Monday, March 17, 2014

AZ Big Year - Week Nine

26 February 2014 Wednesday:  A report of an Ovenbird seen yesterday in Florida Canyon was posted to the list server early this morning.  Soon after seeing this report I am off to Florida Canyon.  I am standing along Florida Creek below the research station staring at Elegant Trogons (it’s a rough life) when the sound from a vehicle crossing a nearby cattle guard must have spooked the Ovenbird into giving its agitated chup call.  I pished a few times and the Ovenbird popped up on a snag for a few seconds and then dropped back down out of sight.  I heard the call notes for the next half-minute or so but was not able to get another viewing of the bird (and therefore no pictures). Ovenbirds are difficult birds to chase in Arizona, normally not staying on one area for very long and often hard to find even if they are in the area.
Immature male Elegant Trogon - still carrying much juvenile plumage
Once satisfied that I was not going to get another look at the Ovenbird, I headed up Madera Canyon to look for the “Red” Fox Sparrow at the Chuparosa B&B reported by Luis.  My interest in the Fox Sparrow was from the standpoint of “birds of Madera Canyon” rather than a year list.  I failed to see this sparrow since I mis-read the directions and searched the feeders to the south of the Chuparosa rather than to the northwest.
27 February 2014 Thursday:  Back to the Chuparosa this morning.  In spite to all the noise from fellow birders, the Fox Sparrow came to the feeding station via the tree tops and because of the noise would not come down to ground level to feed.  This is a fine looking specimen of “Red” Fox Sparrow.  I took several pictures to document it, it is a Arizona Bird Committee review (sub)species and I’d rather send in a picture than write a report.  While walking down to the Chuparosa from the upper parking lot, I heard a “Mountain” Northern Pygmy-Owl calling.  This is fairly close to the area they have nested in previous years so I will have to search this area for potential nesting soon.

28 February 2014 Friday:  This was one long day.  Australian birdwatcher Stewart was in town for a conference and had a few days to see this part of our country.  He was staying in Scottsdale and did not have a car.  I admit that I do not know the Phoenix area that well.  I tried to get Tommy to take Stewart for multiple reasons.  So as it turns out I left Green Valley at 05:00 and arrived his hotel just before 08:00.  Two of the areas that I do know in the regions are Boyce Thompson Arboretum and Gilbert Water Ranch.  I guessed that Boyce Thompson would be better to cover in the morning (what’s left of it) than the Water Ranch.  We had a really nice time at the BTA.  Stewart was able to photograph several hummingbirds in the demonstration garden as well as other species that he is not likely to find elsewhere.  Stewart was entertained with the contrast between the native desert portions of the arboretum and the very much like home feel of the Australian portions.  For the year list, I heard a Bell’s Vireo singing when we first arrive and we saw a Violet-green Swallow hawking over the pond.  On the way to Boyce Thompson, where the Salt River crossing the Loop 202, we had an adult Bald Eagle fly over.  Not a sight I expected to see in the Phoenix metro area.  At the Gilbert Water Ranch birding was rather exciting for someone not from the continent.  It is a great place to look for the differences in similar/sibling species, particularly with the ducks and the Black-necked Stilts.  I personally found a hybrid Green-winged X Cinnamon Teal and another Bald Eagle in the Phoenix metroplex most interesting.  I dropped Stewart off back at his Scottsdale hotel late in the afternoon, survived Loop 202 at rush hour, and made it home around 8pm.  A long tiring day, lots of miles, and still had a really good time.
Male Great-tailed Grackle - they're beautiful!

3 March 2014 Monday:  I did not bird on the 1st or 2nd.  On the 3rd, I birded locally with no particular targets.  There was a lone Common Merganser at the Torres Blancas Golf Course Pond.  Since it was alone, I was not surprised that it had departed by the time I visited this pond at sunset.  I found a Barn Swallow over the north pond of the Green Valley County Club as well as second Harlan’s Hawk in Green Valley. 

4 March 2014 Tuesday:  I guess I was having Sinaloa Wren Withdraws.  I headed down to Tubac to look for the ever-challenging Sinaloa Wren.  The Tubac Sinaloa Wren is in my opinion more difficult to see than the one in Huachuca Canyon.  The main reason for this is access; birders are restricted to a linear path at Tubac, whereas in Huachuca Canyon, birders can walk around various birder-made paths with the only restrictions being on few points for stream crossing.  I shouldn’t gripe, both birds have treated me well.  Today, the Tubac Sinaloa Wren put on a nice show.  I saw the bird fly into and from the nest, saw the nest shake while he did something inside, saw him hang from the exterior of the nest, and watched him forage on the ground below the nest.  I heard one song burst and series of ratchet calls from the wren.  And the best part was I got to show him to a group of birders that would have otherwise missed him.  The second best part was seeing and hearing a female Northern Cardinal singing in duet with her mate.  Apparently it is common knowledge, but I have never had the privilege to see & hear it for myself.
Singing female Northern Cardinal
Sinaloa Wren tending to his nest

At the end of this week, I am at 264 species for the year.

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