday, May 2, 2015

 

Iím on the road again.† This morning I flew into Tucson for the start of a 17 day birding trip around the southeast corner of Arizona.† I visited most of the same places in 2011, and now Iím back.† There are a lot of great birds down here, and I got a little more than 50 lifers here in 2011.† There are a few potential lifers left here for me, and I hope to add 5 to 10 more life birds on this trip.† I hope to add 90 or more species to my year list.† Here is a map of the ground I intend to cover, GWATCDR.

 

I have three nights here in Tucson, then two nights at Madera Canyon, followed by four nights near Patagonia Lake.† Then I move on for four nights in Sierra Vista, then three nights near Portal, which is almost on the New Mexico border.† I finish up with a night in Willcox on my way back to Tucson, to fly home on May 19, if all goes according to plan.† Iíve lined up some great places (for me and my style) to stay, and Iíll describe them as I go along, Iím sure.† As you can see from the map and Googleís estimate of distance and time, Iíll not have to do a lot of driving.† I have six days on which Iíll need to move from one place to another, and the total driving time is only 8 hours and 49 minutes.† My longest day will only be a little over two hours of driving.† An easy trip.

 

The flight from Seattle was full, and they switched planes on us just as we were ready to board.† Everyone had to hustle from the North Terminal to the end of the C Concourse, and the underground train stop at the C concourse (which is right next to the C gate we needed) was closed for some unexplained reason, and so we all had to get off at the main terminal and walk all the way out to the end of C Concourse.† We got away about a half hour late, which wasnít bad, I guess, but it wore me out and overheated me to hurry from one gate to the other.† The flight was fine until the last ten minutes.† As we came down over the desert, it got bumpy.† Very bumpy.† The only time I actually got motion sick enough on a plane to throw up was over this same Arizona desert in the afternoon.† I was feeling pretty poorly by the time we touched down, and I still feel kind of dizzy or ďoffĒ from the experience.† It was only about 8 minutes of turbulence, which sounds like nothing, but it was a very, very long eight minutes for me, and I knew exactly where the barf bag they provide was.† Fortunately, we touched down before I needed it, but if that turbulence had gone on much longer, I would have had to use it.† Iím glad itís over, anyway.† Hopefully it wonít be that bad as we take off on the return; itís earlier in the day, for one thing.† Maybe they climb faster than they come down, too (he told himself hopefully).

 

So, somewhat shaken, I picked up my bag and walked the long walk to the car rental area.† I had decided not to bring my scope on the trip, because the type of birding here doesnít really require it.† I managed to get all my stuff into one medium-large suitcase, and it came in at 50.0 pounds, which just happens to be the exact limit.† Enterprise had a gray Pathfinder for me.† I wanted a white car, and I could have had a smaller SUV, a Jeep Patriot, that was white, but I went with the gray Pathfinder.† In the heat and sun of the desert, a white car is quite a bit cooler.† Gray is better than black, I guess, but itíll be hot in the car.† I forgot to check if it is a 4WD model or not, but I donít really need 4WD.† I wanted the higher clearance of an SUV because Iíll be on a number of unpaved roads, and some of them are a bit rough, I think.

 

I found my way to a big Fryís Food Store with the help of a map I had printed out before I left home.† I loaded up on provisions to the tune of $103, but thatís all my food and drink for the next three days, and there will be a lot left for after that, too.† Iíll probably get Subway sandwiches for lunch sometimes, but I have all I need, if I decide not to do that.† I saw that Fryís had some Kroger brands, so I asked, and I was able to input my phone number and save almost ten bucks because of my Fred Meyer (another Kroger brand) card.† I got ďgas pointsĒ, too.† I know, some of my readers are rolling their eyes, but some of them understand frugality, I know.

 

I finally got to my motel about 3:30 PM.† It is a Studio 6, which is a Motel 6 brand that has kitchenettes.† The room is very nice, in a Motel 6 spartan kind of way.† It has a nice sized little refrigerator/freezer (bigger than a normal motel mini-fridge), a two burner cooktop, a microwave, and a small selection of dishes, utensils, pans, etc.† Itíll be perfect for me, and it was incredibly cheap Ė less than $50 a day, including tax and internet.† Itís clean, recently re-modeled, and the room is a decent size.† The air conditioner was slow to cool down the room, but after a couple of hours, it is down to 68.† It even has an iron and full size ironing board, not that Iíll use them.† Iím quite pleased with it.† I chose a downstairs room with two full size beds, rather than an upstairs one with a queen, because I had so much stuff I had to carry into the room.† The beds look longer than normal double beds to me, which is great.† The second bed makes great counter space, too, for all my stuff.

 

I had planned to visit Sweetwater Wetlands, which is about 15 minutes away, but by the time I had moved my stuff in and unpacked, it was getting late.† Worse, it was very windy and looked to me like we could get a rain shower (not in the forecast at all).† The topper was that I still felt pretty shaky after my 8 minutes of turbulence, so I decided not to go.† There is a dry wash across the road from my motel, with a paved walking/biking path along it, so I got my camera and binoculars and ventured out in to the windy 92 degree heat of the afternoon.

 

Almost right away, a WHITE-WINGED DOVE flew by, showing its white patches on the wings.† I had a year bird!† I had my excuse to write a report!† Yay!† I felt a few sprinkles, but I ignored them and walked along the wash, on the paved path.† Down the road I saw a perched White-winged Dove, and I approached it to try for a picture.† As I stalked the dove, I saw a little bird fly in, and it turned out to be a male VERMILION FLYCATCHER.† I got one picture of that little cutie before he flew off somewhere.

 

His whole front is that same bright red color, and Iíll try to get better pictures later, but it was hard to get male Vermilion Flycatchers to sit still long enough for pictures on my 2011 trip

 

Since he was gone, I snuck up on the dove and got this picture of a perched White-winged Dove

 

The raindrops were getting larger and more frequent, and I didnít want to get too far away from my room, just in case the skies opened up, which they can do in the desert when they get a shower.† But, before I turned back, I noticed some more doves, and I realized that they werenít all White-winged Doves.† Here is a picture of a Mourning Dove, not a year bird, but one for my trip list.† (Oh, how I love to make lists and spreadsheets.)

 

All three of those birds are pretty common here, especially the two doves, but I was on the board Ė I had scored.† The rain kept increasing, so I boogied back to my room.† Itís sunny out there now, but there wonít be anything around this area except very common birds, and I donít feel motivated to go out looking for common birds that Iíll see lots of on the trip.† Itís only a little after 6 PM now.† It seems strange to me to fly so far east and still have no time change.† Arizona is in the Mountain Time Zone, but they donít do Daylight Savings Time, so the time is the same as in Seattle at this time of year.†† The sun will set a lot earlier here than in Seattle, but itíll also rise somewhat earlier at this time of year.† Iíve been trying to get myself onto an early schedule for the trip, since the birding is so much better in the early morning, and it is also so much cooler.† I expect the temperatures to be around 90 in the Tucson area and then in the mid-80ís on the rest of the trip.† It gets down to about 50 at night, though, and it should be pretty low humidity, so I think Iíll do fine.† For me, 75 degrees and high humidity is worse than 90 degrees and dry.† Weíll see how I do with the ďearly to bed, early to riseĒ thing.

 

So, I added two birds to my year list today, to bring me to 233 for the year, of which 3 are lifers.† My trip list stands at 3.† Tomorrow I plan to go out into the ďdesertĒ, west of Tucson, and see what I can find.† I have three target species in particular, but I should see a number of common desert birds for my year and trip lists.† This is an area I didnít visit in 2011, so Iím interested to see what it looks like.

 

Sunday, May 3, 2015

 

Before I start on today, I need to report that I went outside after I had sent off my report last night, and it was just dusk.† I picked up Sayís Phoebe for my trip list, but it was too dark for a picture, and I hadnít taken my camera with me anyway.† So, yesterdayís corrected total for the trip was 4.

 

I had an excellent morning in the desert today, getting just about all my target birds that had a reasonable chance.† I was up at 6 this morning, which is good.† I would like to make that earlier, but 6 is a good start.† I got out of here about 7:40, I think.† I drove northwest and then east across Gates Pass into the Avra Valley.† My destination today was Saguaro National Park, named after the saguaro (pronounced Sah-WAHí-roh) cactus.† I loved the saguaro cactus, so there are lots of pictures today featuring them.† Here is a scene near Gates Pass, showing the saguaros on the hillsides.

 

Along the way there was a BROWN-HEADED COWBIRD on a wire, and I stopped to take a look.† Itís a common bird, but my first of the year.

 

I stopped at one point to check out a large black bird flying overhead.† It seemed to have a red head, but it wasnít a Turkey Vulture.† I couldnít figure out what it was, but I took a lot of pictures, none of which is good enough to bother showing.† From the pictures I was able to figure out it was a Common Raven, though, carrying something red in its bill.† It was soaring around like a raptor, which ravens will do, and it had me stumped, with the red color in the neighborhood of its head.

 

As so often happens, as I was looking at the raven, I spotted a bird on the top of a saguaro cactus.† It turned out to be an American Kestrel, a good one for my trip list.† Here is a picture.

 

I have a lot of pictures today, and a lot of them feature saguaros, often with birds on them.† Here is a picture of a bunch of saguaro flowers.

 

I wanted to get to King Canyon trail head because my key target desert species was most often seen there, but I stopped at several places along the way, just to check them out.† One of the places I took a look at was the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum.† It is supposed to be really excellent for seeing the plants and animals of the desert, but I like to see wild animals, not animals in cages, and I hate crowds and lines.† I also didnít like the idea of paying $17.50 to wander through their exhibits, so I took a look and moved on.

 

I missed the turn off to the parking area for the King Canyon trailhead, so I went on down the road and turned around at a pull-off area.† As I was turning around, I heard a flicker call.† I know flicker calls from home, but the flicker that lives here was my key target for the day.† So, I got out of the car and played the call, to try to lure it in, so I could get a look.† I ended up getting a pretty good look at a GILDED FLICKER, a bird I had only seen once before, on my 2011 trip.† It was my main target of the day, and I had it early on.† I probably wonít see it anywhere else on the trip.† As it turned out, I ended up seeing or hearing 4 or 5 of them today.† No pictures, though, sad to say.

 

Before I could leave that turnaround area, though, I heard another target species.† It is a very unusual call, and I heard it a lot today.† I guess it is a song, actually, rather than a call (I have a hard time telling the difference between songs and calls), but is sure isnít musical.† I have heard it described as sounding like a Model A Ford starting, and thatís a good description.† Anyway, I added CACTUS WREN to my year list.† The bird was hiding in a bush, but I managed this peek-a-boo picture.

 

Here it is singing its unusual song.

 

Cactus Wren has the curved bill of a wren, but itís much larger than other wrens.† Wrens are usually about 4 or 5 inches in length, but Cactus Wren is 8.5 inches long, about the same size as a starling.† I heard them and I saw them all morning long.† They are much more common in that area than I had expected.

 

At that same stop I saw another very common desert bird, GILA WOODPECKER.† Here is a distant picture of one on a saguaro cactus.

 

Iíll see them later in the trip at feeders, but it is nice to get a picture of one in its natural habitat.† They excavate holes in the saguaros and nest in the cavities.† I heard their calls and saw them all day today, too.

 

So, after that productive turn around, I went back to the King Canyon trailhead.† I wasnít about to do a lot of desert hiking, but I walked up the trail for two or three hundred yards, to see what I could find.† Almost right away I saw a couple more Gilded Flickers, but I wasnít able to get a picture.† I had a brief look at a BLACK-THROATED GRAY WARBLER, an excellent one for my year and trip list.† I also had a couple of BLACK-THROATED SPARROWS, another one of my target species, and I got a picture of one of them.

 

I played the calls of another target species, and I got three BLACK-TAILED GNATCATCHERS to fly in and flit around.† Here is a picture of a female Black-tailed Gnatcatcher.

 

And here is a male Black-throated Gnatcatcher with the black cap that he gets in the breeding season.

 

I had one more target desert species for the day, so I played the song, not knowing what to expect.† By golly, it worked, and a male PYRRHULOXIA flew in and sang back to me.† I had only seen one on my 2011 trip, and I hadnít been able to get a picture.† It was one of my most-wanted birds on this trip.† Here is a picture of a male Pyrrhuloxia.

 

Hereís a picture of him singing back to me.

 

He could raise and lower that crest at will.

 

So, King Canyon trail turned out to be as great as I had hoped.† I picked up VERDIN for my year list and House Finch for my trip list in the area near the Desert Museum, and then I decided to head out into the flatlands of Avra Valley, to try for a lifer that has been seen out there, Bendireís Thrasher.† I drove the roads where it has been seen, but I came up empty on it.† I have one more shot at it at my last stop, near the town of Rodeo, NM, but I only have it at a 10% chance in my spreadsheet, so I wasnít surprised to miss it today.† I added WESTERN KINGBIRD to my year list while looking for the thrasher, though, and here is a picture.

 

Continuing the theme of saguaro cactus, I got this picture I like of a Common Raven on a saguaro.

 

Itís always hard to get a picture of a black colored bird that shows the feather detail, especially when it is backlit, so Iím pleased with this picture.† It looks like the bird is calling there, but it wasnít.† Iím not sure why it had its bill open, but I noticed that it was being harassed by a Western Kingbird, which ended up chasing the raven off, so maybe the open bill was a defensive move.† The kingbird probably had a nest nearby, and didnít like the raven in the neighborhood.

 

I added Eurasian Collared-Dove to my trip list at that time, as well as House Sparrow.† Next came a couple of GAMBELíS QUAIL on the road.† Iíll see lots of them, Iím sure, and later today I got a picture of one.† I added Lark Sparrow to my trip list as well, and I got a picture of one of them later, too.† Finally, before I finished that loop looking for Bendireís Thrasher, I saw a Greater Roadrunner (trip list) on a post.† I donít think Iíve ever seen a roadrunner on a post before, although did see one in a tree in Texas.† Here is a picture of the Greater Roadrunner on a post, with its head turned away.

 

Back in the Saguaro National Park, I saw a bird on top of a saguaro and figured it was just another Cactus Wren, but I stopped anyway to take a look.† It turned out to be a CURVE-BILLED THRASHER, singing away.† There was no place to pull off the road to get a picture, unfortunately, but I should have more chances later in the trip, including at feeder stations.† I walked a little on the Discovery Trail in Saguaro National Park, and got this picture.

 

Here is a picture of a very large saguaro cactus.

 

I told you I loved the saguaro cactus, and I have the pictures to prove it.† On my way back to Tucson, I got this picture from Gates Pass, looking back at the Avra Valley.† I had been out on that flat part when I was looking for Bendireís Thrasher.

 

OK, thatís the last desert picture from today.† It was well after noon by then, and I headed to Sweetwater Wetlands, to see what I could see there.† I stopped at a pullout and ate my humble lunch in the car, though, first.† I had some nice ham, some Fritos, some mini-peppers, and some wrapped slices of pepper jack processed cheese.† I had put three slices of cheese in my cooler, but I could only find two when I went to eat lunch.† I looked all over the car and the parking lot near there, but I never did find the missing wrapped slice of processed cheese.† I wonder where it is.† Maybe it will turn up, or maybe it is somewhere in the car and wonít show up until it gets stinky enough.† Itís a mystery.† When I got back here I counted the slices left, in case I had only put two into the cooler, but there are only 13 of the 16 left in the package, so one is somewhere unknown.

 

When I got to Sweetwater Wetlands, I drove around the outside first, looking to see what I could see.† I saw a male Gambelís Quail, as it turned out, and I got this picture from the car.

 

They look superficially like California Quail, but there are a number of differences.

 

As expected, Sweetwater Wetlands was good for my trip list, but not so much for my year list.† I got some pictures, though.† Here is a picture of an American Coot (trip list).

 

I normally donít pay much attention to coots, as they are so common, and I donít recall ever noticing that little maroon spot on its forehead, above the bill.† My field guide says that not all coots have it, and maybe thatís why I havenít ever noticed it.

 

I added Red-winged Blackbird to my trip list, and then a Cooperís Hawk flew through at low level, a great one for my trip list.† There was a NEOTROPIC CORMORANT there, too, which I didnít notice at first.† Here is a picture of a juvenile Neotropic Cormorant.

 

I have no idea what that green patch on its shoulder is.† I suppose it must be a piece of vegetation, but I wonder what is holding it there.

 

I added Mallard, Cinnamon Teal, and Northern Shoveler to my trip list.† Then I saw my main target for Sweetwater Wetlands, COMMON GALLINULE, formerly called Common Moorhen.† Here is a picture of that one.

 

It was about 90 degrees and I walked about a mile and a half there, but I took it easy and did it over about an hour and a half.† I got a quick look at a YELLOW WARBLER for my year list, and then Song Sparrow and American Wigeon for my trip list.† The habitat looked perfect, so I played the song and attracted a lovely little male Common Yellowthroat (trip list) for this picture.

 

In that same area, I got this picture of a female Mallard with four little ducklings.† These were the first ducklings Iíve seen this year, I think.

 

I saw a couple of guys who knew their way around, and they had gone off on a side path that had a view of a large pond with only a little water in it.† I joined them and added Spotted Sandpiper, Blue-winged Teal, and Killdeer to my trip list.† One my way out, I picked up Orange-crowned Warbler for my trip list.† I was hot by then, and thirsty.† I sat in the car and downed a cold Coke Zero from my cooler.

 

It was too early to head back to my motel, but I didnít really have anywhere else to go.† I remembered reading about a big city park with some ponds, and I thought I might pick up another duck species or two, so I tried to find it.† I ended up at John F. Kennedy Park, but I guess that wasnít the park I had read about, as there werenít any ponds.† I drove around and did manage to add Great-tailed Grackle and Feral Pigeon to my trip list, though.† I also got some pictures I like.

 

Here is a Lark Sparrow, which I had added to my trip list this morning out in the desert.

 

I saw a little bird that was hawking insects, and I got this picture.

 

Also this one.

 

I thought it was a female Vermilion Flycatcher, but it wasnít quite right for that.† When I got back here to my room and looked it up, I found that it was a juvenile Vermilion Flycatcher, hatched this year.† There was a male Vermilion Flycatcher in the area, too, and I finally got my definitive picture of a male Vermilion Flycatcher that Iíve tried to get for several years and never could.

 

Is he a handsome birdie, or what?

 

So, that was it for my day.† It was only about 3:30, but I had nowhere else to go, so I came back to my room and started my evening routines.† Itís a good thing I stopped early, because Iíve been working on pictures and this report since I got back (with time for drinkies and nuts, followed later by dinner, and some internet stuff from time to time, too), and it is 9:00 now.† Iím trying to get to bed by 10 at the latest, and Iíd like to work that back to 9:30, so I can be up at 5:30 each morning.

 

I ended up adding 14 species to my year list, to bring me to 247 for the year, of which 3 are lifers.† I added 37 to my trip list, to bring me to 41 species for the trip.† Thatís a pretty low number for a full day of birding, even a short day, but the habitats I was in werenít ideal, and Iím not really a very good birder.† I had fun, I got some pictures I like, and I saw some new places.† I also took it very easy and didnít push myself at all.† A very successful day for the Old Rambler, Iíd say, despite the low numbers.

 

Tomorrow I plan to head up into the Catalina Mountains, up to Mount Lemmon.† I have 3 or 4 target species to look for, and I expect Iíll see other common mountain species as well.

 

 

Monday, May 4, 2015

 

Iím doing well on my attempt to get going earlier in the morning.† I was up at 5:45 this morning, and I was on the road by 7:20.† As I headed toward the mountains, there were very ominous dark clouds in that direction, coming lower than the tops of the mountains.† It was obvious that it was raining at various places around the area.† I saw lightning flashes a couple of times.† I didnít have a plan B, though, so I plunged onward.† I stopped and got a tuna sandwich at Subway, to go with the Fritos I was bringing along.† I had a little rain as I approached the mountains, and I saw a nice rainbow, as I was on the edge of the squall.† The rain soon stopped, though, and I drove on up the Catalina Highway toward Mount Lemmon.

 

My first stop for birds was Geology Vista Overlook.† I had read that a sparrow species I needed could be seen there.† I played the song of the sparrow, and I got a singing Black-throated Gray Warbler in return.† I had counted that one yesterday for my year list, but I wanted a picture, so I played its song, to try to entice it in closer.† Interestingly, instead of attracting the warbler, I got a BLACK-CHINNED SPARROW to fly in for a short but satisfying look.† That was the song I had played first, so thatís probably why it flew in.† I thought it was interesting that each bird seemed to respond to the otherís song, though.† I only had Black-chinned Sparrow at 10% in my spreadsheet for the trip, after my local birder contact told me that they were almost all gone for the summer.† I wasnít in his area today, though, so that was probably a big factor.† Anyway, I was very pleased to get it.† Too bad it didnít stick around for a picture.† I wonít see one anywhere else Iím planning to go this year.

 

A little later I saw a couple of birds by the road, so I stopped.† Nothing exciting, as it turned out, but I added Pine Siskin and Yellow-rumped Warbler to my trip list.† One of the main places I wanted to visit was Rose Canyon, but it turned out that it would cost me 9 bucks to go into that area.† It is a federal fee area, so my Federal Interagency Senior Pass should have gotten me in, but the government contracts out the concession to collect fees to a private contractor, and the private contractor doesnít have to accept the federal passes.† Being the cheap son of a gun that I am, I declined to pay the 9 bucks, and decided to bird from the road and the other picnic areas and campgrounds that wouldnít cost me anything.† As it turned out, that was a good decision.

 

I stopped at a parking area just outside the 9 buck fee area and got some birds.† I added HUTTONíS VIREO to my year list, and I got what I think are my first ever pictures of that species.† Here are a couple of pictures of Huttonís Vireo.

 

 

Across the road I heard some bird calls, and I ended up seeing a couple of my number one target for the day, OLIVE WARBLER.† They were foraging high in some pine trees, just as I had read they would do, but I was patient, and eventually I got good looks at both of them.† No pictures, sorry to say.

 

At Incinerator Ridge, I started up the rough unpaved road, but the rain started in earnest about then, and I thought better of it.† As I went back, I added Stellerís Jay to my trip list. Back on the highway, it started to hail and the temperature dropped from the low 50ís to 40 degrees as the storm came through.† At one point the hail was heavy enough that the road was white and slushy with the hail.† I cautiously soldiered on and the storm soon passed.† From then on it was mostly sunny, with clouds and a couple more rain showers along the way.† The weather was interesting today, but it didnít really impact my birding very much.† I had thrown my long-sleeved flannel shirt in the car this morning, and that turned out to be a good thing, as I wore it just about all day.† Mostly the temperatures were in the 50ís or maybe low 60ís, which was way better than yesterdayís 90ís as far as I was concerned.

 

I continued on up the mountain, stopping at a couple of places but not seeing anything new.† I went through the little settlement of Summerhaven, almost at the top, at about 8000 feet, and then on down Marshall Gulch to the picnic area and trail head at the end of the road.† Thatís where I did most of my actual birding today, never getting very far from my car.

 

I had a couple of Hermit Thrushes for my trip list as I drove in.† Later I got this picture of a Hermit Thrush, sitting on a branch looking down on me while I ate my lunch.

 

As I got out of my car at Marshall Gulch, I heard a woodpecker and saw a HAIRY WOODPECKER for my year list.† It moved on before I could get a picture.† The next one I added was YELLOW-EYED JUNCO.† Thatís a high elevation species I wanted to see today.† I got some pictures I like, so Iím going to show three of them.† Here is your basic picture of a Yellow-eyed Junco.† You can see how it got its name.

 

Here is a picture with the bird looking at me.

 

And here is a close up picture that shows a lot of feather detail, and it also shows some of that white stuff in its mouth.† There must be seeds in the white stuff, and thatís what it was foraging on.

 

In the same tree was a RED-FACED WARBLER, another high elevation species I was looking for today.† I saw them a couple of times in 2011, but today I got my first pictures.† Here is a Red-faced Warbler, showing how it got its name.

 

I was surprised to see a couple of Mountain Chickadees, a good one for my trip list.† I hadnít realized they lived here in Arizona.† Here is a Mountain Chickadee with a bug or something in its bill.

 

While walking up and down the road, I heard a bird calling, and then saw a couple of House Wrens, for my trip list.† Here is a picture of a cute little House Wren.

 

I hadnít been looking for that one, either, at 8000 feet in a forest.† It turns out they are quite common nesters in that area.

 

Another good one was PAINTED REDSTART, for my year list.† I would love to have gotten a picture of that black and red bird, but not today.† Iíll have some chances later in the trip, but itís a warbler, and warblers are always very tough.

 

A couple of American Robins added to my trip list, as did a White-breasted Nuthatch.† It was getting to be lunch time, so I found a picnic table and settled in to my tuna sandwich and Fritos.† Here is a picture of my lunch spot, along a little creek.

