Saturday, February 15, 2014

And Plans Change

I have been traveling across Arizona the past several days.  I had planned a three day trip to extreme northern Arizona to work on the state and year list. I also had a client wishing a three day trip to pickup several lifers.  My year list trip became two days because George, the client, found himself having to escape the east coast a day earlier than expected.  And we found ourselves so successful the first day of his trip that I dropped him off at the airport before noon the second day.  I did get the weekend off for some rest.
11 February 2014 Tuesday:  Today I head to extreme northern Arizona. The main target is Black-capped Chickadee, however to make this trip worth the time & expense I need some extra motivation.  The first boost in motivation comes from a wintering Tundra Swan at Willow Lake in Prescott. For years I have bypassed looking for swans, not this year.  I arrive south of the south end of Willow Lake at 09:15, about an hour later than planned (got to love Phoenix traffic).  I assumed that I would be able to scan the lake from the road.  Wrong! I needed to walk a mile through a weedy field along a muddy trail and follow the trail up over a rock outcropping.   From the top of the rocks I had a wonderful view of the lake, the sun was at my back, and no swan.  I scanned the lake 4 to 5 times with the scope hoping that the swan would fly in from another lake nearby like the hundreds of Northern Shovelers were doing.  On the scan that was to be the last before moving to the other lake; I find the swan.  I take several camera and digiscope images, watch it for several minutes, and thank the Birding Gods before hustling back to my truck to continue this journey.  About the time I clear the muddy section of the trail, a White-tailed Kite cruises in and lands at the top of a small tree. Almost immediately a Northern Harrier who owns this weedy field chases the kite away.  What a privilege to see my first White-tailed Kite of the year at a place where they normally don’t occur.  Thank the Birding Gods again and hit the road.
While planning this trip I used eBird to find locations that I might get Pinyon Jays.  There were two sites close together on the route between Prescott and Flagstaff, near Williams.  I navigated to the GPS coordinates of one site, Cataract Lake.  I was to the east of the lake along a Forest Service Road looking at a closed picnic area.  I walked up and down the road for a while listening for Pinyon Jays.  An adult Bald Eagle flies over, a bunch of ground-feeding Pygmy Nuthatches (interesting behavior), and no jays.  I decide to check the other location, which turns out to be on the other side of the lake in a neighborhood.  I find another park that is open and gives me access to the lake.  While walking around this park I hear the jays, they don’t sound close and in the direction of the sun.  Pinyon Jays usually vocalize when they are on the move. After a few seconds I see silhouettes of the jays flying about three hundred yards away through the pine trees.  Had it not been for the vocalizations, the silhouettes would have been unidentified.  Not very satisfying views of a new state bird, but the birds were heading to an inaccessible area and I need to get moving. 
A Varied Thrush had been found a few minutes off the highway in Flagstaff at a place called Eldon Spring.  The bird was last seen a few days before my arrival.  Unfortunately, I was not able to find this bird during an hour-long mid-day walk around the area.  I knew this was a long shot but it could have been a sweet year bird. 
For even a longer shot I stopped at the Cameron Trading Post to look for a Rufous-backed Robin that had been present earlier in the winter.  The last report was at least three weeks earlier.  I find an American Robin and a Lincoln’s Sparrow but not a Rufous-backed Robin.  I plan to stop here again on my southbound journey.
For the rest of day I drove.  I made a few brief stops but was racing the sun. I did not want to arrive in Kanab too late. I also began revising my plans for the rest of this trip and my next guiding excursion.  I received email from my client that he was coming in a day early to beat foul weather on the east coast and therefore wanted to start a day earlier than planned. That meant I needed to cut this trip short and get home tomorrow evening.
12 February 2014 Wednesday: After a night in Kanab and before sunrise, I am heading south to Fredonia.  Before I cross back into Arizona an adult-like Bald Eagle flies over the road and at the border (north of) I see a Rough-legged Hawk perched up waiting for the rising sun. 
