alaskabirder

Its a Great Day to Bird

More Arizona Birding

3 February 2019

We woke to a beautiful sunrise at Whitewater Draw and the departure of waves and waves of thousands and thousands of Sandhill Cranes.  They filled the sky –what a sight.  This time Pat and I walked down to the viewing areas to see the cranes depart, while Jack and Bob stayed back at the campsite.

We left Whitewater Draw around 10:00 a.m. and made our way to Madera Canyon.  We decided to come here rather than try Gilbert Ray campground.  We stopped for lunch at the Horseshoe Café in Benson, which I would rate a 4.5 out of 5.0 stars.  Good food.  Apparently others agree as the place was very busy.

Just before Dawn …

Sunrise

The blackbirds roost in this wetland – lots of cattails, which they love

Most of these birds are Yellow-headed Blackbirds

Cactus Wren…

… here looking for food on the ground

Black-throated Sparrow

Black-throated Sparrow

We arrived at Madera Canyon around 2:00 p.m. greeted by an overcast sky, rain, and wind.  One positive note, we did find a campsite in Bog Springs Campground.   We parked and hung out until around 3:00 p.m. and then proceeded to the Santa Rita Lodge to check out the bird feeders.  The lousy weather resulted in not as many birds at the feeders, although the Blue-throated Hummingbird was present.  The Coatimundi also came several times.  Since our last visit a little over a week ago, the Lodge owners placed a hummingbird feeder for the Coatimundi below the seating/viewing area.  I think this was so people didn’t try and feed the animal as it came up to feeder adjacent to the parking area.  However, the new hummingbird feeder was empty so the Coatimundi would still go back to the parking lot feeder where he was used to getting sugar water.  Only problem is, that feeder had been removed.  Poor guy, he looked so bewildered.

Afterwards we drove to where the Elegant Trogon has been repeatedly seen.  Alas, no Trogon.  We heard reports the White-throated Thrush had been seen here too, but no Thrush either.  We continued on down the trail and did get a few birds, but not much moving in the rain soaked forest.

Mexican Jay

Blue-throated Hummingbird

Blue-throated Hummingbird

White-breasted Nuthatch

Acorn Woodpecker

The Coatimundi coming in for the sugar water

4 February 2019

We woke to windy, overcast conditions – not always ideal for birding.  We left the campground around 9:00 a.m. and stopped at the parking lot where the Trogon has been seen. No Trogon.  We then drove down to the Proctor parking lot and parked our vehicles.  Bob, Pat, Jack, and I then walked up the trail in search of the White-throated Thrush.  Bob and Pat had not seen it yet at Madera Canyon.  Some campers from yesterday told us where they had seen it today and gave us directions.  So off we went taking the right fork of the trail.  We didn’t get too far when we saw a group of birders and photographers pointing and looking up into a tree.  In great anticipation, we approached quickly, and we all got great views of the bird – with binoculars.  I say that because although it was close it was backlit and all you could see was a black bird.  This bird is so not black, but a shift in our position and with the help of foliage behind the bird we soon saw its splendid markings.

The bird then dropped to the ground to feed and we got even better views.  Depending on where you were standing, the bird was either in open view or almost obscured by branches and leaves.  I had an open view and told a photographer to stand in front of me and then I got him on the bird.  He got some great shots.  Me.  None.  Oh well.  The bird then flew back up into some brush.  Luckily I was able to follow the bird so I knew where it was sitting.  However, it wasn’t easy to always get everyone on the bird because the bird was partially obscured by branches and vegetation.  But it would occasionally move and at one point I got some decent shots.  A lot better than the first time I saw the bird over a week ago.  I wonder how many people have seen this bird – it seems to attract a crowd.

More birders were arriving, so we retreated to the parking lot.  However, just before we got there Pat and I heard several gnatcatchers.  Two Black-capped Gnatcatchers have been spotted in this vicinity in recent days.  Despite our best efforts we could not positively ID the birds as Black-capped Gnatcatchers.  So then what were they?  We think they were Blue-Gray Gnatcatchers.  These two birds look very similar during the non-breeding season.  To me the differences are very subtle.  I took my photo and checked it against Merlin ID, but this app wasn’t any help since Merlin listed all four gnatcatchers and a vireo as possibilities.  Was my photo that bad?

Our next stop was the Juan Batista de Anza greenway trail in the community of Tubac.  An immature Rose-throated Becard had been seen here yesterday.  We looked but didn’t see much in the way of birds.  That may be due to the wind – strong.  I know the White-throated Thrush was mostly hunkered down in the trees while we spent about 30 minutes watching the bird.

We had an 80+ mile drive ahead of us – and through Tucson – so we ended our birding for the day around 1:30 p.m. and headed north.  We are staying the night at Picacho Peak State Park.  Bob and Pat give me a hard time because I had difficulty with the pronunciation, at first, so I simply called it either Pistachio or Pinocchio State Park.  We were lucky to get a camp spot here.  It is a popular place – always full.  Lots of really big RV rigs all wanting electric sites.  I think our “tin tent” van was the smallest rig there – no tents.  As I mentioned before, it is getting harder and harder to get into certain state park campgrounds in Arizona.  Good for Arizona State Parks, no so good for us campers.  I guess there are more baby boomers who are becoming Snowbirds.  But the state park campgrounds aren’t cheap.  We also find that many people stay in these campgrounds for a week or more, whereas the longest we’ve stayed at a campground this trip is four days.  We picked this campground because it is close to Santa Cruz Flats, an area that is supposed to be good for winter birds – particularly grassland birds like the Mountain Plover.  We will let you know if that is true or not.

White-throated Thrush

White-throated Thrush

De Anza trail

Inca Dove

De Anza Trail

Various types of nest boxes. Jack thinks this was a project by the Tucson Audubon involving Lucy’s Warblers.

5 February 2019

Today we went birding an area known as Santa Cruz Flats.  It is an agricultural area northwest of Picacho Peaks Campground.  The goal was to find several birds:  Mountain Plover (found 33 of them in one field), Horned Lark (saw several dozen), and Crested Caracara (luckily we saw one).  And, finding a Ferruginous Hawk and a Prairie Falcon were pleasant surprises.

Before we headed out birding we had a frantic half hour thinking Jack had lost his wallet.  We called the grocery store we stopped at yesterday for groceries.  No luck there.  We checked the campsite we had just vacated.  Nothing there.  We stopped at the visitor center/administration office to see if it had been turned in.  No luck there.  Then I searched the bedding, because I had tossed Jack’s pants onto the bed this morning.  Sure enough the wallet had slipped out of his pocket and got hidden in the comforter.  Whew!!!  We weren’t looking forward to cancelling credit cards and a getting Jack a new driver’s license (or me having to drive).

We also got reservations for the next two nights at Picacho Peaks State Park, albeit in different campsites each night.  Tonight we are in the overflow area.  We have a picnic table, fire ring, and access to a vault toilet but no electricity – perfect for us.  Water is at the dump station regardless of where you camp.  I imagine many of the big rigs would prefer having a water hookup at their site.  The overflow site cost is only  $15.00 per night.  Tomorrow night we are in site B-23.  Not an ideal site, but we will have electricity as the nighttime temperatures are supposed to dip to 31 degrees F.  Brrrrrrr.  Plus, I want to recharge my electronics before we have several nights without electricity at our next destination.

After birding we returned to our campsite for the night (Overflow Site #2) and got caught up on emails and such.  Tomorrow we might revisit the Santa Cruz Flats and do some hiking in the park.

Campsite A-9 at Picacho Peak State Park

Western Meadowlark

Horned Lark

Prairie Falcon

American Kestrel

White-crowned Sparrow

Site #2 in the overflow camping area at Picacho Peak State Park

Picacho Peak

Sunset

6 February 2019

Rained last night so we didn’t think the dirt roads in Santa Cruz Flats would be conducive to driving in our van.  Instead we drove into Oro Valley (Tucson suburb) and went to Trader Joe’s (oh how I miss this store – our Portland, Oregon days), the bank (need money for our Guyana trip), and to get gas for the van.  We ended the trip into town with a movie (A Dog’s Way Home).