 

There was constant bird sound all the time I was at Marshall Gulch.† Mostly I didnít know what the birds were, but at least there were birds around.† My normal mountain birding experience is terrible, but this was an extremely birdy place for a mountain forest, in my experience.† As I walked back to the car, I heard a bird call very close by.† It was a call I had been hearing constantly, but I didnít know what it was.† The bird was right in front of me, though, and I was able to get excellent looks at a PLUMBEOUS VIREO, a great one for my year list.

 

At one point I had a flycatcher that I ended up deciding was a WESTERN WOOD-PEWEE for my year list.† It didnít stick around long enough for pictures.

 

Eventually, I tore myself away from Marshall Gulch and drove back through Summerhaven and up to the ski area at Mount Lemmon.† As I was leaving Marshall Gulch, I stopped a couple of places to look for Greater Pewee, a flycatcher that lives at altitude.† At one stop I had a flycatcher, but I have a hell of a time identifying flycatchers, and I couldnít tell for sure what it was.† It was too small for Greater Pewee, but size is difficult to distinguish in isolation, without another bird of known size for comparison.† I looked up various flycatchers and played their songs to no avail.† Here are a couple of the pictures I got.

 

 

By the time I left, I thought it was a BUFF-BREASTED FLYCATCHER, another one of my key target species for the day.† Iím still not 100% sure, and Iíve sent off a couple of pictures to the bird guide that I have booked for this Friday, to get his opinion.† If it turns out to be something else, other than Buff-breasted Flycatcher, Iíll correct it in a later report.† {Corrected the next day to CORDILLERAN FLYCATCHER.]

 

After visiting the ski area, I started back down the mountain.† I stopped at the Palisades Visitor Center, mainly to look around for birds and play the call for Greater Pewee, which had eluded me today.† I went in and got a bird list for the area, and when I came out I noticed a group of 5 or 6 people with binoculars all looking the same direction.† Aha!† That is one of the things you look for when birding, a group of people with binoculars who are looking at something.

 

I joined them, and it turned out they were looking at a hummingbird feeder in back of the visitor center.† I hadnít realized it was there.† The feeder was quite active.† I ended up adding two more species to my year list, BROAD-TAILED HUMMINGBIRD and MAGNIFICIENT HUMMINGBIRD.† Hereís a picture of a male Broad-tailed Hummingbird.

 

His gorget looks black, but in the right light, it is an iridescent red.† Here is a female Broad-tailed Hummingbird.

 

Note the little dots on her neck and the slightly rufous flanks.† I might have had a hard time identifying Broad-tailed Hummingbird, although I might have worked it out based on likelihood in that area and by elimination of other species.† The guide for the group of birders was very knowledgeable, though, and I listened carefully to her spiel.

 

Here is a male Magnificent Hummingbird.† It is much larger than the Broad-tailed Hummingbirds, and you can see a female Broad-tailed in the background.

 

His gorget is an interesting green color in the right light.† Here is a female Magnificent Hummingbird.

 

That was an unexpected bonus for the day, and with that I headed back toward my motel.† I stopped a couple of places, of course, to try again for Greater Pewee, but had no luck.† I was driving with my window open and at one point I distinctly heard a familiar bird song.† It took me a couple of seconds to recognize it, and when I did, I turned around.† I played the song at the place I had heard it, and eventually, a lovely little CANYON WREN flew in and sang back to me.† I donít think Iíve ever gotten a picture of a Canyon Wren before, but here is my definitive picture of a singing Canyon Wren.† I donít need to try to get any more now.

 

Here is a view from above it, showing all its pretty wren patterns and colors.

 

With that, I did indeed finally throw in the towel and I boogied back to my motel, arriving about 3:50 PM.† It was about eight and a half hours total today, including the driving time there and back, which was about 30 or 40 minutes each way.† Not a long day by any means, but I was quite pleased with what I had seen and also with my pictures for the day.

 

I added 21 species to my trip list, to bring me to 62 species now.† 13 of those were new for my year list, to bring me to 260 species for the year, of which 3 are lifers.† Tomorrow I check out of my Studio 6 room and head down to Madera Canyon, where I have a casita booked at the Santa Rita Lodge, a classic old timey mountain place.† There are only three places to stay in Madera Canyon, if you donít want to camp, and there are only a total of about 18 or 20 rooms, so most people are day visitors.† There is lodging in Green Valley, which is only about 25 minutes away.† By staying in the canyon itself, I can look and listen for owls and other night birds, though, and Iím looking forward to that.† I could possibly add 2 or 3 lifers there, if I get lucky and can recognize the calls.† Another tiny owl that I have seen before nests in a telephone pole at the lodge, and I hope to see that one, too.

 

The weather forecast looks good.† The rain is supposed to be gone by tomorrow, and the temperatures in Madera Canyon are only supposed to be in the high 70ís for the next couple of days.† It cools down nicely at night, too, as it is at an elevation of about 3500 feet.† Bring it on!

 

 

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

 

Before I get started today, I have two corrections.† First, Madera Canyon is about 5000 feet elevation, not the 3500 feet I reported last night.† Thatís what you get when you rely on the first internet source you find.

 

Second, my flycatcher yesterday was not a Buff-breasted, as I reported, but a Cordilleran Flycatcher.† It was still a year bird, and was actually a better one for me to get than the Buff-breasted, because I should see Buff-breasted next week with a guide, in Carr Canyon, in the Huachuca Mountains.† I never would have been able to identify a Cordilleran without help.† I emailed my pictures to the guide I have booked for Friday, and he gave me the information I needed.† It was a Cordilleran Flycatcher.

 

So, this morning I was up by 5:30, which is great.† Iím working myself earlier all the time.† I had a very easy day, which was good.† I headed south and got off the freeway at Green Valley.† I did a little shopping and got a nice all-meat sandwich at Safeway.† Iíll have to have that one again Ė it was excellent, with all their deli meats and cheese as well.

 

I headed up toward Madera Canyon, where Iím staying tonight, and added Red-tailed Hawk to my trip list.

 

I turned off on Box Canyon Road, to go to lower Florida (pronounced Flor-EE-dah) Canyon, and I got a Loggerhead Shrike for my trip list.

 

There is a family of Black-capped Gnatcatchers there, which is a rare bird in this country, and would be a lifer for me.† I had a report from yesterday, but it was unclear how far up the canyon they were.† Here is the trail going up Florida Canyon.

 

There was a lot of bird sound, and I saw some birds.† At one point I saw a female gnatcatcher, and the underside of her tail was light colored (eliminating Black-tailed Gnatcatcher).† I ended up calling it a BLUE-GRAY GNATCATCHER, a fairly common bird, but one I was glad to get for my year list.† I turned around when I came to a gate, and later I talked to a guy who told me the Black-tailed Gnatcatchers were only about 50 yards beyond that gate.† When he told me that, I thought about going back again, but decided I wasnít up to that much walking.† I probably only went up the canyon a quarter of a mile, if that, but I wasnít prepared to do it again.† For one thing, when I went the first time, there were several cars in the parking lot, implying that there were people on the trail, in case I needed help.† Later, the other cars were gone, and I didnít like the idea of being out there by myself.† Iím a very cautious birder when it comes to my personal safety.† I might go back there in the morning, although I have another option Iím thinking about, too.

 

Anyway, on the way back to my car I saw a GRAY HAWK for my year list.† I hope to get a picture of one later, but not today.† It was being harassed by a smaller raptor, but I wasnít able to identify it.† I stopped at a locked gate where there was a concrete water trough to sit on and I watched the birds.† There were Black-throated Gray Warblers around (counted already on both of my days) and also a couple of WILSONíS WARBLERS for my year list.† I picked up Acorn Woodpecker for my trip list as well.† Here is a picture of a male Acorn Woodpecker, taken later in the day at the feeders here at my lodge.

 

There was a flycatcher flitting around, and I got a number of pictures.† I didnít figure I had much chance of identifying it, but later when I looked at the pictures, I decided it was a HAMMONDíS FLYCATCHER, a good one for my year list.† Here are three pictures of it, for my future reference.

 

 

 

Again for my future reference, here are some of the ID points I used in my identification.† ďBig headedĒ, chin about the same color as the head, lower bill dark except at the base, short bill, long primary extension, relatively short tail, a definite ďvestĒ on the breast, eye ring that is wider at the back.† All in all, Iím calling it a Hammondís Flycatcher, until someone more knowledgeable than I am tells me different and tells me why.† It could happen.

 

On my way back to the car I got this picture of a male BROAD-BILLED HUMMINGBIRD.† I later saw a lot of them at feeders, and I got some better pictures, but there is something special about seeing a hummingbird and getting a picture of it in the ďwildĒ, not near any feeders.† Here is a male Broad-billed Hummingbird in the wild.

 

Back near the parking area, I saw a little bird that I thought was a Warbling Vireo.† I played the song, and the bird started singing back to me.† I got a good look at it.† Later I looked it up to be sure, and it turned out to be a Bellís Vireo, which is a great bird, but one I had seen in San Diego in March, so it was only a trip bird today.† I later went back and verified it by again playing the song, and I got them singing again, and it was the Bellís Vireo song, not the Warbling Vireo song.† If I was better at bird sounds, I would have known that in the first place.

 

I looked round a little more but didnít add anything else.† Thatís when I talked to the guy who had seen the Black-capped Gnatcatchers, just beyond the gate where I had turned back.† If I wasnít so old and fat and out of shape, I would have had them, no doubt about it.

 

So, I drove up into Madera Canyon, where Iím staying for two nights.† I stopped a couple of places and had my lunch at a nice table at the Whitehouse Picnic Area.† There were tons of MEXICAN JAYS around the picnic area.† Here is a picture of one.

 

After lunch I drove on up the canyon to the top, and I wandered around up there a bit.† On my way back down I stopped at Madera Kubo cabins, where I had stayed in 2011.† They have feeders there, and there were some other birders there.† I soon added BLACK-HEADED GROSBEAK to my year list.† I got some pictures, but I have so many pictures today that Iíll hold off on that one, to save time.† Iím pressed for time tonight, to try to get this done and get it off.

 

A male HEPATIC TANAGER flew in, and I got this picture.

 

Later I got this picture of a female Hepatic Tanager at another feeder.

 

There were a few LAZULI BUNTINGS around, but I didnít get any pictures.† Iíll try later in the trip, as I like that bird.† Blue, you know.

 

I added BLACK-CHINNED HUMMINGBIRD to my year list there.† Here is a picture of a male Black-chinned Hummingbird that I got later.

 

His gorget looks black there, but in the right light, it is purple.† Here is a female Black-chinned Hummingbird.

 

I was chatting with a couple of other birders there and one of them suddenly noticed an unusual bird, and I picked up GRACEíS WARBLER for my year list.† It would normally be at a higher elevation, but it came in for a bath in the little stream water feature.† Other people got great pictures of it, but my camera wouldnít focus on it (a problem that has been getting more frequent), and I didnít get anything.† Still, I got a great binocular look at it, and it was a great one for my year list.† I might see one next week when I go up Carr Canyon with a guide, but there is a good chance I wonít, so it was great to get it today.

 

I also got Lesser Goldfinch there, for my trip list.

 

It was about 1:30 PM by then, so I stopped at the Santa Rita Lodge, where Iím staying, and was able to check in.† The owner, a friendly guy named Steve, showed me to my little casita (basically a studio apartment with kitchenette) and gave me a lot of information.† He showed me a deck that has a view of the creek, and there were a number of birds flitting around.† I added Townsendís Warbler to my trip list there and I got this picture of a Painted Redstart, which I had added to my year list yesterday on Mount Lemmon.

 

The bird is a warbler, and it flits around constantly.† Itís very striking looking.† You can just see a hint of its bright red breast in that picture.† Iíll keep trying to get a good picture that shows the red and black together, but this is the only picture Iíve ever gotten of the species, so Iím showing it.

 

I got my stuff moved into my room, and I drove down to the Proctor Road parking area and walked up the trail a bit.† It was really dead, in the middle of the afternoon, so I came back here to the lodge and sat and watched the feeders for a long time.† Mostly it was the same birds, but a few new ones showed up from time to time.† Iíve already shown some of the pictures I got at that time, but here is the best picture Iíve ever gotten of a male Magnificent Hummingbird, one I saw yesterday up on Mount Lemmon.

 

Thatís the one that is so much larger than the other hummingbirds.† When the light hits him right, his throat or upper breast flashes a great green color.

 

There were Broad-billed Hummingbirds around, and I got this picture of a male Broad-billed Hummingbird.† Thatís the one I showed a picture of in the ďwildĒ up earlier in this report.

 

With all the blue on him, you can see why he is one of my favorites.

 

An ARIZONA WOODPECKER flew in, a good one for my year list that was expected.† Here is a picture of a female Arizona Woodpecker.

 

A BRIDLED TITMOUSE flew in from time to time, and I got just this one picture of it.

 

I had heard that a finch was being seen here Ė one I wanted for my year list.† Here is a picture of a male CASSINíS FINCH.

 

I forgot to mention that I had added Wild Turkey to my trip list as I came into Madera Canyon.† There were three of them hanging around the feeders, and I got this picture of a male who was strutting his stuff.

 

So, that was my dayÖexcept it wasnít, as it turned out.† I started working on my pictures about 4 PM, but I had some other email stuff to do, too.† The internet connection here is extremely slow, and itíll be interesting to see if I can even send this report out tonight.† We will see.† Anyway, I worked on pictures, had a couple of drinkies, worked on my report, had some dinner, and at about 6:45 went out for the daily emergence of a little owl that nests in a pole here at the lodge.† I had been told by Steve, the owner of the lodge, that it came out at about 7 PM, and it would call back and forth to its mate before it emerged.† Well, when I got to the viewing area, there were already about a half dozen birders and photographers there, waiting for the owl.

 

We waited and we waited.† Finally at about 7:20 PM, it did emerge, much too late for me to have any chance at a picture.† There was never any calling that any of us heard.† I saw it, more or less, and added ELF OWL to my year list.† It was not a great sighting, as far as Iím concerned, but I saw the little cutie.† While we were waiting for the owl to make its appearance, a LESSER NIGHTHAWK flew by a few times, and I got a good enough look at it on one pass to count it for my year list.

 

Iíve been out again to listen for owls and other night birds, but I didnít hear anything.† Iíll try again tomorrow night, and maybe Iíll have more time to devote to it then.

 

So, finally, that was the end of my long day.† I didnít really do a lot of birding, and it was nice to have a relaxed day.† I added 13 species to my year list, to bring me to 273 for the year, of which 3 are lifers.† Thatís 42 that Iíve added to my year list so far on the trip, if I did the math right.† I added 20 species to my trip list, to bring me to 82 species for the trip.† Enough with the numbers.† Iím tired and need to go to bed.† I need to formulate my plans for tomorrow, too.† Now, Iíll see if I can get this sent out on the very slow internet connection.

 

 

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

 

Before I start into today, I want to show a couple of pictures from yesterday.† They didnít make the cut yesterday because I was running out of time, but I have seen so many Black-headed Grosbeaks at various feeders that I feel like they deserve some air time.† Here is a male Black-headed Grosbeak.

 

Hereís a female Black-headed Grosbeak.

 

Anyway, this morning I was up at about 5:20, so Iím continuing to move my schedule earlier.† I headed out about 7, back to Florida (Flor-EE-da, remember) Canyon, where I was yesterday.† Yesterday I had turned back only a couple of hundred yards from where the birds were, and today I was prepared to go all the way.† It was a lovely morning, nice and cool, maybe in the mid 50ís, and I had a nice walk.† I took it very easy and stopped and rested on the uphill stretches.† In about 20 minutes I got to the area I was heading for.† When I got there, there was a guy with binoculars, so I asked him about the gnatcatchers, figuring he hadnít seen them, since he was still there and just standing around.† It turned out that he had seen them, only about ten minutes before, and he was just hanging out, hoping for more views.

 

So, we both looked, and within 5 or 10 minutes, I spotted the female BLACK-CAPPED GNATCATCHER (lifer).† I got great views, but it was through some branches, and she didnít sit still long, so no pictures.† I could see the white color to the underside of the tail (thus eliminating Black-tailed Gnatcatcher), and the bill was long and dark, thus eliminating Blue-gray Gnatcatcher.† Perfeck!† Eventually the male showed himself, too, with his black cap.† From what others have reported, they are currently feeding four fledglings, but I didnít see any of them.† I talked with the other birder and we walked back to our cars together.† As we got to the parking lot, there was a couple just starting out, and we gave them directions to the gnatcatchers.† I saw them later at the feeders here at the lodge, and they thanked me and said my directions had been perfect and they got great views and even pictures.† They saw two of the fledglings, too.

 

On that same walk at Florida Canyon, I had a quick view of a CANYON TOWHEE for my year list, and a longer view of a male NORTHERN CARDINAL for my year list.

 

So, I headed back up to Madera Canyon, with a lifer under my belt and a satisfying start to the day.† It was still only about 8:45, and I had the day ahead of me still.

 

I spent time watching the feeders here at the lodge, but didnít see anything different and didnít take any pictures.† I moved on up to the Madera Kubo feeders and watched there for a while.† I had a fairly quick view of a RUFOUS-CROWNED SPARROW that came in to the water, but it flew off before I could get a picture.† I walked a little bit in a couple of places, and the morning passed.† At one point I walked along Madera Creek from the amphitheater area, going slowly and enjoying a few birds.† I got this picture of a Bridled Titmouse that I like.

 

I liked that shot, but I really like this next one.

 

I think it must have been feeding nestlings, and it was hanging around the area waiting for me to leave.† Birds donít like to go to the nest when potential predators are in the area watching.† It had a little caterpillar or something in its bill.† I think they are really cute little birds.

 

On that same walk I saw a flycatcher.† It was one of a family of three that are in the area, and I have asked my guide on Friday to show me the differences among them.† I got a couple of pictures today, though, and Iíve decided that this one is a DUSKY-CAPPED FLYCATCHER, so it goes on my year list.† Iíll show the pictures to the guide eventually, and if he tells me Iím wrong, Iíll do a correction.† Here are two pictures of a Ducky-capped Flycatcher (I think).

 

 

The key features that led me to the identification (for my future reference) are that the underside of the tail doesnít have any red-brown in it, the size and shape of the bill, and the yellow color of the belly.† I also heard it call and I played back the call to be sure.† It wasnít exactly the same as my app, but it seemed like part of what the app had.† I feel good about the identification, and Iím glad to have been able to work it out myself (Assuming Iím right).

 

At the feeders here at the lodge, I got this picture of a Mexican Jay.† As a blue bird, it deserves more screen time.

 

There are a lot of them around Madera Canyon.

 

I got this picture of a Brown-headed Cowbird, counted for my year list earlier in the trip.

 

Also at the lodge was this finch feeder, well populated with House Finches and Lesser Goldfinches.

 

You can see that the seed level is getting down, so they have to use the lower perches today.

 

I took my lunch down to the Madera Canyon picnic area and ate in the shade at a table.† It was very pleasant, and I saw a few birds, but nothing new.† After lunch I walked a bit by the creek, and finally got a pretty good picture of a male Painted Redstart, first seen up on Mount Lemmon on Monday.

 

Walking along the road there, I got this picture of a male Hepatic Tanager, the first one Iíve seen away from feeders.

 

Back at the feeders at the lodge, I took these two pictures of a Pine Siskin in a tree.

 

 

I hadnít recognized it at first, for some reason.† I see them all the time at home, but I had a hard time with this one today.

 

It was pretty slow around the feeders this afternoon, as far as new birds, but finally a male SCOTTíS ORIOLE flew in briefly, and I got this picture.

 

And, to my surprise, suddenly there was a different hummingbird right in front of me.† It was a very familiar male Annaís Hummingbird, which we have year-round in our yard at home.† This one was the first one Iíve seen on the trip.

 

Finally, as I was about to call it quits, I got this picture of a male Arizona Woodpecker.† It was only the second time Iíve seen that species on the trip.

 

I had a little half hour nap, and then I started working on pictures and this report.† Itís about 6 PM now, and I plan to go out to see the Elf Owl come out again, at about 7.† I also hope to listen for a couple of lifer night birds.† Last night I didnít have time to do that, as I was working on my report after the Elf Owl adventure.† I donít like counting ďheard onlyĒ birds when they are lifers, but night birds are sort of an exception, because they are so hard to see.† It is very normal for birders to count ďheard onlyĒ night birds like owls and nightjars.

 

Iíll finish this up later and try to send it off.† AOL isnít working for some reason, so Iíll have to try sending it from their web mail interface, which I donít like.† It ought to work, though.† We shall see.

 

Okay, I got a much better look at the Elf Owl tonight, but no decent pictures.† It was just too dark.† Afterwards I drove around a little, and stopped a couple of times and listened for night birds.† By golly, I heard a COMMON POORWILL (lifer) call 3 or 4 times, in the distance.† Iím putting it down as ďheard onlyĒ and Iím counting it.† Itís a very distinctive call, so I feel good about the ID.† Of course, for all I know, some eager birder was playing the call nearby, but it sounded loud and far away.† Itís considered poor form to play calls when other birders are around, and there are so many birders here in Madera Canyon that you arenít supposed to use playback at all here.

 

So, thatís two lifers today!† Outstanding!† I updated my spreadsheet, too, and found I had made several errors in my little notebooks.† As a result, my numbers have gone up a little.† Per the corrections, Iím now at 92 species for the trip.† Of those, 53 have added to my year list.† My year list stands at 284 species now, of which 5 are lifers.† Itís always hard to tell in the midst of a trip, but I think Iím doing quite well, compared to my expectations.† Iíve gotten some good ones, and I havenít missed any easy ones yet.

 

Tomorrow I move on to the Patagonia area.† It is mainly a travel day, although the distance is short.† I have several places to stop along the way, but my main emphasis is going to be to get myself moved and do some grocery shopping.† I hope to pick up a couple of year birds along the way.

 

 

Thursday, May 7, 2015

 

It turns out that I got a better picture of the Elf Owl last night that I had imagined possible.† Mind you, it is absolutely terrible, but Iím happy to have it, and here it is.

 

It was an adventure in camera-land getting that shot, poor as it is.† It was too dark for auto focus, so I used manual focus, which I have almost no experience with.† I used ISO 1600 and an exposure of 1/10 of a second, and I was hand holding the camera, which is practically impossible at 1/10 of a second exposure.† I couldnít even see anything through the viewfinder, and I just had to sort of guess where to point the camera.† So, when I looked at the picture today, I was very pleased to have anything at all.† With my binoculars, the owl was very clear and I had a great look.† Later that night I heard them around the area a lot.† They sound like a little dog yipping.

 

So, I took it easy today and my first stop was to get a sandwich and some gas in Green Valley.† I only got ten bucks worth of gas, as it was $2.79 a gallon.† I had seen it at $2.20 a gallon in Tucson, and I wasnít ready to spend $2.79 for a full tank.† It turned out that it was $2.55 in Nogales, and I got 30 cents a gallon off for my Fred Meyer club discount (Kroger).

 

I stopped at the sewage treatment plant in Amado and picked up Barn Swallow, Violet-green Swallow, and Ruddy Duck for my trip list.† I also got WILSONíS PHALAROPE for my year list there.† The whistling-ducks I was looking for werenít there at the time.† On my way back to the freeway, I noticed that Cliff Swallows were nesting under the freeway, so that one went onto my trip list.

 

The flock of BLACK-BELLIED WHISTLING-DUCKS was at the Rio Rico pond when I got there, so I added them to my year list.† Here is a distant picture in the worst possible light, looking right into the sun.

 

I counted 43 ducks in a quick count.† I was pleased to see them, as they hadnít been around this year much until the last week or so.† I added Snowy Egret to my trip list there, too.

 

Just down the road from there I got this picture of a kingbird, which I think is a Cassinís Kingbird, one for my trip list (I saw them in San Diego in March).

 

There is supposed to be a fairly rare kingbird in that area, but Iíll be back there with my guide tomorrow, I expect, and maybe weíll get it then.† Before I left that area, I added LADDER-BACKED WOODPECKER to my year list.† I didnít get a picture there, but later I got pictures of both the male and female, and Iíll show them in the proper sequence.

 

I stopped in Nogales and did a big grocery shopping at Safeway.† I also got the $2.55 a gallon gas I mentioned earlier.† My next birding stop was in Kino Springs at the golf course there.† I got this picture of a couple of kingbirds there.

 

There are four species of kingbird in this area, and they look very much alike.† I think the lower one is a Western Kingbird, which I counted on the trip back on Sunday, and I think the upper one is probably a Cassinís.† The upper one was harassing the lower one, chasing it from perch to perch.

 

There was a pair of Mallards on the pond, and the male was either the Mexican subspecies of Mallard or a hybrid.† I plan to show this picture to my guide tomorrow, to learn something.

 

It doesnít look anything like a ďnormalĒ male Mallard in the summer, like we see at home, but I think this is a male.† I added Black Phoebe to my trip list there, too.