In Fredonia I drive through the neighborhood streets on the west side of town (this is where the chickadees have been found) and then to Altus Road on the southwest side of town.  Altus Road is where a Northern Shrike was report in earlier January and I hoped that the shrike might be perched up hunting for breakfast.  With no shrike to entertain me I return to the Fredonia neighborhood, find a place to park my truck near the intersection of West First Avenue and Judd Street.  I find access to Kanab Creek and listen for the chickadees there for several minutes.  This neighborhood looks and feels like my Mom’s neighborhood in Colorado.  And Black-capped Chickadees wander through Mom’s neighborhood in the winter.  So I begin walking the streets of Fredonia.  At 08:23 I hear chickadees to the east on Brown Street, it sounds like they are rather distant.  I start walking in their direction and find two Black-capped Chickadees foraging in some leafless tree along Brown Street in front of a house immediately west of the parking lot for a fire station.  Even though the tree is leafless, it is difficult to get good looks at the birds.  After about a minute of observation the chickadees fly north.  I don’t see where they land and in order for me to head in the same direction I must walk around the block.  I do and spend the next hour or so trying to find these birds again.  I feel fortunate that I was able to get good looks at the Black-capped Chickadees however I do wish I could have gotten a photograph.  Though I had hoped for better looks and some photographs, this is a great state bird (so good I need to write a rare report for it) and a year bird that should count for more than one.
Once I begin feeling like a continued search is futile I begin to mentally prepare myself for the drive home.  I make another pass through Altus Road and some of its side streets. Eventually, I begin the long drive home. 
I set my sights on a burn area along the highway just west of Jacobs Lake that someone recently had seen a Three-toed Woodpecker.  As I am slowing down for the pull off, a small flock of finches fly up from the side of the road.  They settle in a nearby pine tree just long enough for me to confirm they are indeed what I thought they were (Cassin’s Finches) and not what I hoped they would be (Pine Grosbeaks).  The finches leave and I look into the burned forest.  There are signs of woodpeckers on nearly every standing tree.  I heard woodpecker drumming that I attribute to my quarry.  I walk towards the sounds then hear regular tapping and pursue that.  I find the source of the tapping, a Hairy Woodpecker. But I don’t think it is the source of the drumming.  I begin walking back in the direction of the drumming previously heard and then hear more tapping.  This time, a male American Three-toed Woodpecker is the source of the tapping.  The bird is about twenty feet away and working a dead tree about eight feet off the ground.  I am ecstatic. The woodpecker is not too concerned with my presence except when the snow crunches under my feet.  I get excellent looks and take numerous pictures. It has probably been twenty-five years since I’ve seen a Three-toed Woodpecker.  This is a wonderful state bird and an excellent year bird; many thanks to the Birding Gods.  Memories of the woodpecker and the chickadee keep me energized during the long and uneventful drive home.
I stop at the Cameron Trading Post once again and see fewer birds than yesterday.  A stop at Montezuma Lake off of I-17 fails to produce the Eastern Bluebirds recently reported.  I managed once again to negotiate Phoenix traffic during rush hours and get home around 19:30.  Miles: 1088, New State Birds: 4 (Tundra Swan, Pinyon Jay, Black-capped Chickadee, AM. Three-toed Woodpecker), New Year Birds: 8, Total 2014 Year: 255.
13 February 2014 Thursday:  George had flown in a day earlier than planned to miss a forecasted snow & ice storm.  George had a defined list of target birds he wished to see here in Arizona as his ABA life list approaches 700.  We had originally planned for three days; the Sinaloa Wren and Ruddy Ground-Doves the first day, Le Conte’s Thrasher and Bell’s Sparrow the second day, Nutting’s Flycatcher the third day, and the Rosy-face Lovebirds whenever.  We got to lower Huachuca Canyon a bit after 8am and joined several people already looking for the wren or doing a bird census.  About twenty minutes of mostly listening I hear the wren blurt out several ratchet calls and after a few minutes more I find the bird rustling leaves several meters away.  Eventually about a dozen people get very good looks at the wren this morning and George came away with a whole bunch of photographs of the bird.   Off to Whitewater Draw we go. 