We returned to the campground and just hung out.  A cold wind is blowing so not conducive to sitting outside and enjoying the scenery or going for a walk.  There is a hard frost warning for tonight.  We are at an electrical site, but we don’t leave the heater running all night long.  So it will be a cold morning.

Tomorrow we head north to Buckeye, which is west of Phoenix. – a two hour drive.  Our goal is to visit a Thrasher hotspot and find the LeConte’s, Bendire’s, and Sage Thrashers, plus the Sagebrush Sparrow.

Campsite B-23 at Picacho Peak State Park

7 February 2019

It was cold last night and thankfully we had our heater.  It’s not fun sitting in the van wearing your winter clothes, before going to bed.  And this morning — ice on the pumpkin so to speak.  We always leave our camp stove and fuel tank out at night and the stove was coated in frost this morning.  Surprisingly the water in their containers, which we also left outside, did not freeze.  They have in the past.

We broke camp and headed towards the “Thrasher Hotspot” near Buckeye, Arizona.   We were almost there when I saw a number of birds in a semi-flooded farm field so we stopped.  I spotted the distinctive shape of Long-billed Curlew, which I was hoping to see in Arizona.  There were over 50 of these shorebirds in the field, along with about 40 Greater Yellowlegs, and at least 20 Killdeer.  In addition to these shorebirds there were 35 Great Egrets.  The field flooding must have revealed something good to eat for these birds as they were busily feeding.  And the area also attracted hundreds of blackbirds (yellow-headed and red-winged) and grackles (great-tailed).  Of course  there was a cattle feedlot across the road so that might be an attraction for the birds.

We finally got to the “Thrasher Hotspot” around 10:30 a.m.  There were two other cars at the parking lot.  For some reason I was thinking this area would be out in the middle of nowhere.  Nope.  There is a huge chicken facility (think eggs) nearby, and some houses in the distance.  The land is Arizona State Trust lands.  You simply walk the area and hope you find some thrashers on the top of vegetation singing away.  We did.  We saw the LeConte’s and the Bendire’s Thrashers, plus the Sagebrush Sparrow.  I was happy to see all three of these species.  I’m not sure if the other birders saw the birds or not.  We had to use our spotting scope to get decent views and neither birder was carrying a spotting scope.

Afterwards we headed to our campground for the night – Skyline Regional Park (managed by the City of Buckeye).  There are seven campsites (A-G).  We are in campsite E.  There currently is only one other camper.  I suspect that will change tomorrow night (Friday).  The cost is $20.00 per night for a site with a picnic table and fire ring, and a communal toilet (they’re metal toilets).  There is no water source or electrical hookups at the campground.  A little expensive, in my view given the lack of water and electrical hookups, but it is located near the “Thrasher Hotspot” so good enough.  We didn’t know if we were going to see the birds in our first try so we booked this place for two nights.  You can just show up and book a site for the night, if available, although we didn’t know that when we booked our site online.  If we had known, we would have just shown up.  To register online you have to fill out a form then wait for the City to contact you by phone to let you know whether they have anything available, and if so, then they take your credit card number. We’re not sure how reliable the reservation system is since when we arrived our site there was no indication the site was reserved for the next two nights.   Hmmmm nothing like confronting someone who takes your site thinking it is open – luckily not our case.

Cold Morning today

Saguaro Cactus with a bird’s nest

Which species made this nest?  Cactus Wren?  One had been spotted singing from the top of the Saguaro.

Cactus Wren under our picnic table eating some type of human food.  Not sure what.  Popcorn maybe?  If so, not ours.

This is part of the Thrasher Hotspot

LeConte’s Sparrow

Sagebrush Sparrow

Sagebrush Sparrow

Sagebrush Sparrow

Bendire’s Thrasher

Black-tailed Gnatcatcher

Verdin

Campsite E at Skyline Regional Park near Buckeye Arizona

The view from our campsite

That is a bridge you take to the many trails at Skyline Regional Park – not too far from our campsite

Rock Wren

Trail markers

Trail – a little rocky in places

Pincushion cactus

8 February 2019

This morning was cold, but not as cold as yesterday.  No frost on the camp stove.  I woke up at 6:00 a.m. when someone proceeded to park a trailer in the site next to ours – they were here for an Eagle Scout project.  Technically they aren’t supposed to put their camping equipment in that spot until 1:00 p.m.  So much for the rules.  Also, quiet hour is from 10:00 p.m. to sunrise.  The sun hadn’t risen when they came in with the trailer, and the person who brought in the trailer kept slamming a lot of doors – not so quiet.  So much for campground rules.

The park does have a “no glass in the park” policy.  I think they don’t want beverage containers broken in the day use area or on the trails.  Campers need a beer permit (at $25.00 per permit) if they want beer at their campsite (no mention of other alcohol).  Does that mean they have to have canned beer?  Personally I like those parks that prohibit alcohol.

The day-use area for this park is located immediately adjacent to the camping area making for an interesting morning when there were people parking and heading out on the trail before it was even light.  By the time we left for the Thrasher Hotspot (around 8:45 a.m.) there were already 24 cars in the parking lot and ten cars passed us as we were leaving the park.  This area has a great trail system so is very popular.  We were surprised they don’t charge a day-use fee – slam the campers instead.

The reason for going back to the “Thrasher Hotspot” was to try and see a Sage Thrasher, but no luck.  We did see the LeConte’s and Bendire’s Thrashers again.  Also several Sagebrush Sparrow’s.  The Bell’s Sparrow (a look-alike to the Sagebrush Sparrow), has also been spotted here, although we don’t think we saw it.  But who knows???   The differences between the two birds are so subtle I doubt I would be able to tell the difference without a good photo with both birds in the same frame.  Even then I’m not so sure I could tell the difference.

We were the first ones at the site, but we were later joined by six other people.  Several of those individuals were looking solely for the Bell’s Sparrow so it must have been spotted here recently.

The plan was to go hiking at the park in the afternoon, but instead we ended up spending most of our time looking for the thrashers and sparrows.  We got back to the park around 3:45 p.m. and found one additional camper set up.  I wonder if they had a reservation or not.  The sign for camping says the sites are available after 1:00 p.m. if there is no one assigned to the site.  However, we paid for our site and still there is nothing formal indicating we have this site reserved for two nights.  The reservation system for this park definitely needs improvement.

Tomorrow we head to Apache Junction where we will stay with friends before heading to Guyana, South America, on 12 February for a two-week bird tour.  Guyana has over 800 bird species so should be a full-meal-deal.

Black-capped Gnatcatcher

We saw a lot of lizards out today, while none yesterday. Weird.

Globe Mallow

Bendire’s Thrasher

Sagebrush Sparrow

Lots of garbage at the Thrasher Hotspot

9 February 2019

We left the campground early today – 7:30 a.m. so we could get to Riparian Preserve at Gilbert Water Ranch near Phoenix.  We always like this place for birding and we weren’t disappointed today either.  We had a total of 52 different species.  There were Anna’s Hummingbirds everywhere we went in this area.   Must be breeding time because they seemed to be either chasing each other or chasing off the competition.   And if you ever want to see an Abert’s Towhee – this is the place — we saw at least 27 of them today, including five at one time.  And, too many rabbits to keep track.

The Gilbert Water Ranch is a series of reclaimed water treatment ponds.  The water levels are managed so a lot of great habitat resulting in a diversity of birds – desert species, riparian species, water birds, and shorebirds.  The area is very popular – utilized by birders and non-birders alike.  I think the birds have adjusted to all the people as we often had great, close up views.

We went to a pizzeria for lunch called Pieology.  Cute.  A custom-made pizza — you go along a buffet-like line and tell them what kind of crust, sauce, cheese, and toppings you want on your pizza and ta-da, it’s made to your specifications, cooked, and brought to your table.  Delicious.

From there we went to our friends Carla and Wayne’s where we will spend the next several days before heading to Guyana.

