January 13, 2017

Not all Friday the 13ths are bad luck.  Luck was with us when we went searching for the Rose-throated Becard along the DeAnza Trail in Tubac, Arizona.  Of course it doesn’t hurt to have about twenty or more other birders looking for the same bird.  We went about ¼ mile down the trail (to the south) and saw four people with their binoculars raised.  I stopped and asked if they had seen the Becard.  They said yes, but it flew off about 10 minutes ago.  So we all waited to see if it would return.  Meanwhile three other birders came up the trail from the south.  They inquired whether we had seen the bird or not to which one guy said yes, but it left 10 minutes ago.  This young birder said “So you lost it” to which the guy huffed “No, the bird flew off”.  The young guy and his friend headed back down the trail in search of the bird.  Another birder who was with them stayed behind and was about 20-30 feet down the trail from us.  After about 5 minutes of looking he yelled he had found the bird.  So off we all rushed to see the bird.  As I was looking for the bird based on the instructions given as to where it was located, high in the tree, about ten more people showed up.  I finally got on the bird – a first year male.  He wasn’t as dark as shown in the field guides, but there was no mistaking his rose-colored throat.  Unfortunately the bird was too far away for me to take a photo, and the bird seemed to be in constant motion.  When someone new came up and asked where the bird was located it proved challenging to get them on the bird.  We are talking about habitat consisting of large cottonwood trees and while most of the trees did not have leaves, they all had lots of limbs and were tall (think a pain in the neck).


Birders looking at and for the Rose-throated Becard

From Tubac we stopped at St. Gertrudis Road (about 6 miles south of Tubac) to search for a Brown Thrasher and a Rufous-backed Robin.  We weren’t so lucky there, but then it was noon and not much was out and about.


Cute little bird book house, however, no one has written in the book in a couple of years. This bird book house is along St Gertrudis Road.


Okay these guys aren’t native (guineafowl)


St Gertrudis Road – which has hosted some rare species

Bird Species Seen or Heard at Tubac/DeAnza Trail/St. Gertrudis Road

  • Rose-throated Becard
  • Ladderbacked Woodpecker
  • Gila Woodpecker
  • Red-naped Sapsucker
  • Chipping Sparrow
  • Plumbeous Vireo
  • Bridled Titmouse
  • Say’s Phoebe
  • Vermillion Flycatcher – finally, the male
  • White-breasted Nuthatch
  • Red-tailed Hawk
  • Lark Sparrow
  • House Finch
  • Bewick’s Wren
  • Northern Cardinal
  • Abert’s Towhee
  • Northern Mockingbird
  • White-crowned Sparrow
  • Pyrrhuloxia
  • Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Next stop – Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge, SE Arizona.  This refuge was established in 1985 for the reintroduction of the Masked Bobwhite quail and to restore the grassland habitat it depends upon.  The refuge consists of 117,464 acres of previously over-grazed habitat (former ranches with over 1.5 million cattle).  Mesquite trees encroachment are now a big problem in reducing the grassland habitat needed by the quail.

We first stopped at the Arivaca Cienega, which has a nice 1.5-mile loop trail and part of the refuge.  We got there about 2:00 pm and still saw 16 different species.  The area was pretty dry.

A trip along the visitor center entrance road resulted in two FOYs – both an Eastern and Western Meadowlark.  The Eastern Meadowlark is actually a permanent resident of the refuge, while the Western Meadowlark is merely a snow bird – here for the winter.



Vesper Sparrow


Refuge grasslands – the sparrows and meadowlarks love it.


This is a Masked Bobwhite enclosure near the visitor center


But alas it was closed for renovations so we didn’t get to see any of the Masked Bobwhites – in captivity or in the wild.


The view from our campsite


I was photographing this Loggerhead Shrike when it decided it had enough and flew right towards me. Missed me by a couple of feet,  but it was a little nerve-wracking.


Sunset as seen from our campsite

We camped at the refuge, which has quite a few dispersed primitive camping spots – 81 to be exact, and free!  We chose one near the refuge headquarters entrance road.  The forecast is for rain tomorrow and we don’t want to be caught on the dirt roads which can become quite muddy.   Until it rains, we will continue to bird the refuge from the confines of our vehicle before heading to Sierra Vista for the evening.  A motel stop and a chance to post four different blogs – including this one – and to sleep in a real bed.  Oh, and I have laundry to do.  Fun, fun.  Not.

January 14, 2017

After breaking camp we headed to the Pronghorn Auto Tour Route, which begins near the refuge headquarters.  This ten-mile loop road produced few birds and no Pronghorn.  The refuge volunteer at the visitor center said only about 10 Pronghorn are left due to coyotes killing all the young and probably hunters killing the adults.  I asked how many Masked Bobwhites have been released on the refuges and he said about 10,000.  Despite that high number, he said it is rare to see them.  The volunteer said that on the 2016 Christmas Bird Count one couple thought they spotted two.  We didn’t spot any.

After driving the Pronghorn Auto Tour Route, we decided to drive down to Sasabe, an Arizona border town, eight miles from the refuge center/headquarters entrance.  Let’s just say it isn’t much of a town.  A sign as you are coming into town advertised a store with just about everything.  They weren’t kidding.  We came away with junk food and a tamale for Jack.  He said it was great.

Our next stop was Brown’s Canyon, located on refuge lands.  We didn’t make it all the way to the canyon, where the refuge has an educational center, because special access permission is required.  You must travel across State Trust Lands to get to the canyon, and the state requires a permit.  The refuge offers hikes in the canyon the second and fourth Saturday of each month, however, we didn’t learn about today’s hike until it was too late.

Seeing as it was around 1:30 pm and it would be a good 3+ hour drive to Sierra Vista, we decided to camp another night on the refuge.  Free is good.  The volunteer said his second favorite camp site – he helps clean them all as a volunteer – is #16, so we decided to check this site out.  This site is nice, and luckily it was unoccupied.

We took a short hike on some of the roads and when coming back to our campsite, we flushed some Gambell’s Quail.  I decided to see where they had landed and backtracked a couple of yards to a wash.  There I startled seven Ringtail Cats, and dang I didn’t have my camera with me.  I could have gotten much better shots of the ringtails than the two we saw at Patagonia Lake nestled up in a tree.  Ah, such is life.


Morning has broken … Portend of the storm to come


Refuge – former ranches now Masked Bobwhite habitat


This is wetland is called Triangle Pond



We saw a lot of Loggerhead Shrikes on the refuge. They must love all those sparrows.



This Kestrel was missing its mustache.



Tomorrow, we head to Sierra Vista for a night in a hotel and food cooked by someone else.  Hooray!!!  Nice treat once in a while.

 Bird Species Seen or Heard at Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge

  • Greater Roadrunner
  • Ladderbacked Woodpecker
  • Red-tailed Hawk
  • Vesper Sparrow
  • White-crowned Sparrow
  • Loggerhead Shrike
  • Canyon Towhee
  • Pyrrhuloxia
  • Lesser Goldfinch
  • House Finch
  • Bewick’s Wren
  • Ruby-crowned Kinglet
  • Chiquaquan Raven
  • Black Phoebe
  • Red-winged Blackbird
  • Ruby-crowned Kinglet
  • Gila Woodpecker
  • Eastern Meadowlark
  • Western Meadowlark
  • American Kestrel
  • American Coot
  • Gambell’s Quail
  • Mourning Dove
  • Brewer’s Sparrow
  • Say’s Phoebe
  • Black-throated Sparrow
  • Cactus Wren
  • Marsh Wren
  • Mallard
  • Savannah Sparrow

Remember …

It’s A Great Day to Bird