 

It was past time for lunch by then, so I stopped at the famous Patagonia Roadside Rest Area and ate in my car.† It is famous among American birders because of all the rarities that have shown up there in the past.† While I ate, there were four female birders with a male guide birding the area, and I wondered if the guide was the guy I have hired tomorrow.† When I finished eating, I was going to move on, but a bird started calling loudly and repeatedly, so I got out to look for it, as it sounded different.† I spotted it, and it was a kingbird.† It seemed to have a thick bill, and an uncommon kingbird with a thick bill has been reported from that location repeatedly in the last week.† I played the call on my phone, and that was it, for sure Ė THICK-BILLED KINGBIRD.† I was planning to go there tomorrow with my guide to find it, but I found it myself.† The only picture I could get only shows the tail.

 

While I was looking for the kingbird, I saw a little bird, and it looked like a warbler Iíve been trying to see.† I played the song of the warbler, and the little bird came down and foraged around fairly low, singing all the while.† Here is a picture of a LUCYíS WARBLER.

 

Here it is, singing to me (or maybe to my phone).

 

And here is a picture of it from underneath, in a view you often get of warblers, high in the trees.

 

From there I went on to Patonís Yard.† The Patons were a couple who had a lot of feeders and opened their yard to birders for many years.† They both died in the last ten or fifteen years, and now the Tucson Audubon Society, or some organization like that, owns it, and it remains open to birders.† I had hopes of picking up some good birds there, as it had been great in 2011 when I was here before.

 

The first one I got was INCA DOVE, and here is a picture.

 

I took a seat (several benches provided, in the shade) and soon got this picture of a female SUMMER TANAGER for my year list.

 

Later I got this picture of a male Summer Tanager.† What a difference in color!

 

I also got this rather distant picture of a male Summer Tanager flying.

 

I picked up Bewickís Wren for my trip list and also White-crowned Sparrow.† I got this picture of a male Ladder-backed Woodpecker, promised earlier.

 

Here is a female Ladder-backed Woodpecker.

 

I then added ABERTíS TOWHEE to my year list, and here is a picture.

 

There was a Canyon Towhee around, too, which I had added the other day in Florida Canyon, but I donít care for any of my pictures, partly because they all show its left side, and it seems to be missing its left eye.

 

Another red bird flew through briefly, and I got this picture of a male Northern Cardinal, which I had also added to my year list at Florida Canyon.

 

A couple of Gambelís Quail flew in.† Here is the male Gambelís Quail.

 

Here is the female.

 

A female Gila Woodpecker flew in a couple of times, and here is a picture.

 

I had been there over an hour and hadnít seen the hummingbird I especially wanted to see.† They are pretty rare, and Patonís is famous for them.† The guy I sat next to had told me that one had just been there, several times, and I watched that feeder for over an hour.† Finally, I had told myself that I was going to leave at 3:00, and at 2:59 the couple behind me started talking about the hummingbird at the feeder I had been watching.† I looked at it, and it was indeed different.† It turned its head, and it was the VIOLET-CROWNED HUMMINGBIRD that I was looking for.† I just missed getting a picture because I was looking at it so long.† Iíll try to go back and try again.

 

So, Patonís was a success, and I moved on to my lodgings.† I took an unpaved back road, and I knew there was a creek crossing on it.† When I got to the creek crossing, I had a flashback to my little problem in Oregon a few years ago with a flooded roadway, but I went on through.† Here is a picture of the creek crossing.

 

I donít think I would have done it in a sedan, but my Pathfinder seemed okay for it, and I made it.† It was deeper on the far end than I expected, though.

 

Iím staying in a place in the middle of nowhere, a mile down a primitive dirt road.† It is an 18 acre piece of property, pretty desert-like to my eyes.† They have two rooms that they built to rent out.† It is very nice, the nicest place Iíll stay on the trip, for sure.† Here are some pictures.† First, hereís the kitchenette area.

 

Here is the king size bed.

 

There are two comfy chairs and a TV, with lots of channels (not that Iíll even turn it on).

 

And finally, here is the bathroom.

 

Itís pretty new, the kitchen has lots of equipment, it has air conditioning, there are four ice trays full of ice in the freezer, and it has wi-fi.† Iíll be very comfortable here.† There isnít a phone, but I have Verizon coverage here, so Iím good.† Itís only $90 a night, which seems like a bargain to me, for what it is.

 

I baked some chicken breasts tonight for my dinner, along with some potatoes and some broccoli.† It was nice to have real food instead of the microwave heated stuff I usually eat on a trip.

 

Tomorrow I have a guide booked for the day.† It is ďdawn to duskĒ, if I want to go that long, but Iím wimping out and having him show up here at 7, rather than the 5:30 sunrise time.† Weíll see how long I can go.† I have a local birder who has offered to take me out this weekend, too, so Iíll be busy here.† I doubt Iíll be able to complete my report for tomorrow until Saturday afternoon, based on what I have scheduled.† Iíll catch up eventually, if I do fall behind.

 

I added 18 more species to my trip list today, to bring it to 110 now.† Of those 18, 10 added to my year list, to bring me to 294 species for the year, of which 5 are lifers.† Weíll see what we can get tomorrow.† I have a list of about 40 potential species I need for my year list, but if we get twenty of those, it will be excellent.† We will see.† It could be more like ten, I donít really know.

 

 

Friday, May 8, 2015

 

I had a little problem with my alarm clock, and somehow it got set to Mountain Daylight time.† Well, we are indeed in the Mountain time zone, but Arizona doesnít do daylight savings time.† The clock supposedly gets radio signals that set it to the correct time, and I think that is how it got off, but it might have been something I did when I was setting the time for the alarm.† Itís very complicated to set it, and I might have screwed up.† As I result, when I woke at 4:20 and looked at my clock, it said it was 5:20.† Since I had my alarm set for 5:30, I got up.† I went to the bathroom (always my first priority) and then noticed it seemed awfully dark outside.† It was just barely starting to get light, and sunrise was supposed to be at 5:30.† I looked on my computer, and it was only 4:30.† Oops.† I went back to bed, but couldnít sleep again.† So, my day started very early.

 

My professional guide for the day, Richard, showed up on time at 7:00, and we set off for a day of birding.

 

Our first stop was on the road to Patagonia State Park, which is only a couple of miles from where Iím staying.† Richard played a song, and a BOTTERIíS SPARROW soon responded.† It took a little work to get it, but here is a picture of Botteriís Sparrow.

 

Hereís another picture of it.† The shadows kind of ruin it, but it shows the finely streaked top of the head, so Iím keeping it.

 

I got my first ASH-THROATED FLYCATCHER of the year there, and I have a picture of another one later.

 

At that same stop, there was a Black-throated Sparrow feeding at least three fledglings.† Here is one of the little ones.

 

It wonít develop its black throat for a couple of months.

 

In the state park, we went to the east end to the birding trail.† Our first major success was getting great views and good pictures of a bird I had wanted help with identifying.† Here is a NORTHERN BEARDLESS-TYRANNULET.

 

Itís a very small flycatcher, but it doesnít catch flies, it forages in trees for bugs on the branches and leaves, like a warbler.† Here is another picture.

 

One of the key identification features is the curved upper half of the bill near the tip.† Here is a third picture, again showing the curved upper mandible, as well as the birdís back.

 

Next was COMMON GROUND-DOVE, and here is a picture of one, not on the ground, though.

 

It is the smallest of the five dove species in this area, by far.

 

Richard was whistling the call of a particular owl because that often gets little birds to fly in and take a look.† I donít know exactly why a little bird would fly in to check out a predator, but maybe it is so they will know where it is, in order to avoid it.† Anyway, to our surprise, we heard a vocal response Ė the same call coming back.† We considered whether it might be another birder who was also doing the call to attract birds, but we tracked it down.† It answered Richardís whistles fairly regularly, and we moved in on it.† Eventually, we traced it to a particular tree, but we were never able to see it.† Since I count ďheard onlyĒ birds now, I added WESTERN SCREECH-OWL to my year list, as the call is distinctive.† There is one in the town of Portal, where Iíll be in a week, and it roosts in the open some of the time during the day, so Iíll try to see it there.

 

We saw YELLOW-BREASTED CHAT two or three times, but my only picture is too blurry to show.† We saw two or three Great Blue Herons, too, for my trip list.† We also heard Pied-billed Grebe, a bird whose calls Iím very familiar with from my local Juanita Bay Park, where I used to watch them almost daily when I first started birding.† That was another one for my trip list.

 

The next one for my trip list was White-faced Ibis, and I got this picture of one in the sun.

 

Here is an adult Neotropic Cormorant.† I had seen a juvenile one in Tucson at the start of the trip.

 

Hereís a picture of part Patagonia Lake from the east end.

 

The ground is kind of churned up because cattle graze there.† It is state park land, but in Arizona, cattle can graze anywhere on public land.† The cattle ruin the habitat, of course, but when the Tucson Audubon Society tried to fence off the state park, the local rancher took them to court and established his right to let his cattle graze there.† When you bird there, you have to watch where you walk, as there are cow pies all over the place.

 

We made our way back to the car and moved on to Salerno Road, the place where I crossed the creek over the road the other day.† I crossed twice more on Friday, and we tried for Brown-crested Flycatcher there, but didnít see one.† One of my highest priority target species, ZONE-TAILED HAWK, flew right almost right over us when we were out of the car looking at some other bird.† It was a great look at it, but it didnít stick around for pictures.† Later we saw two more of them, in other places.† I had only seen that species once before, back when I had first started birding, in the early 2000ís, so it was a thrill to see three of them.

 

We stopped at the Patagonia Roadside Rest, and I added Phainopepla to my trip list but couldnít get a picture.† I did get this picture of a male Summer Tanager, though.

 

A BLACK VULTURE flew over and I got a quick binocular look and it was gone.† It was my only sighting of that species so far, so that was good.† They are reasonably common around here, but I had a hard time seeing one in 2011, too.† We also had great looks at a very vocal WARBLING VIREO at the roadside rest.

 

Next we went down to Kino Springs, which I had stopped at the day before.† We looked around a little, especially for Bronzed Cowbird, but didnít get anything new for either of my lists there.

 

We stopped in Nogales and put Richard on my car rental contract as a driver, so he could drive some of the time in the afternoon.† He got a sandwich there and ate it while I drove, and after our next stop, he drove and I ate one of the sandwiches I had brought for myself.† Ham and cheese, of course.

 

Our next stop was Rio Rico.† On our way to the ponds that I had stopped at on Thursday, Richard showed me a roosting Barn Owl for my trip list and this picture.

 

At the first small pond, we immediately saw our target species, TROPICAL KINGBIRD.† They are pretty uncommon, but every year they come back and nest in that area.† Kingbirds are flycatchers and sit right out in the open, so they are easy to see if they are around.† All four locally found species of kingbird look very much alike, but the Tropical Kingbird is the only one that has the yellow on its belly going right up to its neck.† Here is a picture one of the two Tropical Kingbirds we saw.

 

I wasnít at all sure I would see one on the trip, as they are just now getting back from their winter sojourn down south.† They just came back to Rio Rico in the last week.

 

From there, we went north to Tubac to look for a real rarity, Sinaloa Wren.† We spent maybe 20 minutes where it has been seen, but it didnít show itself or vocalize.† Another one is being seen in Sierra Vista where I go next, and Iíll try there.

 

At the Sinaloa Wren site, Richard pointed out a female Black-chinned Hummingbird sitting on her delicate little nest.

 

It was right out in plain view, and I was only about ten feet away.† It was interesting that she just sat there and didnít even seem to act nervous.

 

Richard was able to show me RUFOUS-WINGED SPARROW there, one of my key targets.† Here is a picture from the front.† I think I got these next two pictures a little later, actually, at an impromptu stop along our way to Pena Blanca Lake.

 

That picture is enough to identify the bird, but the next one is better because it shows the little rufous patch on the shoulder, which isnít usually visible.

 

I think the wind was ruffling the feathers, which made the rufous patch visible.

 

While we were stopped there I got this picture of an Ash-throated Flycatcher, one I had added to my year list in the morning.

 

It is one of three species in the Myiarchus family that are in this area, and I wanted Richard to teach me to tell them apart.† He did an excellent job of that, and for now at least, I think I can do so.† There are several differences, including their favored habitats, but the best way for me is if I can see the underside of the tail.† The bird above has rufous feathers in the tail, but the tip is dark, not rufous.† That makes it Ash-throated Flycatcher.† The underside of the tail of Dusky-capped Flycatcher doesnít have any rufous in it at all, and the underside of the tail of Brown-crested Flycatcher is rufous all the way to the tip.† Easy-peasy, assuming you can get a good close look at the underside of the tail.† There are other indications, too, but they are harder for me to remember.† I hope I have that right about the tails; itís what I remember.

 

Somewhere along in there I added WESTERN TANAGER to my year list.

 

At Pena Blanca Lake, Richard played the song, and a ROCK WREN came down and sang back to us and posed for pictures.† Here is a Rock Wren, my fifth wren of the trip.

 

We took a little walk to see a Zone-tailed Hawk nest, in the hopes of seeing the birds on or near the nest.† Here is a picture of part of Pena Blanca Lake.

 

There was a little family of American Coots, and I got this picture of mom and the recently hatched babies.

 

Here is a close up of the four young ones, who look very different from their parents.

 

They are pretty funny looking, if you ask me.† Someone might even say they are ugly.

 

At the Zone-tailed Hawk nest, all we could see was the tail sticking out from the nest.† At least we could see the white band across the tail that identifies the species.

 

We hung around a while, but the male didnít show up and the female never moved.† On our way back to the car, Richard spotted a HERMIT WARBLER up in a tree, and we got good looks at it.† That was an excellent one for my year list, although I have seen them in Yosemite once or twice, so I might see one there this year.

 

It was getting late, but we decided to go another 9 miles on an unpaved road to Sycamore Canyon, to look for Montezuma Quail and another species.† We missed on the quail, but I did get these two pictures of Canyon Towhee, which I had counted but hadnít gotten a picture of.† This first one shows the whole bird, but the contrast is poor and you canít really see much.

 

This next one is a much better picture, in my opinion, but the first one gives a better overall sense of the bird, I think.

 

We headed back toward home, and stopped two or three places to use playback to attract a target species I needed.† Finally we got a male EASTERN BLUEBIRD to respond, and I got this distant picture.

 

Eastern Bluebird looks very much like Western Bluebird, and both species are found in this local area.† Western Bluebird has a blue throat, though, and in Eastern Bluebird, the red-brown color comes right up to the chin, as on this bird.† The population of Eastern Bluebirds in this area is isolated geographically from the birds in the east, and there are some minor differences I guess.† The two birders I have talked to here expect this local subspecies to be broken out as a separate species someday.

 

We stopped to admire the view on the way back, and I got this picture of my guide, Richard, in front of the view.

 

Richard is from England and has been a professional bird guide for 4 or 5 years, I think Ė full time the last two years, I think.† We had a good time all day exchanging birding stories and getting to know each other a little.† Here is a picture of the Old Rambler with the same view.

 

The sun was right in our faces, so we were both squinting big time.

 

A little farther along the road, there was a Greater Roadrunner in the road, so we stopped to see if I could get a picture.† The bird approached us and I did finally get this picture, which I like.

 

Usually roadrunner head off into the bush before you can even get a picture, but this one came right up to us and posed before he scurried off.

 

We got back to my accommodations at 7 PM, so we had been out for 12 hours.† It was a long day for this old man.† I got this picture of the sun almost setting on the hills to the southeast, from the front gate.

 

It has been uncharacteristically cool here this week, maybe mid to high 70ís the last couple of days.† I like it.† It has been windy, though, which holds the heat down, but makes birding more difficult in a couple of ways.

 

So, my twelve hour day got me 21 species for my trip list, bringing me to 131 at the end of Friday.† Of those, 15 were additions to my year list, bringing that total to 309, of which 5 are lifers and one is new for my US list.† From here on out, it is going to be hard to add more than 2 or 3 new year-birds on any day, and I might very well get skunked on some days.† Iím doing very well, and it is getting harder and harder to see new birds.

 

So, that was Friday, May 8.

 

 

Saturday, May 9, 2015

 

I had gotten in touch by email with a birder by the name of Alan who lives on the same loop road Iím on, about a mile or so away.† He had offered to take me out birding today, so I took him up on it, naturally.† He was very good-natured about catering to my need to not get up too early, and I picked him up at his house at 7:30.† Iím sure he would have preferred 6 AM, but I just couldnít do it.† Or at least, I wasnít willing to do it.

 

We headed up to the San Rafael grasslands in search of a particular sparrow and other goodies.† It was a cool morning, about 50 degrees at 7:30.

 

We didnít see anything of interest on the way to the grasslands, and when we got there, we slowly cruised down the main (unpaved) road, watching the fence line.† I think we did see our target species, GRASSHOPPER SPARROW, on our first pass, but I wasnít able to get a picture.† We turned around and drove back, and I got this picture of a Pronghorn Antelope.† It was one of three.

 

At the edge of the private land, we saw a Rufous-crowned Sparrow, and I got this picture.

 

Alan goes up there a lot, and this was the first Rufous-crowned Sparrow he had seen up there.† I donít know if I would have been able to identify the bird on my own, even with my pictures, as I canít really see the malar (moustache) stripe that the Rufous-crowned has, but maybe the light just wasnít right to see it.† It looks a lot to me like a Grasshopper Sparrow, although the tail is too long for that.† Iím sure Alanís identification is correct; Iím just illustrating my own ignorance.† A lot of sparrows look very similar to me, especially the ones I havenít seen very much.† Today was only the third time I have seen Grasshopper Sparrow, for example, and maybe the 4th or 5th time Iíve seen Rufous-crowned.

 

On our next pass down the road, I did get a good picture of a Grasshopper Sparrow.

 

There is more color on the face and also on the upper breast in this picture, compared to the Rufous-crowned Sparrow above.† The tail is also much shorter.† The whole look of the bird is different, but unless I have both of them right next to each other, Iím not sure I would remember the differences.† Oh well, thatís what comes of being a dilettante birder.

 

Alan was very surprised it took us so long, but eventually we heard and saw EASTERN MEADOWLARK for my year list.† No pictures, but we had good views, and it was interesting to see how much more white they have in the tail than Western Meadowlark, which looks very similar except for that and some minor differences around the face.

 

We saw some Horned Larks for my trip list, and I got this picture of one.

 

Here it is singing to us.

 

We headed back toward Patagonia and stopped a couple of times when Alan would hear a bird.† At one stop we had a singing Plumbeous Vireo.† I had counted it earlier in the trip, but it is a great bird for me, as I have only seen them a couple of times before.† I got a picture today, too.

 

At that same stop we saw this male Eastern Bluebird.

 

At one point we stopped to look and listen, and Alan heard a bird I really wanted.† I listened too, and was able to definitely identify both a male and female call of MONTEZUMA QUAIL (lifer).† I would have much rather have seen the bird, especially since it was a lifer, but the calls were very clear and I had no doubt about the identification.

 

At another stop, or maybe that same stop, we saw a flycatcher of the Myiarchus family, the family I was just bragging about being able to identify yesterday.† At the time, both of us were convinced it was a BROWN-CRESTED FLYCATCHER, which was the one I still needed for my year list.† I got three pictures, and now, looking at the pictures, Iím wondering about our identification.† Iím still going to go with Brown-crested, but I wonder.† My main reason for sticking to Brown-crested is this distant blurry picture that shows the thickness and length of the bill, as well as the amount of yellow on the belly.

 

Here is a better picture, but I find the underside of the tail to be ambiguous.

 

Iíll be continuing to look for Brown-crested Flycatcher as ďinsuranceí.† [Update Ė I thought about it and wasnít sure those last two pictures were the same bird.† So, I checked the times I took each one, and sure enough, they were 20 minutes apart.† Now I feel much better about the original call of Brown-crested Flycatcher, and the distant picture showing the size and shape of the bill confirms that, as does the amount of yellow on the belly.† I think the second picture is an Ash-throated Flycatcher, which we saw at a different place.]

 

We stopped at a dirt road up to a mountain top and walked a while, looking for more Montezuma Quail.† I really wanted to see one, and Alan had seen them on this road more than once.† We played their calls, and at one point where he had seen one recently, a bird flushed and I got a very quick look at it as it flew about 50 feet.† Based on everything I saw, I believe it was a Montezuma Quail.† Alan didnít see it, but based on my description of what I saw, neither of us could think of any other alternative.† So, I think I did see Montezuma Quail, although it was not a very satisfying view.† Later on that same walk we again distinctly heard a male calling, but it was somewhat distant, as far as we could tell.† So, I definitely heard at least three Montezuma Quail, and I think I saw one.

 

Here is a picture of Alan while we were looking for Montezuma Quail, showing the habitat.

 

Here is a closer picture of local birder Alan.

 

On the walk back to the car, Alan showed me several butterflies, as he is interested in them, too.† Here is a butterfly called Arizona Sister.

 

Alan spotted a couple of Bushtits, and so that one went on to my trip list.

 

It was almost noon by then, and we were both hungry, so we went back to town and had lunch at a Mexican restaurant.† I had a nice taco salad.

 

I needed to catch up on photos and reports, so I spent the afternoon here in my room, working on the computer and doing some laundry.† Tomorrow Alan and I are going to go looking for a couple more of my target species at Las Cienegas Natural Conservation Area, which is about 20 or 30 miles away, I think.† Iíd also like to get back to Patonís yard, to see what is around there and to try to get a picture of Violet-crowned Hummingbird.

 

So, in my half day of birding today, I picked up 6 more species, to bring me to 137 for the trip.† I added 4 to my year list, to bring that to.312 species, of which 6 are lifers.† Weíll see if I can add any more to either list tomorrow.

 

 

Sunday, May 10, 2015

 

I guess Iím destined to get up early on this trip.† This morning I had the alarm set for 6, and I woke at about 4:30, just as it was starting to get light.† I debated with myself whether I needed to get up and pee again, or whether I should tough it out until the alarm went off.† As I thought about it, I heard a bird call from outside.† It was a male Montezuma Quail, I think, the bird that Alan and I had chased all over yesterday.† So, I got up, and after peeing, I fired up my phone, played the call back, and looked out the window, as it had sounded very close.† Nothing happened, and it was too dark out anyway, so I went back to bed.† Like yesterday, though, I never slept again.† When I finally did get up about 5:45, I got dressed and went out in the yard and played the female Montezuma Quail call.† I got three or four replies from a male, in a different part of the yard.† I waited for 5 or 10 minutes, but never saw anything, and the vocal responses stopped.† If Alan hadnít played the call so much yesterday, I wouldnít have noticed it this morning, I donít think, although it is a distinctive call.† This area around here isnít exactly prime habitat for Montezuma Quail, but Alan hears them from time to time as he walks around the neighborhood.† If you will remember, he lives about a mile away on the same loop road that my little apartment is on.† It was because of his eBird reports of Montezuma Quail in the neighborhood that I first got in touch with him.

 

Anyway, I picked Alan up at 7:30 and we headed up to Las Cienegas Natural Conservation Area.† I was hoping for another quail species that I had only seen once, at a great distance, on my last trip down here in 2011.† They are pretty uncommon and very shy, so I wasnít expecting to see them, but there had been a couple of reports this week about them, at a specific location in Las Cienegas.† Alan was amenable to doing whatever I wanted to do, so we headed up there.

 

When we got to the corral that was the specific site the quail had been reported being seen at, we had a little comedy show.† As soon as we pulled in off the road, there were two SCALED QUAIL, right out in front of us.† Both of us were completely unprepared, with our cameras in the back seat, of all things.† We were blown away to see them at all, and a mad scramble ensued, to try to reach our cameras and get pictures before they disappeared.† I got one mediocre picture at that point, as they were on my side of the car, but it turned out not to matter.† They both flew up and perched in open view on the top of a rail of the corral.† We got more pictures, much better than the first one, but they were backlit by strong light so the pictures still werenít very good.† We agreed to try playing their call, and Alan did so.† It might have been an alarm call or something, but whatever the call meant to them, they answered back and immediately flew off across the road.† Not the result we had intended.† As it happened, I got off a shot just as one of them took off, and I got this picture that I like of a Scaled Quail taking off.

 

We chased them across the road and Alan tried a different call, and they came out and scurried toward us, much to our amazement.† It turned out that in the haste and confusion, Alan had left his binoculars in the car.† More comedy.† Anyway, one of the birds approached and I got this picture of it calling back to us.† It was maybe only 20 feet away at that point.

 

Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined seeing a Scaled Quail so close that wasnít flying away from me.† One of the quail flew up into a tree, or maybe it was a third one.† We saw at least three and heard at least one more, and it was hard to keep track of which one was which.† The females look almost exactly like the males, and Iím not prepared to say which was which, even with my pictures.† Anyway, one of them perched in a tree and continued to call repeatedly.† I had some pictures, but at that point Alan hadnít gotten any that he thought were any good, partly because he had one of the settings on his camera set wrong at that point.† More comedy.† That is one drawback of a real camera like he has Ė you have to keep track of the settings you are using.† My little toy point and shoot super zoom camera is easy to use, anyway, even if the pictures are inferior.