Riparian Preserve – lots of ponds and trails around the ponds

Nice wide trails

American White Pelican

Green Heron

Belted Kingfisher

Abert’s Towhee – one of many we saw

Mallard – Male

And there are a lot of bunnies. We even saw one with a dart in its side.

Green-winged Teal – Male

Juvenile Black-crowned Night-Heron

Ruddy Duck

Snowy Egret

Long-billed Dowitcher

Least Sandpiper

American Coot

Ring-necked Duck – Male.  You can even see the ring around around its neck.

Ring-necked Duck – Female

Green Heron

Great Egret

American Avocet

Black-necked Stilt

Verdin

Wilson’s Snipe

Cooper’s Hawk

Rock in a tree

We saw a lot of these nests in various trees. We think they are hummingbird nests.

Anna’s Hummingbird – Female

And oh what great lighting on this male Anna’s Hummingbird

This horse was across from the riparian area, but I loved its coloring.

10 February 2019

Today was a lazy day spent getting ready for our upcoming bird tour to Guyana.  We did take a foray out to Prospector Park to bird and walk Carla and Wayne’s two dogs – Willow and Mossy.  At the park, as Jack and Wayne went off to an off-leash area with the dogs while Carla and I birded the park.  As we were walking near a Saguaro cactus I happened to look at one of the many holes and saw something that could either be a bird (owl) or a deformity.  Turns out it was an owl roosting in the sunshine.  Carla and I looked at the bird and tried to identify it without the benefit of knowing what color eyes the owl possessed.  I took many photographs and we checked eBird for the area.  Possibilities included the Whiskered Screech Owl, Flammulated Owl, and Western Screech Owl.  The first two birds would be considered “rare” for this time of year and the Western Screech Owl had never been reported for the park.  Well there is always a first time.  When I compared my photo against the bird id app “Merlin” the bird came back identified as a Western Screech Owl.  Darn.  I was so hoping it would be either the Flammulated or Whiskered Screech Owl because those two birds would be life birds for me.  But I was happy to see a Western Screech Owl.

We had dinner with Carla, Wayne, and friends of theirs who live here during the cold winter months.  Dan and Diane are from Wisconsin and we enjoyed getting to know them.  Dan likes to go to the Dollar Store and get $1 cowboy hats so I am now an Arizona cowgirl!

Some good birds for a city park – Prospector Park in Apache Junction

Vermillion Flycatcher

Say’s Phoebe nest in one of the pavillons

Carla and I were hoping this was a Flammulated Owl or Whiskered Screech Owl. No luck. Western Screech Owl.

Sleepy-time

Soaking up the sun

View of the Superstition Mountains from the park

11 February 2019

Another lazy day with time spent at Prospector Park (us walking the dogs without Carla and Wayne) and getting ready for our upcoming Guyana bird tour.  The Western Screech Owl was still at the park sitting/roosting in the same hole in the Saguaro cactus.  I don’t blame the owl, the sun really does feel great – so nice and warm.

Phainopepla – Male

Bendire’s Thrasher

Not sure what’s supporting the upper half of this cactus???

The road used to walk dogs off leash

Superstition Mountains in the background

Next stop – Guyana, South America.  Until then…

IT’S ALWAYS A GREAT DAY TO BIRD

 

 

Southeastern Arizona Birding

28 January 2019

We spent last night at a hotel in Sierra Vista.  There aren’t many campground (public) around the area so we thought we would catch up on laundry and my blog – posting.  The hotel was fine, although the hot water was tepid at best.  I so wanted a nice HOT bath.  Oh well.

In the morning we stopped for groceries then went to Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) San Pedro Conservation Area, about 8 miles east of Sierra Vista.  We really like this place.  It is a good place to see sparrows and we saw a lot.  However, I’m not very good at identifying many of the sparrows, especially when they are at a distance and constantly moving.  We looked for the Western Screech Owl that roosts in a Fremont Cottonwood next to the visitor center.  The limb the bird is usually seen in had been cut.  Oh my.  So I went in and asked if the owl had been seen.  A volunteer was nice enough to take me back outside and show me the new roosting spot for the owl, which happens to be in the same tree, just a different snag hole.  She said that BLM had wanted to cut down the cottonwoods near the visitor center but the public was in an uproar over it and they backed down and only did some trimming of selected limbs.  She suspects the trees will eventually be cut down for safety reasons.  Too bad for the owl and for us birders who enjoy watching the little Western Screech Owl.

We walked along the San Pedro River.  I was looking for a Dusky Flycatcher and thought I would quickly play the call so I would know it if I heard the bird.  A man walked by and asked if I was looking for the Louisiana Waterthrush.  Well news to us, but you betchya.  Now I’m excited.  He told me where it had been seen so off Jack and I went.  We got to the spot and waited for about 5-10 minutes.  I then walked a short distance along the stream and the bird flushed into a nearby tree.  I bent down to get a photo of the bird (free of twigs or a lot of twigs) and another birder asked me what I had found.  I told him, and he came down with Jack to the area where the bird was perched.  We all got really good looks at the bird.  Woohoo!!!  An unexpected, but pleasant surprise and a new bird for the year.

Tree housing Western Screech Owl

Western Screech Owl

I think something was wrong with it’s right eye

Northern Flicker

Trail to San Pedro River

The sparrows love this habitat

Trail along the river

San Pedro River

Louisiana Waterthrush

Louisiana Waterthrush – see what I mean by twigs

San Pedro River

I love the Fremont Cottonwood trees

Green Kingfisher Pond. I’m not sure when a Green Kingfisher has last been spotted here.

Great Blue Heron

Is it hot and the heron has its mouth open to cool off?  It didn’t feel that hot to us.

Song Sparrow near the pond

The trail through an upland area – route back to the Visitor Center

Pretty dry but populated by sparrows

and a marauding American Kestrel

In all, we walked an estimated 2.4 miles along the scenic riparian greenbelt and slowly made our way back to the visitor center.  We saw a total of 37 different species.

We left the conservation area and drove to Whitewater Draw, our destination for the next several days.  When we got here, around 1:30 p.m. we were fortunate enough to find a camp spot with a picnic table (there are only four such sites).  We then proceeded to check out the birding, which included seeing and hearing an estimated 5,000+ Sandhill Cranes.  These we learned are the “early returners” – cranes that return from the feeding grounds around noon or so (the noon flight).  What an amazing site and sound.  Around dusk (5:30 p.m. or so), huge groups of cranes came flying in (the evening flight) to roost in the open-water wetlands.  The area is also full of ducks, snow geese, and lots of other birds, including two Great Horned Owls in a nearby roosting area.  In total we saw 27 different species.

The only downside to the day was the late arrival (around 5:00 pm) of a “European Monstrosity” (they build their motor homes to survive nuclear blasts, I think), which pulled up right behind us.  The vehicle can’t be more than 20 feet away.  Really???

Greater Roadrunner

A few of the thousands and thousands of Sandhill Cranes at Whitewater Draw

Oh and Snow Goose among the cranes

Greater Yellowlegs

Eastern Meadowlark

Curve-billed Thrasher

29 January 2019

We got up early this morning and went out to see the Sandhill Cranes take off.  Their departure wasn’t as spectacular as their arrival – they all don’t lift off at once.  But there were a LOT of Sandhill Cranes in the area.  I estimated at least 10,000-15,000, but I wouldn’t be surprised if I was off by 10,000 or so.  When you looked up at the sky you could see wave upon wave of Sandhill Cranes flying off to the various farm field to feed.  Not all cranes left the area.  Many fly to a nearby farm field.  However, the majority leave the immediate area.  Then around noon many of the cranes returned to Whitewater Draw to feed, preen, and roost.  Too see this many cranes is mind boggling.  And there were a lot of other people coming out to see the cranes as well.  At one point (around noon) there were at least 25 cars in the parking lot.  This might not seem like many cars, but in past years the most vehicles we would see in the parking lot at one time would be around 5-6.  Nice to see so many people interested in the cranes and their conservation.

Mixed in among all the cranes are several all brown cranes (rather than the typical gray coloring).  And on one of the brown cranes, its red lores (face) and crown actually looked more reddish-orange than the typical red we see on the other cranes.

