It's a Great Day to Bird

Patagonia Lake State Park/Sonoita Natural Area

January 10, 2017

We arrived at Patagonia Lake State Park around 3:30 pm, having made a brief and disappointing stop at Paton Hummingbird Center.  Paton’s is undergoing renovations and although there were a lot of feeders up, not much bird activity.  Of course the time of day could have something to do with the lack of birds.  However, we have been there before in the afternoon and have seen a lot of birds.  This place is now owned and operated by the Tucson Audubon Society.

Once we got established at our campsite we decided to walk adjacent to the lake – westward to the day-use area.  We usually bird this area upon arrival at the campground.  Speaking of campgrounds, last year there was hardly anyone here. This year there are a lot more people.  Of course last year was much colder than this year. We plan to stay at least two nights, maybe three, depends upon how goes the birding.  Tomorrow we will bird along the eastern end of the lake.

For our first day, despite having only an hour or so to bird, we spotted 28 species.  Helps having a lake that supports waterfowl.  We did flush a heron/bittern, but I didn’t get a good enough look at the bird.  I suspect a Black-crowned Night Heron juvenile.   As we were returning to the campground, we found one area near the lake supporting at least seven different species: Chipping Sparrow, Bewick’s Wren, Verdin, Bridled Titmouse, Northern Mockingbird, Say’s Phoebe, and Ruby-crowned Kinglet.  Fun to watch all the activity.  A last minute feeding frenzy.


Vesper Sparrow


Donkey’s are so cute


American Kestrel


Double-crested Cormorant


Patagonia Lake


Three Common Mergansers – females. Two males were hanging out with about 10 females on the lake floating along as though in a parade.

January 11, 2017

Oh was it cold this morning.  No frost on the pumpkin so to speak, but still cold finger chilly outside.  Patagonia Lake State Park has a nice birding trail at the east end of the lake and campground.  We took that trail this morning and was surprised to see a Gray Catbird – not a bird that regularly makes an appearance in Arizona, let alone during the winter.  What a great find – our bird of the day.

We had a total of 53 species today, of which 32 are species we didn’t see yesterday.  So the total of species seen as of today at this park is 60.  Not too shabby.

A Black-capped Gnatcatcher has been seen in the park, and reported on eBird rare bird alert.  This bird is a permanent resident of the park, but rare.  In non-breeding plumage the bird looks almost identical to the the Blue-gray Gnatcatcher so identification is generally by song.  And its song I heard.  At first I thought the bird calling was the Gray Catbird, but when I checked my bird app, the song belonged to the Black-capped Gnatcatcher. Woohoo!!! Life bird.

We also had several flycatchers that all looked alike.  I think I need a good flycatcher field guide (with lots of photos).  Is there such a book?  I’ve been able, to the best of my ability, identify at least two of them – Gray’s Flycatcher (this bird flicks its tail downward like a Phoebe) and the Hammond’s Flycatcher (based on length of its wing tips and the olive vest).

We took a side trail and I swear we saw several dozen Ruby-crowned Kinglets.  Never saw so many in one hike – and sometimes several at a time.  Maybe they were following us and it just seemed like a lot of kinglets.  Oh, and high in a tree were two Ring-tailed Cats.  What adorable looking creatures.  A life mammal for me.


I had put out food for Doodlebug to eat and then went into the van to get ready for the day. I heard noises on the top of the van and when I went out to investigate there must have been 20 or more Great-tailed Grackles vying for the dog’s food. Won’t make that mistake again.



Might not be able to read this sign but it asks people to refrain from using taped bird calls and songs. Of course not everyone reads the sign. It is written from a bird’s point of view.


Someone constructed a feeder and puts out food for the birds. Here Great-tailed Grackles and Red-winged Blackbirds are feasting on bird seed.


The eastern end of Patagonia Lake


Female Pyrrhuloxia – I call this the pyrex bird. Easier to say and Jack knows what I mean.



Male Pyrrhuloxia


White-crowned Sparrow


Okay … maybe we need to be careful and alert on the trail


Gray Catbird


Northern Cardinal


A flycatcher …. Anyone know which one? Your choices are Dusky, Hammond, and Gray – at least that is what is usually seen here in the winter.  I don’t recall the bird flicking its tail downward, which eliminates the Gray Flycatcher.



Two Ring-tailed Cats in a tree. The one on the left is curled up and sleeping. The one of the right was keeping a watch on us.



Sonoita Creek


Doodlebug did not like the cow and took a wide path around it.