 

So, I hung back and let Alan approach the bird in the tree.† Here he is shooting the quail in the tree on the right.† The bird is on the left side of that tree at about 9 or 10 oíclock.

 

I let him shoot for awhile, and after a while he beckoned me in.† Both of us cautiously approached the tree, and the bird just kept calling away and didnít pay much attention to us.† We couldnít believe how close it let us approach.† Here is a picture of the Scaled Quail in the tree.

 

Here is a close up of its head.

 

Eventually we tore ourselves away.† I wouldnít have thought I would walk away from a Scaled Quail that was posing for me, but we both had all the pictures we felt we needed.† I shot about 50 pictures of the quail, which really isnít all that much for a real photographer, but it was a lot for me on one species at one time.† We walked back to the car, and what we presumed were the original pair were again on the top rail of the corral.† More pictures.† Here is the pair of them.

 

My field guides are vague about the differences between male and female Scaled Quail, and I wouldnít want to guess which was which in that picture.† Individual differences among birds might well account for any differences I can detect.

 

So, that was our Scaled Quail adventure for today.† It was one of the most incredible birding experiences Iíve had.† For the rest of the day Alan and I kept marveling at it.† Neither of us will ever forget it, Iím sure.† He is a very experienced birder and has lived here for five years, and he never had any opportunity like that for photos of Scaled Quail before.† Not even close.† Usually he has had to chase them through the grass and shoot them as they ran away.† And, that is considered a good opportunity.† Just seeing one is a challenge, and I only had them at a 30% chance in my last spreadsheet.† I donít know what was going on with these quail, but I think it was connected to some kind of territorial dispute between two pairs, and we spooked the first pair into the territory of the second pair, and thatís why the one bird stayed up in the tree all the time, proclaiming his territory while we shot pictures.† Thatís obviously just a guess on my part.

 

After that, we moved on north into the preserve.† We stopped at Cottonwood Ponds to see if anything was around.† We had part two of the comedy show there, with me providing the comedy this time.† The other bird I wanted to see there was Lark Bunting, a sparrow-like bird that would normally be here in the winter and would be gone by now.† There had been reports in the last week of flocks of them, and the last report was of a single female.† When we pulled in to Cottonwood Ponds, There were a couple of birds near the water tank, and Alan called out ďLark BuntingĒ.† Well, when I grabbed my binoculars, the left eyepiece was missing.† It had come unscrewed somehow and was missing, thus rendering the binoculars unusable.† I grabbed my camera instead, but by the time I had fired it up, the bird was gone.† At least I managed to find my eyepiece on the floor of the car, or else we would have had to go back to the corral to look for it.† But, the bird was gone, and although we stuck around for quite a while, it never came back, that we saw.† It probably came in for water.† I only had Lark Bunting in my spreadsheet at 30% also, mainly because of those recent reports, so it would have been a great one to get.† There is no way Iíll see one anywhere else this year.

 

There were some Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks there, which was interesting and kind of surprising.† I got this picture of three of them on a fence.

 

I think they are a very attractive duck, and they do indeed whistle.† Later we spooked them as we moved around, and I got this picture of some of them in flight.

 

Hereís a closer picture of one of the birds.

 

Alan heard, and then spotted, a male BULLOCKíS ORIOLE there, for my year list.

 

If Alan hadnít been there, there is no way I would have been aware of that bird.† My inability to hear birds and recognize their sounds is a really huge handicap for me as a birder.

 

We saw some other birds there, but eventually we moved on up the road to Empire Gulch and walked a while on a trail along a very small creek.

 

On our way there we saw a couple of ravens perched near the road, and Alan was sure enough that I counted them as my year list CHIHUAHUAN RAVENS.† Iíll see more as I go east, but I decided to count them today.† They look almost exactly like Common Ravens, and there is endless discussion about how to tell the difference, but bottom line, I counted these as Chihuahuan Ravens based on Alanís say so.† He based his call mostly on the smaller size of the birds, and I was willing to go along because two other reports this week mentioned a pair of Chihuahuan Ravens at Las Cienegas, and Iíll certainly see plenty of them later in the trip.

 

When we got to Empire Gulch, there were some birds there, but nothing new for me and nothing I got a picture of.† It turns out that Alan is into butterflies, too, though, and there were a number of butterflies around.† Here is a very tattered Pipeline Swallowtail.

 

It has a big chunk out of its right wing and is missing the swallowtail on its left side.† It also is missing some orange spots.† I show the picture because I was interested that a butterfly could get so tattered and still live on.† I donít imagine they live very long, though, and this might have been an old one.

 

Here is a partially closed Pipeline Swallowtail, showing the underwing pattern.

 

Hereís a Tropical Buckeye.

 

Here is the final butterfly of the day, a species called Queen.

 

Moving on from butterflies to another flying bug, here is a Tarantula Hawk wasp.

 

You canít tell the size there, but I would say it was 1 to 1.5 inches in length.† Huge.† Wikipedia says it has the second most painful sting of any insect.† It renders you unable to do anything at all except maybe scream, but it only lasts for about three minutes.† Sounds pretty nasty to me.† They get their name from the femaleís practice of stinging a tarantula and paralyzing it, and then laying her eggs in its body.† The tarantula remains alive but paralyzed until the eggs hatch, and then the larva eat the tarantula from the inside to the outside and fly away to do it all again.† Sounds pretty nasty to me.† Alan once saw one dragging a paralyzed tarantula, which was much larger than the wasp, across his patio, presumably to find a good place to leave it while the eggs hatched.† Ugh.

 

Leaving flying things completely, here is an Ornate Tree Lizard, blending in to the log he is basking on.

 

After that little walk, we headed back toward home.† At Cottonwood Ponds, I ate my sandwich (Alan had brought an apple, and he said that was all he needed) in the car.† While I ate, Alan had an interesting conversation with an old lady who drove in with her husband and asked some questions.† I think she was somewhat senile or something, because the conversation didnít make much sense.† She and her husband eventually left, but it was just another strange event in an interesting day.† I just ate my sandwich in the car while Alan very patiently tried to answer the womanís confused questions.† She and her husband were looking for birds, and she wanted to know where they were.† We saw a few birds there at the ponds, but nothing interesting or new.

 

We stopped again at the corral where we had seen the Scaled Quail, but they didnít seem to be around any more.† We saw some sparrows, though, and I got this picture of a Grasshopper Sparrow that I like.

 

Before this trip, I had only seen Grasshopper Sparrow twice, I think, so Iím still thrilled when I see one and especially thrilled to get a picture I like.

 

After that we headed back to Patagonia and stopped at Patonís Yard, which I wrote about a couple of days ago when I got here.† There were 6 or 8 birders already there when we got there, and we joined them.† Mainly, I wanted to get a picture of Violet-crowned Hummingbird, which I had seen there on Thursday afternoon, but hadnít gotten a picture of.

 

At Patonís, I got this picture of a female Northern Cardinal.

 

Easterners are so used to cardinals that they donít pay any attention to them, but they are interesting to me, since I see them rarely.† Iíve only seen them in Texas, Arizona, and Hawaii (of all places).† They were introduced to Hawaii for some reason and are fairly common there.

 

Here is a female Hooded Oriole, which was a new species for my trip list.

 

Here is a picture of a male Gila Woodpecker.† I like the sleek look of Gila Woodpecker, and I especially like the male with his little red patch on the top of his head.

 

Finally a Violet-crowned Hummingbird flew in and I got this pictrure.

 

The species is very uncommon and the only place it is found in the US is right around here.† Mostly they are in Mexico.† Patonís is the place to go to see them, and has been for many years.† I donít know why they would keep coming back to that one place and not to other nearby places, but that is the case.† This particular one doesnít have a very colorful violet crown, but you can sort of see a little blue-violet color on the back of its head.† Unlike most hummingbirds, the males and females look alike.† So, I had my picture of Violet-crowned Hummingbird, and we moved on.† On our way back to the car we saw a family of Gambelís Quail with 4 or 5 little ones.† I tried for a picture, but this was the best I could do.† Note the chick on the bottom right.

 

We stopped at the Patagonia Roadside Rest to play the song of Varied Bunting, a summer resident that has just started to come back this year.† We had no luck Ė itís still too early, I guess.† There have only been a couple of reports so far this year, in the last couple of days.† While we were there we saw other birds, of course, and I got this picture of a Verdin.

 

Here is another picture that I like because it shows the rufous patch on the shoulder.

 

I also got my best picture yet of a Rufous-crowned Sparrow.

 

That was it for the day.† I dropped Alan off at his house and got back here by 2:30.† Iíve been doing computer stuff since then, and its 7:45 now, and Iím ready for some dinner, as soon as I wrap this up.

 

For the day, I added 4 more species to my trip list, to bring it to 141.† As I have mentioned before, it is getting harder and harder to add species, as I have seen all the easy ones.† Of those 4 new species for the trip, 3 of them were new for my year list as well.† That brings me to 315 species for the year, of which 6 are lifers.

 

Tomorrow I head to my next stop, Sierra Vista.† It isnít a long drive, and I need to plan what birding Iíll do, either on the way or when I get there.† The trip moves on.† Iím just past the halfway point of the trip now, I guess.

 

Iíll always remember today as the Scaled Quail Experience.† What a life!

 

 

Monday, May 11, 2015

 

Today I slept in a bit, but I was still up before six.† I wasnít in any hurry to get out of there, and I even went out and walked the road a little, looking for a particular sparrow.† No joy, though.† I think I got off about 8:30.† My first stop was the Patagonia Roadside Rest.† I wanted to try for a picture of the Thick-billed Kingbird again, and this time I hit it lucky.† Here is a Thick-billed Kingbird against the bright sky.

 

There were two of them there today, and here is another picture of one of them Ė I think the second one.

 

Next I moved on to Patonís yard, hoping to see something for my year list.† I didnít stay long, but I did add BRONZED COWBIRD to my year list.† Here is a picture of a male Bronzed Cowbird, with his red eye.

 

And, since it was my only addition to any list today, here is another picture.

 

Male Bronzed Cowbirds have the ability to puff up the back of their neck, and in the second picture, the bird is doing that, although it has deflated a little at that point.

 

I left Patonís and boogied on over to my next destination, Sierra Vista.† I filled my gas tank and washed the windows, then headed down to Ramsey Canyon Preserve.† I paid my six bucks (for a week) and walked up the trail.† There was a rarity discovered there over the weekend, and there were 10 or 12 birders around when I was there, looking for it.† There are a couple of other species I need that I might have seen as well.† While I was walking the half mile up the trail to where the rarity had been seen, I passed a number of birders coming down.† Some of them had seen the bird, so I was hopeful.† When I got to where the bird had been seen, I realized it was a large area, and it had been seen in various parts of it, even just this morning.† So, I walked around and I sat in various places and looked.† Other birders were doing the same.† I spent almost two hours there, I think, and as far as I know, no one saw it in that time.† It had been seen just 10 or 20 minutes before I showed up, so my timing was off today.† There is actually a pair of them, supposedly, but the male would be easier to identify, I think.† The male is red, and the female is yellow.

 

I was finally getting hungry by about 1 PM, so I started back down to the car.† Just as I was leaving, though, I saw a red tanager in a tree where the rarity had been seen earlier.† The rare bird is a Flame-colored Tanager, but it looks a lot like a couple of other tanagers, which I have shown pictures of Ė Hepatic Tanager and Summer Tanager.† I guess that Summer Tanagers arenít seen in Ramsey Canyon, but Hepatic Tanagers are.† I got pretty good looks at the bird, and I didnít think it looked like a Hepatic Tanager.† I hadnít studied the rare bird enough, though, so I didnít know exactly what to look for to distinguish it from Hepatic Tanager.† I got three pictures, which Iíll show now.

 

At first glance, that picture doesnít seem like it would be much help, but in fact, it is the one that makes me say it was a Hepatic Tanager, not the rare Flame-colored Tanager, because I donít see the white wing bars that Flame-colored is supposed to have.† Here is another picture.

 

That one isnít very helpful either, really, because from that angle, I think the two tanagers look pretty similar or the same.† Here is my third one.

 

You can see that I didnít exactly get good pictures of the bird.† One of the people who saw the rarity yesterday offered to send pictures of it, and I emailed him and asked for them.† Maybe Iíll change my mind when I see those, but I think Iím going to have to go with the common Hepatic Tanager this time.† Too bad.† An unexpected lifer rarity would have gone down a treat.

 

So, I walked back to my car and got my lunch and ate it at a table in front of the visitor center at Ramsey Canyon Preserve, which is a Nature Conservancy preserve.† As I started my lunch, Iím sure I heard an Elegant Trogon calling up on the hill across from where I was sitting by the parking lot.† Elegant Trogon would be a lifer for me, but I decided not to count is, since I only heard it and didnít even get a glimpse of it.† It sounds like a yipping little dog, not too different from the Elf Owls I heard in Madera Canyon.† I hope to see the trogon in the next few days here in Sierra Vista.† I count heard only birds, and I counted Common Poorwill last week when I heard it but didnít see it, but Elegant Trogon shouldnít be all that hard to see, so Iím holding off counting it until I see it.

 

That reminds me, I mentioned a couple of days ago about hearing a bird at 4:30 in the morning that I thought sounded like Montezuma Quail, outside my B&B in Patagonia.† I later learned that was actually a Sayís Phoebe.† I guess they start calling like that when it first starts to get light, and there was a pair of Sayís Phoebes nesting at the B&B on the porch.† I knew it wasnítí exactly like Montezuma Quail, but I had no idea what it was.† Now I know.

 

After I finished my lunch, I stopped on my way out of the canyon and looked at the hummingbird feeders at the Ramsey Canyon Inn, while sitting in my car in the road.† I sat there for about 20 minutes, I think.† There was a large hummingbird coming to the feeders, and I thought it might be the large one I need (Blue-throated Hummingbird), but it turned out to be a Magnificent Hummingbird, one I had seen before in Madera Canyon.† I got this picture of a normal sized hummingbird and the Magnificent Hummingbird, as a size comparison.

 

Here is another picture from the same place with the same amount of cropping, showing two smaller hummers.

 

If you scroll back up to the last picture, or scroll down to the next one, you can again see how much larger Magnificent Hummingbird is than the normal sized ones.

 

So, that was it for my birding today.† I stopped for groceries, then I checked into my new humble room, and Iíve been doing computer stuff since then.

 

This is a nice place, with a little kitchenette that has an almost full sized fridge and a two burner cooktop, with some utensils, dishes, etc.† There is a hot breakfast included, with eggs and breakfast meat, and I like that.† They also have a ďhappy hourĒ starting at 4:30 and offer a free beer or wine, along with freshly popped popcorn.† I had an amber bock beer that was excellent.† They seem to have it on tap in the back, and when you ask the desk clerk for one, she gets it for you.† Interesting system.† I like it.† The room is quite spacious and has a king sized bed that isnít rock hard like most hotel beds.† There is a desk and a little love seat, along with a comfy recliner.† I think I chose well.† It's called Garden Place Suites, if you want to check it out.

 

So, I added just one species to my trip and year lists today, Bronzed Cowbird.† I mentioned that it was going to get slow, and now it has.† I sent off an email to the guide I have booked for Thursday, and Iím not exactly sure what Iím going to do in the next two days, since I have so many of my target birds already.† Four nights here is definitely overkill, but I knew that when I planned the trip.† Iím sure Iíll find ways to pass the time.† There are lots of birding places, including a couple with feeders, so I can always spend my time getting pictures of birds I have already seen.† Itís more fun to go looking for new ones, though.

 

I now have 142 species for the trip, and my year list is up to 316, of which 6 are lifers.† Tomorrow Iíd like to go onto the military base, Fort Huachuca, across the road, to see what birds I can find in Huachuca (thatís pronounced Wah Ė CHOOí Ė Kah) Canyon.† There are three lifers up there (including Elegant Trogon), and if I canít find them on my own, I plan to have my guide help me with them on Thursday.† There is a procedure to go through to get onto the base, and I went through it four years ago with my guide, but I feel a little intimidated to do it on my own.† Iím going to give it a go, though, so weíll see what I can see tomorrow.† In the afternoon, I hope to visit two places with feeders, mostly for pictures, although there are a couple of lifer hummingbirds that are possible.

 

 

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

 

I was up at 6 this morning, but I took my time and got out of here about 8.† The complementary breakfast here at the hotel was excellent, with hard boiled eggs, sausages, and French toast.† They had fruit and yogurt and a waffle machine as well.† I even took two slices of bread to make my lunch sandwich (turkey breast and cheese this time).

 

I joined the line of cars going into Fort Huachuca, and when I got to the front of the line, all I had to do was to show a valid driverís license, which the guard scanned, and I was in.† He even had a map for me, which came in very handy.† I finally made my way through the maze of streets to Huachuca (Wah Ė CHOOí Ė Kah, as Iím sure you remember) Canyon.† I found the lower picnic area where the very rare Sinaloa Wren has been hanging out, off and on, for a couple of years.† I had looked for the only other Sinaloa Wren known to be in the US with my guide, Richard, last Friday, in Tubac.† I spent about a half hour looking and listening for it today, but had no luck.† It hasnít been reported there for a couple of days.

 

I moved on up the canyon on the rather rough and rocky dirt road.† I parked at the 1.7 mile turnaround and started looking for birds.† There is a very rough road/trail that goes on up from there, but everyone walks it, as far as I know.† Before I left the parking area, though, I noticed a couple of birds chasing each other around high in the trees and calling.† I got a look at them, and they were one of my target species, SULPHUR-BELLIED FLYCATCHER (lifer).† I was back in the lifer game!† Yay!† I even got a couple of mediocre pictures, but they are good enough to identify the species, and since it was a lifer, here they are.

 

 

It was overcast all day, and it never really heated up, like it usually would at this time of year.† The highest I saw my car thermometer was 69 degrees.† It was fairly windy, and that also helped hold down the heat.† The overcast sky made taking pictures of birds high in the trees difficult, and the wind would blow the branches around when I was trying to focus.

 

I walked up the trail/road slowly, listening and looking.† I heard my other lifer target, but I was determined to see it, and not to count it as heard only.† I saw other birders and photographers coming down the trail and picked up information.† Finally, I heard my target bird nearby, and chased it.† It moved around a lot, but finally I tracked it down by going up on the hillside.† Here is a picture of my first ELEGANT TROGON (lifer).

 

As you can see, it is a large, colorful, tropical-looking bird.† This one is a male.† Mostly they live in Mexico, but they also nest here in the extreme southwest corner of Arizona, and they show up in southern Texas once in a while.† It is one of southeast Arizonaís iconic birds, pictured on the cover of A Birderís Guide to Southeastern Arizona, my where-to-find-birds book for this area.† I missed it in 2011, and it was probably the most desired target bird on my list for this year.† I would have liked to get a picture from the front as well, but at least I do have one that shows his head better.

 

I chased him from tree to tree to get those pictures, and eventually he flew off before I could get a picture from the front.† It was very satisfying to see those two lifers so quickly, and I did it on my own.† I had planned on using the guide I have booked for Thursday to help me get them.

 

Here is a picture of a Western Wood-Pewee, a bird I counted last week for my trip list.

 

Here is a picture from the front, showing its ďvestĒ, which helps identify the species.

 

While I was taking those pictures of the pewee, I saw a Spotted Towhee briefly for my trip list.

 

After spending an hour or more on that trail/road, I went back down to the lower picnic ground to look for the Sinaloa Wren again.

 

I ended up spending about an hour and a half more there, including the time to eat my lunch at a table that allowed me to keep looking for the wren.† A couple of birders stopped by Ė she was from Maine and he was from California.† Iíd love to know their story, and how they ended up birding together in southeast Arizona.† From something the man said, I gathered that they might be brother and sister, but Iím not sure.† Come to think of it, I guess they were actually at the wren site when I got back there, and they had been looking for the wren for at least a half hour, maybe more.† They went on up the canyon, and then they returned before I left.† They had gotten the Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher and Elegant Trogon, too, eventually.

 

The three of us looked for the wren for a while, but none of us ever saw or heard it.† I saw some other birds around that area, though, and I got some pictures.† Here is a male Summer Tanager.

 

I had a couple of looks at a small flycatcher, and I ended up deciding they both were BUFF-BREASTED FLYCATCHERS, a great year bird.† I got a couple of terrible pictures which help convince me of the identification, but I really would like a better look and a halfway decent picture.† I hope to be able to see that bird tomorrow, at Carr Canyon.

 

I also picked up BROWN CREEPER for my year list.† I could see that species at home, at Juanita Bay Park, but I havenít done so yet this year.

 

A male Painted Redstart flew in and sang as he foraged.† I played his song, and he sat out in front of me and sang back, while posing for pictures.† Here is the male Painted Redstart with his feathers being ruffled by the wind, so he looks kind of disheveled.

 

Here is what he looks like from the side, when you canít see any of his red underside.

 

It seems like a totally different bird when you canít see the red.† Here he is posing for his official portrait.

 

He looks sad to me, and I think it is because the little white arc under his eye looks like a tear.

 

There were a couple of White-breasted Nuthatches around the area, and I realized they had a nest in a hole in a tree.† They were bringing food to the hole and seemed to be feeding young within the nest hole.† Here is a picture of one of the White-breasted Nuthatches.

 

Hereís a picture of one of them at the nest hole, with some food in its beak.

 

There were Acorn Woodpeckers in the area, and at one point, a male Acorn Woodpecker flew in and perched right at the nuthatch nest hole.

 

The nest hole is behind the woodpecker in that picture.† I donít know what the woodpecker was doing, but the nuthatches didnít seem to like it, although they didnít attack the woodpecker or anything.† It was a little while before the nuthatches resumed their feeding, though.† Here is one of them with some food, hanging around, but not approaching the nest hole.

 

Eventually I gave up on the rare wren and headed out.† On my way out I had a brief view of a male Western Bluebird for my trip list.† I tried to lure it back with its song, but it didnít cooperate.

 

I stopped at my room, since it was right on my way, and I had an email from the guide I had booked for Thursday.† She had hurt her knee and had to bail out on me.† She gave me the name and number of a local birder who also is a guide, and I called him.† By that time I had seen my two lifers this morning, so I asked him what he charged for a half day.† It was as much as the woman charges for a full day, so I was reluctant.† We had a great conversation, and he was really helpful.† He ended up giving me lots of useful information and convincing me to go up Carr Canyon (the other place I had wanted a guide to take me) on my own.† He gave me tips on finding my three main target birds up there.† The road up to Carr Canyon is only 4 or 5 miles long, but it climbs about 3000 feet, and it took me a full half hour to drive it in 2011.† There are hairpin turns and you are on the edge of a cliff much of the time.† The road is very bumpy and rocky, as I remember it.† VERY bumpy and rocky.† I sort of wanted company when I drove it, but I guess Iíll try it on my own tomorrow.† My car should be high enough clearance to be okay, but Iíll try to watch where I drive, trying to avoid the worst rocks.† I just donít want to get a flat tire from the rocks.

 

Anyway, back to today, I headed south to look for a hawk I needed for my year list.† Ron, the guy I had talked to on the phone, had given me advice about where to look for it.†
A pair of these hawks had nested near a particular Presbyterian church last year, but this year the nest had been taken over by Great Horned Owls.† The hawks were supposedly still in the same area, though.† I drove down to the area and ended up spending over an hour driving around the neighborhood, looking for this hawk species.† I didnít add anything to my trip or year lists, but there were birds around, and I took some pictures.

 

Here is a close-up of a male Gambelís Quail calling.† He seems to have his eyes closed, he is concentrating so hard on his call.

 

Here is a different male Gambelís Quail posing for me.

 

Here is his mate, foraging around below.

 

Here is a Curve-billed Thrasher.† They are fairly common, and I saw one on a saguaro cactus way back on my first full day in Arizona, but this is the first picture Iíve been able to get.

 

I saw a roadrunner in the road ahead of me, but he scampered off.† I managed to get one photo, though, of this Greater Roadrunner.

 

This was all a kind of suburban desert area, with houses on every street.† After I had driven around for about an hour, I decided to give it up and head for the barn.† I made one last pass through the area where the nest of my hawk was last year, and on the peak of the roof of the Presbyterian church where I had started was a HARRISíS HAWK.† Before I could get a picture, it flew, but I had it!† I tried to see where it went and drove in that direction, and ended up seeing it flying twice more.† It flew low, though, and I always lost it before it landed.† Still, I had just about given up on Harrisís Hawk, since I didnít see one in the Tucson area.† They are very uncommon in this area, but this one pair has been in this neighborhood for a couple or three years now, I understand.† Itís really ironic that I drove around for an hour and then found the bird right where I had started.† If I had simply sat in my car there, I would have been able to get a great picture of it, Iím sure.

