Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Early February

5 February 2014 Wednesday:  I have taken a couple of days off from active birding and to reflect upon whether I wish to continue with this big year.  I have been feeling tired and unmotivated.  Also want to get out of a purely tactical mode of chasing rarities and difficult to find birds and do some planning. Yesterday was supposed to be a day for catching up on blogging, big year planning, and to work on some house projects.  It turned out to be a very busy business day and as a result I was not able to do the planning I had wished to do until late.
Late evening I was able to do some planning or at least preparations for some planning.  I took the Arizona Bird List and coded all species with a number, 1 through 6.  All species regardless of whether I have seen them or not. 
Planning Probability
Will See/Hear
Should See/Hear
Could See/Hear
Easy to Miss
Hard to See/Hear
Very Unlike

I applied a planning probability number to the list and came up with 361 species.  This gave me some confidence in the codes and probabilities since about 360 species in one year in Arizona is relatively easy to achieve if one is out birding as much is I am.  So my process is potentially sane even if I’m not.  I then applied the same to the species I have left to see, added this to my total thus far (237) and my current prediction is 384.  This looks promising, since I believe codes and probabilities are on the conservative side. 
I copied the Arizona State Bird list from the ABC website (Sept 2013).  I removed all the subspecies since they are not countable presently (though I am always interested in subspecies identification when possible).  The list had two species pending review, one I added to the main list (Ivory Gull).  I also added Common Redpoll that appears to be an omission from the currently published list.  So for my planning purposes the total number of species on the Arizona State List is 554.
I applied a code to each individual species based on personal experience with the species, personal accessibility of the species (how far away is it), and regardless of whether I had already seen the species this year.  Though I started applying codes to individual species in late December I didn’t complete it until the other day.  I had tried to apply a probability to each species but that became too cumbersome.  So I applied a probability to the code. 
From the state list, I determined there were 192 code 1 birds, 92 code 2, 61 code 3, 95 code 5, and the remaining 65 code 6.  To date I have left 44 code 1, 46 code 2, 33 code 3, 41 code 4, and 88 code 5. I have yet to see anything this year that I coded a 6.

Back to a little birding talk: 
31 January 2014 Friday: This was my first day with Peg Abbott’s tour with the Massachusetts Audubon.  We started in Florida Canyon for the Rufous-capped Warblers.  It was windy and cloudy, a combinations not conducive to finding the warblers.  After a few hours of searching I spread the group throughout the lower portion of the canyon above the dam while I worked my way up and down hoping the warblers would pass in front of one of them.  Just as I got them setup, Peg whistles signaling that she has the warblers.  They were way up the canyon, much further than I desire to take people. By the time we got to Peg, enough time had passed that the warblers were long gone.  I heard them a few times in the distance but was not able to get to the spot in time to see them.  Hunger got us out of Florida Canyon and after lunch we patrolled the creek for any of the Elegant Trogons that have recently been reported.  Coming up short in the trogons, we headed over to Madera Canyon.  We walked up to Madera Kubo and thankfully the immature male Magnificent Hummingbird was present.  We also had a Painted Redstart and several Yellow-eyed Juncos for good study.  After all the fleeing glimpses of Rufous-crowned Sparrows in Florida Canyon, the group got great views of the one that’s been hanging around the Kubo for the winter.  The wintering Inca Dove, very rare in Madera Canyon, made an appearance.  I took about three-quarters of the group down to the Santa Rita Lodge while Peg took the rest shopping in Tubac.  At the lodge we had several Dark-eyed Juncos, one of which was a Slate-colored.  This was just what the folks from Massachusetts came to see - a Slate-colored Junco.  The group was more interested in the Oregon, Pink-sided, and Gray-headed Juncos. Afterwards we walked around the Whitehouse Picnic Area searching for invisible sapsuckers. We were fortunate to see a male Hepatic Tanager.
1 February 2014 Saturday:  This was my second day with a group from the Massachusetts Audubon and Peg Abbott of Naturalist Journeys.  We targeted the Black-capped Gnatcatchers up in Montosa Canyon and anything else we might find.  A single Black-capped Gnatcatcher was heard by several in the group and seen briefly by a few.  Several of the group got decent looks at a male Elegant Trogon.  Though Crissal Thrashers were calling from all over the place when we arrived, none cared to show themselves.   As we left Montosa Canyon, one of the participants called out eagle and sure enough two immature Golden Eagles were soaring over the desert while a local Red-tailed Hawk dived on one of them.  What a spectacular sight! On the way to Patagonia Lake, we stopped for a flock of corvids in a plowed field near the Rio Rico Ponds.  We expected to get a good study of Chihuahuan Ravens. Not only did we get to see distinguishing features on the ravens, including the white-based neck feathers (wind can be advantageous for bird identification), but we also got wonderful comparisons with American Crows (1).  Of the 71 black corvids in this field I estimated about thirty were American Crows and forty were Chihahuan Ravens. While the Mass Audubon folks were not that excited about seeing the crows, Peg and I were pretty pleased. At lake Patagonia State Park in spite of valiant attempts to find the Elegant Trogons, we came up short.  An adult male was reportedly at the base of the steps at 09:00 this morning.  While searching the washes for the trogon I found an adult male Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (3).  This bird was very unexpected, a mostly juvenile plumaged Yellow-bellied Sapsucker had been seen a few days prior.  While Peg and I were waiting for the group to catch up at the eastern tip of the lake, we heard a Least Bittern (2) calling.  When the group arrived we attempted to call it up but we received no answer.  After I split off of the tour, I stopped at the Amado Pond again.  From the north overlook I was able to find two male Wood Ducks (2) feeding with the Northern Mallards at the sludge pipe on the south edge of the pond.  While this was a day for guiding, it turned to be equally pleasurable for the year list.
2 February 2014 Sunday: Louise and I took a hike up to Bog Springs in Madera Canyon. While this was officially not a birding hike, we both kept our eyes searching for a trailside Montezuma Quail (2) and our ears tuned to Northern Pygmy-Owl (2).  The hike up hill was rather quiet; however while resting at the spring box a Northern “Mountain” Pygmy-Owl calling briefly from up the drainage above the spring.  On the hike down, rather than completely retracing our steps we cut down through drainage where the Kent Springs Center is located (same drainage that runs past Madera Kubo).  Three Townsend’s Solitaires were of interest foraging in the Madrones behind the center. 

3 February 2014 Monday: I drove over the Las Cienegas to look for the Eastern Phoebe that has been spending the winter there.  I first heard and then saw the Eastern Phoebe (4) foraging in the tops of the cottonwoods with Ruby-crowned Kinglets & the like.  At least two Black Phoebes were also foraging in the treetops.  I attribute this strange behavior (for a phoebe) to the cool morning temperatures and cloud cover.  Once the sun broke through the clouds and the temperature at ground level warmed some (at least it felt warmer), the phoebes came down & began sallying from low perches more typical.  Though the Eastern Phoebe is a good bird for the year list (code 4) I was as interested in the pair of daytime calling Great Horned Owls.  I walked up the path above the green gate and watched one of the owls while it was calling.  As I departed Las Cienegas I recalled that there was a Rough-legged Hawk being reported from along Elgin Road.  While I’ve already seen a Rough-legged for the year, others have reported a Merlin(2).  I saw neither.  I ran into John Higgins on Elgin Road, he was also looking for the Rough-legged Hawk.  He reported seeing the Rough-legged Hawk minutes after I departed.  The Merlin went unreported this day. The list is at 237.

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