The hour drive flew by (pun intended) with good conversation and beautiful scenery.  We arrive Whitewater Draw and find a parking spot in front of the pole barn.  As I am gearing up a lady tells me there are ground-doves over there (pointing) and asked what kind they are.  I check them out thinking I’m going to see the small group of Common Ground-Doves that have been around.  No, they are the Ruddy Ground-Doves.  This pair of doves hasn’t been reported for over a week and I had been warning George that they might not be around.  I don’t even have the scope or my camera out of the truck yet and there they are.  The lady and her friends get excited as I explain how rare these birds are.  George is excited as he takes pictures of his second lifer of the day.  And I am obviously excited.  After about twenty minutes, the pair of doves flies off towards the ponds.  George and I are thanking the Birding Gods; what could have taken several hours took less than thirty minutes.
I suggest to George that we immediately head to Phoenix, try for the Lovebirds at Encanto Park, and giving enough daylight try for the thrashers at sunset.  He’s game and off we go. 
We approach Encanto Park just before 3pm.  The truck’s navigation set is telling us we have a quarter mile to go.  The windows are open, we are passing a golf course, and we hear the lovebirds! I pull into the nearest parking lot (which turns out to be for Encanto Park), we jump out of the truck, and find several Rosy-faced Lovebirds in the palm trees overhead and in an Oleander bush out on the golf course.  Again, we get great looks and many photographs.  The Birding Gods continue the blessings. 
Not wasting any time, we head back to the highway and go west for Buckeye.  An hour later we are pulling up to the intersection of Salome Highway and Baseline Road.  We first cover the area to the north and east of the intersection.  I had seen both a Bell’s Sparrow and a Le Conte’s Thrasher in this area several weeks earlier and this is where other birders have been finding numbers of Bell’s Sparrows.  It is late afternoon and not much is moving around.  We find a small flock of White-crowned Sparrows and there are several Anna’s Hummingbirds around.  Finally we hear a thrasher singing.  It is a Benedire’s Thrasher and across Salome Highway to the southwest.  Even though it is not the species we are looking for, we head in its direction and get some great looks at a species that is often difficult to see.  We continue walking through the salt brush desert to the southwest.  About a half-mile from the highway we begin curving our path to head back in the direction of the truck.  And there in front of us is a large tail cocked gray-brown bird running between bushes.  For the next thirty minutes or so we follow the Le Conte’s Thrasher around.  Both of us get some really good pictures of this bird.  The Birding Gods continue to smile upon us.  George has four lifers for the day, incredible.  We continue, focusing our efforts on sparrows.  The sunsets with us finding just one Sagebrush Sparrow and I don’t think George got to see it. 
We have effectively just completed two planned days of birding (really lifer chasing) in one day.  We agree that the Nutting’s Flycatcher is not worth the chase based on recent negative reports from David & Lauren and others. George has a planned trip to California next month where the Bell’s Sparrow is one of the targets.  George also knows of several lifers he can get in south Texas and looks into flights to Harlingen.  We make plans to stay in Gila Bend overnight, try again for the Bell’s Sparrow in the morning, and I am to drop George off at Sky Harbor Airport at eleven-tomorrow morning.
14 February 2014 Friday:  After a good meal, good conversation, and a good night rest we arrive back at the thrasher spot just after sunrise.  Again, I have us walking through the salt brush north of Baseline and east of Salome.  It took a while but we finally found one sage-type sparrow.  After a few minutes of study, I determine this is a Bell’s Sparrow.  This bird had thick black malar stripes and indistinct streaks on the back (uniform-looking most of the time).  We later find a loose flock of Sagebrush Sparrows and another Bell’s.  The Bell’s Sparrow seemed to not flock with the Sagebrush Sparrows and as observed by others seemed to be more skittish. The final tally for George was five lifers in one day plus a few hours of birding in Arizona.  I drop him off at the airport and wish him continued success in Texas. 