We spent most of the day walking around and checking out the various birds at this refuge.  We saw a total of 52 different species.  Not too shabby, eh.  We did see five wren species: Cactus, Rock, Bewick’s, Marsh, and House.  What a great day for wrens and wren lovers (me).  The Rock Wren actually came into our camp site and was sitting on the fence railing about five feet from Jack.  And there were lots of Marsh Wrens about, which is not surprisingly since this area is, in part, a marsh.  And speaking of marshes, there must have been over 1,000 Yellow-headed and Red-winged Blackbirds in the marsh or swirling overhead at dusk.  We also had an immature Vermillion Flycatcher.  The immature male does sport the bright red and black feathers.

Later in the day we met up with our friends Pat and Bob.  We birded with them for a couple of hours, pointing out some of the birds we had seen, including the Great Horned Owl in the owl roosting area.  While we scoping out the owl and feeling pretty smug, a woman and her daughter pointed out another Great Horned Owl in plain view that we had walked by without noticing.  I had heard both owls last night so it was nice to see both at the roost site.

Tomorrow we will leave and make our way to Cave Creek Canyon near Portal, Arizona.

The marsh before sunrise – waiting for the cranes to take off

Sunrise

People watching the cranes depart in the morning

The European Monstrosity that parked behind us

Our campsite – after they left

Jack sitting at the picnic table – breakfast time

A few snow geese and assorted ducks

Can you see the owl

Great Horned Owl roosting

There were a lot of Curve-billed Thrashers

Killdeer

Black Phoebe

Savannah Sparrow

Marsh Wren

and again

Here the Marsh Wren is out in the open – a rarity to find it so

Rock Wren

Black-throated Sparrow. Jack likes this sparrow, in part, because it is easy to identify.  Me too.

Immature Vermillion Flycatcher.  Although this bird does not sport the bright red and black, I love the coloring anyways.

The white on the ground are crane feathers

Parent and first year bird (born last summer)

There were two or three cranes that were all brown, rather than the gray coloring like the rest

Meadowlark

The road into Whitewater Draw

Sunset

30 January 2019

This morning we didn’t go down to the marsh viewing area to watch the cranes leave their roosting spot.  Instead we watched the spectacle from the campground (which is close).  But we really should have gone down since the cranes were much closer to the viewing areas this morning than they were yesterday and there seemed to be a continuous departure of cranes for over an hour; filling the sky.  What an amazing site.  And it seemed there were fewer people this morning to witness it.

We birded the area with friends Pat and Bob, and as we neared completion of our birding circuit around 11:00 a.m. we noticed a lot of cars in the parking lot.  Everyone was here for the noon arrival of cranes.   When we left the parking lot to head to Cave Creek Canyon near Portal, Arizona, I counted 40 cars in the parking lot and camping area (non-campers) with more people arriving.  Yesterday there were only 25 cars.  Pat looked at the sign-in register and saw that someone from Homer (other than us) had signed in.  So we checked it out.  Seems as though Mako Haggerty, a water taxi operator and former Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly member, was present to watch the cranes return. The sign-in book had many other out-of-state notations.

Cinnamon Teal

Northern Pintail

We saw Lark Buntings as we were leaving Whitewater Draw

We drove into Douglas Arizona for lunch at Mana Café and Bakery (great place), and then proceeded to Cave Creek Canyon.  We got to the U.S. Forest Service – Sunny Flats Campground around 3:00 p.m.  I was worried we wouldn’t find a camping spot as this campground is in a very scenic location, well designed, and popular.  We need not have worried because we were the first campers for the night.  This was great because we got to pick the best site (#13), which is in full sun and a 360 degree commanding view of the massive rock cliffs surrounding the campground.  In the winter it can get cold here (elevation 5,200 feet), so having the van in the sun is essential.  Pat and Bob joined us at the campground about an hour later, but their favorite spot was taken by a Canadian (Quebec) couple.  We talked with the couple for about an hour about different places they have traveled, including Homer.  They complained about our campgrounds on the Homer Spit, which I agree are not the best.

We plan to stay here at least two nights.  How cold it gets at night and how long it stays cold in the morning will determine if we stay here longer than two nights.

Our campsite at Sunny Flats campground in Cave Creek Canyon

Spotted Towhee – so nice to see several of these birds. They’ve been scarce elsewhere.

Mountains surrounding our campground

31 January 2019

We got a slow start to our birding, other than what we saw in the campground, which included eight species, well nine actually, depending on the raven ID.  We had two ravens but I’m not sure if they were Common Ravens or Chihuahuan Ravens.  I would almost need to have both birds side-by-side.  I sure can’t tell by their calls or seeing them from a distance.  However, the habitat is Common Raven habitat.  The Chihuahuan Raven likes more open desert habitat.

We had intended to go birding up the South Fork of Cave Creek, which is near the campground, but got side-tracked in talking to some of the other campers.  A couple from Quebec and a couple from Colorado, plus our campground host.  Bob and Pat were present too.  I think we talked for over an hour about different places we’ve been, where people should go to see certain birds, etc.  Fun.  Everyone, except the campground host had been to Alaska.  The campground host told me she lives primarily on her social security, which is around $800 per month.  That is why she is a campground host – she doesn’t have to pay the campground fees and she gets free electricity.

We finally left the campground around 10:30 a.m. and walked up the South Fork Road to the trailhead, birding along the way.  We then proceeded about a mile up the trail, before turning back.  In all we walked over 5.0 miles and saw a total of 16 different species, of which six were woodpeckers:  Acorn Woodpecker, Arizona Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Red-naped Sapsucker, and Williamson’s Sapsucker.  The Hairy Woodpecker and the Williamson’s Sapsucker are First of Year Species.  I have a total of 159 First of Year Species for the month of January.  Not too bad for only a month of birding.  We’ve only seen the Williamson’s Sapsucker one other time and that was in Sedona during a hike about 6-7 years ago.  Nice to see the sapsucker again.   Two other great birds we saw were a Painted Redstart and four Yellow-eyed Juncos.  The juncos were in the grass scratching for food within 10 feet of us.  I really like their yellow eyes.

We got back to the campground around 4:30 p.m. and since we are in a canyon, the sun had already disappeared behind the canyon walls.  We decided it would be best to start dinner since we really hadn’t had any lunch yet, and our daylight was fading fast.

I really love this area.  The canyon is uniquely different from the red rocks around Sedona.  These canyon walls have a lot of caves – hence the name.  And the canyon is relatively narrow so the rock walls are relatively close and imposing.

Common Raven

Lots of caves and holes in the canyon walls

South Fork trail

Cave Creek

Brown Creeper

Brown Creeper

Small blue butterfly – Viola Adunca?

Moth

Yellow-eyed Junco

Dark-eyed Junco. We had a lot of these birds in our campground.

Cave Creek

1 February 2019

We left the campground around 10:00 a.m. for some local birding. We stopped at Cave Creek Ranch to check out the feeders (at a cost of $5.00 per person) and left 2.5 hours later.  Fun to watch all the birds come to the various feeders to eat, bath, drink water, chase each other off, and suddenly flush if a raptor came over.  The people we met from Quebec told us about the place and that they had seen a Scott’s Oriole and Blue-throated Hummingbird there yesterday.  We had to stop for the Oriole and we were rewarded with brief views.  I don’t know if this is a life bird for me or not.  Will have to go back and check my records from when we were in the area  in 2008.

Some of the feeders at Cave Creek Ranch

This feeder hung right behind where I was sitting

Blue-throated Hummingbird

Hermit Thrush

 

Bewick’s Wren

Gambel’s Quail – female

Yellow-rumped Warbler

This container held mealy worms …

… which the Bridled Titmouse liked

Bewick’s Wren getting a drink. The wrens would come to within a foot of our feet.

