Thursday, August 14, 2014

AZ Big Year - Week Twenty-Eight

Much of this week was spent guiding.  However on Wednesday 9th I soloed and saw the Plain-capped Starthroat at a private residence in Green Valley and forty minutes later saw one of the Plain-capped Starthroats in Madera Canyon.  An evening guiding to Madera Canyon with Kathy Brown on Thursday 10th produced a Whiskered Screech-Owl at its favorite cavity across the road from Madera Kubo and a courting pair of Buff-collared Nightjars off Proctor Road near camp site 3.  Friday 11th morning found Kathy & I in California Gulch.  We found nine Five-striped Sparrows (the target) but also another Plain-capped Starthroat and several Black-capped Gnatcatchers.  After the gulch we headed for Patagonia where we found three Violet-crowned Hummingbirds at the Paton’s and the pair of Thick-billed Kingbirds at the Roadside Rest.  Meanwhile a Tri-colored Heron was reported at a golf course in Tucson, I learned of it too late to chase Friday afternoon (plus I was too tired).
On Saturday 12th I guided Scott Kaiser to Madera & Florida Canyons.  In Madera Canyon among most of the regulars we found Grace’s Warblers feeding fledglings and a pair of Greater Pewees at Madera Kubo, both species are typically found higher in the canyon.  One of the Plain-capped Starthroats showed nicely at the Santa Rita Lodge.  While we missed the Rufous-capped Warblers in Florida Canyon (probably too late in the day) we did see many of the other expected species including Hepatic Tanagers, Indigo Buntings, and Varied Buntings.  In the non-avian category of things, Scott & I found a very large Giant Black-headed Centipede working the leaf litter in the area where I expected the warblers.
After dropping Scott off, I learn that the Tri-colored Heron has been re-found behind the Hardesty Building in Tucson.  Also Molly recorded the song of a possible Yellow-green Vireo while searching for the heron.  As I am driving north, I get word that the vireo voice is that of a yellow-green.  I arrive a few minutes before Andrew and together we find the Tri-colored Heron fairly easily preening while perched in a willow tree hanging over the golf course pond. Joined by a group of Phoenix birders, Andrew & I begin searching for the Yellow-green Vireo.  Eventually, Andrew & I hear the vireo sing a few song bursts and then get distinctive yet obscured views of the Yellow-green Vireo.  It was quite amazing to see two very rare birds within 75 yards of one another and both were year birds!
On Saturday 13th Scott & I start off the morning in Madera Canyon where we find a singing male Scott’s Oriole along the lower portion of the Super Trail.  We hike up the Carrie Nation Trail with hopes of finding a trogon.  Not long after reaching the junction with the Vault Mine Trail, we hear and see a male Elegant Trogon calling near a cavity.  This cavity later proves to be an active albeit late nesting cavity.  
On our way to Patagonia we make a stop in Green Valley and find an immature or subadult Harris’s Hawk near a known nest.  We also pickup several other species regularly found in desert-wash habitat.  A stop at the Patagonia Roadside Rest Area produces a pair of Thick-billed Kingbirds.  These birds have been regular at this spot and are probably tending to nestlings though we didn’t find or search for the nest.  Rather than taking the most direct route to the Paton’s I choose to take Blue Heaven Road in hopes we would find a Zone-tailed Hawk.  This decision was very fortuitous for Scott saw a male Montezuma Quail crouched among some rocks among the side of the road.  The quail is only a few feet from the path of the tires of my truck.  And it amazingly remains frozen while Scott takes pictures looking down on the bird.  I am not able to see the bird until I get out of the truck.  Spectacular!
With visions of the full view quail still dancing in our heads, the Violet-crowned Hummingbirds and a pair of Yellow-billed Cuckoos in the Paton’s Yard seem somewhat anticlimactic.  A quick stop at the Patagonia-Sonoita Creek Preserve yields four more Violet-crowned Hummingbirds.  Though we were not able to come across a Zone-tailed Hawk, the Montezuma Quail was still crouched where we left him almost two hours earlier.   My commentary on this is that there must be a female on nest nearby. 
As we head back to Tucson, we find seventeen Black-bellied Whistling Ducks at the Rio Rico Ponds but no Tropical Kingbirds.  However, at the Tubac Golf Resort we find six interacting Tropical Kingbirds north of the clubhouse. 

On Monday 14th I took Ted & Steve Goodman to California Gulch.  We counted twelve Five-striped Sparrows; most were heard singing while several were seen well.  We also identified one female Black-capped Gnatcatcher among a group of several birds.  The other birds of this group may have also been this species but since they moved off quickly we were not able to clinch their identity.  Otherwise it was an enjoyable quick trip to the gulch.

At the end of this week, my annual total in 377 for Arizona.

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