Thursday, December 25, 2014

AZ Big Year - Week Fifty-One 12/17-12/23

The Green Valley/Madera Canyon CBC was held on Wednesday 17th.  My assigned area and task was lower Florida Canyon above the dam and to find Rufous-capped Warblers for the count.   One would think that having a trogon fly over before one starts birding is a good omen of things to come. Just before reaching the parking area at Florida Canyon, a female Elegant Trogon flies down the road and over my vehicle.  Trogons wintering arounf the Santa Ritas are not necessarily rare but not to be expected.  Last year three were found here during the Christmas Count and following my observation today of the female, a birding-friend photographed an immature male and an adult male together.  I arrived at my post at about 08:30 and for the next three & half hours wandered up & down this section of the canyon.  The Santa Rita Mountains were socked in with heavy clouds & the threat of rain.  The weather seemed to suppress the bird activity and the vegetation is thick & the creek is flowing making visual & auditory detections as well as birding in general difficult.  At 11:14 I finally detected at least one Rufous-capped Warbler chattering & giving call notes.  I was not able to get a visual on this visually stunning little bird but the calls are distinctive enough to count it for the Christmas Count.  On my way out of Florida Canyon, where the birder’s path joins the designated Forest Service trail, I see the previously reported Gray Catbird fly from the bushes I’ve previously seen it in to the nearby hillside strewn with cactus.  I watched & tried photographing the catbird on the cactus slopes before it returned to the bushes. I manage a few more bad documentation photos before leaving.  For the next couple of days I set out to photo-document a few of the rarities reported on the count.  On Thursday 18th, I found and photographed the previously reported Lewis’s Woodpecker in the Madera Highlands park. On Friday 19th I found & photographed one of the two Evening Grosbeaks Larry Liese had found in Florida Wash near the corral as well as the long continuing Black-capped Gnatcatcher. I was unsuccessful in finding the Long-eared Owl roost discovered during the count.  On Saturday 20th I photographed the four geese hanging out at the Green Valley WTP, two Greater White-fronted and two Snow Geese.

On Sunday 21st Jeremy Medina and I headed to Buckeye chase a Fulvous Whistling-Duck and some longspurs.  The duck was in a canal that crossed Old Highway 80 just west of Highway 85.  We stopped twice without seeing any ducks.  We did have a personal high count of Killdeer in one field, 179, and two American White Pelicans. We spent almost hours searching for Lapland & McCown’s Longspurs along Liberty School Road about ten miles east of previous location.  We joined several others looking over the Horned Larks.  I thought several times to have heard longspurs but not enough to put Longspur species on my eBird checklist.  About two hours after we left, Caleb the young man that originally found the longspurs found them again at the same exact spot & photographed them.   In spite of not seeing our target birds, it was good to be out and enjoy Jeremy’s company for the day.

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