We then went for a nice lunch at the Portal Café.  We had heard there was fast, free internet at the library so we headed there after lunch.  Although the library was closed (open from 10:00-2:00), we were still able to log onto their network to download emails while sitting on a bench outside the library.  As Jack was checking his emails, Bob, Pat, and I walked around the town (not very big) and birded, finding a Townsend’s Solitaire, which made Bob and Pat very happy, as well as several Hermit Thrushes.  I always wonder if the thrushes I see in Arizona or elsewhere in the Lower 48 are thrushes that migrate to Homer in the spring.  I always wish them a safe journey.

Good food at the cafe

Our next birding stop was a private home (again) owned by an Alaskan – Bob Rodriquez.  He winters here and has lots of feeders.  He has a donation box for bird food, rather than requiring mandatory payment.  We added to his donation box.  We had a total of 16 different species here in a hour’s visit, including the Crissal Thrasher, a bird I was very happy to see.  While the Crissal Thrasher is considered common, we don’t see them often.  Not like the Curve-billed Thrasher, which seems to be everywhere.

A bird’s nest in the cactus

This is what we see from the viewing (sitting) area

Canyon Towhee

Gambel’s Quail -male walking to a rock …

… and jumping up to see what’s what …

… then turning around and going back from whence it came

Pyrrhuloxia

Can’t you see why Jack just loves this Black-throated Sparrow. I love it too.

Broad-billed Hummingbird – female

Green-tailed Towhee

We were back in camp around 4:30 p.m. only to find a nearly full campground (there are only 15 campsites here).  Today is Friday so a lot more people getting out to enjoy Nature.

2 February 2019

Last night the campers next to us proceed to chop wood after dark.  Then they stayed up most of the night.  I could hear them talking, although not loud, and occasionally laughing (a little louder).  I woke up around 1:00 a.m. and I could still hear them outside talking.  Their wood pile must have gotten low because I then heard them chopping wood again.  They tired to be quiet about it, chopping once then waiting 10-15 seconds before taking another chop.  However, I think that was probably more annoying than just getting it all chopped quickly.  I kept waiting for the next chop.  So much for quiet hours.  It really irks me when people can’t abide by these rules.  Not everyone stays up to all hours of the night.  If you don’t want to abide by the rules, then go camping somewhere else.  Go primitive, off-road camping where you are alone and can make as much noise as you like.

We decided to return to Whitewater Draw and enjoy the cranes.  I wasn’t sure what we would find here camping wise, but when we arrived, there was one spot left with a picnic table so we grabbed it.  We saved room in front of our van for our friends Bob and Pat.  Surprisingly, someone came later and parked right behind us – within 10 feet.  In all there are 10 campers here tonight with four picnic table spaces.  And I thought eight campers was bad earlier this week.  It is amazing where people will park their campers.  Of the ten campers, we are the only ones who need a picnic table.  Everyone else is self-contained.

When we got to Whitewater Draw it was overcast and windy.  There weren’t too many cranes, maybe around 5,000.  Yes, that seems like a lot, but when you can get up to 30,000 that number isn’t so much.  People were coming and going all afternoon checking out the cranes.  There was a large flock of several thousand cranes that came in around 3:00 p.m., with the last large flock arriving around 6:00 p.m.  All are settled down for the night.  Of course the nearby coyotes might change that somewhat.

There weren’t as many marsh and upland birds out today as when we were here in the early part of the week.  Maybe it was due to the wind and cool, overcast day?  The Arizona Game and Fish Department is pumping more water into the marsh.  We are wondering if this is in anticipation of migratory birds arriving soon.

The “bird of the day” was a leucistic Yellow-headed Blackbird.  The bird was all white, except for a portion of its head and chest which were yellow (see photo).

Tomorrow we head back towards Tucson.  We are going to check out a new, for us, campground – Gilbert Ray.  I hope they have an opening.  If not, we might end up back at Madera Canyon.

Say’s Phoebe

A few cranes

Cranes and Geese

Cactus Wren

We walked down this path to check out …

… this Leucistic Yellow-headed Blackbird

We had a beautiful sunset

 

Until then …

It’s Always a Great Day to Bird

 

Patagonia and Madera Canyon

21 January 2019

When I first got up this morning my intentions were to bird some wetlands near Arivaca.  However, along the way I decided why not just drive on to Madera Canyon as its not that much further from the turnoff we need to take to head south on I-19 towards Nogales, Arizona.  Of course the decision was enabled by an eBird alert of a rarity – a White-throated Thrush seen in Madera Canyon.  So off we went.

When we arrived at the Proctor parking lot it was full except for one spot, which we quickly grabbed.  This is a holiday (Martin Luther King birthday) so the parking lot may or may not be filled with vehicles owned by birders out chasing the rare bird.  We headed off on the trail towards the Whitehouse Picnic area.  The White-throated Thrush has been spotted (by 200 people on 18 January 2019 – Yikes!!!) regularly between the Proctor parking lot and the Whitehouse picnic area.

We met a woman at the start of the trail and I asked if she had seen the bird.  She said no not yet (it was about 10:15 am).  She said this was her third try and the first time she missed it by a minute and the second time she missed it by five minutes.  Such is the life of a person chasing rare birds (timing is everything).  So we optimistically continued on the trail.  A young man returning to the parking lot with a BIG camera and lens asked if we had seen anything interesting.  I told him we hadn’t seen any birds yet (we had just started on the trail).  Of course he was only interested in the thrush.  He continued towards the parking lot, and we continued up the trail.  We did stop at one point and observed some delightful songbirds in a mixed flock: Brown Creeper (First of Year – FOY), Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Townsend’s Warbler, and Bridled Titmouse to name a few.  A bit later this same man came racing up the trail towards us and said he had heard the thrush was a short way up the trail.  So off we followed in pursuit of the bird.  The bird was in a tangle of dead leaves hanging from a limb near the creek.  With a little help from Tony (another photographer with a BIG camera and lens), I found the bird.  Then Jack got on the well camflouged bird.  Score!!!  Of course this is a new bird for us re: North American, but we did see the bird in Panama (in 2008) – so no life bird.  Still nice to find a North American rarity.

After watching the bird for a short time, we made room for the congregating birders and continued up the trail.  I saw some movement and heard a song, but I couldn’t get on the bird.  We tried following it.  I asked Jack if he had seen the bird as I was thinking it was a Painted Redstart.  He said yes, and that he also thought it was the Redstart.  Dang.  We never did find the bird.  Although I must admit I was surprised to remember the bird’s song when I hadn’t heard the bird sing in over two years.  Now that is a rarity – remembering the song of a bird I’ve only heard sing once or twice in my life.  While I was looking for the bird, a woman told Jack that an Elegant Trogon had been spotted further up the trail and was displaying nicely.  So again off we went in mad pursuit.  We got to the area where the Trogon was seen, and a guy with his camera sitting in a chair along side the road, asked if we had seen the Trogon down the trail.  We said no.  He said that Trogon had been here for a while but flew off.  We will try again for the bird when we return in four days.  We plan to spend a couple of days camping and birding this area.

We did go up the trail further – as far as the Santa Rita Lodge.  They have feeders out and you can always find great birds there.  A great spot for “armchair” birding.  We had several First of Year species come to the feeders:  Wild Turkey (23 of them), Pine Siskin, and a Hepatic Tanager.  I was happy to get the tanager.  That bird isn’t always a reliable ‘show.’

We stayed at the feeder for about 20 minutes then decided we needed to get back to the van, as we still had groceries to buy before heading to Patagonia Lake State Park where we will be camping for the next four nights.

We arrived at the campground around 3:45 p.m. and decided it was time for a shower.  The showers here were nice and hot, which I love.  The park had put in a number of new cabins and upgraded the bird feeding station at the east end of the campground.  There is now a paved path to the feeding station and places to sit and watch the birds.  And there are a lot more feeders out.  Of course when I got there the birds had already left to roost for the night.  Ah, but we (and they) will be back.

Sunrise at Buenos Aires NWR from our campsite

Sun shining – at our campsite

Mountains of Madera Canyon

Elephant’s Head

Madera Creek

In this tangle of leaves is a White-throated Thrush. Can you find it?

Can you see it now?

