January 8, 2017

Before heading to Madera Canyon we made a stop at the Tucson Sweetwater Waste Water Treatment ponds.  As birders know, sewage and water treatment ponds are a great place to bird.  Sweetwater is particularly nice because of the many vegetated pools (not a sewage lagoon).

We walked the trails in search of birds, particularly FOYs – first of years (or what some may call first of season, but then I always wonder ‘what season’? – fall, spring, summer, migration?).  With the ponds you get your water birds, and with the cottonwood and mesquite trees you get your songbirds.  We did see 28 different species.  I’ve been here and have gotten around 50 species, so today was a slow day.


Map of the wetlands



Trail through the wetland complex. Part of the trail is handicap accessible – paved


Ruddy Duck – this male was preening


One of the ponds





Two Common Gallinule preening – a whole lot of preening going on at the ponds today

Bird Species Seen or Heard at Sweetwater WWT Ponds

  • Orange-crowned Warbler
  • Yellow-rumped Warbler
  • Gnatcatcher sp. (didn’t get a good look at its tail)
  • American Coot
  • Ruddy Duck
  • Pied-billed Grebe
  • Cinnamon Teal
  • Song Sparrow
  • Lesser Goldfinch
  • Ruby-crowned Kinglet
  • Verdin
  • Vermillion Flycatcher (female)
  • Say’s Phoebe
  • American Wigeon
  • Green-winged Teal
  • Killdeer
  • Gadwall
  • Northern Shoveler
  • Northern Pintail
  • Cooper’s Hawk
  • Common Gallinule
  • Red-winged Blackbird
  • Marsh Wren
  • European Starling
  • Gila Woodpecker
  • Red-tailed Hawk
  • White-crowned Sparrow
  • House Finch

We made it to Madera Canyon around noon.  We captured a campsite, ate lunch, then ventured out on one of several trails that start (or end) at the Bog Springs Campground.  This campground, surprisingly, wasn’t full.  They don’t have many sites – around 13 sites.  We wound our way down from the campground to the main canyon road and connected to the trail along Madera Canyon Creek.  There is usually good birding here, but since it was siesta time, not too many birds were seen or heard.  Of course maybe they were all at the Santa Rita Lodge with its enticement of  a dozen or more feeders.  Yet, even at the lodge (we stopped to check out the feeders) there didn’t seem to be as many birds as when we were here last January (2016).  I did get a Hepatic Tanager (male), which according to the Madera Bird Checklist is a rare sighting for the winter.  There were also seven Wild Turkeys that came to the feeders, collecting anything dropped to the ground by other hungry, sloppy birds.


Bog Springs trail




Madera Canyon Creek


Mexican Jay at one of the Santa Rita Lodge feeders


Wild Turkey at the Santa Rita Lodge


This guy too was at the lodge – a Hepatic Tanager


Acorn Woodpecker – a busy guy; note the holes in the tree



After our short hike we hung around camp, relaxing and reading.  It was a bright, beautiful, blue sky day.  Felt like a Homer summer day – warm and sunny.  Like Homer, when the sun goes down here, so does the temperature and quickly too.

We put the dog out at around 8:30 p.m. to do her thing and heard this hooting sound.  Sounded like a Northern Saw-whet Owl, which they don’t get around here.  Come to find out, the Northern Pygmy Owl has a similar call – hoot, hoot, hoot, hoot, hoot – only with more silence in between hoots.  The owl was close so I got out a flash light and found it in a tree at our campsite.  Score!!!  Don’t get many small owls on this trip.   The bird for the day.

January 9, 2017

After breakfast we decided to drive down to the Proctor (entrance) parking lot and hike up the river trail to the Santa Rita Lodge – about 1.5 miles one-way.  Along the trail we had a few birds mostly flocked together, which a birder always loves (at least this one – more for your money).  All in all we had 25 species today of which all but four were in the wild, i.e., not at a feeder.  Yesterday we only had 16 birds.  What a difference a day makes.

