Tuesday, March 18, 2014

AZ Big Year - Week Eleven

12 March 2014 Wednesday:  For our second day, Jay and I decided to head south.  Jay’s list of birds to photograph included hawks and with the Common Black-Hawk & Zone-tailed Hawk migration in full swing what better place to start the day than Tubac.  We arrived at Ron Morriss Park outside of Tubac minutes before 8am and immediately saw several Turkey Vultures rising above the Cottonwood trees to the south.  Guessing that the hawks wouldn’t start lifting off for at least another hour we walked down the Anza Trail to the Sinaloa Wren spot.  No wren, which wasn’t a big deal to Jay.  Jay is not a lister.  He wants good photographs of birds, particularly the flashy ones.  Two “flashy” species caught Jay’s attention as we walked down the trail - Vermilion Flycatcher & Broad-billed Hummingbird.  While the flycatcher gave Jay several opportunities for photography, the hummingbird proved to be frustrating until later in the day.  We returned to Ron Morriss Park and enjoyed a good showing of both Common Black-Hawks & Zone-tailed Hawks.  After Jay gets several hundred images of the hawks we head off to Lake Patagonia.  The birds along the birding trail, particularly the “flashy” birds were particularly uncooperative.  That is until I find the wintering female Elegant Trogon.  Though not nearly as flashy as a male trogon, this bird was incredibly cooperative.  We spend more than thirty minutes with her as she perched, preened, stretched, yawned, and repositioned a few times.  Jay reported later that he got many good pictures of this bird (so did I).  After we finish at the lake, we head over to the Paton’s Birders Haven now owned and managed by the Tucson Audubon.  Here Jay found himself in the wonderfully chaotic situation of what bird to take a picture of first.  Two Violet-crowned Hummingbird were coming into the feeders irregularly and on a few occasions perched in the small tree above the feeder.  Broad-billed Hummingbirds were everywhere but would rarely stay in one place long enough for photos.  Many White-crowned Sparrows, a couple of Abert’s Towhees, a single Green-tailed Towhee, and a Cotton Rat were feeding around the seed feeders.  Several Lazuli Buntings made an appearance.  Three species of woodpeckers, Audubon’s Warblers, White-breasted Nuthatches, and a Northern Mockingbird were visiting the suet feeder.  A female Broad-tailed Hummingbird made a brief appearance.  Two individual, male & female, Black-chinned Hummingbirds made brief appearances.  Richard Fray previously had seen a male Rufous Hummingbird. Oh and I shouldn’t forget Pyrrhuloxia and Northern Cardinal in the same field of view.  After dropping off Jay, I receive word that there is/was a Rufous-backed Robin at Kino Springs today.  We passed by Kino Springs twice today, only if I had known earlier.   I finished the day with three new year-birds: Ash-throated Flycatcher at Patagonia Lake, the Violet-crowned Hummingbird & Lazuli Buntings at the Paton’s.

13 March 2014 Thursday:  I was out with a mother-daughter pair this morning in Madera Canyon.  While the birding and company were enjoyable, it was pretty quiet along the Proctor Trail.  And by the time we got to the feeders at the Santa Rita Lodge & Madera Kubo much of the feeding activity had subsided.  After dropping the ladies off in Green Valley I head to Kino Springs.  I was pleasantly greeted at the pro-shop, asked if I was here to see the robin, and told were it was seen yesterday.  I searched for an hour without success, purchased a Mountain Dew (my first in years), and headed home.