Mexican Jay

Bridled Titmouse – feeding upside down

Wild Turkeys at Santa Rita Lodge

White-breasted Nuthatch

Hepatic Tanager is a regular at the feeders at Santa Rita Lodge

Patagonia Lake and the Sonoita Creek SNA are “Important Bird Areas”

New paved trail to feeding station at the start of the Birding Trail

This is new too. Makes it easier for people to sit and enjoy the birds at the feeders.

22 January 2019

This morning we got up and drove into Patagonia (the town) for breakfast at “Gathering Grounds” a favorite breakfast place.  We’ve eaten there before and we were glad the ambience hasn’t changed from its homey style.  The food is delightful with locally brewed coffee to top it off.

From there we went to the Paton Center for Hummingbirds, owned and operated by Tucson Audubon.  This placed used to be owned by a couple – the Paton’s.  They generously welcomed birders to their little haven famous for attracting a diversity of hummingbirds.  When the Paton’s passed away the American Bird Conservancy purchased the property to continue the family legacy.   The land was subsequently transferred to Tucson Audubon, and they have done major fund-raising to build a new viewing shelter and a large butterfly garden, and also have plans for a public visitor center and administrative space.   And, hummingbirds were present: we marveled at three different species of hummingbirds today:  Violet-crowned (my favorite), Anna’s, and Broad-billed.  We actually had several Violet-crowned Hummingbirds, which are so magnificent and nice to see.

We spent most of the day here, fascinated by the diversity of birds and antics of the agile squirrels figuring out access to and hanging off various feeders.  We had intended to go to Patagonia-Sonoita Reserve, owned and managed by The Nature Conservancy.  This property adjoins Paton’s.  However, unbeknownst to us they are closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, and this being Tuesday – timing is everything.  So we found a spot along the road to stop for a peaceful lunch.  Being so enthralled by the Paton area we then headed back for another couple of hours of birding.

In all we observed 34 different species at Paton’s.  There is a good variety of feeders with escape cover (brush piles) and water features, so a lot of food and desirable conditions for the birds.  We even had a rare bird – the Fox Sparrow.  A bird not regularly seen in this area.  And, with so much bird activity, I went a little crazy with my camera taking a total of 660 photographs.

As we were getting ready to leave we saw a couple looking at the back of our van (various Alaska and Homer bumper stickers and Alaska license plate).  We get that a lot – the curiosity with all the bumper stickers we have. It seems everyone is fascinated with Alaska wanting to tell us they have been there or want to go.  Or, our favorite question: “Did you drive here.” We stopped and talked with the couple who now live in Tucson but used to teach in the Alaska bush.  They know some people from Homer, including Dave and Molly Brann, and Gary Lyon.  Small world.

After Paton’s we went into town so I could go to a few art galleries/stores.  They really have some nice art by local artists.  So, to help the local economy, I had to buy a couple of things – naturally.  Then it was back to the campground for another night (or three actually).  I found out the campground quiet hours are from 9:00 pm to 8:00 a.m.   Oops.  We’re usually up by 7:00 a.m. to start morning coffee.

Seating area in back to watch the birds

One of the many gray squirrels

Lark Sparrow

Curve-billed Thrasher

From the brush pile to the feeder

Cedar Waxwing

Bridled Titmouse – this bird had to really work hard to get the sunflower seed out of this feeder

The Yellow-rumped Warblers would eat the suet dislodged by other birds from the suet feeders and that fell onto the tree

Pyrrhuloxia – Female

Hermit Thrush

My favorite wren – Bewick’s Wren

An Orange-crowned Warbler eating oranges

Ladder-backed Woodpecker (male)

I love how the front part of the red also has a white and black pattern

Female Ladder-backed Woodpecker

Female Lazuli Bunting

Several Lark Sparrows

This Sharp-shinned Hawk was waiting for breakfast – hmmm which bird will it be?

Common Raven

Common Raven

Black Phoebe

And now facing us

House Finch

Yellow-rumped Warbler

White-winged Dove

Fox Sparrow – rare for this area

Yes, they have a hummingbird cam

Violet-crowned Hummingbird

Broad-billed Hummingbird – male

We think this is a hummingbird nest box

Anna’s Hummingbird

Violet-crowned Hummingbird

Male Anna’s Hummingbird

And when the sun hits the bird just right – pizzaz!

Female Anna’s Hummingbird

Nice mosaic

23 January 2019

Today we decided to stay in the campground and take the birding trail at the east end of the lake.  It was 32 degrees F. when we woke up so we waited until a little after 9:00 a.m. for a bit more warmth from the sun before beginning birding.  When we started walking to the trailhead from our campsite we noticed a lot of other birders out and about too.  They couldn’t all be from the campground.  They weren’t.  Two groups of birders from Green Valley, near Tucson, decided to bird the park today.  While I love that more people are out birding, what I don’t like is when you have to share the trail with about 50 other birders.  When people get into large groups they spend more time talking than they do birding.  I find that highly annoying.

We tried to get ahead of the group but when the birds are out you stop and check them out.  I was watching one bird – a wren – that hid behind some down limbs.  It had just jumped out into the open when two birders came up and flushed the bird off.  Not good.  I wanted to give them a piece of my mind, but I kept quiet.  Birder etiquette was lacking among many from these two groups.

We did manage to see about 44 different species.  We were hoping for the Elegant Trogon, a ‘signature’ bird for the park, but it hasn’t been seen in over a month.  Maybe it flew over to Madera Canyon, which isn’t that far as the crow flies.  The highlight bird for me was a Cassin’s Vireo  – a First of Year bird.  I think I have seen this bird before on previous trips to this area, so not a life bird.  There aren’t too many life bird left for me in the U.S., except for pelagic birds or rarities – and even then I may have seen them before, like the White-throated Thrush.  And as for pelagic birds you have to get on a boat to see them, and well I don’t do well on boats (seasickness).

After birding the east end of the lake, we went back to our campsite and had lunch.  We want to go to the Sonoita Creek Nature Preserve tomorrow, which means we need a park permit.  So off to the visitor center we went to get our permit.  Of course we birded along the way.  At one area we had over ten species of birds.  The highlight here was twofold: Plumbeous Vireo and Vermillion Flycatcher.   I was hoping to get a photo of the flycatcher but it kept moving away from me as it was busy hawking for insects – it needed to get in its last meal of the day.

I am so happy we have electricity because the evenings have been chilly, and the mornings down right cold.  Unfortunately, in two days we are headed to Madera Canyon where we will be sans electricity.  So the evenings will be cold and the mornings freezing.  Now I know why I thought it would be good to get a camper that is fully contained.  Blessed Heat.   Guess we will have to turn on the van (engine) for heat relief (or to at least melt the ice off the windshield).

A little cold this morning

Group of birders checking out the feeders

Pyrrhuloxia – male

Yellow-rumped Warbler at the feeders. They really like the suet.

Rufous-winged Sparrow

This poor squirrel only had one eye working and he was missing part of his tail.  I wonder what happened?

Rufous-winged Sparrow

Anna’s Hummingbird – male

Pyrrhuloxia – female

Lazuli Bunting -male

East end of Patagonia Lake

Verdin

Cassin’s Vireo

These benches have names of birds, e.g., “Wren”

And then a photo of the bird

Yes, you will find cows in the birding area

New signs pointing to the “upper” and “lower” loops. Nice.

Gray Flycatcher

Song Sparrow

The wrens really love these downed trees

Share the trail (here with cows), but be careful where you walk. Someone was nice and put a stick in the cow pies to point it out. I wonder if that person almost stepped in it first.

Trial

Plumbeous Vireo

Hammond’s Flycatcher

Ruddy Duck (Jack’s favorite)

Cinnamon Teal -male

This nest consisted mostly of monofilament line – ugh!!!

There were at least three of these nests

Patagonia Lake

Mallard – female

Mexican Mallard

24 January 2019

Wow two days in a row where there have been birding trips to the Patagonia Lake State Park Birding Trail.  Today we had another group – smaller, with about 10-12 people and two guides.  The guides were young and definitely knew their birds – sight and sound.  I was quite impressed.  They also were able to get the people on the birds fairly quickly – also impressive.  We only encountered them at the main feeding station just before the start of the birding trail, as we had other plans today than birding the east end of the lake.