 

I got back to my hotel about 4, and I started the evening routines of pictures, internet stuff, and writing this report.† Oh yes, also drinkies and dinner.† I had another cup of the excellent amber bock beer that they have on tap in the lobby Ė one free one per day.

 

So, today I added 7 to my trip list, to bring it to 149.† Of those 7, five were new for the year for me, and two of those were lifers.† Considering the stage of the trip, that is a really excellent result.† I had a laid back day and really only birded two areas Ė Huachuca Canyon and the Harrisís Hawk neighborhood.† Still, I was out there for about eight hours.† The second location was all from the car, too Ė I never got out.† The 5 new year-birds bring me to a total of 321 for the year, of which 8 are lifers.

 

Tomorrow I hope to drive up Carr Canyon, if I donít chicken out.† After that, maybe Iíll visit the two feeder places, which are down in that area, since I didnít get to those today.† Weíll see how it goes.

 

 

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

 

I was up at 6:00 this morning.† After my very nice brekkie, I headed out at just after 8.† My first stop today was Huachuca Canyon again, to look for the rare Sinaloa Wren.† It hasnít been reported for the last 4 or 5 days, and I didnít see it this morning.† There were a few birds around and I added Chipping Sparrow to my trip list.

 

Next I stopped at Subway and got a tuna sandwich and headed for Carr Canyon.† The rough dirt road up the canyon wasnít as bad as I remembered.† I donít know if it has been improved or if my memory is just remembering it worse than it was.† It is steep, it is narrow, and it is rough in spots, but not as rough as I remembered.† It was five miles of dirt road after the pavement ended, and it took me only 23 minutes to get up there.† The first four miles were actually not all that bad at all, but the last mile was rougher than I would have wanted to do in a sedan.† My Nissan Pathfinder was just fine on it, though.† I only met one car on the way up (most of it is only one lane, with wide spots for passing), and it was at a good place, fortunately.

 

So, I got to Reef Township campground, and I got out and looked around.† There were some birds, but it was mountain forest birding, which is always tough for me.† I had two main targets and a third one I wanted a better look at, to ďinsureĒ a bird I counted yesterday but wasnít 100% certain of.† One of my targets was a pewee (a type of flycatcher), and I soon saw one, but I decided it was a Western Wood-pewee, one I had already counted earlier in the trip.† I then thought I saw my target bird, but my pictures seemed inconclusive when I looked at them in the camera, so I held off on counting it.† I wandered around in the beautiful sunny weather, with the temperature in the low 60ís.† The elevation is about 7200 feet, I think, so I didnít exert myself a whole lot.

 

My first picture is of the bird I wanted to ďinsureĒ, Buff-breasted Flycatcher.† I ended up seeing several of them, and there was no doubt about the identifications this time.† The pictures I got arenít very good, though.† Since they are the only pictures I have ever gotten of Buff-breasted Flycatcher, here are two of them.

 

 

Next I heard a bird singing incessantly, and flying around pretty close.† It took me a minute or two, but I realized it was an Olive Warbler, one I had gotten on Mt. Lemmon at the start of the trip.† I got much better views today, though, and even a picture that isnít great, but I had never gotten a picture of the species before (only having seen it twice before, including on Mt. Lemmon earlier in this trip), so Iím happy to have it.† Here is an Olive Warbler.

 

I know itís pretty crummy, but it is the best I have.† It shows the bird, and I was happy to see it and get any picture at all.† Iíve been having a problem with my camera focusing, and so Iíve missed a lot of shots lately.† I know, it is a poor workman who blames his tools, and I donít like to make excuses, but it is a fact, and I wanted to report it here so I would have a record that the problem is happening.

 

I wandered some more, and eventually I saw one of my main targets, GREATER PEWEE.† Here is a picture of that one.

 

Note the large, wide bill, and the lower half of the bill is orange.† Note also the little ragged crest, which the bird can raise and lower.† Here is another one showing the crest better.

 

It is a lot like the Western Wood-Pewee, except that Greater Pewee is quite a bit larger and the crest is different.† The bill of the Western Wood-Pewee is smaller and the lower half of the bill has a black tip.

 

There were a few other birds around.† Here is a Yellow-eyed Junco, a bird I had counted on Mt. Lemon last week.

 

I walked around the campground playing the song of Virginiaís Warbler, the other main target species for my year list, but never had any response at all.† I saw three other birders and talked to them about Virginiaís Warbler, and the only one of them to even speak to me said he hadnít seen any this year, although normally they would be there.† They were the most unfriendly birders I have ever run into.† Two of them wouldnít even look at me, and the third one barely said hello, but I went ahead and asked my questions anyway.† Normally birders are very friendly when they meet in the field, but these three were very strange.

 

I managed to see a Northern Flicker at one point, one for my trip list.† I got a couple of mediocre pictures of a Brown Creeper, a bird I had counted in Huachuca Canyon yesterday.

 

 

It was a nice campground in a beautiful location.† The rest rooms (waterless) were clean and not smelly, and there were tables, fire pits, and flat spots for pitching tents.† The only problem was that there was no water there, but I guess as long as you knew that, you could bring in as much water as you needed.† Here is a picture of Reef Township campground.

 

I ate my tuna sandwich, with mini-peppers and peas, there at one of the tables, and it was very pleasant.† I decided not to drive the additional mile to the other campground up there, as I didnít think the chances of seeing Virginiaís Warbler were very good.† In 2011, I was up there with a guide, and we worked hard for a couple of hours and finally saw just one Virginiaís Warbler, still the only one I have ever seen.† I headed back down the mountain at about 2 PM, not sure what I would do with the rest of the day.

 

Here is a picture of the road up Carr Canyon, with some of the switchbacks.

 

Here is a picture of Sierra Vista, looking off to the left of that last picture.

 

Here is a crop of the center of that last picture, so you can see some of the town.

 

The trip down was easier because I knew what to expect.† Once I got that first mile out of the way, the rest was easy enough, just boring.† I only met two cars on the way down, and only once did one of them have to back up a little for me to pass.† There are some stretches of one lane road on the side of a cliff that would be awkward to meet someone at, but I was lucky today.† It took me a few minutes longer to get down than to go up, even taking into consideration a couple of stops on the way down, because I was very cautious with my speed.† Going uphill, gravity is on your side if you need to stop; going downhill, gravity is your enemy, so I rode the brakes all the way down and went slowly.

 

Once I got down, I stopped and thought about the rest of the day.† I still haven't visited either of the feeder places south of town, but the two lifer hummingbirds (one at each place) haven't been reported in the last week, and there is nothing else at either of them that I need to see.† I decided I would try again for the Sinaloa Wren in Huachuca Canyon, since it is so close to my hotel.† Since it was so close to my hotel, I decided to stop there and check todayís reports, to see if there were any new sightings being reported.† I was sleepy, so I took a little rest instead of going back to try for the wren, which hasnít been reported for four days anyway.† I never went out again.†

 

Iíve been working on my lists and trying to decide what to do tomorrow.† Iíve done so well that there are only long shots left in this area, nothing I really expect to see.† I most likely wonít get anything for any of my lists tomorrow, but Iíll write a report anyway.† There are several species I can look for at my next stop, and if I could change it now, I would head there tomorrow and have an extra day there, but I have reservations I have to honor.† I think Iíll visit some new places tomorrow, and try for some long shots and maybe get some pictures.† Maybe Iíll stop at one or both of the feeder places, too, as Iíll be down that way.

 

So, when all was said and done, I had added three species to my trip list, to bring it to 152 species.† One of those was new for my year list, so now I have counted 322 species this year, of which 8 are lifers.

 

Tomorrow I plan to bird along the San Pedro River and maybe hit one or both of the feeder places south of Sierra Vista.† If I finish that early enough, I could go back to Ramsey Canyon to again look for the rare Flame-colored Tanagers or to Huachuca Canyon for the rare Sinaloa Wren.† Or, maybe Iíll change my mind overnight and do something completely different.† Stay tuned to find out.

 

 

Thursday, May 14, 2015

 

Today I was awake by 5:45, but I lay slug-a-bed until 6:15.† I had another great free breakfast here at the hotel, made myself a sandwich using their bread and some cream cheese, along with my cheddar and smoked turkey, and I headed out about 8.

 

My first stop was at the sewage treatment plant for Sierra Vista, which they call the EOP.† I think that stands for Environmental Operations Park.† They have a viewing platform, but all you can see is a bunch of reeds Ė no open water.† I was hoping for Yellow-headed Blackbirds for my trip list, but all I saw was some Red-winged Blackbirds, a couple of Barn Swallows, and one Great-tailed Grackle.† It was quite windy and 61 degrees, so I was glad I had brought my long-sleeved flannel shirt along.

 

My first real stop was San Pedro House, near the San Pedro River.† The office wasnít open yet so the feeders hadnít been filled.† I saw a couple of birding groups who were just leaving.† They must have been real birders Ė they were already done with their first site just as I was getting started.† They had hiked around the two mile loop.† I asked both groups if they had seen my main target species there, and one guy said there had been one right there around the house earlier.† Another one in the other group said he had seen a couple south of there, along the river, where I was going to go next.† At about that time, a hawk flew over, and it was a lovely Swainsonís Hawk, an excellent one for my trip list.† So, at least I had something for the day.† This was the day that I thought I might very well not get anything for any of my lists, so I was glad to see something.

 

I walked down to the river, about a quarter of a mile away.† I played the call of Green-tailed Towhee, but had no luck.† Three weeks ago there would have been a number of them there, but they have flown off north to their breeding grounds by now, I guess.† I wasnít expecting it, as there had been no reports there for the last two weeks.

 

Back at San Pedro House, the keepers had arrived and had filled the feeders.† I was getting ready to settle in to spend at least a half hour, and maybe more, to try to see my target bird around the grounds.† Then a school bus pulled in and disgorged a gang of junior high kids.† Now, junior high kids are people, too, and Iím sure that most or all of them were perfectly nice people, but I donít much care for junior high kids, and I didnít think they would help the birding much, either, running and screaming around the grounds.† OK, there wasnít any actual running or screaming, but they werenít exactly quiet and motionless either.

 

I moved to the back of the house, and I saw a bird fly in from the fields.† As it flew past, I thought it was my target bird, of all things!† I followed it to a feeder in the back, and there it was, posing for me, a male BLUE GROSBEAK, the very species I was hoping for there.† Here is a picture of that beautiful blue colored bird.

 

A second one flew in as well, but when the first one moved to the ground to eat, I moved a little to try to get into position for more pictures, and I spooked them both, and they flew off.† I stuck around a few minutes, but the junior high gang was getting closer, so I took off.† It was 9 AM, and I had my year bird, so I was satisfied.

 

I drove mostly south, checking out the habitat and looking for birds on wires or fences or overhead.† No luck on the birds, but I got this picture of the Huachuca Mountains to the west.

 

Thatís the southern end of the short range.† To the left of that mountain range is Mexico.† I was only a few miles from the border.

 

I decided that since I had my year bird for the day and there werenít any others I had a reasonable shot at, that I might as well visit the two feeder places at the south end of the Huachucas.† Both of them are very well known in birding circles, and it seemed wrong not to visit them when in the area.† Each one has a regular hummingbird that would be a lifer for me, but the lifer hummingbirds hadnít been seen much lately at either place, so I wasnít expecting to see either one.† As it turned out, I indeed didnít see either one.

 

The first place I stopped was Ash Canyon B&B.† The woman who lives there has all kinds of feeders and there were lots of birds, despite the low temperatures and the wind.† Before I even got there, on the approach road, a Greater Roadrunner crossed in front of me and then posed and begged me to take its picture.† Here is a close up of its head.

 

Note the crest, which is partially raised.† Some roadrunners have some red or blue or both in the eye area, but none of my books explain what that indicates.† This one is pretty plain in the eye area.

 

At the B&B (they have two rooms for rent, but it is beyond my budget, and the location isnít really convenient), the proprietress, Mary Jo, came out and we chatted a little.† It costs 5 bucks to go in, and 15 if you use a tripod or monopod for photos.† I didnít mind paying, as she spends over 13 grand a year for bird food, not to mention providing the location, with comfortable chairs to sit in.† So, here come the bird pictures now.

 

Here is a male Bronzed Cowbird.

 

Note the red eye, as well as the White-winged Doves in the background.† I had counted that one at Patonís yard over in Patagonia the other day.† Here is a picture of the much more common and widespread Brown-headed Cowbird for comparison.

 

Here is a male Scottís Oriole.† I didnít see any female Orioles today, or any of the other two oriole species found here commonly.

 

Here is a male Ladder-backed Woodpecker.

 

Here is another picture of him, or another one, taken later.

 

A male Northern Flicker came in.† I was happy to have seen that species yesterday up top at Carr Canyon.

 

Note that none of these species were new for my trip, but the photo opportunities, not to mention the opportunity to get good looks at them, were great.

 

A Curve-billed Thrasher flew in, and I got my best looks and pictures of that species.

 

Later it, or another one, came in very close, and I got this interesting picture - a Curve-billed Thrasher looking right at me from short range.

 

There were a number of Lesser Goldfinches at one of the feeders, and Iíve seen them a lot on this trip, but I donít think Iíve shown any pictures.† Here is a male Lesser Goldfinch.

 

A roadrunner came sneaking in and made a pass at the little rats that were feeding under one of the feeders, but it missed, I guess.† Mary Jo said the roadrunners will get birds, too.† They grab them and bash them to death, then eat them.† This roadrunner hunkered down and watched the birds like a cat would.† It kept its crest lowered, I noticed, to provide an even profile, I suppose.

 

I donít think the birds were fooled, though, and the roadrunner didnít have any luck while I was there.† I wouldnít have thought of roadrunners hunting birds, but seeing how this one acted, I can now understand it.

 

There was a female Gila Woodpecker who flew in from time to time.

 

A male Spotted Towhee worked his way cautiously in to the feeder area, and I got this picture.

 

Iím having trouble getting my camera to focus on a bird in the center of the viewfinder, but it managed to focus perfectly on the thin wires of the fence, I see.† Go figure.† Fortunately, the towhee was close enough to the fence that he is still in pretty good focus, though not perfect.

 

Here is a blue colored (which means I couldnít resist taking a picture) Mexican Jay.† They seem to like feeders.

 

A male Black-headed Grosbeak flew in and posed in such a way I had to take his picture.

 

A Canyon Towhee came very close to me, and I got this picture of it looking at me quizzically.

 

Here is a more conventional view of Canyon Towhee.

 

Eventually I tore myself away, after at least an hour and a half there, or maybe it was two hours.† There were at least a half dozen other species there that I havenít pictured, maybe more.† It was a relaxing and fun way to spend an hour or two.

 

Next I moved on to Beattyís, in Miller Canyon.† I had stayed in a duplex cabin there in 2011, so I was familiar with it.† They have a hummingbird feeder area that they charge 5 bucks to visit, so I paid my money and went on up.† There arenít any other feeders, only hummingbird feeders.† Mary Jo has hummingbird feeders, too, but I only saw two or three hummers using them while I was there.

 

So, here are some hummingbird pictures, taken during my couple of hours visit there.† Itís a great setup, with bleacher seats that are very close to the feeders, so you can get very close pictures.† Itís interesting that the birds donít seem to mind people being so close.† There were a lot of hummingbirds, of four different species.† Neither of the two rarer species that show up there came while I was there Ė at least, not that I saw.

 

One of the coolest hummers is the Magnificent Hummingbird.† I showed pictures before, from Madera Canyon, but today I got some that show the colors on the male much better.† Mostly they just look black, unless you get the light hitting them just right.† Today I was close enough that I used the wimpy little flash on my camera, which I rarely do, and I think it helped bring out the colors.† Here is a male Magnificent Hummingbird.

 

Here is an even better one, showing the violet crown.† I hadnít even realized they had a violet crown until I saw these pictures.

 

Here is another view, showing the violet crown even better.

 

Here is the much less colorful female Magnificent Hummingbird.† These birds are much larger than the ďnormalĒ hummingbirds, so they are easy to spot.

 

Here is one of the few male Broad-billed Hummingbirds there today.† Another bird with blue on it.

 

Here is a picture of a male Broad-billed Hummingbird from the back.† I though the patterns on the back, wings, and tail were interesting.

 

Here is the much less colorful female Broad-billed Hummingbird.

 

She looks a little disheveled, and it was probably because we had a little rain shower for a few minutes.† The viewing area has a canopy over it, fortunately, so I didnít get very wet, although the wind blew the rain in a bit.† It only lasted a couple of minutes and was very light.

 

There was only one pair of Broad-tailed Hummingbirds, as far as I could tell.† Here is the male with his red gorget.

 

The smallest species was Black-chinned Hummingbird, and it was really hard to get a picture of the purple gorget of the male.† This was the best I could do.† They call it Black-chinned, rather than Purple-chinned, for a reason I guess, as it almost always appears black.

 

The light has to be perfect to see the purple.

 

While I was taking those pictures, I ate my humble lunch, and some other people stopped by.† We had a pair of Hepatic Tanagers fly in and call, and I got this picture of a female Hepatic Tanager.

 

Iíve had pictures of red male Hepatic Tanagers, I guess, but Iím not sure Iíve had a yellow female before on this trip.† I like the way the background blurred out on that picture.

 

I finally tore myself away when a group of about 8 people showed up, and on my way out, I got this picture of one side of Miller Canyon.

 

They had a big fire there in June of 2011, a month after I was last there, but I didnít see much of an effect in the places I was today.† I guess it was worse up farther in the canyon.† I saw several groups that had hiked up the canyon and had seen great birds, including Spotted Owl.† I just wasnít willing to exert myself that much to see a lifer owl.† I had seen all the other great birds they reported, in other places.† Iím not sure how far up the canyon the owl was, but it was farther than I was willing to walk, anyway.† Iíve missed trying to see other birds on this trip because of my poor condition, but that is part of being the fat, out of shape Old Rambler.† I may be fat, I may be out of shape, and I may be old, but at least Iím still on the right side of the grass.

 

Also on the way back to my car, I got this picture of a huge bumblebee on a thistle flower.† There isnít any size reference in the picture, but the bumblebee was huge, bigger than I had ever seen before.† I would have liked to get its head, but it didnít give me the chance.

 

It was about 1:30 when I left there, or maybe 1:45, so I had to decide what to do next.† I only had two choices if I wanted to do more birding.† I could go back to Ramsey Canyon and walk a half mile up the canyon to try again for the pair of Flame-colored Tanagers seen there over the weekend.† The preserve had been closed the last two days, so there were no reports about whether they were still there or not.† The second choice was to go back to Huachuca Canyon again, on Fort Huachuca, to try again for the Sinaloa Wren.† Both choices seemed like longshots, so I chose the one that didnít involve any hiking, and I went back to look for the wren.

 

I spent half an hour looking, but again didnít find it.† Here is a picture of one part of the habitat where the wren has been seen, along a pretty little stream.

 

At that point I gave it up.† I got back to my room just after 3, so I was out there for seven hours today.† I needed extra time to process all my pictures.† I shot 177 pictures today, and Iíve included 32 of them in this report.† Iíve been working on pictures and the report for almost six hours now, although I did some internet stuff and chatted with three people using AIM, too.† I also had my free beer and popcorn, some whiskey, some peanuts, and my humble dinner.

 

Tomorrow I head over to the Chiricahua Mountains, for three nights.† It is my last real stop on the trip.† I only have 6 or 8 species to look for, and I wonít see all of them, Iím sure.† There is one lifer I especially want to see, though, and Iíll concentrate on that.† When I was here in 2011, there was a huge fire burning in that area, and I didnít get to visit the classic birding spots over there, so Iím looking forward to seeing those this time around.

 

Today I saw two species for my trip list, bringing me to 154 for the trip.† One of those was a year bird, so now Iím at 323 for the year, of which 8 have been lifers.

 

Thatís it for today.† Tomorrow I head east, actually going into New Mexico briefly.

 

 

Friday, May 15, 2015

 

I was up at 6:15, after being awake for about 45 minutes, and I got off about 8:15, after the usual great free breakfast.† That hotel was excellent, and I would stay there again.† Of course, the free beer and popcorn each evening was in its favor.

 

I stopped in Bisbee at Safeway and loaded up on groceries for the weekend, because the place I am now is pretty remote.† I got gas in Douglas, about 50 miles from here, because on my route, that was the last gas station.† To the north, I guess it is only about 30 miles to a gas station.† I have no phone service, of course, but at least I do have wi-fi here, although it fades away from time to time and its slow.

 

I got to the little town of Portal a little before noon.† I took the sandwich I had gotten at Safeway to some feeders on Foothills Road (used to be called the Jasper feeders, now a guy named Rodrigues has bought the property and keeps the feeders going).† There was a nice picnic table there, and I sat and ate my sandwich and observed and photographed birds.† Here is a Black-throated Sparrow, showing how it got its name.

 

Here is a picture from the side.

 

Hereís a picture of another one that has an incomplete black throat and streaks on its breast.† I assume it is an immature one, but it doesnít really match the pictures in my field guides.

 

Here is a picture of a male Pyrrhuloxia.

 

Here is another picture of him at a feeder.

 

Here is a female Pyrrhuloxia for comprison.

 

A female Western Tanager flew in and had a little bit of orange.† Here she is, working up her courage to come in,

 

I would guess that my presence put the birds off a bit; some approached but didnít ever actually come to a feeder.

 

A male Northern Cardinal came in.† It was like he saw me taking pictures of the male Pyrrhuloxia and thought Ė you want to see a red bird?† Iíll show you a red bird.

 

Later he showed off his attitude a little more in this picture.

 

There were several pairs of Gambelís Quail around, but then a mommy quail showed up with 6 or 8 young ones.† Here is a picture of her with some of her brood.

 

Here is a picture of mom with one of the chicks.† Itís the best picture Iíve gotten so far of a female Gambelís Quail, I think.

 

Here is a close up of one of the chicks.

 

I think it is interesting that the wings and back of the chicks is so different from that of the mature birds.† I suspect that it helps them blend in to the background and therefore escape predators to some extent.

 

None of the birds I saw there were ones for any of my lists, but that isnít surprising.† It will be very hard for me to add birds at this point.

 

Here is a picture of Cave Creek Canyon, a prime birding location here in the Chiricahua (pronounced Cheer Ė ie Ė KAHí Ė wah) Mountains.

 

As you can see from the picture, thunderstorms were threatening this afternoon.† I got some sprinkles later, but no real rain to speak of.

 

When I was here in 2011, there was a huge fire burning in the canyon and to the south of there.† It went on for weeks and was devastating.† Cave Creek Canyon was closed, so I never got to see it.† In 2011 I stayed down in the flatlands approaching the mountains, but here is a picture I took back in 2011 that shows the fire on the hillsides.

 

But, thatís another story, already told.† See my May 2011 reports on my website, if interested.

 

Today I stopped in Portal and looked around.† There is a rare bird that has been seen around the little village, and I might go there and look for it.† I went up Cave Creek Canyon and stopped at the Southwest Research Center, to see what they had to offer.† It turned out they had hummingbird feeders, so took a seat and watched for a while.† After ten or fifteen minutes, the hummingbird I wanted to see came in, and I got this picture of a male BLUE-THROATED HUMMINGBIRD, for my year list.

 

I think this was only the second time I saw that species, and I didnít get a picture in 2011 when I saw one in Madera Canyon.† It is a very large hummingbird, the same size as the Magnificent Hummingbird I have showed several pictures of.† There was a male Magnificent Hummingbird there, too, but I didnít get a picture worth showing, considering the ones I showed yesterday.

 

Another birder joined me on my bench, and I asked about things like road conditions over the mountains, where Iím thinking of driving on Monday.† I decided to take the unpaved road over the hills to my lodgings, rather than backtrack and have paved road for part of the way.† I stopped at Turkey Creek junction to try for the lifer that I want to see here, but didnít see it.

 

Iím staying in the George Walker House, a house built in 1905 I think it was.† It has been updated, of course, but it is still an old house.† Here is a link to the page on their website showing some pictures.† http://www.thegeorgewalkerhouse.com/id128.htm† Click on the links to see various rooms and aspects of the place.† Iím sitting at that round table in the dining room, although I had to move it across the room so I could plug in my computer.

 

They have extensive feeders here.† I stopped here in 2011 and got a couple of good birds for my year list that year.† I sat on the porch of the ownersí house and watched the birds and took some pictures.† Here is a female Cassinís Finch.

 

I probably wouldnít have paid any attention to it, thinking it was just another of the abundant House Finches, but Jackie, the owner, pointed it out.† The head markings are different, the bill is different, and the streaking on the breast is different from House Finch.† It is a very good bird to see at this time of year here, but I had seen a couple of males in Madera Canyon earlier, so it didnít go onto any lists today.

 

Here is a male Western Tanager, a very attractive bird, in my mind.

 

The light was fading fast, and the birds were in the deep shade, but I turned up the ISO on my camera and kept shooting.† Here is a Chipping Sparrow.† I had seen them twice before on the trip, I think, but this was my first picture opportunity.

