Tuesday, September 30, 2014

AZ Big Year - Week Thirty-Five 8/27-9/2

Somewhat on a whim, I went to Willcox this morning, Wednesday 27th.  A Short-billed Dowitcher had been reported on Sunday 24th and was seen yesterday.  I was hesitant to make such a trip, ~90 miles each way,  but knew that if I want to reach 400 species by the end of the year I needed to go!  I arrived at Lake Cochise at 08:23.  There were a fair number of shorebirds on the main lake, most obvious were the larger one like Long-billed Curlew, American Avocet, & Black-necked Stilt.  My routine here is to make one pass around the lake to get most of the species and then make a second pass to count individuals & look for the more subtle species.  On my first pass, I flush the Short-billed Dowitcher and was able to get a flight shot.  This dowitcher lands along the east shore so I’ll have another opportunity. Once I get around to where it landed, I find two dowitchers with the second one being a Long-billed Dowitcher. I didn’t recall a second dowitcher being reported and dowitchers usually don’t go unnoticed, so I guess there has been at least a small influx of shorebirds since yesterday.  I take several more photographs of the dowitchers and move on searching for something else new.  In spite of my influx prediction, I don’t find any more species of shorebirds on this or my second pass around the lake.  In all, I found eleven species of shorebirds on the main lake.  One of those was a new species for the year! Before leaving I stop at the golf course pond, still hoping for that Forster’s Tern from yesterday.  No tern, but I did hear and see two family groups of Tropical Kingbirds.  As I am driving out, after calculating the duration of my eBird checklist I see several  large shorebirds at one of the temporary pools within the Border Patrol’s fenced area.  At first I see four Greater Yellowlegs and then three more with a similar but smaller shorebird.  It’s a Stilt Sandpiper, my second year bird of the day.  This adds a bit of sweetness to an already successful day!
On Friday 29th, I guided Allison & Bryan from Green Valley to Madera Canyon.  In Green Valley one of the Harris’s Hawk perched out on a light post for an extended period of time.  In the grasslands below Madera Canyon we heard several Scaled Quail, saw ten (at least) Botteri’s Sparrow several of which were feeding juveniles, and a very out of place Yellow-headed Blackbird.  Along Proctor Road trail we saw two adult Yellow-billed Cuckoos, both were carrying food but we were unable to determine where the nest or youngsters were.  The Santa Rita Lodge continues to host many hummingbirds including two Plain-capped Starthroats and one White-eared Hummingbird.  Perhaps nearly as unusual for the specific location was a Common Ground-Dove briefly at the water feature Gray Hawk and the two Starthroats below the Madera Picnic area, Allison got photos of the Starthroats together.  On our hike up the Carrie Nation Trail, we found two adult male Elegant Trogons nearby each other and barking.  One of these birds looked rather ratty and was very much in molt.  I do not recall ever seeing an adult trogon in such condition.
On Sunday 31st, Louise & I took a hike up the Carrie Nation Mine Trail.  It was a wonderful hike; highlighted bird-wise by seeing the molting Elegant Trogon and hearing at least six Pygmy Nuthatches.  On Monday 1st I resumed my futile search for Forster’s Tern.  Though not finding any terns I was pleased to see 37 (counted) Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks at the Amado Pond including 7 juveniles. And any day seeing an Osprey is a good day, particularly when it is flying over the Green Valley WWTP.  On Tuesday 2nd I temporarily suspended my search for terns and walked the De Anza Trail from Tubac to Clark Crossing to search for land or tree based migrants.

The year list stands at 383 leaving only seventeen species to go to reach my self-proclaimed goal of 400.  Only seventeen! This isn’t going to be easy but it is doable.

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