Saturday, November 15, 2014

AZ Big Year - Week Forty-three 10/22-10/28

On Wednesday 22nd I guided six doctors and a spouse to Catalina State Park & Sweetwater Wetlands.  They were all from the west coast and most had very little birding experience in southern Arizona.  The excitement for me was finding my second Tennessee Warbler of the year.  And better yet, I photographed it.  Apparently this bird hasn’t been seen (or at least reported) since.  I could not re-find it an hour or so after the initial observation.  Hopefully, it will show up again.
On Thursday 23rd I tried to bird the area around Proctor Road below the waterfall.  I was hoping to find Abert’s Towhee, a species I do not believe I have seen in Madera Canyon.  With the pending arrival of dozens of school kids, I aborted. Instead I went up to the Whitehouse Picnic area and found the Red-breasted Sapsucker.  This will be the fifth winter this individual has graced Madera Canyon with its presence. At the Santa Rita Lodge, I found a female Blue-throated Hummingbird.  This species is possibly one of the most misidentified, meaning other species are turned into Blue-throated Hummingbirds.  Someday I’ll write myself an article about it.
On Friday 24th I was again birding along the Santa Cruz River at Santa Gertrudis Lane.  About 300 yards south of the lane while heading out, I came across the largest mixed species flock I had encountered all morning.   The highlight of this flock was a female plumaged Orchard Oriole that appeared in the top of a nearly leafless Cottonwood tree.  Without binoculars it appeared to be a large warbler.  With binoculars it was clearly an oriole and after a few seconds of viewing it flew out of sight.  For the short period of time I had viewing the bird I was able to see and note enough to identity it as an Orchard Oriole versus one of the more expected species. Soon after I finished recording my notes for the oriole, I notice a different looking woodpecker.  This turned out to be a juvenile plumaged Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. Fortunately, Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers often make their first migration south still wearing much of their juvenile plumage whereas other sapsucker species are mostly in adult-looking plumage before arriving on wintering ground.  This fact makes their identification easy. 
On Saturday 25th Louise and I made another Quetzal Quest Trek up the Carrie Nation Trail.  As with our previous trek up this trail and continuing past the mine, we found the flock of Cassin’s Finches and not much else bird-wise.  There were a few Chiricahua Whites (butterflies) flying around the pine trees above the mine and Louise found a Madrean Alligator Lizard. 
On Sunday 26th I was up in Florida Wash looking for a Long-eared Owl roost when I received a text message about a possible Field Sparrow in Green Valley.  Having already determined that there were no Long-eared Owls present I quickly headed down to the Desert Meadows Park.  I was not able to turn up a Field Sparrow but did find a close relative, a Clay-colored Sparrow.  This was my second of this species this year but the first time to get a photograph.  This little park has plenty of habitats suitable for sparrows.  I visited here three times on the 27th and once on the 28th it was worth the effort for a possible Field Sparrow in Arizona.  A few of the more unlikely species found during these visits include: female Lark Bunting, continuing Clay-colored Sparrow, female Blue Grosbeak, several Lazuli Buntings, and a single Lawrence’s Goldfinch.
On Monday 27th I guided Rick Shaw around Green valley & primarily up to Madera Canyon.  As mentioned above, we stopped at Desert Meadows Park with the highlight being the female Lark Bunting.  We stopped at Proctor Road but quickly continued up canyon since grass cutting & associated noise made birding unpleasant & nearly impossible.  The noise wasn’t quite as bad at the Whitehouse Picnic Area, still few birds.  But when one of the birds is a Red-breasted Sapsucker life is good. Madera Picnic Area had a few more birds & even less noise.  A stop at Madera Kubo was productive; six Magnificent Hummingbirds graced the feeders while two Anna’s Hummingbirds took turns at the feeders when the Mags were off chasing each other.  The highlight though was a Greater Pewee calling from the tip-top of the trees above cabin #4. Good things that the orange lower mandible is a good field mark since it was much easier to see than the pointed crest (the call is also diagnostic).  At the Santa Rita Lodge, an Inca Dove made an appearance at the feeders.  This is perhaps the same individual that spent the summer in the canyon, either at the lodge or Madera Kubo. 
On Tuesday 28th I guided Rick & Felice around Green Valley & Madera Canyon.  Our first stop was the Green Valley Foothills neighborhood where three Harris’s Hawks showed off very nicely.  A stop at the Desert Meadows Park produced at least one female Blue Grosbeak. Though she played hard to get, we finally got decent photographs to document this late occurrence.  We walked from the Proctor Road parking area to the Whitehouse Picnic Area and back.  The Proctor Road area was a much different (improved) place than yesterday.  Without the noise & disturbance associated with grass cutting & bush trimming, we records twenty-six species including a late Broad-billed Hummingbird.  At the Whitehouse Picnic Area, we found the continuing Red-breasted Sapsucker and close looks at a flyby Sharp-shinned Hawk. At Madera Kubo we had two more Broad-billed Hummingbirds with the same hummers that were there yesterday.  We heard but could not get our binoculars on the Greater Pewee.  And just before leaving, I checked some tree cavities and found a roosting Whiskered Screech-Owl.  It was in a cavity behind cabin #3 and to see it one had to stand in exactly right place to peer through the vegetation.

For this week, the Orchard Oriole was a new species for the year bringing my total to 397.

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