 

Note that I was able to focus on the bird, even with the wire fence in the foreground.

 

The Black-headed Grosbeaks seemed more strongly marked than what I have seen so far on the trip.† Here is a male Black-headed Grosbeak in the fading light at an ISO of 800.

 

Finally the bird I was waiting for flew in, and I added JUNIPER TITMOUSE to my year list.† They are pretty uncommon in this part of Arizona, but there is one that has been coming in here for years.† It is probably the same bird I saw in 2011.† Here is a really poor picture in low light at about 1/20 of a second exposure.

 

Here is a slightly better one.

 

Iíll see if I can get a better picture when the light is stronger, before I leave on Monday.

 

So, that is it for today.† Quite a few pictures, but not much new.† I did add 2 more species to my trip and year lists.† That brings me to 156 species for the trip and 325 species for the year, of which 8 are lifers.† Five of those lifers have been on this trip.† I hope for one more, but Iíll have to go up in the mountains higher to get it.† Other than that one, I might very well not add any more to my year list on the trip, but we will see.† I could always get lucky.† There are some low probability ones that Iíll be keeping an eye out for.

 

Iíd like to go out and walk around in the dark.† The sky should be spectacular if it isnít cloudy, which it may well be.† It was very windy today, but tomorrow is supposed to be clear and sunny.† I baked a couple of chicken breasts in cream of mushroom soup, and had that along with some potatoes and broccoli for my humble dinner.† It was nice to have some real food for a change, and no popcorn or peanuts or the usual travel food I eat.† Weíll see what tomorrow brings.

 

 

Saturday, May 16, 2015

 

Iím starting this very late tonight, for various reasons, so it might not go out until tomorrow morning.† Iím going to start with a silly picture from last night.† My hostess here told me that bats might come to the hummingbird feeder outside my kitchen window, so I looked last night.† I guess there are a couple of species of nectar eating bats in this area, and they like the sugar water in hummingbird feeders.† I turned on the red light outside and sure enough, bats were coming to the feeder.† They were larger than I expected; the two species have a wingspan of about 12 inches, which is a pretty big bat if you ask me.† They would swoop in and sip for a second or less, and be gone.† There was a steady stream of them, maybe every few seconds.† I decided to try to see if I could get a picture, but only one of my attempts showed anything at all.† Here is a really silly, really terrible picture of a bat coming to the hummingbird feeder outside my kitchen window, maybe 6 or 8 feet from me.

 

It looks kind of like a ghost bird or bat, on the right side of the feeder.† As I said, pretty silly, but having that picture will remind me of the fun of seeing them in the flesh, which was very cool.

 

I slept a little later this morning and hung around the feeders here for a while before I took off.† I have a number of pictures of orioles today, taken at two or three places, and Iím going to consolidate them and show them now.

 

First, here is a female Scottís Oriole hitting the grape jelly.

 

Note the gray color to the head and the fact that the yellow underneath goes all the way to the tail.† I noticed today that the Scottís Orioles all seemed to have that light patch on their lower bill, although that isnít mentioned in my field guides.

 

Here is another female Scottís Oriole at a different place later.

 

This one has a yellow head, rather than gray.† I guess the color can range from gray to yellow, according to the field guides.

 

Here is a male Scottís Oriole.† Male orioles are much easier to identify than females.

 

Next, I have a female Bullockís Oriole to show.

 

She has a hint of an eye line and bigger wing bars than the Scottís Oriole.† The biggest giveaway, though, is that the yellow stops below the breast and the belly is white.† Here is a male Bullockís Oriole, much easier to identify.

 

Here is a side view of him.

 

My last oriole picture of the day is a male Hooded Oriole.

 

I didnít see a female Hooded Oriole today that I know of, so I canít complete the set.

 

Back to my day, I did get a better picture of Juniper Titmouse here at George Walker House.† I also found out that there is a pair of them, but they are nesting now, so only one comes to the feeders at a time.

 

There is a Bridled Titmouse that comes around, too, but it is very hard to get a picture of, as it moves constantly.† Here is the best I could get of Bridled Titmouse today.

 

I left a little before nine oíclock to go up to Turkey Creek junction to look for my main target bird for this area, the lifer Mexican Chickadee.† It looks just like our Black-capped Chickadee to me, but it is the only chickadee in the area.† They are mostly in Mexico, and the Chiricahuas ar the only place in the US you can see them.† I missed it in 2011, and I want it this time.

 

It is three miles up a fairly rough dirt road, with three creek crossings, to Turkey Creek junction, and it takes about 12 or 13 minutes.† As I left the tiny community of Paradise (fewer than ten permanent residents, I think), I got this picture which is evidence that someone in the Forest Service has a sense of humor.

 

By the time you get to that sign, you would have gone many miles on a narrow dirt road, so I donít think that a driver of a semi truck would ever see the sign.† It is a very official looking sign, with the Forest Service logo on it.

 

Here is another picture of that road, showing the beautiful scenery.

 

When I got to Turkey Creek junction, there were a couple of German birders already there who were also looking for the chickadee.† They stuck around for at least another hour, but never saw it.† Another group of about 8 birders on a tour stopped, too, and they spent 15 or 20 minutes looking but also dipped on it.† I ended up spending about two hours there, and never had a sniff of it.† There were a fair number of birds around, considering it was mountain forest birding, but no chickadees.† I had Red-faced Warbler, Graceís Warbler, Black-throated Gray Warbler, Bridled Titmouse, Plumbeous and Warbling Vireos, Hermit Thrush, Yellow-eyed Junco, Spotted Towhee, and several other species Ė but no chickadees.† They are reportedly there, but nesting, so they are quiet and one of them is on the nest at all times.† It isnít a very common bird, even here, the only place in the US they live.

 

I gave it up a little after 11 and came back here and made myself a sandwich, which I took to a feeder place in Portal, the slightly larger town about 6 or 7 miles away, at a lower elevation.† It was five miles of dirt road, so it took some time.† I sat in a chair at the feeders at Dave Jasperís new house and ate my humble lunch.† There were the usual feeder birds, including some of the orioles Iíve already shown pictures of.

 

I got these two pictures of female Cassinís Finch, probably the same bird at different times.

 

 

At one point I was watching and taking pictures of a female Black-headed Grosbeak on a feeder table, and a female Northern Cardinal flew in and seemed to challenge the grosbeak.† They stared at each other for several seconds, but there wasnít any other sign of contention.† Here is a picture of the face off.

 

The cardinal flew off, and the grosbeak continued to feed.

 

There were a couple of Cactus Wrens around, and I wanted pictures, but it never really worked out.† Here is the best I could do of a Cactus Wren.

 

I finished my leisurely lunch and chatted for a while with Dave Jasperís partner, Elaine, and then moved on to Portal proper.† I walked up and down the streets, looking half-heartedly for a rarity that has been seen there lately, a Rufous-backed Robin.† I didnít expect to see it, and I didnít.† I did get a picture of the Thick-billed Kingbird that has been seen around Portal, though.

 

Thatís an excellent bird, but I had already counted it and gotten pictures in Patagonia.† I got this picture of a Eurasian Collared-Dove in a yard with a lot of feeders.† Almost all the doves around here are White-winged Doves, but I guess the collared-doves have moved into the ďtownĒ of Portal, which is at an elevation of about 4600 feet.

 

I saw a bird at the top of a dead snag, but I couldnít identify it.† I couldnít even get any ideas.† Here are four distant pictures, in case someday I get an inspiration.

 

 

 

 

I sent those pictures to Richard, my guide last week, to see if he could identify it for me.† It is a real mystery to me, and I feel like Iím missing something obvious, because I canít come up with any possibilities, even.

 

I saw a Myiarchus flycatcher, and I think it is a Dusky-capped Flycatcher, but I could be wrong.† My second guess is Ash-throated.† Here it is.

 

After that, I drove around the back way to Turkey Creek junction again to try for the chickadee.† I spent a half hour that time, but came up empty again.† I did get this picture of a ďwildĒ male Western Tanager that I like.† It is ďwildĒ in the sense that it wasnít around a feeder area, like most of the ones I have seen.† It seemed particularly colorful, I thought.

 

I like the pose, the branch, and the background.

 

Back at George Walker House, I sat on the porch of the main house and chatted with Jackie about where she had seen Mexican Chickadee last weekend, and where I should go looking for it tomorrow.† I got another picture of the Juniper Titmouse at that time.

 

So, it was after 4:30 and it appeared this was the day I was going to finally get skunked and not see any more birds for my trip or year lists.† I walked back to my house, and when I was twenty feet from my front door I spotted a different bird, and it turned out to be a male ROSE-BREASTED GROSBEAK, sitting in a tree in the sun.† It flew off before I could try for a picture, but I had an excellent binocular view of it.† It wasnít even in my spreadsheet, as this is outside of its normal range.† I had actually seen one here at this exact location in 2011, and it was enough of a rarity then that people were coming a long distance to see it.† I wonder if it will stick around now.

 

How could that have happened?† At the last possible minute, I saw a bird that I hadnít even considered possible, completely out of the blue.† Amazing.† It keeps my streak alive, and now I have to get that damn chickadee tomorrow, to keep it going again.

 

Iím now at 157 species for the trip, and at 326 species for the year.† Of those 326 species, 8 of them have been lifers.

 

Itís late, but Iím going to try to send this off tonight, anyway.

 

Update and correction.† Iím going to send this in the morning.† I need to get to bed.† I heard back from Richard on my unknown bird, and he thought it was an Olive-sided Flycatcher, which I had mentioned in my email to him.† He asked if it was windy, which would account for some of the things about it that made me think it wasnít an Olive-sided Flycatcher, and it was indeed quite windy today.† So, Iím going with Olive-sided Flycatcher, and thatís another one for my year list.† I had that on my target list, as they are migrating through here now, and they love to perch at the top of dead snags, like this bird was doing.† So, my corrected numbers are 158 species for the trip and 327 for the year.† Still 8 lifers for the year.

 

 

Sunday, May 17, 2015

 

Iím sleeping a little later each morning. †This morning I didnít get up until 6:30.† I got out of here about 9 and headed up the mountains to look for my lifer Mexican Chickadee.† My first stop was Turkey Creek junction, where I had spent two and a half hours yesterday looking for it with no luck.† There was another birder there when I got there, and he had been looking for it for a half hour.† A group of about 8 birders in three cars came along, and they looked for a while, too.† No one had any luck.

 

Interestingly, almost as soon as I got there, I saw what I believe was an Olive-sided Flycatcher.† Thatís the year bird that my guide Richard identified for me last night, from my pictures of the unknown bird.† Iím not 100% sure of my call today, so I emailed the following picture to Richard for his confirmation (or denial Ė we will see).† The other possibility is Western Wood-Pewee.

 

Points in favor of Olive-sided Flycatcher Ė it was perched on the very top of a dead snag (like the bird yesterday), it is white under the chin, and it is white on the lower belly until the tail.† All those points applied to the unknown bird yesterday, too.† Weíll see what Richard says, but Iím going with Olive-sided Flycatcher.

 

When that bird flew out to chase insects, another flycatcher immediately flew in to a nearby branch.

 

Thatís one of the three pesky Myiarchus flycatchers (Myiarchus is the family name, I think, and there are three members of that family here in SE Arizona).† I had Richard give me a lesson in distinguishing the three species, and I believe this one is a Brown-crested Flycatcher.† My reasons are that the brown on the cap extends below the eye, the billís shape and size look good to me, and the undertail area has little or no rufous color.† The belly is fairly yellow, too.

 

When that flycatcher flew out, an American Robin flew in to the same tree top.† I never bother to show pictures of robins, as they are so common, but I donít have many pictures today, so here is an American Robin.

 

After half an hour or maybe forty-five minutes, I moved on up the narrow dirt mountain road.† I had my fill of driving on narrow dirt mountain roads today, and tomorrow I figure Iíll take the longer way around on paved roads, rather than go back up over the mountains on the dirt roads.† The time is about the same, either way.† (I still will have five more miles of mountain dirt road just to get to pavement.)† I only drove about 22 miles today on the dirt roads, but that represents about an hour and a half to two hours of driving time total, and it seemed like a lot more than that.† I was cautious and didnít push it.† There were often steep slopes right off the side of the road.† Iím not especially subject to acrophobia, but sometimes today when I looked to the side, off the edge, I got that little flipping feeling in my stomach that says ďoopsĒ.

 

I stopped several places, but the next main stop was Onion Saddle, at the crest of the mountains.† After looking for the chickadee, I went on down the other side for 1.8 miles to Pinery Canyon campground, and looked for my chickadee there.† There was another group of about 8 birders when I got there, also looking for it, and I donít think they found it either.† There were few birds around, and the only picture I took there was this one of a Red-tailed Hawk flying high overhead.

 

Red-tailed Hawks come in a huge number of different plumages, and most of the ones in this corner of Arizona are very light colored, like this one.

 

I backtracked to Onion Saddle and took the side road toward Rustler Park, the other traditional site for Mexican Chickadee.† I stopped a couple of places along the way to look for both the chickadee and also Virginiaís Warbler, which is supposed to live up there, on brushy hillsides.† (Iíve been told a couple of times that Virginiaís Warblers are thin on the ground this year, at least so far.)† When I got to Rustler Park it was after noon and there was still another party of birders there, just finishing their lunch.† I didnít speak with them, so I donít know if they saw the chickadee or not.† It was turning out that the chickadee was much harder to see than I had realized.† My book about finding birds in SE Arizona says that Mexican Chickadee is common in the higher elevations of the Chiricahuas, but that obviously is not true any more, if it ever was.† The book is old, and they had a devastating fire through much of the area in 2011, when I was here before.† That might have cut down the population of chickadees, I donít know.† More likely, the book was just being wildly optimistic.† They donít sell books by saying it is very hard to find birds.† This was mountain forest birding, and I never see many birds in mountain forests.

 

There were several Yellow-eyed Juncos at Rustler Park, and I got this picture.

 

They are a high elevation species; I had seen them several places on the trip, including the first time on Mt Lemmon, way back on the second full day of the trip.

 

Of course, there were the ubiquitous robins around, and a White-breasted Nuthatch.† I didnít see either of the other two nuthatches that have been reported there recently; either one would have been a trip bird.† I did see a Yellow-rumped Warbler, which was late leaving for the north this year.† I had already counted that species on the trip, though (again up on Mt Lemmon).† There were a couple of obvious Stellerís Jays, another species I had seen on Mt Lemmon.† I took some pictures of the jays, and here are couple of kind of oddball ones.

 

 

No report seems complete without a picture of a blue colored bird.† It seemed pretty ironic that I was chasing a bird around at the top of a mountain range in Arizona, when they are in our yard at home every day.

 

I ate my humble lunch (turkey breast, ham, and cheese sandwich, with mini-peppers and peas.† no chips or cookies.) there at Rustler Park, and I walked around a little, looking for chickadees and nuthatches, but had no luck.† I learned this week that April and May are the hardest months to see the chickadee because they nest now and are quiet.† Normally you located them by hearing them sing or call in the tree tops, as they forage.† They are silent now, though, Iím told.† Oops Ė bad luck for me.† Also, half of them are sitting on a nest at any point in time, so there are half as many to spot.† Once the eggs hatch, it would be great, because then both parents have to be very active, finding food for the youngsters.† I guess we havenít yet reached that point this year.

 

Eventually I started back down, stopping a few places, but hearing and seeing nothing interesting.† I stopped at Turkey Creek junction again, because that was one place where I knew that Mexican Chickadee had been seen just last weekend.† As before, there were more birds there than farther up the mountains.† A Painted Redstart was flitting around and flashing his white wing patches and tail, as they do, and this time I actually managed to get a picture of it while it was doing it.

 

The technical quality of the picture isnít good at all, but I like it because it does show the behavior of the bird, which I had seen many times, but never had been able to get a picture of.† I had been assuming that the black, white, and red Painted Redstarts I had been seeing were males, but it turns out that both sexes look the same in that species, unlike other redstarts.

 

I spent another 20 minutes or so there, but then I threw in the towel and admitted that Mexican Chickadee had defeated the Old Rambler.† It will just have to be one of those birds that I missed (It has plenty of company).† I ended up spending about six hours today looking for it, on top of the three hours yesterday, including driving times.† A serious birder would have spent more time, no doubt, but I did pretty well in my dilettante way.

 

Back at my lodgings, I joined Winston, Jackieís husband, on the porch of the main house and watched the birds at the feeders for a short while.† I got this picture of another blue colored bird, a Mexican Jay, that was gathering nesting material.† They put horsehair out for the birds, to use for nesting material.† The jay kept grabbing more and more of it, and finally had so much that it obscured its face.

 

I wonder if it could see where it was flying.† Normally fine material like this horsehair would be used to line the nest, after it was constructed.

 

So, that was my day.† No year birds.† No trip birds.† I have finally gotten well and truly skunked.† It was a pleasant day, much less windy than the last few days, and it was warmer.† Still, it was only in the low 60ís at the top of the range, and only in the mid-70ís here in Paradise.† I could have spent the day looking for a couple of year birds down lower, but they werenít likely, and I wanted to try for the chickadee.

 

Tomorrow I head back west, toward home.† Iím ready to be home.† I donít fly home until Tuesday afternoon, though, and tomorrow night I have a room booked in Willcox.† There is a lake there where I could get a couple of year birds if Iím lucky, as well as up to five more trip species, per recent reports.† Weíll see how it goes, but Iím thinking about being home.† I expect to write one more report for the trip, and maybe a summary one once I get home.

 

 

Monday, May 18, 2015

 

Iím heading toward home now.† I was up at 6:30 and was ready to leave by a little after 8:30.† As I was heading out the door, loading the car, I took one last look over at the feeders in the yard of the main house next door, and what did I see but the bird I had been looking for there all weekend Ė Band-tailed Pigeon.† It isnít a year bird, but it is good trip bird.† Jackie had told me that just one of them was around, but it was shy and didnít come in often.† I finally saw it this morning.

 

While I was loading the car, Jackie came over and told me she had to leave to take one of her two dogs to the vet.† It was bloated she said, and the vet is two hours away.† I guess thatís one of the problems of living in the sticks, but you would think there would be a vet closer than two hours.† But, she probably has one she likes, and so she goes there.† So, she rushed off and I finished loading the car.† Just as I was driving out, a couple pulled in and we talked.† It turned out they were looking for Mexican Chickadee, the lifer I had looked for all weekend.† I told them that I was planning to stop for a final half hour search for it, three miles up the dirt road at Turkey Creek junction, and they followed me up there.† There was a group of 4 or 5 birders with a guide there already, and we all looked and listened for the next half hour.† If this were a movie or a novel, I would have seen my chickadee finally, but it was real life, and I didnít.

 

I had three choices of which route to take today.† The shortest in miles was over the mountains (where I had been yesterday), but I was just too damn tired of those mountain dirt roads to do that.† The next shortest involved about 25 miles of dirt road, but it would have been across the desert and probably would have been pretty fast.† The longest route was about the same time as the other two (about two hours), but it only had 7 miles of dirt road and allowed me to try for the chickadee one more time.† I took the third option and drove about 30 miles farther as a result.† I was just really tired of driving on unpaved, dusty roads, and I donít regret taking the long way around.

 

It was all highway and interstate, and I got kind of sleepy after a while. †I stopped at the first opportunity and got a cup of coffee (half decaf) at a really disreputable looking truck stop, and made it into Willcox without incident, at a little after noon.

 

I had seen a post online about a rare bird (Ovenbird, an eastern warbler) that was in a yard in Willcox on both Saturday and Sunday, with an invitation to call and come look for it.† So, I called and talked to Max, the guy whose yard it was in.† It turned out that the Ovenbird hadnít been seen today.† (ďYou should have been here yesterdayĒ is a classic birding saying, as so often one just misses a bird.)† Max and I chatted, as birders do and we decided I should go to Lake Cochise (also called Twin Lakes) to look for the water birds I wanted to see to pad my trip list, and then go over to his house to see if the Ovenbird had shown up.

 

So, I went to Lake Cochise and ate my humble lunch (ham and cheese sandwich, with mini-peppers and sugar snap peas Ė am I predictable, or what?) while slowly driving around the lake, which is a big sewage treatment pond, I think.† I had a report for Saturday that listed 19 species I needed for my trip list, and 5 of them I needed for my year list, too.† Some were ones that were unlikely to be there still, others were ones I would need a scope to see probably (and I didnít bring my scope with me this time), but I figured I would get something anyway.

 

There werenít nearly as many birds as had been reported on Saturday, and it was pretty windy as well, making waves on the lake.† I quickly picked up American Avocet, Black-necked Stilt, and a single female Yellow-headed Blackbird for my trip list.† Here is an American Avocet, a handsome bird, I think.

 

Then I got my sole year-bird for the day, RED-NECKED PHALAROPE.† I only saw about 5 or 6 of them, not the 30 or 40 reported on Saturday.† Here is a picture of a female Red-necked Phalarope.

 

Unlike most species, female phalaropes are the more colorful of the two sexes.† Here is a male Red-necked Phalarope.

 

Red-necked Phalarope is an interesting species.† Like the two other phalarope species, females are more colorful and larger than males, and the females fight each other over the males.† The female lays her eggs and the male incubates them and raises the chicks, without any help from the female.† They breed in the tundra in the far north of North America and Europe, and then spend the rest of the year in southern waters.† The ones that migrate through here would winter at sea, offshore from the western shores of Latin America, from Mexico to Peru.† They donít even come to land during the entire non-breeding season (August to March, approximately).† So, the ones I saw here today are on their way north, from somewhere off the west coast of Latin America to the tundra of Canada or Alaska, where they will breed.† Thatís why the numbers of them vary from day to day here Ė they are just passing through, and Lake Cochise is just a place to stop and rest up and feed, before continuing their long journey north.† Okay, thatís our little nature lesson for today, folks.

 

There is another species of phalarope, Wilsonís Phalarope, that was here in the dozens on Saturday as well, but I didnít see a single one today.† I had seen a dozen or so of them south of Phoenix, early in the trip, so I didnít need them today, anyway.

 

Continuing on around the lake, I picked up some ducks I hadnít seen on the trip Ė Gadwall, Green-winged Teal, Ring-necked Duck, and Redhead.† Four more for my trip list.† There were others I had already seen, too.† I saw my only gull of the trip, a Ring-billed Gull.† There was one very distant Willet, a shorebird, for my trip list.† I actually used my camera to take a picture and then magnified it to identify the bird.† It was too far away for my 10X binoculars, but my camera has a 50X zoom on it.† There were some very small shorebirds, which birders refer to as ďpeepsĒ, but without a scope, I couldnít identify them.† There were four species of peeps reported on Saturday, and I thought I probably wouldnít get them without a scope, unless I got lucky and one was close enough.† My final trip bird there was Eared Grebe.

 

So, Lake Cochise was productive for my trip list, as I added 11 species to it there.

 

I drove around twice, but didnít add any more on the second circuit.† By then it was 2 oíclock, and I went to my motel and was able to check in and unload all my stuff and put my food in the fridge.† Thatís food for brekkie and lunch tomorrow, mostly, and some wine for tonight.

 

Then I went over to Maxís house to see if the Ovenbird had shown up.† It hadnít, but he set me up in a comfortable chair in his backyard, in the shade, and I watched the birds in his yard for a while.† There was a Curve-billed Thrasher feeding a couple of fledglings, and that was interesting to watch.† The parent would forage around on the ground, and a fledgling would follow the parent, also sort of pecking at the ground, but I donít know if it was actually getting any food.† From time to time the parent would feed the young one.† Here is a picture of one of the just-fledged Curve-billed Thrashers.

 

Compared to the mature bird, this one has more streaking on the breast, a less curved bill, and a white eye, rather than the yellow eye of the adult bird.† Here is a picture I took last week of an adult Curve-billed Thrasher for comparison.

 

You can see all those differences in the pictures.† Okay, that was nature lesson number two for today.† Here is a picture of the young one and the parent together.† The parent had just fed the young one something, and I was just a second or two too late to capture that moment.

 

The young one had hunkered down and flapped its wings, indicating it wanted to be fed, and the parent had popped something into the young oneís mouth.

 

I took one more picture there.† I never bother showing pictures of really common birds like House Sparrow, but this male House Sparrow seemed especially strongly marked, and I took this one.

 

Itís a good size comparison to the female Lesser Goldfinch on the left, too.

 

When it was time to leave, Max went with me to a location a couple of blocks from his house to show me where I might see a Crissal Thrasher in the morning.† That would be an excellent year bird Ė one that I missed in the Portal area because I was concentrating on my darn chickadee so much.† He suggested being out there at 6:30, but of course, that isnít going to happen, so I donít know what my chances are.† I have plenty of time tomorrow, though, so Iíll give it a go, somewhat later than 6:30.† I suspect it isnít easy to see, so Iím not expecting it, but Iím here birding, so Iíll try.† I also expect to drive around the lake again in the morning, to see whatís there.† The birds are migrating through, and there could be a few different birds there tomorrow morning.† It should be a lot less windy in the morning, too.