The prize today goes to the Painted Redstart.  What a beautiful bird.  I heard its call – not knowing what was calling – and so started looking for the bird.  The Redstart was close to the trail and out in the open calling.  At first it had its back to us and was pivoting its body back and forth.  Not sure why – searching for morsels or on the alert?  It would move off a short distance, into some shrub, but then fly back to its perch calling and calling all the while whipping its body back and forth.  I think we sat for close to five minutes watching this bird – at least it seemed that long.  Mesmerizing!


The Mountain is the background is called Elephant’s Head – my imagination doesn’t  see the resemblance




Road leading to Elephant’s Head


Madera Canyon Creek


Wild Turkey and it wasn’t at the feeders


My what a … um … unusual looking face you have


Brown Creeper creeping up the tree


Brown Creeper



Painted Redstart


Painted Redstart – the male, of course


Cholla fruit




This Cholla had five arms coming out in different directions near its top


Okay, the Dusky, Hammond’s and Gray Flycatcher are all possible at Madera Canyon in the winter. I think this is a Hammond’s Flycatcher.


Pine Siskins and Lesser Goldfinches at one of the many feeders at the Santa Rita Lodge in Madera Canyon


Another upclose view of the Wild Turkey.  Is my wattle better on the left or the right side of my beak?


Female Arizona Woodpecker


The lodge personnel even plug holes in the tree with food for the birds – here Mexican Jays feasting


Bridled Titmouse – my favorite Titmouse


Arizona Gray Squirrel


White-breasted Nuthatch


White-breasted Nuthatch

January 10, 2017

We broke camp and headed to Florida Canyon (near Madera Canyon) in search of the Rufous-capped Warbler.  But first we stopped for an early morning look at the feeders at Santa Rita Lodge.  We stayed there for about 45 minutes with cold fingers (sun had not come up over the top of the mountains yet), and was surprised to see the Painted Redstart come to the feeders.  Fun to watch. We were hoping for the Yellow-eyed Junco that frequents the area, but alas, none showed.

At Florida Canyon we saw several gnatcatchers but they weren’t calling or singing so I couldn’t tell if one was the elusive (for everyone) Black-capped Gnatcatcher or not.  I took off toward the area where the Rufous-capped Warblers are generally seen, and Jack and Doodlebug (the dog) continued on the Florida Canyon trail.  There were at least three other people looking for the warbler, including the brother of Pat Pourchet, an Anchorage birder.  Small world.  None of us found the warbler.  In fact, the canyon we took (an offshoot of Florida Canyon) was quiet except for a Hutton’s Vireo, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, and a Pyrrhuloxia.  Jack saw more birds on his trail then I did on mine.  This is the second year in a row that we/I have failed to see the Rufous-capped Warbler.  The bird has been reported recently on eBird, but no luck today.  Luckily I have seen this bird on three separate occasions, but always nice to see it again.


View from the road on the way to Florida Canyon



Hillside along the Florida Trail


This piece of wood looked like a pig’s face to me


Where’s the top of this cactus? Wonder where it went? Did someone eat it?

Tonight we are camping at Patagonia Lake State Park.  We will bird along the way – taking a road less traveled (Highway 62 -Box Canyon, a dirt road), with a stop at Paton’s the famous hummingbird spot in Patagonia.  Until then “BIRD ON” as Gary Lyon would say.

Bird Species Seen or Heard at Madera Canyon/Florida Canyon

  • Red-tailed Hawk
  • Western Bluebird
  • Bridled Titmouse
  • Acorn Woodpecker
  • Mexican Jay
  • Ruby-crowned Kinglet
  • Red-naped Sapsucker
  • Lesser Goldfinch
  • House Finch
  • White-breasted Nuthatch
  • Dark-eyed Junco
  • Hepatic Tanager
  • Anna’s Hummingbird
  • Chipping Sparrow
  • Wild Turkey
  • Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
  • Verdin
  • Hutton’s Vireo
  • Bewick’s Wren
  • Townsend’s Solitaire (my favorite warbler, I think)
  • Lincoln’s Sparrow
  • Brown Creeper
  • Arizona Woodpecker
  • Painted Redstart
  • Common Raven
  • Hermit’s Thrush
  • Northern Cardinal
  • Pacific Wren
  • Hammond’s Flycatcher
  • Pine Siskin
  • Inca Dove
  • Loggerhead Shrike
  • House Wren
  • Pyrrhuloxia

Remember It is always …