My drive home was almost uneventful.  I make a pass through the Santa Cruz Flat hoping to stumble across a Merlin and I drive across and stop at the Ina Road Bridge looking for a Cliff Swallow to fly by.  No luck.  Fifteen minutes before I get home, I receive a text message from Andrew.  There has been a Yellow-crowned Night Heron reported from Patagonia.  After some texting and emails once I get home, we learn that the report is two days old, so there’s no rush at this point.  This is good since I shouldn’t be driving until after I get some rest.  So I take a well-deserved nap.

Oh yea, while driving to the thrasher spot this morning, I saw a flock of Cattle Egret along Highway 85. This is a new species for the year, number 257.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Another trip in the Planning

9 February 2014 Sunday: Louise and I took hike along the Nature Trail in Madera Canyon at sunset.  I needed to get away from the computer and the planning I've been doing.  We were fortunate to hear several Whiskered Screech Owls, new for the year (245). I am guiding locally tomorrow and am planning to leave early Tuesday morning on an expedition to see Black-capped Chickadee in far northern Arizona. Originally I was planning three days but since a client booked me for three continuous days beginning Friday, I've backed my excursion back down to two.
Some recent excursions:
6 February 2014 Thursday:  Today I did a solo trip to northern Maricopa County.  I planned out the target species, allocated adequate time for driving & birding, and pretty much ended the day back home when I planned. 
The first target was Golden-crowned Sparrow (3) being seen at the Desert Hills Golf Course clubhouse.  When I arrived my first order of business was to use the facilities.  It’s a long drive and I had been nursing a cup of coffee the entire time. I work towards the restroom with binoculars but not camera and before starting a checklist. I was kind of hurried.  Literally the first sparrow I see is the Golden-crowned Sparrow.  My biological urges subside for the moment, I return to the truck to get the camera and then back to the sparrow.  A dog walker passes by and flushes the sparrow.  I take care of my other business and re-find the Golden-crowned Sparrow among the accompanying flock of White-crowned Sparrows after about ten minutes of searching. I begin to take a few pictures when another dog with its human in tow pass nearby.  The sparrows flush again.  Re-find, dog passes by, sparrows, flush – this sequence of event repeats several times until I see Deb Finch.  We talk for a bit, look at the sparrow once again, and take off to our respective destinations.
My second target was the three remaining White-winged Scoters (4) on the south end of Lake Pleasant.  Upon arriving at southwest side of Lake Pleasant, I followed Desert Tortoise Road to where it ended in the lake.  I thought the cover to the south was Two Cow Cove (I ignored the map that I asked for at the pay station).  All I found here were a couple of Mallards close to the shore and a bunch of coots out in the cove.  I scanned the main body of the lake, at least what I could see and saw nothing.  I checked the map I had asked for at the pay station and realized that the desired cove was to the north. I backtracked a few hundred yards, found a dirt track (which happens to be named Two Cow Road), and parked at the top of a rise.  To the north in Two Cow Cove, near but not amongst a large flock of Common Goldeneye were three larger darker ducks.  These were the scoters!  I digiscoped a few images before heading down to the lake shore in their direction.  From the lakeshore, still looking north, I was able to study the three White-winged Scoters at length.  I also got many photographs including a few showing one bird flapping revealing the white wing patch in full glory.  Sweet!
