Saturday, December 30, 2006
We carpooled to the David Yetman trailhead which is (technically) on Camino de Oeste near Speedway/Gates Pass. While waiting for the group to gather we focused the spotting scopes on a Gilded Woodpecker and a Curve-billed Thrasher that were perched near the houses along the edge of the trail. After we gathered, we followed the trail for about a half mile or so and did have better luck seeing birds here. One of the first we saw was a Green-tailed Towhee bathing in a small rock indentation filled with water. The sunlight hit him just right and his rufous cap and green tail were almost iridescent. He was quickly joined by a Curve-billed Thrasher. Over the next few minutes we spotted several species of wrens. Cactus, Rock, and Canyon wrens all allowed us several opportunities to study them. Another Verdin also gave us a chance to study his species by sticking to the branches of some Paloverde and Ironwood trees below us. Other birds seen were Black-throated Sparrow, Gambel’s Quail, Phainopepla, Northern Mockingbird, Gila Woodpecker, Mourning Dove, House Finch, Loggrhead Shrike, and White-crowned Sparrow. Noteworthy is the fact that we didn’t see one raptor on this trip, however, an adult Bald Eagle fly over was noted in this very area later in the day.
Saturday, December 23, 2006
Gradually, we began to see the outlines of coots like ghosts in the shadowy recesses of the water. As the sun rose and warmed the air, the fog quickly burned off. Above us, several flocks of Yellow-headed Blackbirds flew. The sight of these birds with their bright yellow heads sparkling in the sun drew enthusiastic oohs and aahs from visitors and Tucson residents alike (myself included). There were probably several hundred of the. Soon we were able to see the ducks in the ponds (Pied-billed Grebe, Blue-winged Teal, Green-winged Teal, and Cinnamon Teal, American Widgeon, Bufflehead, and Ruddy Duck). The Red-tailed Hawk with the stick/arrow in his wing was seen on his usual roost as was the Harris’ Hawk. Sid, as per his usual, picked out a wonderful Prairie Falcon specimen sitting on a far-away electric tower. A Cooper’s Hawk was also briefly seen.
As we made our way around the ponds, we saw more ducks and lots (relatively speaking - more than I’ve ever seen in one place at one time) of Common Moorhens. When we got to one of the lookouts, we had wonderful views of a Green Heron and a Sora that stayed for a long time! We checked the back pond for Kildeer and shore birds, but there wasn’t one blessed bird in that pond. With that I bid adieu to the group to begin my little trip to Phoenix. Highlights of the day were definitely the Yellow-headed Blackbirds, the fluorescent green of the Green-winged teal and Green Heron, and the long looks at the Sora.
Saturday, December 9, 2006
Here sat the plethora of ducks promised in the trip’s title. Several hundred ducks were seen in the three treatment ponds. I immediately put my scope on a gorgeous Wood Duck drake and then found at least three more close by. Also lots of coots, Green-winged teal (a great day to get to know these birds well as there were literally 100’s of them), Gadwall, American Wideon, Northern Shoveler stirring up the waters, Blue-winged Teal, Northern Pintail, Ring-necked Duck, Bufflehead, Common Merganser, Ruddy Duck, Eared Grebe with a wonderful red eye, Pied-billed Grebe. In addition to the ducks were Least Sandpiper, American Pipit, White-crowned Sparrow, Abert’s Towhee, Killdeer, Red-tailed Hawk, Say’s Phoebe, Black Phoebe, Common Raven and a beautiful Mountain Bluebird* which I now feel I “own” well enough to put on the life list. At least two Northern Harriers were also spotted by the group, one immature who gave a group of ducks a fright and a gray adult male. Finally, as we were set to leave, a Wilson’s Snipe flew overhead and performed some spectacular aerial displays. All in all not a bad morning for little more than 2 hours of birding.
Sunday, December 3, 2006
In the course of the day, we spotted quite a few raptors in addition to the Caracras: Cooper’s Hawk, Northern Harrier, American Kestrel, Peregrine Falcon and several morphs of Red-tailed Hawk including dark morph and Southwestern. We ended at a small pond in Arizona City where the lighting was bad, but which produced American Coots, Redhead Duck, and Ruddy Ducks, but no Wideons as far as we could tell. Highlight of the trip home was a much needed stop at Baskin-Robbins for some chocolate ice cream with hot fudge sauce. Oh yeah!