14 March 2014 Friday:  Today’s client cancelled so I took the opportunity to go watch hawks again.  My motivation was two more year birds, the Gray Hawks and Cliff Swallows.  A pair Gray Hawks reportedly arrived along the river near Ron Morriss Park on Wednesday after I left.  The Cliff Swallow was reported yesterday at the I-19 bridge at Tubac.  As I passed under the bridge, a Cliff Swallow flew past.  I wasn’t able to distinguish which subspecies but it really doesn’t matter to a year list. Also, Cliff Swallow was not a species I was too concerned with seeing however it has been somewhat frustrating as they have been in the area (near Tucson) for nearly a month.  At the hawk watch, I continued my peculiar behavior.  I setup about fifty yards from the crowd surrounding Peter and work my way in as the crowd begins to diminish.  This morning almost immediately after getting the lens cap off the scope, I spot a raptor (hawk or vulture) to the south and over the river.  I see the hawk watch crowd is looking at stuff to the west.  After what seemed like an eternity (probably only a minute) I finally identified the raptor as a Zone-tailed Hawk and announce it.  Several minutes later a pair of smaller looking hawks soar above the cottonwoods and by behavior alone they could be identified as Gray Hawks.  So now I can relax and enjoy the rest of the hawks and vultures passing by.  Until I start talking to Peter and learn that a Short-tailed Hawk was seen & photographed late yesterday afternoon.  The bird was reportedly coming in to roost.  Wow, this is news! A Short-tailed Hawk in Arizona seen migrating. There was also a few Swainson’s Hawks reported yesterday and earlier this morning - so much for relaxing.  I gave up around noon, leaving Peter and a few persistent observers to count the afternoon flight.  The addition of two species today puts the year list at 275. 
15 March 2014 Saturday: Carrie Nation Trail with Louise
16 March 2014 Sunday: Madera Canyon bird walk. Cassin’s Finch at Santa Rita Lodge.
17 March 2014 Monday: Harlan’s Hawk at Continental Road Bridge
18 March 2014 Tuesday:  I didn’t do what I planned to do.  I guided Connie & Karen for a half-day.  Connie had a recent foot injury and previously told me that she was not able to walk very far or over rough & unstable surfaces.  I had planned to take Connie & Karen up to Madera Canyon and walk part of the Proctor Trail & then hang out at the feeders.  While driving to pick them up I had a thought and shared it with them upon meeting up.  We went to Tubac.  I parked at Ron Morriss Park and ran over to congratulate Peter Collins on his first Short-tailed Hawk for the Hawk Watch.  I also got to say hello to Molly & Mark whom arrived just after I did. 
Connie, Karen, & I took a slow walk down the Anza Trail towards the Sinaloa Wren spot. Karen & Connie were from the Houston area so there were plenty of birds to please.  Upon arriving at the wren spot, I queried a couple about the wren.  They had heard the wren in the vicinity of the nest but had not seen it.  Almost immediately I hear the Sinaloa Wren ratchet calling from the ground across the power line cut that is to the north.  I find the Sinaloa Wren foraging on the ground and call Karen & Connie over. They both get good looks, I get a few pictures, and the couple there previously gets to see the bird.  Unusual for this wren was that it ratchet called nearly the entire 4-6 minutes we watched it.  I last saw it heading to the south towards his nest.
Connie, Karen, & I begin walking back north towards the hawk watch spot.  I am keeping my eyes moving from bushes, trees, and open sky.  I know that one of the hawks could pop up at anytime and it’s likely to be close.  About half-way back to the park I hear a large bird flopping through the canopy and then see two Zone-tailed Hawks circling at tree top level right over our heads.  Both Connie & Karen get good albeit multiple brief looks as the birds appear between leafed out branches.  Once we make it to the hawk watch crowd I learn that there were three Zonies, I could only see two at a time and didn’t speculate about a third bird.  Cool!
We arrive back at Ron Morriss Park and find many birders stationed around Peter (hawk watch master).  In short order another Zone-tailed flies over and provides prolonged views for all.  Then the first of several Common Black-Hawks cruise by.  I’m able to get my scope one a few of these and share the scope with Connie & Karen. We had to wait through many Turkey Vultures, few Black Vultures, several Red-taileds, a Peregrine Falcon until the local Gray Hawks showed themselves.  These too I was able to share scope views with Karen & Connie.  Molly spotted a bird in the distance to the south that turned out to be a Swainson’s Hawk, not that unusual but a first for me this year.

With the little time I had left with Connie & Karen, we drove back to Green Valley and found a few more species of interest including an adult Harris’s Hawk next to last years nest. Perhaps they will be at it again.

At the end of this week I’m at 272 species for the year.

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