 

Iím in Willcox tonight, about 80 miles east of Tucson, and my flight leaves at 2:05 PM.† That gives me plenty of time, but Iím a worrier, so until I have turned in my car and checked in for the flight, Iíll worry just a little about making the flight. †I wish it was a morning flight; I would have stayed in Tucson tonight near the airport, and I would have felt more secure about it.† Iím also concerned about taking off in the afternoon, when it is windier and there are more thermals over the desert, so the takeoff is more likely to be rough, like when we came in.† The last twelve minutes of the flight in were really uncomfortable for me, and I was worried I was going to be airsick.† I keep telling myself that they climb quickly, and we will be above the turbulence in just a very few minutes.† So I keep telling myself, anyway.† It doesnít keep me from worrying about being airsick at the beginning of a three hour flight, though.

 

So, I added twelve species to my trip list today, to bring it to 169 species at this point.† Only one of those added to my year list, though, to bring that one to 327 for the year, of which 8 are lifers.

 

Iíll do one more summary report, even if I donít get any more birds or any more pictures tomorrow, but it might not go out until Wednesday morning.† What a life!

 

 

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

 

Iím starting this in the Tucson airport, waiting for my plane.† I got here about three hours before my flight, and after I got all checked in, I found a table near an electrical outlet outside of security.† Iíve eaten my humble lunch now and processed my pictures from today.† Iíll write a little now and finish it when I get home tonight, God Willing And The Creeks Donít Rise.

 

I got to bed at 9:45 last night, and slept fairly well.† The motel in Willcox was a real find.† It obviously was an old motel that had very recently been completely refurbished.† Everything was very new and very clean.† It had a king bed, a huge flat screen TV (I never turned on a TV in any of my rooms on the trip), a fridge and microwave, and quite good air conditioning.† I was able to park right outside my door, too, which I always like.† All this for only 45 bucks plus tax.† They donít even have a web site, but hotel sites like Booking.com know about them, and I found them on TripAdvisor.† They are the highest rated motel in Willcox on TripAdvisor (which I use heavily to find lodging, all around the world), including the Holiday Inn Express, which costs more than twice as much.† I think they even had an all-carb breakfast, which I didnít partake of.† From what I could figure out, they have only been open since December of 2014.† The parking lot was full last night, though.† Two-thirds of the vehicles were trucks of one kind or another, I noticed.† I think that construction and utility type workers who are on assignment in the area have discovered it.† The parking lot was half empty when I went out at 6:30 this morning.† Working men.

 

Anyway, I was up at 6 this morning, and I took care of a few things and had my Greek yogurt, then headed out to the place that the local birder Max had shown me yesterday afternoon.† I got there at 6:30, which is as early as I have been out birding on the trip, Iím sure.† I saw nothing when I got there, so I played the song of the bird I was looking for.† To my amazement, after a couple of minutes two CRISSAL THRASHERS showed up, perching on the mesquite bushes and looking at me.† Neither of them ever made a sound, as far as I heard, but they obviously were interested in me.† I didnít look like a Crissal Thrasher, but I sounded like one.† Very perplexing.† Here is a picture of one of them.

 

When I saw the first one, I thought it was just another Curve-billed Thrasher, which also live in the area.† Then I noticed that there weren't any markings on the breast, the bill was longer and more curved, it had those black and white streaks going down from the base of the bill, and it had a reddish-brown area under its tail.† Definitely a Crissal Thrasher, all right.† Here is a picture of the other one.

 

Oh yes, they donít have the yellow eye of the Curve-billed Thrasher either.

 

So, it was only 6:45, and I had my target year bird for the day.† I went back to the motel and had breakfast, shaved and showered.† Since I had plenty of time, I went back to Cochise Lake again, to see if I could see anything different there this morning.† It was not windy and everything looked good in the morning light.† I saw a Scaled Quail as I approached the lake.† Thatís the species I had such an amazing experience with when I was birding with local birder Alan.

 

I moved on around the lake, mostly seeing the same things as yesterday.† A few were missing this morning, so maybe they moved on overnight.† I saw one new trip bird this morning, Black-crowned Night-Heron.† Here is a picture of one standing in the shallow water of a little pond across the road from the lake.

 

I donít recall ever seeing a night-heron actually in the water before, although they are usually around water.† The bird flew on down the road a little, to another pond, and when I got there, it turned out to be a family group Ė two adults and a juvenile bird.† The juvenile looks quite different from the parents.† Here is the juvie.

 

For comparison, here is one of the parents in a similar position.

 

[I'm home now, and I notice all my pictures look very bright.† That's because I processed them in the airport at Tucson, and there was a lot of ambient light.† I'm going to leave them that way, but they might look better a little darker.]

 

I had a very good flight home.† The flight was almost completely full (I only saw 2 empty seats), but the seat next to me was empty.† Now, anyone would appreciate having an empty seat next to him/her, but when you are a widebody model, like me, it is especially appreciated.† My lucky day, I guess.† For the second time in a row I didnít get TSA Pre-Check, but I would much rather have an empty seat next to me.

 

Back to this morning, I saw a second Scaled Quail perched up high, but it flew off before I could get a picture.

 

Continuing around the lake, I took this picture of the lake itself, with a train and the mountains in the background.

 

Again the picture is too bright, but I'm going to leave it, at least for now.† I can always go back later and fix the pictures on my website.† It was very pretty in the morning light.

 

I hadn't seen any White-faced Ibis this morning, but then there was a group of them at the end of my circuit.† Here is a picture of a White-faced Ibis in the morning sun, showing its iridescence.

 

It is too bright, of course, but the bird was very colorful in the flesh, just not quite so bright.† The morning light, coming from a low angle was great.

 

There was a pair of Ruddy Ducks near the shore, and I got this picture of the colorful male, shown a bit too bright, of course, but it is a colorful bird in breeding plumage.† In the fall and winter, the bill is dull brown, as is its body.

 

Here is the duller colored female Ruddy Duck.

 

I drove over to the edge of the Twin Lakes golf course, which is adjacent to Cochise Lakes, and saw a bird that I assumed was a male Yellow-headed Blackbird.† I had seen a female yesterday, so it wasn't going to count for any lists, but I tried for a picture.† Well, the bird turned out to be a Bullock's Oriole, in a habitat I wouldnít have expected - reeds around a pond.† I'm not sure if it is female or a first year male (I think the latter), but here is a Bullock's Oriole.

 

It was sitting up in an uncharacteristic posture for an oriole, which made it look to the naked eye like a male Yellow-headed Blackbird to the naked eye.

 

At that same golf course pond, I heard a bird singing, and I thought I recognized the song (against all odds).† I played the song of Common Yellowthroat, which I had counted at the very beginning of my trip at Sweetwater Wetlands, and a bird popped up and sang back to me.† Here is a picture of a male Common Yellowthroat, singing to me (or to my phone).

 

I love pictures of birds calling or singing, so here is another one of him.

 

Considering the distance I was from the bird (maybe 40 or 50 feet), I'm very pleased with those shots.

 

I thought I was done then, so I headed back to my motel.† As it turned out, I saw a Loggerhead Shrike on the way out of the area, and I got a couple of pictures.† Shrikes are among my favorite birds (OK, a lot of species are among my favorite birds, but shrikes are special because of some history stuff - right, Ted?)

 

I think this is the closest I have gotten to a shrike for a picture, ever.

 

Is that a cool looking bird, or what?† They catch lizards and insects and impale them on spiky plants to eat later.

 

So, that completed my birding and pictures for the day.† I did see a raven out near the lake, and it is my "insurance" Chihuahuan Raven.†† I had counted Chihuahuan Raven back at Las Cienegas with Alan, based on his assurance, which was based mostly on the birds' size.† I'm sure he was correct, but a couple of people had told me that all the ravens in Willcox were Chihuahuan Ravens, so the one this morning was my "insurance" bird.† I got a good look at it, too, and the feathers went a long way out on the top of the bill, which is one of the Chihuahuan Raven characteristics.

 

I went back to the motel and packed up, and I was out of there by just after 9:30.† It was 80 miles of Interstate to Tucson, and my flight didn't leave until after 2, so I had plenty of time, which is how I like it.† The drive was fine, with a 75 mph speed limit most of the way, and I got to the airport, turned in my rental car, and was all checked in by about 11.† I had time, so I processed my pictures there, as already reported, and started my report for the day.

 

As I said, the flight was very good, with an empty seat next to me, Christina picked me up at the airport, and I was home just after 6 PM.† Another trip was in the books, and I had survived it.

 

So mostly for my own future reference, here are some numbers.† Most readers who aren't interested in numbers will skip this part, and that's fine.

 

I saw 171 species on the trip.† I didnít attempt to predict in advance how many total species I would see on the trip, but 171 is completely satisfactory to me.

 

Of those 171 species, 97 were new for my year list.† I did attempt to predict how many new year-birds I would see on the trip.† My spreadsheet, where I attempt to predict the possibilities of each species and then add up the percentages, indicated I would see 86.6 species for my year list, so I was very successful in that area.† I usually do exceed my predictions, and I think that's mostly because I'm overly conservative in assessing my chances on the various species.† Still, seeing 97 species for my year list is quite satisfactory.

 

I'm now at 328 species for the year, of which 8 are lifers.† My spreadsheet had predicted 7.2 new lifers on the trip, but I only saw 5, so in that area, I fell short.† I had expected to see or hear more night birds than I actually saw or heard, and I missed Mexican Chickadee, which I thought was a lot easier than it turned out to be at this time of year.

 

I could do more analysis, but the point is, it was a successful trip in terms of birds seen (or heard, in a few cases).† It was also successful in terms of fun, and I met some people that I enjoyed, which is also excellent.

 

Now I'm at home for just five or six days, and then I head down to Malheur in central eastern Oregon, to meet my fried Fred from Sacramento, and his faithful Golden Retriever companion, Tugboat.† We have five nights in Burns Oregon, and I hope to add more to my year list and generate more reports.† I might try to add to one or more of my Washington counties on the way, too.† I need to look at that.

 

 

Monday, May 25, 2015

 

Memorial Day - a great day to head out on the road again.† I slept in until 7:30 this morning, and was on the road by 9:20.† Iím heading for Malheur NWR in central east Oregon, to meet my old friend, Fred.† I went east on I-90, stopping just over Snoqualmie Pass for my annual RUFOUS HUMMINGBIRD, at a house that has hummingbird feeders.† There were a lot fewer feeders this year, and a whole lot fewer hummingbirds, but after waiting about five minutes, I got my male Rufous Hummingbird for my year list.

 

Interestingly, as I went east on I-90, I noticed that at least 8 to 10 times as many cars were going west, coming back from their holiday weekend, I guess. †I had deliberately planned this trip to be heading out as most people were coming back to the Seattle area.

 

It was an easy drive, and I got to Goldendale, my destination for the day at about 1 PM.† Itís an eight plus hour drive to Burns, where Iím meeting Fred, and I donít like driving that much in one day any more, so I decided to stop in Goldendale to work on my Klickitat county list.† As I have mentioned before, Iím working on Washington State counties, trying to see as many birds as I can in each of the 39 counties.† After my northeast Washington trip in April, I had birded in 39 counties (since I had started this project in July of 2012), so the next step is to see 39 species in each of the 39 counties.†† 39 in 39, it is called.† I only had 24 in Klickitat county, so my idea was to see if I could boost that to 39 this afternoon, or tomorrow morning if needed.

 

My research indicated that I could go either east or west from Goldendale.† I had routes planned for each way, and on the drive today, I decided to go west from Goldendale.

 

As I drove west out of Goldendale, my first new Klickitat county bird was Black-billed Magpie, and that was followed almost immediately by Red-winged Blackbird.† There was an American Kestrel on a wire soon after that, and I saw three Savannah Sparrows a little later.† I was birding!† Mind you, it was lazy manís birding, completely from the car, but thatís what I like, especially for county birding, where you are simply looking for the most common species in each county.

 

I pulled off the road at Stinson Flats, which has a campground and a boat launch, I guess.† I stopped at a little pulloff, mainly to take a leak.† Here is a picture of the Klickitat River from that point.

 

As you can see, it was beautiful country.† While I was there I heard a bird calling, and I actually recognized the call.† It was an easy one, but maybe Iím getting a little better at recognizing bird sound.† I played the call on my phone, and eventually, a Western Wood-Pewee fly in and called back to me.† Here is a mediocre picture, due to both the back-lighting and the fact I had accidentally left my camera set on manual exposure.

 

I only got that one picture of the pewee because another bird flew in, and I concentrated on it so I could identify it.† It turned out to be a Chipping Sparrow, and here is a backlit picture that doesnít show much in the way of color.

 

Here is a heavily processed one that shows the reddish color of the crown, barely.

 

In that last picture, the bird was looking at something, and it turned out to be a caterpillar, which it caught.

 

At a place where there was supposed to be a view of a waterfall, I took a little dirt side road that paralleled the highway and I saw a Dark-eyed Junco along there.† It looked like I would have to bash my way through the woods to get a view of the falls, so I skipped that.

 

As I approached Glenwood, I saw some blackbirds on the right, and a number of them were Yellow-headed Blackbirds, a good one for my county list, but I had seen the species in Arizona, so it didnít add to my year list.

 

I drove through the little community of Glenwood and found my way to Conboy NWR, my destination for today.† There was a two mile trail that a serious birder would have walked, but I only went down it a hundred yards or so, and I took this picture of Conboy NWR, which was composed of marshy meadows and pine forests.

 

I got this picture of a female Red-winged Blackbird, a species I had counted for Klickitat county earlier in the day.

 

Back at the car, I heard a bird singing, and I got this picture of a House Wren, singing away.

 

All the birds Iím mentioning were ones for my county list, so it was creeping up.† After the House Wren, it was up to 34, just five away from the magic number of 39 that I was looking for. †I headed back toward Goldendale at that point, but I took a different route for the first part of the return trip.† Near the Mount Adams cemetery, I saw a Tree Swallow on a wire.† Here is a picture of a male Tree Swallow.

 

There was a female a little farther along.

 

As with most bird species, the males get the color.† There was a Eurasian Collared-Dove there, too.

 

I was looking for Sandhill Cranes, as they breed there on the reserve, but I never found one.† I should see that year-bird species in Malheur this week.

 

Mount Adams was in the background during this time, and I got this picture with its head still in the clouds.

 

That picture makes it look more dramatic than it was, but the mountain was a majestic presence to the north from that valley. †I picked up Western Meadowlark for my county list along there.

 

I saw a Common Raven for my county list, and then a little later saw another one that was being harassed by a couple of crows.† The poor raven finally flew on a little, and three Red-winged Blackbirds proceeded to harass it until it flew off.† I guess that the raven wasnít very popular in that neighborhood today.† The raven put me at 38 species for the county, though.† I was headed back to Goldendale, to my motel, but I kept my eyes peeled to see what I might see.

 

There it was Ė number 39.† Here is a badly backlit picture of White-crowned Sparrow on a post, for number 39 in Klickitat county.

 

I kept an eye out for birds along the way, but I more or less boogied on back to Goldendale and checked in to the Ponderosa Motel.† It is overpriced by 20 or 30 bucks, in my opinion, but it is pretty nice and I do have a little kitchen with a stove and full size fridge.† It comes with a continental breakfast with hard boiled eggs, and I think it easily beats the only competition in town, a Quality Inn, which is over 100 bucks.† This one is 90 dollars plus tax.† I could have driven another 20 minutes south and stayed in Biggs Junction, like I did last year, for about 70 bucks, but I would only have had a small fridge and microwave, and this place is nicer.† I wanted to stay here because I thought I might need some time tomorrow morning to get to 39 in the county.† As it turned out, Iíve got my 39, so tomorrow I can just head south.

 

So, thatís my report for today.† I added one to my year list, to bring me to 329, of which 8 are lifers.† I added 15 to my Klickitat county list to bring it to 39, and I also added one to my Kittitas county list, as I saw a couple of Double-crested Cormorants along the Yakima River from the freeway as I drove through Ellensburg.† Kittitas was already at 64 species, so no big deal, but I counts what I sees.

 

For my Washington county project, I now have seen at least 39 species in 22 of the 39 counties, so I still need to add species in 17 counties.† Iíll try to work in some Washington trips later this year to bring some more counties up to 39.

 

So, thatís my story, and Iím stickiní to it.† Tomorrow it is on to Oregon, and weíll see if I can add to my year list at Malheur.† Tomorrow is mostly another travel day, though.

 

 

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

 

Today I drove the 250 miles to Burns, Oregon.† It was another beautiful day and it was a pretty drive.† The only fly in the ointment was the speeding ticket I got in the middle of nowhere.† The speed limit was 55, and it was pretty hard to keep it down to that, or anything close to it, on the straight stretches.† After the ticket, I set the cruise control at 58 or 59, and it sure seemed like I was poking along.† In Washington, the same type of road would have a speed limit of 60 or 65.

 

As I approached Burns, I stopped at the Joachin Miller campground, about 15 or 20 miles north of Burns.† We always go up there to see what mountain species we can add to our list, but Iíve seen two species there that would add to my year list, so I stopped today.

 

I played the calls of both species and a WHITE-HEADED WOODPECKER flew in.† Score!† I chased him from tree to tree, and when he flew off, I went back to the car and played the call again.† This time both a male and a female flew in close.† Here is a picture of a male White-headed Woodpecker.

 

Here is another one.

 

As you might guess, the female looks the same, but without the red patch on the back of the head.

 

I moved to another part of the campground, where I had seen the other species last year, and got a response to the call.† I could hear it and identify it, and eventually I got looks at a TOWNSENDíS SOLITAIRE, high up in a tree.† It was calling back to me.† Here is a backlit picture.

 

It is a very plain bird, darker gray on top and lighter gray underneath.† The distinctive thing about it is the bold white eye ring, which is barely visible in that picture.† The bird flew into another tree, giving me a better background, and I got this picture.

 

I wanted better pictures, but when it flew again I lost it for a moment, and when I picked it up again, it landed in another tree.† I got this picture and realized something was amiss.

 

The eye ring was there, all right, but the breast was now reddish-brown.† An American Robin had flown in and confused me.† The robin seems to have some kind of food in its bill, so maybe it is feeding young.† I could hear the solitaire continuing to call, a short distance away, but I didnít chase it.† Instead, I drove on in to Burns and checked into our motel.† Weíve stayed in this motel for three years in a row now, so it is familiar.

 

Fred showed up a little later Ė he had actually gotten to town a little ahead of me and had taken Tugboat (his Golden Retriever companion) to a park for some exercise.† We both got settled in and went to Safeway to get a little food, to go with some stuff that Fred had brought along.† The rooms have a little fridge and a microwave, and Fred brought along his little charcoal grill and a crockpot.† I brought most of the food Iíll need for breakfast and lunch from home (Fred doesnít usually eat breakfast or lunch).† We went out on a short birding expedition after we got back from the store, to check out a couple of fishing ponds just east of town.† Neither of us remembers seeing them before, although we drove right by there more than once.† We saw a few common species and started our trip list, which now stands at 16.† I expect weíll see all the ones we saw this afternoon more than once on the trip, but it was nice to get out and do a little birding.† The temperature is in the low 70ís with a bit of a breeze, so itís very pleasant out there.† Itís supposed to gradually warm up this week, with no rain in the forecast.

 

With the addition of the two year birds today, Iím now at 331 species for the year, of which 8 are lifers.† I wonít see any more lifers on this trip, but I should get a few more year birds.† Tomorrow we start our official four days of birding.† In 2013 we saw 100 species in our four full days, and last year we saw 104.† So, 104 is the number to beat this year.

 

 

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

 

I was up at 6:15 this morning, and since we werenít planning on leaving until 8:30, I went out to Subway and picked up a tuna sandwich for my lunch, after I showered and had my breakfast.† We left at 8:30 and drove through town, looking for town birds, Western Scrub-jay in particular.† Western Scrub-jays have just moved into this area in the last few years, and we have seen them around town a couple of times.† We didnít see one this morning, though.

 

Our first stop was the sewage treatment ponds.† You canít really access them, but from the back of the fairgrounds you can see one of the ponds.† There is a platform there, but it was kind of rickety last year.† This year it seemed even worse, and the railing was missing from two sides as well.† It is probably about five feet above the ground and neither of us felt like climbing up there this year.† Fortunately, you can still see most of the pond from outside the fence, next to the platform.† Here is a picture of an Eared Grebe in breeding plumage, from behind.† Itís an interesting perspective, I think.

 

You normally donít see that white fluffy rear end, but this bird was kind of puffed up.† Here is a more normal shot from the side.

 

You can see that that oneís rear end is down in the water, not all puffed up.† In the winter, Eared Grebe is very plain looking, gray and white, with no sign of that yellow flashing behind the eye.

 

We picked up lots of ducks there at the sewage ponds, and also both Snow Goose and Rossís Goose, which was great.† There were some gulls around, but so far we havenít bothered trying to identify any gulls for our trip list.† We had nine species of ducks there, as well as the geese and the grebe.

 

We drove slowly along Hotchkiss Road and saw other birds.† I picked up BLACK TERN for my year list along there.† Later we saw them at a number of places.† After that, we headed down highway 205 toward Malheur NWR, which starts about 25 miles south of Burns, where we are staying.† I wish there was somewhere closer to the reserve to stay, but there is very little lodging down there, and nothing that meets our needs, including being able to accommodate Tugboat.

 

In a field along the way, Fred spotted a couple of SANDHILL CRANES, another one for my year list.† A pair of Red-winged Blackbirds was harassing the cranes.† I suppose the blackbirds had a nest nearby and thought the cranes were a threat.† Here is a picture of one of the cranes with the two blackbirds.

 

In this next picture, you can see that the blackbirds were actually landing on the poor crane, and presumably pecking at it.

 

The cranes didnít seem to pay much attention to the blackbirds.† I wonder how long the cranes had been there and how long they stayed.

 

We stopped farther down the road, where I had read of a Ferruginous Hawk nest.† It was described as being at milepost 16.5 and the tree was the only one to the west of the highway.† Here is the tree, and it was indeed the only one around.

 

It didnít seem like a very big tree for such a big bird, but here is the nest, with four well-grown young Ferruginous Hawks in it.

 

Weíve never seen Ferruginous Hawk in the area before, and in fact, I have only seen them a couple of times before this, east of Hollister in California.

 

As we approached The Narrows, a place between two lakes, things looked strange.† It turned out that the lakes were dried up this year at that point, so we saw only green plants where the lakes had always been in the past.† I knew the lakes sometimes dried up partially, but I had never seen them like this.† I had been hoping to see Clarkís Grebe there, as well as Franklinís Gull, both of which would have been new for the year.† Iíve seen both species there in previous years, but this year, with no water, there was no chance of seeing them.† Weíll see if we can find them somewhere else tomorrow.

 

Our first stop when we reached Malheur itself was the headquarters.† As we approached, I got this picture of a Cliff Swallow on a wire.

 

Itís very interesting this year, because the lakes are way down and some places where there has been water in the past are now dry, and yet things are very green and there is more standing water around than usual.† I think that means it was a very dry winter, but they have had a fair amount of rain in recent weeks.† As a result, things are greener than usual, but water levels are lower in many places.

 

We kept adding birds to our trip list as the day went on.† We had seen Yellow-headed Blackbirds at many places, and they were around headquarters at the feeders.† Here is a male Yellow-headed Blackbird on the grass under a feeder.

 

We saw some Great Horned Owl owlets on a nest at the top of a tower, with an adult bird nearby, but there was no way to get a picture.† There were fewer migrants at headquarters than we usually see, and I think it is because we are a week later than we have been in the past, and migration is pretty much ending now.† Still, there were birds around, including a pair of EVENING GROSBEAKS for my year list.† I wasnít able to get a picture, unfortunately.

 

From there we drove to the Malheur Field Station, and on the way I got this picture of a Sage Thrasher.

 

Its bill doesnít seem right Ė the top part is much more curved than the lower part.† Normally, I get my first of the year Sage Thrasher here, but this year I saw them on my Northeast Washington trip in April.

 

We went on down the Center Patrol Road, which is a long stretch of gravel road without much to see.† I ate my lunch while we made our way south.† Eventually we came to Buena Vista ponds, and saw a few more birds for our trip list, like Marsh Wren and Common Yellowthroat.† At the overlook of the ponds, we missed Rock Wren, which I can usually call up there with playback.† Here is a picture of Buena Vista ponds from the overlook.† Most of Malheur is a flat river valley.

 

Here is a picture of a little lizard we saw there.

 

From there we headed east on Diamond Road.† We stopped at a place where we had seen swallows nesting in a sandy bank last year.† Last year there had been two swallow species there, but this year all we could see were BANK SWALLOWS, which was the one I needed for my year list, so that was good.† Here is a picture of a Bank Swallow.