Thursday, November 23, 2006
Saturday, November 18, 2006
Common fieldsWe began our birding trip in northeast Tucson by exploring the common fields of our leader’s housing development. The most prominent bird by far was the White-crowned Sparrow, but we also saw one or two Lincoln’s, Lark, and Brewer’s sparrows among the weeds. The shear numbers of White-crowned gave those of us who needed it an excellent opportunity to study the birds in all its forms, both juvenile and adult. Common birds, such as Great-tailed Grackle, House Finch, Rock Pigeon, and Mourning Dove were also plentiful. Raptors included American Kestrel, Sharp-shinned Hawk, and a beautiful Merlin identified by Sid. Other birds here included Cactus Wren, Common Raven, Gila Woodpecker, Abert’s Towhee, and Lesser Goldfinch.
Woodland RoadAfter a short break we traversed Woodland Road where we saw a gloriously-colored Vermillion Flycatcher and his mate flycatching from the trees. There were large groups of blackbirds which included Red-winged Blackbirds, Brown-headed Cowbirds, Brewer’s Blackbirds, European Starlings, and Great-tailed Grackles. Quite a few Western Meadowlarks were also in the area. In a small brush pile someone spotted a Dark-eyed Junco of the Pink-sided variety. A Red-tailed Hawk, American Kestrel, Eurasian-collared Dove and Northern (red-shafted var.) Flicker were also seen along this road.
Marsh pondFrom Woodland Road we entered our leader’s development to see what could be seen from one of the larger ponds. There were a number of American Coots, Mallards, and American Widgeon (which Danny identified quite nicely!). A Great-blue Heron, a Green Heron, and a female Belted Kingfisher spent time fishing the pond. Among the trees lining the pond we saw Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Yellow-rumped Warblers and a pair of Red-naped Sapsuckers. However, the real action began when we went around to the back of the pond behind some trees and sat quietly. After a few minutes, the birds forgot our presence. We were rewarded by almost unheard of looks at a Marsh Wren as well as a Common Yellowthroat. Both birds were completely cooperative in showing themselves while drinking the water among the cattails. As we tired of them a Sora made a brief appearance before swimming back to the marshy netherlands.
LunchWe meant to stop for lunch when we were through with the pond, but were distracted by the flight of something in a bare tree. Sid said it acted suspiciously like a Lewis’ Woodpecker, so the whole troupe turned around and indeed we were rewarded with not one, but two Lewis’ Woodpeckers flycatching from the tops of the bare trees. We stayed for a while just soaking in the giss (general impression, size and shape) of the birds before heading off for lunch around another little pond. A Great-blue Heron, Great Egret and Green Heron also made their lunches in the pond.
Aqua Caliente ParkBy this time it was getting pretty warm and some of us were tiring, but most of us made the short trip to Aqua Caliente Park. Sid, in his third spectacular ID of the day, found a roadrunner perched on top of the wash birm as he, Danny and I drove to the park. New birds seen here during our trip around the pond were Black Phoebe, Northern Harrier, Cooper’s Hawk, Northern Mockingbird, and Black-throated Grey Warbler.
Saturday, November 11, 2006
We birded several spots in the Sulphur Springs Valley including Whitewater Draw, Elfrida, Kansas settlement, Willcox, the AEPCO power plant and the Benson ponds. The best birds were the thousands of Sandhill Cranes. At the power plant they were close enough to see the red heads of the males and to watch the cranes stretch out their legs for a landing. John was careful to explain how the cranes land differently from the Snow Geese (which were also at the same spot). The cranes put their long legs forward, pulling their wings above themselves and drop like an elevator while the geese “whiffle” themselves by turning their wings to one side and “dumping” the air lift so that they drop down sideways. Then at the last second they right themselves to land on two feet. I’d seen this process hundreds of times before in the Snow Geese at Middle Creek, but really hadn’t given thought to it until now.
