Tuesday, March 25, 2014

AZ Big Year - Week Twelve

19 March 2014 Wednesday:  I was out today with cousins Gail & Beth.  We started in Tubac.  The Sinaloa Wren was quickly found in the middle of the power line cut just off the Anza Trail.  Though I saw it briefly on the ground & in the bushes everyone else there including Gail & Beth only got to see it flying across an opening in the vegetation.  We waited for the next forty minutes with only a few ratchet calls letting us know it was still in the area, no more visuals.   While we were walking back toward Ron Morriss Park, three Common Black-Hawks & two Zone-tailed Hawks lifted off from nearby and flew overhead at close range giving all excellent views. Such good views of these two hawks and having seen a perched Gray Hawk earlier in the morning, we didn’t even hang around the hawk watch spot.
Common Black-Hawk just after lift off - the white spots are cottonwood cotton

Zone-tailed Hawk just after lift off

If it wasn't for the difficult walk up Florida Canyon, we could have called finding the Rufous-capped Warblers easy.  We found the two warblers foraging along the path just past the low branch juniper tree.  They danced around us for several minutes. With little other activity we decided to head to Madera Canyon.
Rock Wren

One of the two Rufous-capped Warblers

At the Santa Rita Lodge, among the few hummingbirds was a Rufous Hummingbird and we found the continuing female Cassin's Finch up in the seed feeder nearest Cabin 1. Up at Madera Kubo the highlight was six Townsend's Warblers foraging in the large sycamore across the road from the gift shop.
20 March 2014 Thursday: Today was simply delightful.  I watched the feeders at the Santa Rita Lodge and Madera Kubo with Barb & Helene, a mother daughter duo.  Helene, the mother was in her nineties and a wonderful lady. There was no particularly exciting species, just a wonderful few hours sharing the beautiful feather creatures with the ladies. The female Cassin’s Finch continues at the Santa Rita Lodge.  In the afternoon, I stopped at the Amado Pond after running an errand.  Only a handful of winter ducks remain and the summer ducks have yet to arrive.  There was a new year bird for me there, a Western Kingbird (278).
21-23 March 2014 Friday – Sunday:  This particular weekend was reserved for Louise and I to spend some time together in Sedona. That means no guiding, however it doesn’t mean a lack of year birding. The only year bird I wanted to pursue this weekend was Evening Grosbeak.  There have been reports all winter at a few spots in and around Sedona.  Unfortunately for me most of the recent reports were much closer to Flagstaff and Williams. The lack of recent Sedona area reports didn’t keep me from checking spots in the Village of Oak Creek and near Red Rock State Park prior to arriving at our lodging.  There was even a report of four Evening Grosbeaks in the neighborhood where we were staying back in November.  Before breakfast our first morning, Saturday, I walked the west half of the loop formed by Kachina Drive, no grosbeaks but a really nice walk with many birds.  Later Saturday, Louise and I are hiking along a trail towards “Devil’s Bridge”.  I stop to enjoy one of the several Black-chinned Sparrows singing.  While watching one of the singing sparrows I hear a remotely familiar but presently unidentifiable fight call.  I look around and put my binocs on two Evening Grosbeaks flying past, a male and a female. In awe I kept my binoculars pointed in the direction of where they disappeared over a rise a few hundred yards to the west.  A few hours before, it was the only species I was looking for on my morning walk.  I had totally put them out of my mind for the time being and there they are! It is totally amazing how nature works! 
Scenery - no hidden bird

Sunday morning I find my self walking the complete loop of Kachina Drive.  I am able to enjoy all the “regular” birds far better without my “grosbeak-tunnel vision”.  As I am stepping up on the porch of the B&B I hear Evening Grosbeaks. I look up in time to see three grosbeaks land in a tall leafless tree about 60 yards away.  I run inside to grab my camera and manage to get two of the three photographed, the two females.  The male of this trio flew overhead as I got back outside.
Perhaps a new tactic needs to be employed.  I was zero for three while looking for the Evening Grosbeaks and two for two while not looking for the grosbeaks.  Hum?
24 March 2014 Monday: I spent the morning scouting lower Madera Canyon.  Singing Say’s Phoebe and Canyon Towhee greeted me at the Proctor Parking Area.  The towhee wanted his picture taken so I obliged him.  There were fewer migrants than I expected.  It was delightful to hear and see one of two Townsend’s Solitaires in full song. At the farthest bridge on the loop from the parking area I found a pair of Black-capped Gnatcatchers mixing it up with a pair of Blue-gray Gnatcatchers. Further up canyon at Madera Kubo, my first Black-headed Grosbeak of the year made an appearance.  Though in another week or two I’ll be seeing them by the “hundreds” it is always exciting to see the first.  The Inca Dove continues to defy the checklist, it is supposed to be rare however it has been present throughout the winter at either Santa Rita Lodge or Madera Kubo.  And now it is singing.
25 March 2014 Tuesday: I guided John from frosty New Jersey today to Tubac and Patagonia.  As we are getting on the highway in Green Valley, we see three Harris’s Hawks perched together on the first light pole south of the onramp.  At Tubac we heard but did not see the Sinaloa Wren and no migrant hawks passed while we watched.  We did hear and see four Gray Hawks and photographed several Broad-billed Hummingbirds, Vermilion Flycatchers, one Dusky-capped Flycatcher and a Lucy’s Warbler.  For the year list I saw a brightly plumaged Cassin’s Vireo, the first of several for the day.  Before getting to the lake, we saw a Northern Harrier soaring over the entrance road.  At Patagonia Lake State Park, waterfowl were few but the Cinnamon Teal were spectacular.  We saw & heard another Gray Hawk, watched American Coots live up to one of their nicknames - mud hen, tried to photograph more Broad-billed Hummingbirds & Vermilion Flycatchers, and successfully (I believe) photographed a Northern Beardless Tyrannulet.  We searched in vain for any of the trogons that were reportedly seen earlier in the day.  On the sweep up Sonoita Creek (where I saw a female trogon recently) I found a Warbling Vireo, my third year bird for the day. We arrived at the Paton’s apparently following a visit by a Gray Hawk.  There were no birds except a few hummingbirds.  While we waited for the return of the passerines John photographed Broad-billed, Anna’s, & Black-chinned Hummingbirds.  Eventually the Violet-crowned Hummingbird showed up but at the feeder in the opposite direction we faced.  A lone male Lazuli Bunting cautiously visited the seed feed on the west side of the yard and eventually other seedeaters and the woodpeckers began to visit.  Now it was as the Paton’s yard should be – like a candy store. It was quite a productive day.

At the end of this week, the year list stands at 283.

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