Tuesday, September 30, 2014

AZ Big Year - Week Thirty-One 7/30-8/5

While much of this week was dedicated to guiding, I was able to get out on my own to work on the year list.  Particularly Wednesday July 30th, I stopped at the Amado WTP and found a female (green) plumaged Painted Bunting feeding with Lazuli Buntings in the Johnson grass along the edge of the pond.  There had been several reports of Painted Buntings in Santa Cruz & Cochise County recently so it was not really a surprise to find one here.   One Thursday 31st, I join Andrew in searching for the Red-eyed Vireo I had seen a few days prior in Madera Canyon.  While we didn’t find the vireo, we did find three Plain-capped Starthroats downstream from the Madera Canyon Picnic Area.  We first saw three similar size hummingbirds hawking insects high (top of canopy height) in an opening over Madera Creek. We identified one as a Starthroat by shape & plumage characteristics and began considering the other two also Starthroats by the size comparisons.  A few seconds or minutes later we found two Starthroats perched within a foot of each other and then saw a third bird perched about thirty feet away.  All three birds are showing wing molt, a more detailed analysis of the photos could reveal which primaries are involved.  One of the birds has the slight bill deformity (tip of upper mandible hooked).  Many photographs were taken documenting the three individuals and Andrew recorded the voice of at least one of the birds. We left the area after 20 minutes with all three birds involved in a chase with one another.  This is possibly the first time that three Starthroats have been seen together in Arizona.  Amazing!  And I experience it with my good friend Andrew. 
On Friday August 1st I was out with Aaron & Adam Budgor to California Gulch.  In the gulch we found 12 Five-striped Sparrows and a low count of Varied Buntings with only a pair. Perhaps the buntings are nesting or feeding young and therefore quiet & not too obvious.  I got possibly some of my best Five-striped Sparrow pictures to date.  Along Ruby Road between California Gulch & Sycamore Canyon, I jokingly ask Aaron if he wanted to photograph another Turkey Vulture perched on a dead tree.  He declined until I clarified that it was really a Zone-tailed Hawk.  We spent about ten minutes watching & photographing two Zone-tailed Hawks circling together over the beautiful backdrop of upper Sycamore Canyon & Atascosa Peak.  While watching the hawks I hear a Montezuma Quail & a Crissal Thrasher, neither we are able to see.  I also found a male “Mexican” Eastern Bluebird carrying food to a fence post nest cavity.  Before heading back to Green Valley, we detour to the roadside rest area near Patagonia and quickly see the family of Tropical Kingbird. One of the juveniles was perched at eyelevel near the picnic table while its siblings were higher in the trees begging.  One of the siblings was at treetop level when an adult flew in with something tasty.  Aaron wanted to see the spot where the Becards once nested.  While walking there and talking about how difficult it can be to see Yellow-billed Cuckoos, a Yellow-billed Cuckoo flies up and perches in the open.  And then a second one, so much for “difficult to see”!
On Saturday 2nd Aaron, Adam, & I head up to Florida Canyon.  While I heard two singing males and saw one of them in the distance, I was not able to show Aaron & Adam a Rufous-capped Warbler.  The warblers were beyond where I can safely guide people and until they move down the canyon, the immediate future is bleak for sharing these birds.  We were however successful in finding Black-capped Gnatcatchers, four to five of them.  There were two above the metal gate and another two or three near the parking area.  After the Florida Canyon hike, we headed over to Madera Canyon.  We saw two Plain-capped Starthroats at the Santa Rita Lodge and several more hummingbirds at Madera Kubo.
I was back in Madera Canyon on Sunday 3rd.  Before meeting my clients, I found the summering female Black-and-white Warbler at the Madera Picnic Area and my first-of-the-season Chipping Sparrow at the Santa Rita Lodge.  Once joining up with clients, Nina & Gwen, we headed down to the grasslands below Proctor Road and found many of the expected species.  A walk along the Proctor Loop Trail also produced many of the expected; including Zone-tailed Hawk, a seasonally low elevation Arizona Woodpecker, two Northern Beardless Tyrannulets, and a well-seen Varied Bunting. A pair of Hepatic Tanagers foraging on the ground & in the open made up for the missing Whiskered Screech-Owl at Madera Kubo.
On Monday 4th morning I meet Nina & Gwen in Green Valley.  We were delighted to find four Harris’s Hawks as well as many other desert species.  A quick stop at the Continental Wash produced Rufous-winged Sparrows before we even got out of the car.  Headed back up to Madera Canyon and along the trail below the Madera Picnic Area, we found two Plain-capped Starthroats, a Wilson’s Warbler, a Greater Pewee, and a Willow Flycatcher.   We also got prolonged views of two juvenile Gray Hawks perched in the open waiting for parents to bring in the food.

That wraps up my birding for this week, add one new year bird and my total is 378.

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