Gray Flyctcher


Red-winged Blackbirds at the feeder


White-winged Dove …


… here in a tree near the Visitor Center


Common Gallinule

January 12, 2017

The Sonoita Trail in the Sonoita Natural Area was our objective for the day.  This is a nice, 2.75-mile loop hike with upland and riparian habitat so some new birds.  The parks department only allows a few people into the natural area each day.  We were the only people on the trail, at least in the morning.  We did see a few different birds, including a Black-throated Gray Warbler and a stunningly beautiful Canyon Wren.  Gotta love those wrens.  Along the trail we saw a total of 22 species.  I think this is more than we saw last year when we hiked/birded the trail.

After our morning hike and lunch, Jack stayed back at camp with Doodlebug, while I went to check out birds on the bird trail.   I really do love this walk as you never know what you might find.  Today it was a House Wren and a Plumbeous Vireo.  Two new birds to add to the total list of birds seen or heard at Patagonia Lake State Park/Sonoita Natural Area.

With 10 new species today, that brings the total number of bird species seen or heard over the last three days at the park to 70.  Woohoo!!!  The real reward of course is great birds in a great setting.   We did see a couple of birds we weren’t able to identify – a large raptor we think might be a Golden Eagle, the heron/bittern bird, a flycatcher or three, and one or more of the cormorants may be a Neotropical Cormorant, which are common here whereas the Double-crested Cormorant which we did see is listed as uncommon.   Go figure.


Common Goldeneye


Hermit Thrush


Sonoita Creek Trailhead signpost


The “rocky” trail


Prickley Pear Cactus – a purple version


Our view from the trail


The trail near Sonoita Creek


Canyon Wren – this bird at one point was walking straight down a cement bridge abutment


Park staff or volunteers protecting these cacti seen near the trail


Cattle can be found within the natural area – Arizona is an open range state. If you don’t want cattle on your property, then you have to fence them out. This little guy was so cute I wanted to take him home.


Isn’t it adorable?


Bewick’s Wren along the bird trail …


… searching for food


Gray Flycatcher – this bird flicked its tail downward


Female Northern Cardinal


Black Phoebe


The bird trail


A White-winged Dove at the feeder

Bird Species Seen or Heard at Patagonia Lake State Park/Sonoita Natural  Area

  • Yellow-rumped Warbler
  • House Sparrow
  • American Coot
  • White-winged Dove
  • House Finch
  • Common Merganser
  • Verdin
  • Anna’s Hummingbird
  • Lincoln’s Sparrow
  • Chipping Sparrow
  • Ring-billed Gull
  • Pied-billed Grebe
  • Eared Grebe
  • Red-winged Blackbird
  • Mallard
  • Ruddy Duck
  • Great Blue Heron
  • Phainopepla
  • Say’s Phoebe
  • Northern Mockingbird
  • Bewick’s Wren
  • Bridled Titmouse
  • Ruby-crowned Kinglet
  • Great Egret
  • Great-tailed Grackle
  • Ladderbacked Woodpecker
  • Double-crested Cormorant
  • Vermillion Flycatcher
  • Rufous-winged Sparrow
  • Pyrrhuloxia
  • Northern Cardinal
  • White-crowned Sparrow
  • Gila Woodpecker
  • Gray Catbird
  • Cinnamon Teal
  • Dark-eyed Junco
  • Wilson’s Snipe
  • Song Sparrow
  • Black Phoebe
  • Green-winged Teal
  • Lesser Goldfinch
  • Orange-crowned Warbler
  • Abert’s Towhee
  • Curve-billed Thrasher
  • Northern Flicker
  • Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
  • Black-capped Gnatcatcher
  • Hutton’s Vireo
  • White-breasted Nuthatch
  • Pacific Wren
  • Red-naped Sapsucker
  • Hermit’s Thrush
  • Gray Flycatcher
  • Hammond’s Flycatcher
  • Common Gallinule
  • Common Raven
  • Black Vulture
  • Lesser Scaup
  • Vesper Sparrow
  • House Wren
  • Marsh Wren
  • Canyon Wren
  • Plumbeous Vireo
  • Green-tailed Towhee
  • Black-throated Gray Warbler
  • Common Goldeneye
  • Killdeer
  • Canyon Towhee
  • Black-throated Sparrow

I love this park with its lake, riparian, and desert habitat – there are a lot of birds to see.  I hate to leave so soon.  Tomorrow we head to Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge, but first the De Anza Trail near Tubac to search for the Rose-throated Becard.  Wish us luck.  Remember …



1 Comment

  1. Nina Faust

    The animals in the tree labeled ringtails—I believe they are Coatimundi . Nina >

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