Saturday, June 14, 2014

AZ Big Year - Week Twenty-Two

28 May 2014 Wednesday:  Today began two days guiding Barbara & Douglass, two ladies from Louisiana.  We started in Green Valley with three Harris’s Hawks near their nest site and were fortunate to see a Gilded Flicker in a nearby Saguaro. At Continental Wash we looked in on the nesting Red-tailed Hawks and found a pair of Rufous-winged Sparrows.  Further up Whitehouse Canyon Road we found a pair of Crissal Thrashers in an area that I had not seen them before.  At Proctor Road in lower Madera Canyon we scored many of the expected species for the season including Botteri’s Sparrow, Varied Bunting, & Blue Grosbeak.  At the Santa Rita Lodge & Madera Kubo we enjoyed a few hummingbirds including Magnificent, Arizona Woodpecker, Greater Pewee, Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher, and Painted Redstart.  We dipped on Elegant Trogon along the first mile of the Super Trail yet found Dusky-capped Flycatchers, a Swainson’s Thrush, and Rufous-crowned Sparrows.
Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher
Arizona Woodpecker
Blue Grosbeak
In the evening I headed back up to Proctor Road for a nightjar search.  While driving up at milepost 4 on Whitehouse Canyon Road I saw a Prairie Falcon cruise by.  Prairie Falcons in southeast Arizona at this time of year are very local and this is not one of the usual locales.  At my nightjar spot, the Buff-collared Nightjar began calling at 19:35, earlier than the other two night birds heard this evening.  The nightjar sang for eleven minutes from various perches, one within twenty-five feet away and I saw it silhouetted as it flew by once.  The bird resumed singing at 20:12 (nearly a half hour of silence).  I was able to approach the bird, see eyeshine with my headlamp, and made several voice recordings.  The bird continued singing until at least 20:37 when I got back to my truck.
29 May 2014 Thursday:  After the long drive from Green Valley, we (Barbara, Douglass, & myself) birded Huachuca Canyon above the 1.7 mile picnic area.  We found three Elegant Trogons (a female & two males), three pairs of noisy Sulphur-bellied Flycatchers, two Buff-breasted Flycatchers, a Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Western Tanagers, Black-throated Gray Warblers, and heard a day calling Spotted Owl.   
Rose-breasted Grosbeak (rare) - shaking off water after bathing

Black-throated Gray Warbler - posed after bathing

Male Western Tanager
Up Miller Canyon we were able to see the female Spotted Owl on the well-advertised nest however the chicks were not visible.  The male White-eared Hummingbird continues to dazzle. Among the boulders of the washout through the middle of the Beatty’s property, a family group of Rock Wrens were entertaining.  I left my camera & big lens in the truck because of the slight threat of rain.  I did carry my scope since it was going to give us the best view of the Spotted Owl.  Below are two photographs digitscoped with my iPhone:
Female Spotted Owl in cavity

Dorsal view of male White-eared Hummingbird
Just after starting down Miller Canyon Road from the Beatty's, we came across this beauty.  My experiences with Gopher Snakes it that they usually flee unless cornered.  Well this one wasn't fleeing and kicking at its tail did not seem to help encourage it to move along.  I was about to get one of my hiking sticks when two AZF&G guys arrived.  One jumps out of the truck and says its just a Gopher Snake and without hesitation reaches down, grabs the snake mid-section, and drops it in the weeds on the side of the road.  Now that's a real man!

I left Barbara & Douglass in Sierra Vista and drove up to St. David to see if I could find my year Mississippi Kite.  They had been reported in the vicinity for more than two weeks and since I had the opportunity I thought I would take a look.  Near the north end of Miller Lane in St. David, I found a perched Mississippi Kite perched in a large cottonwood.  I pull off take several pictures and then leave; the lighting was poor, the neighborhood did not look conducive to birding, and I was tired.
Mississippi Kite