The third target was the Herring Gull (3) being seen at the north end of Lake Pleasant. Within a few minutes of leaving the scoters, I am parking at the Castle Creek boat ramp.  There are several Ring-billed Gulls flying about and perching on a dock.  I count twelve Western Grebes, all paired off in Castle Creek Cove before finding a large flotilla of Aechmorphorus grebe.  While trying to count the large grebes, I find two Horned Grebes.  I digiscoped the Horned Grebes, they are considered an eBird rarity in Yavapai County.  I continue scanning and checking each gull.  Two immature Ring-billeds provided temporary amusement while I try turning them into Mew Gulls.  I find a Peregrine Falcon across the sitting on a point at the edge of the water.  I would have missed this bird except that when I scanned past it, it was shaking off water apparently bathing.  Then I see the Herring Gull flying by at about fifty yards.  It is an adult-looking bird, as reported, complete with a reddish spot on its bill. I think it’s going to circle and settle down with some nearby Ring-billed Gulls.  However it flies a direct path across the cove and lands on the opposite shore probably more than a quarter mile away.  I take a couple of digiscope images of a white blur.  I resume scanning and keeping an eye on the Herring Gull incase it flies again.  Across the widest part of the cove, I see a mass of dark objects flying towards me.  They turn out to be American Coots.  Behind them is an adult-looking Bald Eagle.  The eagle circles and repeatedly dives on something on the water that dives under water just prior to the eagle’s arrival.  I eventually see the eagle’s target, a coot.  On one swoop, the eagle hits the coot, which bounces out of the water, but the eagle fails to capture it.  This scenario continues for many minutes.  I use my iPhone to record crappy video. Final, while I was not taking video, the eagle grabs its prey, carries it to far shore and begins … well you know what.   What a wonderful place!
The fourth and final target for the day was a Dunlin (4) at the Gilbert Water Ranch.  Up to three Dunlins have reported from the furthest ponds from the parking area.  As I walk down the trail between pons 1 & 7 I find the previously reported White-throated Sparrow.  A few yards down the trail, I see another person photographing something in the wills along the southwest corner of pond 1.  She points out the Yellow Warbler and then asked me to identify a bird she previously took a picture of.  At first, looking at the back of her camera I think it’s a Verdin, however she points out the live bird in the bushes a few yards away.  It’s a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher.  I slowly continue to back my way to the southeast.  This is a wonderful place to bird watch. I really need to come here just to bird, and not when I’m chasing some rarity or year list twitch.  I look out over pond 4 and see a small flock of large shorebird sitting o a small mud island.  In the scope I see that one is smaller.  This is one of the Dunlin.  Just as I am getting the ready to take pictures, the entire flock flushes and flies towards me and then veers westward, I think they landed in Pond 5.  I scanned Pond 5 for about an hour but was not able to re-find any Dunlin.  This pond was full of Long-billed Dowitchers, Northern Pintail, and Least Sandpipers.  The Dunlin could have been there but I was tired and viewing conditions not that great.  As was heading out, on the west side of Pond 5 I witnessed a pair of American Kestrels copulating.  I captured a few post-copulation photographs to commemorate the moment.  I almost got back to my truck when I realized I had a few minutes to spare so walked a bit more hoping to find some Cattle Egrets that had been reported recently. No luck with the Cattle Egret. 
Per my plan, I arrived home around 5pm.  Tired but feeling good about the species I was able to add to the year list and for birding some areas that I have not birded before.  One of the reasons for doing a big year was to “force” me to bird in new places. 

7 February 2014 Friday:  I was out today with Deb, Nancy, & Richard (from the Houston area) for a day of general birding.  Our first stop was Patagonia Lake State Park.  The bird activity here was slower than normal but for folks on their first visit to Arizona it was delightful.  Personally the most interesting birds were the White-throated Swifts.  They were hawking unseen insects about 50 to 100 feet off the ground and over the lake.  It is really nice to see this species at such distances and for the most part they were quiet. We managed a modest 37 species at the lake.  The biggest surprise miss was Abert’s Towhees, I neither heard nor saw one.  The next stop was the Paton’s.  No matter the season, this is always a delightful place.  I think there were only three individual hummingbirds coming in, two Anna’s and one Broad-billed Hummingbird.  The seedeaters and the woodpeckers entertained. Next, after the long drive, was the Santa Rita Lodge Feeders in Madera Canyon.  Only seven species but most were new for the day.  Madera Kubo produced a few more new species including two male Magnificent Hummingbirds and a Painted Redstart. Overall it was a very nice day birding and it was a privilege to share it with Deb, Nancy, & Richard.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Early February

5 February 2014 Wednesday:  I have taken a couple of days off from active birding and to reflect upon whether I wish to continue with this big year.  I have been feeling tired and unmotivated.  Also want to get out of a purely tactical mode of chasing rarities and difficult to find birds and do some planning. Yesterday was supposed to be a day for catching up on blogging, big year planning, and to work on some house projects.  It turned out to be a very busy business day and as a result I was not able to do the planning I had wished to do until late.
