On the way to some appointments in Tucson on Wednesday 10th Louise & I stopped by McCormick Park to see the Red-breasted & Yellow-bellied Sapsucker Mark & Molly had been following much of the fall. Neither species was needed for the year list but I wanted a photo of the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. I walked the park alone once without finding any sapsuckers. Separately, both Molly & Mark showed up and with Louise we walked the park. I eventually found the immature Yellow-bellied Sapsucker and got some recognizable photographs. It really did not want its picture taken.
On Friday 12th I guided a couple from Tennessee. After a quick futile search for the Harris’s Hawk in Green Valley, we head toward Madera Canyon. We had a very nice walk along the Proctor & Whitehouse Picnic Area Trails. The highlights for the visiting birders were many, though the standout had to be the Red-breasted Sapsucker just off one of the parking slots and at eyelevel. At the Santa Rita Lodge we found three Magnificent Hummingbirds (high count for time of year), two Hepatic Tanagers, and a “Slate-colored” Junco (rare form for Arizona). At Madera Kubo we found another Magnificent Hummingbird. We took another walk, from the Madera Picnic Area we followed the trail down canyon. Just a few yards into the walk, we ran into a wonderful mixed-species flock with included two Olive Warblers, five Townsend’s Warblers, a Painted Redstart, and a Hammond’s Flycatcher. Finally we headed over to Florida Canyon and walked the trail to the large water tank. On the way, another couple had just turned around after seeing a male Elegant Trogon. This was the first I had heard of a trogon in Florida Canyon this winter. Last winter there were three (at least). A few minutes later we heard and then almost immediately see the trogon and get some good documentation photographs. We continued past the trogon a hundred yards and heard the Gray Catbird that has been reported hear recently. Apparently this bird enjoys the company of two Spotted Towhees and the taste of dried hackberries. We enjoyed this bird for several minutes while it fed and perched up, I got some decent photographs.
On Saturday 13th I headed up to Tucson hoping to do some scouting for the Christmas Count. I convinced myself that getting muddy today would not improve our bird finding abilities tomorrow, so I went to Sweetwater (paved or hard pack trails) to try again for a photograph of the Baltimore Oriole. Again, there was no oriole for me.
Sunday 14th was the day of the Tucson Valley CBC. I was teamed up with Larry Norris & Pam Baum. Since I was the supposed leader of the team, I developed a strategy that had us not backtracking. We left a vehicle at the Crossroad Regional Park (outside of the circle), started birding around the Ina Road bridge and then down the river to the north. When we reached the edge of the circle we put our binocular down and walked to the vehicle, and then drove to the Orange Grove Pond, left a vehicle there and birded our way down the river back to Ina Road where my vehicle was left earlier. We found the Louisiana Waterthrush upstream from the Ina Road Bridge early. I saw it briefly and Pam & Larry heard its distinctive chip notes. Also of interest at the bridge was a female Wood Duck in amongst a flock of Northern Pintails. Several days ago when I scouted this section of the area, the river upstream from the bridge was dry. Today, it was flowing very nicely in the morning with the flow dimensioning all day so that by the late afternoon, the riverbed upstream from the Ina Road Bridge was a string of pools. Our walk downstream along the river was uneventful however we were able to secure a few good birds for the count; namely Rock Wren, Northern Rough-winged Swallow, & Wilson’s Snipe. At the Orange Grove Pond, the first surprise was water. The second surprise was a basic plumaged American Avocet swimming with the few ducks, several American Coots, and two Pied-billed Grebes. I believe the avocet was the only one for the entire count. Just north of the pond, we came across a flock of at least three Lazuli Buntings. While trying to get an accurate count of the buntings a flock of Chipping Sparrows appears with a Clay-colored Sparrow. And then a Virginia’s Warbler appears in my binocular view for a few seconds. The Virginia’s Warbler is the first ever for the Tucson Valley CBC and maybe the only one in the country. Clay-colored Sparrows seem to be everywhere this fall. We probably spent more time than we should have trying to get better views of these two rarities as well as getting some documentation. The last part of our count day was driving the desert-residential neighborhoods was of Silverbell Road. We found nothing exciting but did add a good number of species we did not previously find in the river bottom areas. We all had a nice birding and enjoying each other’s company.
Though there was some good birds this past week, none were new for the year. So the year list stands at 412.