30 May 2014 Friday:  I pulled feeder duty this morning and did not see the startthroat. At Amado Pond, the most interesting sighting was my year Purple Martin. There are not many reports of this species at this particular location.  Perhaps nearly as interesting were two continuing Neotropic Cormorants.  What could these cormorants find so attractive at this pond with so many golf course ponds with fish just a few miles away?  At Torres Blancas Golf Course an Osprey fly over provided very nice photo opportunities with some very nice results.
31 May 2014 Saturday: The evening I took Ed & Sylvia for an unsuccessful search for the Buff-collared Nightjar.  Unlike a few evenings ago, the nightjar was not heard my “secret” location.  Fortunately I will be with Ed & Sylvia for the next four days and will have other opportunities for hearing the nightjar.
Five-striped Sparrow singing
1 June 2014 Sunday: This morning Ed & Sylvia joined me on an excursion to California Gulch.  It was not until we got to the third stream crossing that I found any Five-striped Sparrow.  Three birds were foraging in the old roadbed just above where it crosses the dry stream.  There is a small pool of open water in the vicinity and that must have been the attraction.  Otherwise, we ended up with a good count of Five-striped Sparrows, seven with most of them being heard only.  We also saw a few of the other specialties in the gulch; Varied Buntings, Blue Grosbeak, Hooded Oriole, and Rufous-crowned Sparrows.
Five-striped Sparrow feeding

In the evening, we met again for some owling up in Madera Canyon.  We heard Flammulated, Elf, & Whiskered Screech-Owls and Mexican Whip-poor-wills. 
2 June 2014 Monday: Another morning with Ed & Sylvia, this morning we headed to Florida Canyon to search for the Rufous-capped Warblers.  We found two singing male and potentially a female (or at least a third bird) Rufous-capped Warblers near the oak grove where they have been hanging out for several weeks.  In addition to the warblers we found a calling Cordilleran Flycatcher (unusually low elevation), several fly by Band-tailed Pigeons, and two adult male singing Indigo Buntings.
In the evening, we tried for the nightjar again.  This time we settled in at the cattle guard on Proctor Road along with about eight to ten other folks and listened to the Buff-collared Nightjar sing for about 3 minutes.  Thankfully this species has such a distinctive song.
Adult Northern Pygmy-Owl
Baby Northern Pygmy-Owl
3 June 2014 Tuesday: We arrived at the trailhead parking are below the Beatty’s Guest Ranch at 07:35 and immediately proceeded through the Beatty’s property up the trail to the Northern Pygmy-Owl nest.  This species was one of Ed’s prime targets for their visit to Arizona.  It was also the one I was most worried about.  There does not appear to be any accessible nests in Madera Canyon, I don’t know of any along the Catalina Highway, the pair in Huachuca Canyon is nesting in an inaccessible location, and these (Miller Canyon) birds could have fledged.  As it turns out these birds have not fledged.  The female flies from the nest cavity upon our arrival.  After a few minutes delay, one of the chicks pokes it head out of the hole.  For the next hour or so we watch and photograph the chick, sometimes two, looking out of their secure cavity in a small oak tree in the middle of the dry streambed.  After a while a couple of Mexican Jays arrive on the scene, or at least nearby.  One of the adult pygmy-owls perches on a branch 50 yards away watching the jays.  And when one of the jays forages directly under the nest cavity, a second adult appears from nowhere and attacks the Mexican Jay.  The jay silently flees into a nearby oak tree with the little owl in pursuit.  After a scramble in the tree the jay flees further with the owl on its tail and eventually away from the nest area.  All the while the adult sitting on a branch watches the other jay and the action.
Baby Spotted Owl
I don’t think we could ever get tired of watching the pygmy-owl family in action, time was waning and we need to move on.  We stopped briefly at the Spotted Owl nest cavity and saw one chick.  We spent a little bit of time at the Beatty’s feeders allowing ourselves to be dazzled by the hummingbirds including mister dazzling himself, the White-eared Hummingbird.
We next headed over to Ash Canyon B&B with hopes of getting a mid-day look at a Lucifer Hummingbird.  Unfortunately (but expectedly) the Lucifer Hummingbird was a no show for the 90 minutes we waited. However, we were entertained by four other species of hummingbirds and sweet looks at both Scott’s & Bullock’s Orioles, both were brilliant males.
Male White-eared Hummingbird

On our way back to Green Valley, along Greaterville Road just west of Highway 82 we found a Zone-tailed Hawk soaring over.  This bird stayed overhead long enough for me to stop the truck and all to get out & look.

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