Monday, March 17, 2014

AZ Big Year - Week Eight

19 February 2014 Wednesday:  I guided Paul M in search of three lifers to bring his life list total to 750 – we hope.  The targets for the day were Sinaloa Wren, Ruddy Ground-Dove, and Sagebrush Sparrow and all three performed exceptionally. I detected the Sinaloa Wren rustling in leaves within a minute of beginning our search.  Within another minute, the wren provided us with excellent views as it foraged in the streambed, sang once, and more good views while it foraged up in top of bushes & mid-canopy of trees.  This was the quickest I’ve found the wren and my shortest visit to this location (19 minutes).  The doves were a wee bit more difficult. 
Great Horned Owl pair, female in back
Two visits ago I had them within seconds of arriving.  The last time I tried, they were a no show.  Paul & I walked all over Whitewater Draw for an hour & half.  When we got back to the car and were contemplating our exit strategy, I see the pair of Ruddy Ground-Doves feeding together on the ground at the west edge of the pole barn. Today we watched the doves for twenty minutes. 
Ruddy Ground-Dove pair
Our next target was only a few miles down the road.  Cochise County is not the first blip on the radar when searching for Sagebrush Sparrows, at least for me.  However, I knew of some locations, thanks to some eBird friends, very near Whitewater Draw.  I was a bit nervous at first when we turned off of Coffman Road onto Grants Road.  The habitat, on private property, looked good and the road was not private.  Amazingly we found a Sagebrush Sparrow along the road, just across the fence about 30 feet away, and it appeared to be not the least bit concerned about us.  Paul was jubilant, three lifers in one day (and before noon).   
Sagebrush Sparrow
We stopped at a café in Bisbee for lunch on our way back to Tucson. 
20 February 2014 Thursday:  I had agreed to help George West show a past colleague of his the Rufous-capped Warblers in Florida Canyon.  Maria Wieloch was visiting from Poland and was a delightful lady.  Maria was an ornithologist and swan researcher.  Being in the deserts of the southwest United States must have been exciting.   In spite of being out of habitat, Maria climbed over rocks, brushed away thorny bushes and got to see a Rufous-capped Warbler and many other species foreign to her.  After we were done, she presented me with a silver pin shaped like a swan with an Amber stone in the center. She is a very sweet lady.
Black-chinned Sparrow at Florida Canyon

23 February 2014 Sunday:  After effectively taking the 21st & 22nd off, I was back in Huachuca Canyon on the 23rd looking for the Sinaloa Wren with Sherron & Pat from Pittsburgh.  It took about 30 minutes to find the wren this morning.  The first sign of the bird was the sound of rustling leaves as the Sinaloa Wren foraged.  There was no calling and only partial views until we were about to leave.  At that point in time, the bird began ratchet calling and gave us full views as it foraged along the stream below the swing set.  
Sinaloa Wren counting more humans on his life list
Since a ABA Code 5 bird never seems to satisfy anymore, we were off to Florida Canyon for the Code 3 Rufous-capped Warblers.  So after the hour & half drive and 40-minute hike we find the Rufous-capped Warblers foraging in the thick growth below the dam.  We had heard from several birders while hiking up that the warblers were being very cooperative.  We first heard & saw the warblers just past the stream crossing after the water tank.  We followed them up stream to the dam and I suggested that we climb up the dam to get better views.  The warblers showed off very nicely! We also saw the wintering Wilson’s Warbler (probably rarer than the Rufous-capped Warblers).  For my year list, the addition of an early male Broad-tailed Hummingbird zooming by was nice.  On a whim, we tried for Lawrence’s Goldfinches at North Santa Cruz Park in Sahuarita.  We couldn’t even find a Lesser Goldfinch this afternoon – perhaps more rare than anything we did see was not seeing a single Lesser Goldfinch. I am happy to report that Pat & Sherron did take my advice and find several Lawrence’s Goldfinches at Kino Springs the following day.
24 February 2014 Monday:  I was out again with Jean on the 24th.   It took some time to find the Rufous-capped Warblers but they put on a nice show in Florida Canyon.  While searching for the warblers, we heard a Montezuma Quail singing.  Unfortunately it sang from too far up the side of the canyon to get a visual on.  Fortunate for me since I count heard birds for the year list, unfortunate for Jean since she wants to visually identify a bird before counting it on her life list.
Rufous-capped Warbler pair
25 February 2014 Tuesday:  Catalina State Park and Sweetwater Wetlands were the venue for todays birding with Heather.  At Catalina SP we birded the “Birding Trail” and the group Picnic Area.  Before we even began our walk, Heather enjoyed the singing Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet at the trailhead parking lot.  
Female Ladder-backed Woodpecker
Singing Black-throated Sparrow

Both walks were rather quiet bird-wise with the highlight being our “chase” of a male Pyrrhuloxia.  While we were driving to Sweetwater, I saw a falcon on one of the power poles along Oracle.  Because of the size of the pole, I thought the falcon was a Merlin.  However, upon stopping and closer study the bird turned out to be a Prairie Falcon.  We enjoyed this spectacular bird for several minutes while standing in a parking lot in front of a Taco Bell. Sweetwater was also rather quiet but with seeing both Sora and Virginia Rails in the open very well albeit briefly for the Virginia Rail made the walk very worthwhile. On the drive home, I stopped by Himmel Park hoping to get a better photograph of the Harris’s Sparrow.  It was not to be today.

red faced Rufous-winged Sparrow

red faced Canyon Towhee

Pyrrhuloxia - supposed to have a red face
Prairie Falcon

Common Gallinule at Sweetwater

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