 

We went across the Diamond Valley toward the little community of Diamond, and I got this picture of a Wilsonís Snipe on a fence post.

 

Next up was a very exciting sighting, a male BOBOLINK on a fence post, giving us the closest view of that species we have ever had.† I fumbled to get pictures, and only managed to get two before it flew off.† This first one is interesting because it is from the front, and the bird just looks like a blackbird with a halo and a bit of white on its shoulder.

 

It then turned sideways, and I only got one shot off before it flew, and the shot isnít very good at all.† It does show the color pattern of a male Bobolink, though.

 

I was trying to raise myself up to shoot over the mirror, and that interfered with the picture.

 

We went on in to Diamond and turned around and went back.† We have seen Savannah Sparrows in that valley in the past, but not today.† The fields were pretty flooded today, presumably due to recent rains, and I think the sparrows like dry fields, not flooded ones.

 

In one of the flooded fields, there was a bird that stumped me.† It appeared to be a shorebird, but it was hunkered down in the water, in a strange way.

 

The base of the bill appeared pinkish, and the bird was too streaked for what I thought it looked like.† Here is a picture of it when it stood up.

 

I finally decided it was a recently fledged Willet.† There was an adult Willet nearby, foraging for food, and I suspect that the fledgling was waiting to be fed.† An adult Willet is much plainer than this bird, but young birds are often more streaked than adults, maybe to camouflage them.

 

We had seen Wilsonís Phalaropes all day long, in various places, and here is a picture of a pair of them.† The female is the more brightly colored of the two.

 

We stopped at the Round Barn, a historic old barn that has been preserved.† I took this picture of a Common Raven near the barn.

 

Fred checked out the inside of the barn, looking to see if a Barn Owl had maybe nested in there or was roosting in there, but all he found were four fledgling Common Ravens.† Here is a picture of two of them.

 

They seemed completely unafraid of us, and from time to time they would let out some really raucous calls.† After seeing my pictures, I now think that the one I showed the picture of was also a fledgling bird.† The base of the bill is kind of light colored, which is common with fledglings of various species, for some reason.† I think the five fledglings were hanging around waiting for mama and papa to bring them some food.

 

It was getting late by then, approaching four, so we headed back toward town.† Instead of taking the gravel road past headquarters and back up highway 205, we went up highway 78, through a stretch referred to by birders as ďraptor alleyĒ.† True to its reputation, we saw a mature Bald Eagle sitting in a field, and then saw a large raptor fly in to another field.† We went back to check it out, and it was a Swainsonís Hawk, another good one for our trip list.† Here is the Swainsonís Hawk sitting in a field.

 

Here it is taking off.

 

We made just one more birding stop, at the fishing ponds we had checked out last night.† There wasnít anything interesting there tonight, though.† We picked up some groceries at Safeway and were back to our motel shortly after five oíclock.† It seemed like we had covered a lot of ground in our eight and a half hours of birding today.

 

We ended up seeing 75 species today, which exceeds our previous record of 68 for our first day here, set last year.† We had 67 on the first day in 2013.

 

I got five more species for my year list today, to bring me to 336 for the year, of which 8 are lifers.† Iím not likely to get many more year birds here this year, having done so well the last two days, but there are some possibilities still.† We will see.† I havenít checked my lists yet, but I canít think of any easy ones, offhand.† So, that was Day One of our 2015 Malheur adventure.

 

 

Thursday, May 28, 2015

 

First of all, I noticed that I had the day wrong yesterday.† It was Wednesday, not Tuesday.† At least I had the right date, even if I didnít know what day it was.† Iíve corrected the report on my website.

 

This morning we set out about 8:45.† Our first destination was a road to a boat launch for Malheur Lake.† The road leaves from near headquarters and goes to a channel that connects to the lake.† With the lake so low this year, we were probably half a mile from the actual lake at the boat launch, which made it hard to see the birds at the lake.† My scope brought them in well, but there was too much heat distortion to see much on the lake itself.† We could see some American White Pelicans, though.

 

We got a good one on the way out to the boat launch, too, a Short-eared Owl flying over the marsh.† Short-eared Owls hunt in the day time and look very much like Northern Harrier,† swooping over the marsh.† Here is a distant picture of a Short-eared Owl flying.

 

That one hadnít even been on our radar screen, as we hadnít ever seen one at Malheur before.† I had read an eBird report that mentioned seeing one there, though, so we were looking.† It landed and I got a really terrible, very distant picture of it on the ground.† It is one of my ďuse your imaginationĒ pictures, but it is an owl, for Peteís sake, so cut me some slack.

 

You can even sort of see its ďearsĒ, which arenít actually ears at all, of course.

 

We got both California Gull and Ring-billed Gull out there, for our trip list, and I guess thatís where we got Caspian Tern, too.† At a stop on the way back there were 4 or 5 gulls flying overhead, and one of them was calling.† The one calling turned out to be a black-headed FRANKLINíS GULL, for my year list.† I was happy to get that, as I wonít see them anywhere else this year, and we never saw another one today.

 

After we finished out there in the marsh, we headed south to Buena Vista ponds again, where we had been yesterday.† We drove out to the Center Patrol Road (CPR) and headed south to Diamond Lane.† There were two particular species I was looking for along there, both of them flycatchers.† We stopped from time to time when we saw an interesting bird, and usually it was nothing or we couldnít locate it again.† At one stop I heard a bird song that I thought I recognized, though, so I dug out my cell phone and played the song of one of the flycatchers I was looking for.† That was it!† WILLOW FLYCATCHER, my first of the year.† It looks very much like several other flycatchers, the song is the best way to identify it, so I was proud that I recognized the song.† I continued to play the song, off and on, and the bird flew around and continued to answer.† Eventually it perched at the top of a bush and sang back to us.† It was great to be looking at the bird and hearing its song, thus confirming its identity.† It didnít stick around long enough for a picture, though.

 

A little later on, there was a bird on a fence, and I got the other flycatcher I was looking for, EASTERN KINGBIRD.† This one posed nicely for photos.† Here is a picture of Eastern Kingbird from the front.

 

Here it is from the back.

 

Thatís another one that I probably wonít see anywhere else this year.

 

So, that had been a detour we hadnít needed to take, but it paid off with two year-birds.† On our way back to the highway, I got this picture of a male Bobolink.† The picture isnít very good, but Bobolink is such a great bird that Iím showing it anyway.

 

We got back to the main highway, went farther south, and turned east on Krumbo Lane, the road to Krumbo Reservoir.† It seemed like a long dusty drive to get there, and when we got there, it was disappointing, just like it has always been in the past.† Here is a picture of Krumbo Reservoir.

 

Lots of water and damn few birds.† We did have a fly-by of our first Forsterís Tern of the trip, which was nice, but later we saw more of them, so the trip out to Krumbo Reservoir was still useless, as it always has been in the past.† I had read that Clarkís Grebe had been seen there last week, and that would have been a great year bird, so we gave it a go.

 

After that, we drove down the southern half of the CPR (Central Patrol Road, remember?).† The CPR is a dusty gravel road that is pretty corrugated in places.† We stopped at Benson pond but it was pretty dead there.† There was a lot of water along the way, but we didnít see anything new except Ring-necked Pheasant at three places.

 

There was a bird in that stretch that mystified me.† It appeared to be a dove or pigeon, but the light was terrible, coming from behind it, and I couldnít see much color or pattern on it.† The one thing we could see was that there seemed to be an iridescent patch on the neck.† I had no idea what dove or pigeon would have such a patch.† I got some pictures and I consulted my field guide.† Here is a heavily processed picture of the bird.

 

In the processed picture, I can see the markings that indicate it is a Mourning Dove, which is very common here.† My field guide says that the male Mourning Dove has ďvariable iridescence on the sides of the neck.Ē† Iíve never seen that iridescence before, and Iíve seen many many Mourning Doves, so it completely threw me.† Iím always learning something new about birds, it seems.† We finally saw a corvid we agreed was an American Crow along that stretch, too.† There are lots of ravens, but not many crows out there.

 

At the south end of the CPR we came to P Ranch.† Fred took Tugboat up the trail along the river to a place where Tug could have a little dip in the water, while I stayed near the car.† No new birds there.† We stopped in the little community of Frenchglen and wandered around a little.† We added Belted Kingfisher and House Wren there, to our trip list.

 

At that point it was getting late (Frenchglen is 60 miles south of Burns, so we have to cover a lot of ground each day, and the gravel roads arenít fast), so we hustled up highway 205 back to Burns, with a little detour to the reserve headquarters to see if we could add anything else to our trip list.† As it turned out, we were able to add Black-chinned Hummingbird and Pine Siskin to our list, so the stop was well worth it.† We got back to town just before 5 and stopped at Safeway for a couple of things, then came ďhomeĒ.† Fred had left a beef stew cooking in his crockpot all day, and we had it for dinner tonight.† Delicious.

 

So, we added 17 more species to our trip list today, to bring us to 92 for the trip.† Last year we only had 86 after two days, and in 2013 we only had 77 after two days Ė so we are ďOn the ImproveĒ, as the title of an Aussie country song puts it.† As a reminder, our goal is to beat last yearís grand total (for 4 days) of 104, so we still have some work to do and two days to do it in.

 

I added three species to my year list, to bring me to 339 for the year, of which 8 have been lifers.† I happened to notice today that last year at this point I had 419 species for the year.† There are various differences, of course, but the biggest difference is that last year I went to Texas in April, and this year I went to Southeast Arizona in May.† Texas in April for migration) is the best birding I have ever experienced, and thatís the main reason why I had a bigger total at this point last year.† This year I have a trip to Fiji and New Zealand planned, though, so I expect I will eventually surpass my 2014 total of 448 species, although maybe not by all that much.† Iíd love to get to 500 this year, but that is probably out of reach.

 

Tomorrow we are planning to go up the Steenís Mountain Loop Road to a higher elevation (over 7400 feet), to try for some mountain species.† I havenít ever been up there before, and itíll be interesting to see a new place.† Itíll be another day with lots of driving, though, as we first have to go back to Frenchglen, 60 miles south of here, and then start up the mountain road.

 

 

Friday, May 29, 2015

 

Today was our day for going partway up Steenís Mountain.† We had gone a little way up the road once before, but today we were headed for Fish Lake (7400 feet elevation), which is about 18 or 20 miles up the gravel road, farther than we had gone before.

 

We were out of here, with the car gassed up by about nine, and we drove through town, looking for Western Scrub-Jay, which we found.† They have moved into this area recently and are only found in town at this point.† We had unsuccessfully looked a couple of times before, but today Fred spotted one at the top of a tree.† Our next stop was the sewage treatment pond.† We found another approach that gave us a different perspective on it than we have had before.† There were fewer ducks and water birds there today than on Wednesday, but we did manage to see a lone male Common Goldeneye, which was new for our trip list.† On our way out of town we went to the end of Hotchkiss Lane to check out another sewage treatment pond, and got a pair of Ring-necked Ducks, another species we hadnít seen yet this year.† So, we had three more for our trip list and hadnít really gotten started yet.

 

We headed south toward Frenchglen, which is about 60 miles south of Burns.† It is where Steenís Mountain Loop Road starts.† On the way we saw some phalaropes on the pond by the power substation, and I thought one of them looked different.† I took some pictures, but it ended up being a male Wilsonís Phalarope, the species we have seen a lot of.† Mostly we have seen females, though, so this male looked different to me.

 

As we were starting to get close to Frenchglen, there was water to the east of the road, and at one point there were a couple of white blobs out there, big enough to be interesting.† They turned out to be swans, and my scope brought them in close enough to identify them as Trumpeter Swans.† Thatís the first time we have seen a swan here in this area.

 

We didnít see anything in Frenchglen, and we decided to check out Page Springs campground before we started up the mountain.† As we approached the campground, we saw a Yellow-breasted Chat singing at the top of a bush.† Here is the chat.

 

In the campground itself, we stopped to look for a bird we had seen there last year.† Once again we found a pair of VIRGINIA RAILS with a little family of fuzzy black chicks, in the same place we found them last year.† Here is a picture of one of the adult Virginia Rails.

 

There were at least three little black fluff ball chicks running around.† Here is one of them.

 

So, we were finally ready to head up the mountain, we had six for our trip list already, and I had one year bird.† Outstanding!

 

The gravel road up the mountain was very good, and we made good time, probably averaging 35 mph.† It was a long, steady climb, taking us up about 3000 feet in about 16 or 18 miles.† I was disappointed that there were almost no birds at all along the way.† From reports I had read, I was hoping to see birds along the road.

 

We got to Fish Lake just after noon.† Before we could even go into the campground, we saw a flycatcher along the road.† It hung around and cooperated for pictures.† Iíve often mentioned how difficult flycatchers are to identify, but I decided this one was a DUSKY FLYCATCHER, a great one for my year list.† Here is a picture of it from the back.

 

Here is what it looked like from the front.

 

There were various points of identification that made me decide it was a Dusky Flycatcher, including the short wings, the long tail, the size and color of the bill, and the yellowish color of the belly.† The eye ring is right, too, wider at the back.

 

While I was getting pictures of that guy, a male Mountain Bluebird was also showing himself.† I love the powder blue color of male Mountain Bluebirds.† Here is a shot from the side.

 

Here is a front view.

 

I got a couple more pictures of a flycatcher that I think was the same Dusky Flycatcher I already showed pictures of, but Iím not certain it was the same bird.† In some ways, it looks different, I think.† Here are two more flycatcher pictures.

 

 

In those last two pictures, the bird looks more compact to me, and maybe with a larger head.† Flycatchers are hard, as I keep saying.

 

We moved into the campground and drove around.† I was hungry by then, and I ate half of my humble lunch at one end of the lake, at a nice picnic table.† We had another male Mountain Bluebird around, as well as a couple of Yellow Warblers and a bird we failed to identify.

 

After I ate we drove through the rest of the campground.† We picked up White-crowned Sparrow for our trip list at that point, and then a Red-breasted Sapsucker.† Here is the sapsucker.

 

Here is another picture, showing the head better.

 

That was all we got there, and we headed back down the mountain.† When we got to the bottom we visited P Ranch, to look for a Least Flycatcher that we had been told about, but we couldnít find it.† Fred saw a Spotted Towhee there, but I didnít see it, so we couldnít count it for our trip list.† We both have to see a bird to count it.

 

We drove back up highway 205 again Ė we do a lot of driving up and down that highway.† We stopped once to let Tugboat get some exercise, and then stopped by headquarters again.† There were a couple of female Evening Grosbeaks at the feeders, and I got the closest pictures of Evening Grosbeak I have ever gotten.

 

 

I had counted that species for my year list a couple of days ago, so it wasnít new for any lists today.† I was happy to get the pictures, though.

 

Someone had shown us a Yellow Warbler nest a couple of days ago, and today I finally got pictures of the female Yellow Warbler sitting on the nest.† Here is the nest, with the bird peeking out at me at the top.

 

Here is a close up of the female Yellow Warbler.

 

There wasnít a lot around, but we wandered around and looked for birds.† The visitor center is run by volunteers, usually a couple, and the man came out and chatted with us about the birds in the area.† He pointed out the COMMON NIGHTHAWK sitting on a branch in plain view.† Nighthawks are night birds, as their name implies, and during the day they roost on branches, usually.† It was a great one for my year list.† Here is the Common Nighthawk.

 

I also got this picture of a female Bullockís Oriole at an orange.

 

It was time to head for town by then, so we boogied up the highway.† On the way we stopped at the Ferruginous Hawk nest I showed the other day, and the nestlings were showing themselves very well, so I got this picture of three of them.† They look almost ready to fledge to me, based on their size and plumage.

 

With the light coming from behind the nest, it was possible to get a picture that shows the massive size of the nest.

 

So, that was it for our day.† We stopped at Safeway and got some steaks, some corn on the cob, and some potato salad for our dinner, and got back to our rooms by about 5:10.† It had been another fairly short day of about eight hours, including a lot of driving.† Short for serious birders, that is, but pretty long for a dilettante birder like me.

 

We added 11 species to our trip list, to bring us to 103 species after three days, just one short of the record we set last year in four days.† We have one more day to go, and we plan to start it out with a visit to the mountains north of Burns, where we have been before.

 

I added three more to my year list, which was amazing to me.† That brings me to 342 for the year, of which 8 have been lifers.† I canít really imagine what I might add tomorrow.† There are some possibilities, but none of them are likely.

 

 

Saturday, May 30, 2015

 

This morning as I was having breakfast, I found a tick in the short hair on the back of my head.† It was the first time I had actually ever seen a tick, but I Googled it, and thatís what it was.† It hadnít yet settled in, so no harm done, but it caused me to check the rest of myself.† Since it hadnít yet dug in, I figured it must have been on my shirt overnight and then got off onto me this morning.† I crushed it, and it was really a tough little bugger.

 

So, having dodged that bullet, I had my breakfast and got ready for the day.† I had time to run out and pick up a tuna sandwich at Subway and get ten bucks worth of gas, so tomorrow I can make it to the cheap Pilot gas station west of Pendleton.† I washed my windshield, too, and I realized that letting bugs sit on your windshield for three days, baking in the sun, isnít a good idea.† I worked hard at it, but it is still isnít perfectly clean.

 

We got off about nine, as usual, after gassing up Fredís truck.† This morning we were heading to the mountains north of Burns, to look for some mountain species.† At our first stop, I realized I had left my phone in the room.† Playing bird calls has become such an integral part of my birding that we took 20 minutes to go back and get my phone.† Phone in hand, we tried for a vireo I needed for my year list.† We had a response, and Iím sure the bird flew in, but we didnít get a good enough look at it to count it, and then it wouldnít come in again.† Itís interesting how various species react to playing their songs and calls.† Some species will fly right in and be obvious.† Others will approach but hide in the bushes and respond vocally.† Still others will fly in once, check you out, and then be gone, never to come back again.† Probably others donít respond at all, but I have no way of knowing that, if they donít respond.† I canít tell if they simply arenít there, or if they arenít responding.† Anyway, we struck out on my vireo and went on up the mountain to Joachim Miller campground, where I had seen both White-headed Woodpecker and Townsendís Solitaire on Monday.

 

This morning I couldnít entice either species in, but we did pick up Western Bluebird and Stellerís Jay for our trip list, so that was fine.† We left there and headed toward Idlewild campground.† On the back way into Idlewild, we picked up Chipping Sparrow and Dark-eyed Junco for our trip list, and I got this picture of a male Western Tanager with a bug.

 

I think that male Western Tanagers are very attractive birds, and I was pleased to get that picture.

 

At Idlewild campground, we soon saw another pair of Western Bluebirds and also a male Cassinís finch for our trip list.† We walked around and heard a chipping call at one point.† Fred tracked it down, and it turned out to be a GRAY FLYCATCHER, a great one for my year list.† I have said repeatedly that flycatchers are difficult to identify, but the Gray Flycatcher is supposed to be the only one in its family that bobs it tail down repeatedly.† This bird today was definitely doing that, and nothing about it conflicted with Gray Flycatcher.† Here is a picture of it.

 

There are four or five flycatchers in that family that look very similar, and the tail bobbing thing is what I count on to identify Gray Flycatcher.

 

When we finished at Idlewild, we went back to Joachim Miller campground and tried again for Townsendís Solitaire and White-headed Woodpecker.† This time we got a vocal response from the solitaire, and eventually Fred spotted it high up in a tree, so that one went on our trip list.† We never saw or heard the woodpecker, though.

 

On our way down the mountain, we stopped a couple of places and looked again for the vireo I wanted to see.† At one stop we might have had a response, but the bird flew off and we never saw it again.† We did pick up a Hairy Woodpecker there, though, for our trip list.

 

At the next stop we finally both got good binocular looks at a CASSINíS VIREO, so I had my second year-bird of the day.† We stopped once more after that, and picked up Spotted Towhee for our trip list.† So, we left the mountains with ten species for our trip list, and I had two for my year list.† That was a great result.

 

We had spent all morning doing that, and in the afternoon we headed east for a circuit around ďraptor alleyĒ.† We were looking for sparrows and raptors and planned to end the day at Malheur NWR headquarters.† I ate my lunch as we traveled, and we watched for birds.

 

Our first score for our trip list was a Horned Lark on a fence.† Here is a picture I like, both because of the blurred out background and the ďhornsĒ you can see on the Horned Lark.

 

A little later there was a sparrow on a fence and we turned around and went back.† I got a quick look at it, and although I wasnít sure of the identification, I had enough of a clue that I looked it up and played the call.† A couple of VESPER SPARROWS responded by flying up to the fence and then flying back and forth, posing for me.† At the time I thought it was a year bird for me, but after consulting my records, I see that I saw the species on my Eastern Washington trip in April.† Here is a Vesper Sparrow.

 

Both of my field guides mention that reddish-brown patch on the ďshoulderĒ of the bird and say it isnít usually visible when the bird is perched.† Hereís another view, and the shoulder patch is visible in this one, too.

 

We continued down raptor alley and spotted a very large bird on a power pole. †It turned out to be a Golden Eagle, a great one for our trip list.† I had seen the species in the Monterey area earlier in the year, so it wasnít a year bird, but I donít see them very often.† We had a good scope view at 60X, but I wanted to get a picture.† I walked out into a field along a fence line, trying to get closer.† I did get closer before it flew off, but not close enough for a good picture.† Here is the best I could do of the Golden Eagle.

 

As I took that picture, I realized that I was being mobbed by some kind of flying insects that looked suspiciously like mosquitoes.† They were landing on my arms and I was trying to brush them off.† I donít know what they were, but so far I donít seem to have any itchy bites, so either they werenít mozzies or I kept them brushed off enough.

 

Continuing on down the road, we saw a number of Red-tailed Hawks.† One bird stumped us, but after looking at pictures, we decided it was an oddly plumaged Red-tailed Hawk.† Here is a picture of that raptor.

 

The breast spotting and the facial markings are different from anything we are used to, but we figured it must have been a Red-tailed Hawk, as we couldnít come up with any other alternative.

 

Still farther along there was as smaller raptor on a power pole.† We had to turn around and go back, and we stopped some distance down the road and took a look through the windshield with binoculars.† After taking a look, I decided that it deserved a scope view, and I got out to get the scope out of the back of the truck.† That spooked the bird and it flew off, unfortunately.† We discussed it, and both agreed that it had been a PRAIRIE FALCON, a really great bird to get for my year list.† I wish we had chosen to try to approach closer in the truck, instead of getting out for the scope, but Iím satisfied that it was a Prairie Falcon, so it will just have to go down as a BVD bird Ė Better View Desired.

 

We got to the tiny community of Princeton and headed across the gravel road toward Malheur headquarters.† It had been graded and graveled recently and we could go 45 or 50 on it, which was great.† At one point a bird flew across the road and off to the right.† It was an interesting size and color and I was able to follow it with my binoculars, once we stopped.† It perched on a bush, too far for a good picture, but I got this distant picture of a Burrowing Owl, an excellent bird for our trip list.

 

We hadnít expected that.

 

At headquarters, we walked around and saw a few birds, but nothing new.

 

You might remember that yesterday I showed a couple of pictures of a Yellow Warbler nest with a female Yellow Warbler sitting on it.† Today she was on the nest again, but at one point she left it, and I got this picture of her in the same flowering tree.

 

I notice that she is all puffed up, and suspect that she is doing that because she was incubating eggs, and by puffing up her feathers, she can keep them warmer.† That is just my speculation.

 

Here is a picture of a male Yellow Warbler that I like very much.† I like the colors in particular.

 

Male Yellow Warblers have red streaks on their breasts, and these next two pictures of a male Yellow Warbler show the streaks.

 

 

As we left, I got the last picture of the day and of the trip Ė a Western Wood-Pewee, I think, although flycatchers are tough, as I keep saying.

 

So, that was it for our fourth Malheur trip.† We started keeping a trip list on the second trip, in 2013 and got 100 species in our four days that year.† In 2014, we got 104 species in the same four days.† This year, again in four days, we got 118 species, thus blowing the previous record out of the water.† I guess we are just getting to be better birders.

 

To my great surprise, I was able to add another three species to my year list today, making it 17 year-birds for the trip.† I had expected to get maybe 6 or 8 on the trip, but I hadnít actually made a spreadsheet.† That brings me to 345 for the year, of which 8 have been lifers.

 

Tomorrow I hope to drive all the way home, which is about an 8 to 9 hour drive.† Iíll use coffee to keep awake if necessary.† The good news is that it should be an easy drive.† It is just a matter of keeping awake and driving carefully.† My next planned trip is to Yosemite, but that is a family trip, not a birding trip.† I could pick up a bird or two for my year list, though, so there could be a report or two.† I leave on that trip on June 19, I think.† I could do some Washington State birding in the meantime, and there are summer birds returning now, so there could be additions to my year list at home, too.† If so, that will cause me to write a report.

 

Thanks for coming along on my Malheur trip.† See you next time.