Late evening I was able to do some planning or at least preparations for some planning.  I took the Arizona Bird List and coded all species with a number, 1 through 6.  All species regardless of whether I have seen them or not. 
Planning Probability
Will See/Hear
Should See/Hear
Could See/Hear
Easy to Miss
Hard to See/Hear
Very Unlike

I applied a planning probability number to the list and came up with 361 species.  This gave me some confidence in the codes and probabilities since about 360 species in one year in Arizona is relatively easy to achieve if one is out birding as much is I am.  So my process is potentially sane even if I’m not.  I then applied the same to the species I have left to see, added this to my total thus far (237) and my current prediction is 384.  This looks promising, since I believe codes and probabilities are on the conservative side. 
I copied the Arizona State Bird list from the ABC website (Sept 2013).  I removed all the subspecies since they are not countable presently (though I am always interested in subspecies identification when possible).  The list had two species pending review, one I added to the main list (Ivory Gull).  I also added Common Redpoll that appears to be an omission from the currently published list.  So for my planning purposes the total number of species on the Arizona State List is 554.
I applied a code to each individual species based on personal experience with the species, personal accessibility of the species (how far away is it), and regardless of whether I had already seen the species this year.  Though I started applying codes to individual species in late December I didn’t complete it until the other day.  I had tried to apply a probability to each species but that became too cumbersome.  So I applied a probability to the code. 
From the state list, I determined there were 192 code 1 birds, 92 code 2, 61 code 3, 95 code 5, and the remaining 65 code 6.  To date I have left 44 code 1, 46 code 2, 33 code 3, 41 code 4, and 88 code 5. I have yet to see anything this year that I coded a 6.

Back to a little birding talk: 
31 January 2014 Friday: This was my first day with Peg Abbott’s tour with the Massachusetts Audubon.  We started in Florida Canyon for the Rufous-capped Warblers.  It was windy and cloudy, a combinations not conducive to finding the warblers.  After a few hours of searching I spread the group throughout the lower portion of the canyon above the dam while I worked my way up and down hoping the warblers would pass in front of one of them.  Just as I got them setup, Peg whistles signaling that she has the warblers.  They were way up the canyon, much further than I desire to take people. By the time we got to Peg, enough time had passed that the warblers were long gone.  I heard them a few times in the distance but was not able to get to the spot in time to see them.  Hunger got us out of Florida Canyon and after lunch we patrolled the creek for any of the Elegant Trogons that have recently been reported.  Coming up short in the trogons, we headed over to Madera Canyon.  We walked up to Madera Kubo and thankfully the immature male Magnificent Hummingbird was present.  We also had a Painted Redstart and several Yellow-eyed Juncos for good study.  After all the fleeing glimpses of Rufous-crowned Sparrows in Florida Canyon, the group got great views of the one that’s been hanging around the Kubo for the winter.  The wintering Inca Dove, very rare in Madera Canyon, made an appearance.  I took about three-quarters of the group down to the Santa Rita Lodge while Peg took the rest shopping in Tubac.  At the lodge we had several Dark-eyed Juncos, one of which was a Slate-colored.  This was just what the folks from Massachusetts came to see - a Slate-colored Junco.  The group was more interested in the Oregon, Pink-sided, and Gray-headed Juncos. Afterwards we walked around the Whitehouse Picnic Area searching for invisible sapsuckers. We were fortunate to see a male Hepatic Tanager.