Prior to getting to the trail, however, we did see several great birds in the campground – the Cassin’s Vireo again, and a Black-throated Gray Warbler.  We’ve seen the warbler here in previous visits so was nice to see it again.  We spent about an hour birding our way to the feeding station and at the feeding station.  The highlight at the feeding station was a great view of a beautiful male Lazuli Bunting.

Afterwards we walked back to the van and then drove about two miles to the start of the Sonoita Creek Trail.  This is a nice trail, although rocky in places.  You don’t get as many birds along this trail (dry upland, riparian) as you do the birding trail (lakeside, riparian), but we still like to do the scenic hike whenever we visit.  Bikes are not allowed on the trail, but we saw evidence that someone thought this rule did not apply to them.  Yes, I am a stickler for the rules.

We finished the hike several hours after starting.  The trail is about 3.0-3.5 miles.   They limit the number of people who can access the area, although I’m not sure how many visitors are allowed daily – the small, 10-12 vehicle, parking lot was nearly full.  We passed about 10 people.

Oh, and this morning a camper from Florida was leaving and stopped to ask if our plates were Oregon or Alaska.  I said Alaska.  The guy asked where we lived.  I said Homer.  Of course he had been to Homer before and lamented that no one was feeding eagles on the Homer Spit anymore and how he is sure that was having a negative effect on the local economy.  He said he was one of the photographers who came to take photos of the eagles on the Spit.  I kept my mouth shut, no use debating the feeding of Homer eagles issue.  He also knew the owner of Hallo Bay – bear viewing.  He mentioned he had stayed at their house when they visited.  Again, small world as I knew Clint, the owner of Hallo Bay, (he unfortunately recently passed away) from my work on local Sandhill Cranes for the International Crane Foundation.

Tomorrow we head to Madera Canyon, this time to camp and bird.  We hope it will be a little warmer at night because we will be without electricity.  Guess I need to get out the electric blanket and figure out how it works.  Wish me luck.

Cassin’s Vireo

Black-throated Gray Warbler

Lazuli Bunting – male

Northern Cardinal -male

House Finch – male

Even Bewick’s Wrens like suet

White-winged Dove

Start of the Sonoita Creek Trail – it does get better

Now I don’t think the cow dropped these onto of the rocks

Cute little cactus

Sonoita Creek State Nature Preserve – pretty dry country

Loggerhead Shrike

Sonoita Creek

Dead cow remains

Yes, cattle in the state natural area too

And here near the lake

Killdeer

Patagonia Lake – west end

25 January 2019

Good thing we didn’t want to stay another night or two at Patagonia.  We learned yesterday that the campground was booked through at least next week.  We are finding that more and more with all the state park campgrounds we like.

We left the campground in the early-morning light (well before the end of quiet hours) and headed into Patagonia to have breakfast again at Gathering Grounds restaurant.  Since I get cell phone coverage there I could check emails, etc.  Afterwards we went back to the Paton’s Center to satisfy our Hummingbird addiction and spent about two hours checking out the birds.  There seemed to be less birds there today than our visit three days ago.  “Timing is everything,” as Jack likes to say.  We did get to see the Violet-crowned Hummingbird again so that was nice.  And today the Gray Squirrels were out in force.  We counted 11 of the wily wonders at the various feeding stations.

Curve-billed Thrasher

American Robin

This Lincoln’s Sparrow was bathing

Chipping Sparrow

Lark Sparrow

Sharp-shinned Hawk

Lincoln’s Sparrow – my favorite sparrow

Now is that crown violet or what? Violet-crowned Hummingbird

This squirrel found a way to get at the peanut butter at this feeder

Our destination for the night is the US Forest Service Bog Springs Campground in Madera Canyon.  That was not to be.  The campground was full.  I was wondering if that might be the case because today is Friday and more people camp on the weekends, or maybe the fact that camping is free (government shutdown) people can stay there longer.  Or maybe there are just more people camping nowadays (can’t argue with the need to be out in Nature).

So, we are “primitive camping” down a rocky road (Proctor Road) where there are a number of primitive campsites.  We found a great sunny site (#1), which is within walking distance of the great birding trail in Madera Canyon.  We parked, had lunch, and then ventured out on the trails.  We were hoping to see the Elegant Trogon today.  Not to be so will try again tomorrow.  While stopped at a Trogon stakeout site a guy pointed out a bird he identified as a  Northern Beardless Tyrannulent; but the bird that I saw was a Hammond’s Flycatcher, not the Tyrannulent.  Will see if eBird confirms the sighting.

We did walk up to the Santa Rita Lodge feeding stations.  The place was packed with people.  This area has become quite popular as a birding hot spot – with birders and non-birders alike.  I wonder how much bird food the generous lodge owners go through in a day and whether donations (a donation container was on-site) pay for it or not?  We did see some good birds, including two First of Year:  Blue-throated Hummingbird and a splendid Yellow-eyed Junco.  The junco was close so I tried taking a photo of the bird.  In all my photos I got everything but the yellow-eyes.   Figures.

While we were at the feeding stations, a Coati Mundi appeared.  Such a darling little animal. I guess it comes to the area regularly and feeds on the northern most hummingbird feeder (see photos, I’m not kidding).  The lodge guy said it had been there three times today alone and emptied the hummingbird feeder each time.  The birds seem to ignore it or get out of its way as it wandered the grounds.

Next we walked back down the trail and stopped to where the Elegant Trogon has been regularly spotted.  We waited about 15-20 minutes, but it didn’t show.  Dang.  I spoke with one woman who said it was there earlier but her husband didn’t like the photos he got, so they came back.  Another photographer (Mr. “that’s a Tyrannulet”), was still there on our return – at least an hour later. He finally gave up when the low winter sun went behind the mountain and since this is a canyon, it disappears around 4:00 p.m.  Luckily, our campsite is beyond the canyon and has the late-afternoon sun still shining at 5:30 p.m.  It would be dark and cold in the campground right now, so although we don’t have a toilet close by or a picnic table, we do have sunshine.  That means a lot to me.  I get cold easily so I always appreciate the sun.

Our primitive camping site

View from our camp site

And the view the other direction

We saw the White-throated Thrush several days ago near this bridge

The trail

Hammond’s Flycatcher

Arizona Woodpecker -female

The Hepatic Tanager is back

Bewick’s Wren

Wild Turkey

House Wren

Coati or Coatimundi – a member of the racoon family

This one comes daily for the sugar water in the hummingbird feeders

The birds move out of its way

Here partaking of the sugar water – yum!

It doesn’t seem to mind all the people looking at it and the birds

Some of that sugar water drips onto its coat, so it takes a little time to cleanup

It is sooooooooooooooooo cute

26 January 2019

Surprisingly it wasn’t as cold last night or this morning, although my toes did feel like they could break off if I hit them against something.  I should have put on my faux Uggs.  After breakfast we headed up the trail in search of more birds.  Before we left we spotted two Canyon Towhees (First of Year) at our campsite.  Not too shabby.  On the trail we did manage to get quick glimpses of the Elegant Trogon.  The bird was working the creek hawking for insects.

Further along the trail the Painted Redstart, the bird I was hoping to see most of all, suddenly appeared and we had great views of it.  I so love this bird.  We watched the bird search for insect along the truck of a juniper tree.  Every once in a while the bird would fan its black and white tail. The bird moved around so much however, I could not get a decent photo.  SSD (some of you will know what that abbreviation means).  But, what a great bird to find.  YAY!!!

We continued further up the trail and to the site where the Elegant Trogon has recently been seen eating red berries.  At the site was a gentleman from Ontario.  This is the guy I mentioned yesterday that had gotten photos of the Trogon, but wanted better photos.  His wife told Jack that he had been waiting today for over an hour for the bird to show up.   We stopped and waited for about 10 minutes to see if the bird would show but we don’t have much patience for bird stake-outs and continued on to the always ‘birdy’ feeding area at Santa Rita Lodge.  We weren’t disappointed.  We got to see the Blue-throated Hummingbird again, and then scored with both a female and male Rivoli’s Hummingbird (formerly known as the Magnificent Hummingbird).  The Rivoli’s is a rare bird here this time of year.  And, the Rivoli’s Hummingbird is a First of Year so I was happy.  The Coatimundi made another appearance going to the hummingbird feeder to get his sweet treat, this despite the fact there were probably 20 people within several feet of him getting a photo op.

