Tuesday, July 1, 2014

AZ Big Year - Week Twenty-Four

So arrives Junes… hot temperatures, guiding slows down considerably, chores that I’ve put off for months now become priority, and did I mention it is hot.  Much of the week was consumed with chores around the house and completing the administrative part of being a bird watching guide.  I did get out with the binoculars a couple of times. On Sunday 15th June Louise & I took a hike up the Carrie Nation Trail in Madera Canyon.  This trail is one of our favorites, I like it because it is often birdy and one of the reasons Louise likes it is because it is mildly strenuous.  As approach the junction with the Vault Mine Trail on our way down, a Mexican Whip-poor-will goes into a distraction display and a very young fledgling appears just off the trail.  This is exciting; I have never seen a fledgling nightjar of any species.  I rattle-off several dozen pictures of both the adult (presumably the female) and the youngster before leaving the two be.  Both Louise and I had independently experienced this adult’s distraction display in the past few weeks.  We suspected a nearby nest but didn’t look too hard since we wished to minimize disturbance.  [About two weeks later I find the possible nest with an abandoned unhatched egg at this location.  I suspect that one egg failed due to the time the adult must spent off the nest distracting hikers passing by.]
I had been watching reports of one to three Caspian Terns being seen at the Glendale Recharge Basins on the west side of the Phoenix metro area.  I convinced Andrew to join me and early on the 16th Monday morning we arrive and immediately begin searching for the terns.  In the southeast-most basin we find three female Wilson’s Phalaropes amongst more than a hundred noisy Black-necked Stilts.  The phalaropes were probably early southbound migrants!    We eventually find one Caspian Tern in the middle-north basin (#2).  This is a great year bird as well as a state bird.  I have missed Caspian Terns several time before in the state so this was a particularly good treat, and we got some decent pictures.  The long drive didn’t seem too long and I was home before noon.
Common Nighthawks were being reported from the east side of the Huachuca Mountains and various place to the north.  They must be in the valleys on the east of the Santa Rita Mountains; the most “reliable” spot close by.   I left the house before 6pm and was on Empire Ranch Road around 6:30.  I drove the roads in Las Cienegas NCA from the Empire Ranch to Highway 82 and both the Elgin Roads southeast of Sonoita before calling it quits at about 8pm.  My most exciting find was singing Grasshopper Sparrows in the dark on Lower Elgin Road.  At about 8:30, Louise calls from McKinney, TX and tells me all about the Common Nighthawks swarming over her motel.  I learn all about the differences in the wing shape, the position of the wing patch, and the different vocalizations.  How wonderful!
I finish the week with one new year bird putting me at 369 for the year. 

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