1 February 2014 Saturday:  This was my second day with a group from the Massachusetts Audubon and Peg Abbott of Naturalist Journeys.  We targeted the Black-capped Gnatcatchers up in Montosa Canyon and anything else we might find.  A single Black-capped Gnatcatcher was heard by several in the group and seen briefly by a few.  Several of the group got decent looks at a male Elegant Trogon.  Though Crissal Thrashers were calling from all over the place when we arrived, none cared to show themselves.   As we left Montosa Canyon, one of the participants called out eagle and sure enough two immature Golden Eagles were soaring over the desert while a local Red-tailed Hawk dived on one of them.  What a spectacular sight! On the way to Patagonia Lake, we stopped for a flock of corvids in a plowed field near the Rio Rico Ponds.  We expected to get a good study of Chihuahuan Ravens. Not only did we get to see distinguishing features on the ravens, including the white-based neck feathers (wind can be advantageous for bird identification), but we also got wonderful comparisons with American Crows (1).  Of the 71 black corvids in this field I estimated about thirty were American Crows and forty were Chihahuan Ravens. While the Mass Audubon folks were not that excited about seeing the crows, Peg and I were pretty pleased. At lake Patagonia State Park in spite of valiant attempts to find the Elegant Trogons, we came up short.  An adult male was reportedly at the base of the steps at 09:00 this morning.  While searching the washes for the trogon I found an adult male Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (3).  This bird was very unexpected, a mostly juvenile plumaged Yellow-bellied Sapsucker had been seen a few days prior.  While Peg and I were waiting for the group to catch up at the eastern tip of the lake, we heard a Least Bittern (2) calling.  When the group arrived we attempted to call it up but we received no answer.  After I split off of the tour, I stopped at the Amado Pond again.  From the north overlook I was able to find two male Wood Ducks (2) feeding with the Northern Mallards at the sludge pipe on the south edge of the pond.  While this was a day for guiding, it turned to be equally pleasurable for the year list.
2 February 2014 Sunday: Louise and I took a hike up to Bog Springs in Madera Canyon. While this was officially not a birding hike, we both kept our eyes searching for a trailside Montezuma Quail (2) and our ears tuned to Northern Pygmy-Owl (2).  The hike up hill was rather quiet; however while resting at the spring box a Northern “Mountain” Pygmy-Owl calling briefly from up the drainage above the spring.  On the hike down, rather than completely retracing our steps we cut down through drainage where the Kent Springs Center is located (same drainage that runs past Madera Kubo).  Three Townsend’s Solitaires were of interest foraging in the Madrones behind the center. 

3 February 2014 Monday: I drove over the Las Cienegas to look for the Eastern Phoebe that has been spending the winter there.  I first heard and then saw the Eastern Phoebe (4) foraging in the tops of the cottonwoods with Ruby-crowned Kinglets & the like.  At least two Black Phoebes were also foraging in the treetops.  I attribute this strange behavior (for a phoebe) to the cool morning temperatures and cloud cover.  Once the sun broke through the clouds and the temperature at ground level warmed some (at least it felt warmer), the phoebes came down & began sallying from low perches more typical.  Though the Eastern Phoebe is a good bird for the year list (code 4) I was as interested in the pair of daytime calling Great Horned Owls.  I walked up the path above the green gate and watched one of the owls while it was calling.  As I departed Las Cienegas I recalled that there was a Rough-legged Hawk being reported from along Elgin Road.  While I’ve already seen a Rough-legged for the year, others have reported a Merlin(2).  I saw neither.  I ran into John Higgins on Elgin Road, he was also looking for the Rough-legged Hawk.  He reported seeing the Rough-legged Hawk minutes after I departed.  The Merlin went unreported this day. The list is at 237.