After a hard day of birding, we treated ourselves to a Klondike Bar (ice cream) at the Santa Rita Lodge gift shop and made our way back down the trail.  At the Elegant Trogon spot, the gentleman from Ontario was still waiting for the bird to appear.  It had now been three hours since he had set up his camera for “The Photo” of the bird.  And people think birders are crazy.

Further down the trail we stopped to check out a mixed flock of birds.  A couple, who are birders, stopped and talked to us.  The guy asked where we were from.  Jack said Homer.  He said they love Homer, and he has a cousin there by the last name of Stolzfus or something like that.  We said, “Oh, you mean Karl.”  He said, yes.  Small world again as Karl is a birder friend and owns ‘Bay Excursions’ offering boating trips out on Kachemak Bay in Homer.  This couple was from Northern Indiana and he said he just loves the desert so they leave Indiana in early January and come down for two months – and of course to escape the Indiana cold.

Birders and Photographers (in search of the Elegant Trogon and White-throated Thrush) outnumbered hikers on the trail ten-to-one.  Oh and as of 2:30 p.m., no one had spotted the White-throated Thrush yet.  And there were two people who had come all the way from California to see the bird.  They had been on the trail since dawn to try and find this bird.  Maybe they will get lucky before the day is out.

We got back to camp around 2:45 p.m. and decided to just relax and enjoy the rest of the day.  Tomorrow we will check out nearby Florida (pronounced Flo-ri-d-a) Canyon for the Rufous-capped Warbler and Black-chinned Sparrows.  I think the warbler is more likely to be seen than the sparrow.

The moon setting over the mountain

Acorn Woodpecker – looks like this utility pole has a few holes in it to store acorns

Arizona Woodpecker -male

Painted Redstart

Rivoli’s (formerly known as Magnificent) Hummingbird – female

Yellow-eyed Junco

Acorn Woodpecker

Anna’s Hummingbird -female

Blue-chinned Hummingbird

Rivoli’s Hummingbird – female

And for the third time … the Hepatic Tanager

This is the feeding area at Santa Rita Lodge

27 January 2019

We got up early, packed up, and headed to Florida Canyon, which is located a short distance from Madera Canyon (just over the hill as the crow flies).  We got there around 8:00 a.m., probably a little early as there weren’t many birds moving about.  The sun was up, but hadn’t hit the floor of Florida Canyon yet.  This canyon has a stream where the Rufous-capped Warbler hangs out.  We later heard a birder from Tucson say the best time to get there is around 10:00 a.m.  Okay, so we were 2 hours early – early birds.

We walked/hiked/climbed over rocks up the wash, passing the dam, making the first stream crossing, and then the second stream crossing.  We saw a few birds, but not the warbler.  We walked back down to the first stream crossing and saw movement in some willows alongside the stream.  There was a Ruby-crowned Kinglet (they were everywhere) and a Lincoln’s Sparrow.  We waited and watched.  I then proceeded back up the trail a short distance and saw movement on the hillside.  Up went the binoculars to a small bird on an Ocotillo cactus.  There was the Rufous-capped Warbler.  I called Jack, but by the time he got to me the bird had flushed.  We searched and searched but never did see the elusive bird again.

There were a number of people looking for the bird, but without success.  It will be interesting to check eBird to see if anyone besides me saw the bird today.  One guy with his camera was hunkered down for an apparent long wait.  We left the area around 1:00 p.m. and he still hadn’t come back to the parking lot.  Such patience.  Me, not so much.

We did meet a couple from Flagstaff.  Guess what – they’ve been to Homer and they love it.  They went out on a boat with Karl Stoltzfus.  Karl, you are popular.  Not surprisingly we’ve yet to meet anyone who hasn’t liked (marveled about) Homer.  This couple even got us on the Black-chinned Sparrow.  Hooray!!!

We left Florida Canyon and drove to the community of Sierra Vista where we are staying in a hotel for the night.  Not many camping options available around here.  Tomorrow we plan to drive to Whitewater Draw and hopefully find a camping spot.  Being as it is Monday, we might have better luck than on a weekend.

The trail is not an easy one

Rocky at times

Wow someone actually out here and tagged this water tank???

“the dam”

Northern Cardinal -female

Nest

Now this nest is “out on a limb”

Canyon Towhee

Looking back at Florida Canyon

Road 62

Countryside near Sonoita

It’s Always A Great Day to Bird

Arizona Sonoran Desert Country

14 January 2019

We left Sedona today and headed southwest to Kofa National Wildlife Refuge (NWR).  We really love this refuge, in part because they allow free camping on the Refuge.  Kofa NWR is located near Quartzsite, Arizona.  And if you’ve never been to Quartzsite in the winter try to image a desert with over 70,000 motor homes spread out across the landscape.  I think there were even more this year.  Most of the motorhomes are on Bureau of Land Management managed lands.  Camper pay $180 for seven months (Sept 15- Apr 15).  By April the hot temperature drives the ‘snowbirds’ north and only a few hard souls remain – a ghost town .  So if there is a government shutdown and campers aren’t making their payments, the federal government is losing out on a lot of money.

We head to the Refuge and find more people camped along the Palm Canyon Road than ever we’ve seen before.  I would say at least 8-10 times as many people.  We’ve been here when you would be lucky to find two or three other campers.  We always felt lucky not to see anyone.  We did notice that the refuge host (volunteer) is still here.  Not sure if they are doing anything during the shutdown as we never saw them, but the Refuge kiosk brochure rack was stocked.

We drove the Palm Canyon Road to the end, parked in the parking lot, and then walked to the where you can see the ‘ancient’ palm tree.  Bird-wise, we only saw a single Rock Wren and two Common Ravens, although I did hear a Canyon Wren.  As the canyon area is quite large, it would be difficult to see the Canyon Wren.  Their song and call echoed off the canyon walls.  The trail to the palms is steep and rocky in places, but a very scenic hike.  On our way down the people right in front of us spotted a tarantula on the trail.  The woman was quite nervous about it and probably freaked out when I leaned down to get my phone within a couple of inches of the spider to take its photo.  The tarantula did rear up and challenge me, but tarantulas don’t bother me, nor do most other spiders.  Now large bugs that fly – I hate those.

After our hike we found a scenic pull out where we decided to camp (nice to have a ‘tin tent’ and just park it).  We aren’t too far from the canyon trailhead, maybe a mile or two.  I went to check out the surrounding area and see if I could find any birds.  It was pretty quiet out.  I did hear and then see two Costa’s Hummingbirds, and with my binoculars scanning the cactus and trees I was able to spot a Loggerhead Shrike.  Other than that, I only had about three small birds that darted from one very dense shrub to another so quickly all I could tell you was that they were small, light colored birds.  Walking in the desert is a real experience with such variety of thorny vegetation and lots of evidence of torrential rain conditions with ditches, washes, and wide gravel beds.

We did get a little rain this afternoon, and yes the area really does need it.  Although I must admit, it does seem greener than I’ve seen of the area in the past.  And the Ocotillos are heavily leaved and those that aren’t are in bloom.  Pretty.

Kofa National Wildlife Refuge sign

Our campsite

Palm Canyon

Trail marker

Trail

Yes, this is the trail too

Jack looking for birds

And more rocky trail

Looking down the trail

Yes there are palms up there

Look closer

And closer

Ta da – palms

View from the trail up Palm Canyon

Tarantula

In defensive mode

Close up view.  I really like these hairy spiders

Cholla cactus – I love these.  They look so soft against the landscape.

Hillside near our camp site

Costa’s Hummingbird

Up close

But they don’t look soft up close

Ocotillo – fully leaved out

Thorns on an Octollo

Ocotillo Flowers