It would be too redundant to list all the species we saw as they were, for the most part, the same as two weeks ago with the exception of many of the sparrows, the Bendiare’s Thrasher and the Scaled Quail which we did not see this week. We did see several Ferregenous Hawks on this trip compared to the single one we saw two weeks ago. I did add Eurasian-collared Dove to my life list. There were many of them as we drove through Tombstone and then again at Kansas Settlement. Although it was good for the life list, it’s a little disturbing to see so many of them and know that they are quickly and quietly invading the country sides of many places in the US.
The best stop of the day, however, had to be Stout’s Cider Mill in Willcox where we had homemade apple pie. I had the apple-marionberry that was awesome!
Friday, November 10, 2006
After several trips back to the apartment for forgotten items (money, camera, iPOD, etc.) and a really bad Chai tea spill, I finally made it to the museum in time for the 8:30 am bird walk this morning. I met the docent, Buzz, on the front patio and found out I was the only person ready to go today. Yeah, I love personal birding trips! Buzz is a transplant from Maryland and was really helpful in telling me about the local wildlife including tress, plants, and butterflies, as well as the birds. We only birded about an hour, but we picked up several species, including Northern Mockingbird, Cactus Wren, Curve-billed Thrasher, Gambel’s Quail, Costa’s Hummingbird, Gila Woodpecker, Black-throated Sparrow, and Black-chinned Sparrow*. The Gilas were being particularly cooperative by staying low and close to the trails.
After about an hour, Buzz ended the walk by showing me to the walk-in aviary. I did go in, but frankly, after a little while I felt ill and anyone who knows me will understand why. A gilded cage is no less a cage. No matter how natural or realistic it looks to us, the truth is these animals are trapped for our “enjoyment”. I did, however, enjoy being out on the desert loop trail. I walked it twice and being the rabble-rouser that I am, I walked opposite the “suggested path” so that I felt like a salmon swimming upstream - hehe. The views were spectacular and I can see why many people who live here love this place. During my walk here, I spotted a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher darting and hissing among the Palo Verde, but not much else new. The sun was warm, the sky was blue, and it felt good to be off work and outside.
Sunday, November 5, 2006
Took my first trip to Madera Canyon today with Danny. We left before the sun rose and headed south on I-19 arriving at the canyon around 7:30 am. It was pretty chilly – a 3 or 4 layer morning – as we drove up Whitehouse Road into the park. We stopped at the Ampitheater Nature Trail and started up the trail. This trail reminded me of hiking the Appalachian Trail in PA with the running stream and the oaks’ leaves changing color. A regular fall day complete with brown leaves with which to shuffle under your feet! At first, it seemed unusually quiet for that time of the day, but we soon were surrounded by several chattering birds. It took a few minutes to find them and then a few more to positively identify them as Mexican Jays*. First birds, first lifers of the day! We took a long time to look at them and really make sure that was what we saw.
We headed back to the car and drove up the road to a picnic area where we saw a few more Mexican Jays. We then drove into the Bogs Spring campground area and followed a trail that went up the side of the mountain. We walked a short way when we spotted what I thought at first was a Towhee, but ended up to be a Rufous-crowned Sparrow. We also saw some jays along this trail. At this point the sun was starting to come up over the mountain giving us a fabulous view of the mountains and valleys, but the birds were still really quiet. We hiked up the trail a bit more following the streambed and found a few Ruby-crowned Kinglets, a red-shafted Northern Flicker, and more Mexican Jays. Not really seeing much on that trail, we headed back down and drove to a sunny spot near one of the gift shops. The place had several feeders and there was lots of activity, so we decided to do a little feeder-watching. Here we saw about a dozen Mexican Jays (are you getting the idea that this was the most frequent bird of the day?), but we also saw lots of Acorn Woodpeckers, White-breasted Nuthatch, Bridled Titmouse, and more Ruby-crowned Kinglets. The woodpeckers were somewhat aggressive with each other - lots of squawking and bickering going on around the feeders. This was the best birding of the day so far and we stayed for a long while drinking the hot apple cider that Danny brought along. We both got some pretty good pictures of the jays and the woodpeckers.
We finally pulled ourselves away from the activity of the feeders to walk up the hill a bit to the other gift shop and feeders. Along the way we encountered a Brown Creeper and a Red-naped Sapsucker working different sides of the same oak tree. As I was looking at these two, a Painted Redstart* burst into my binoculars and then flew off before I could get the directions out to Danny. We eventually gave up looking for it and started back up the hill where we stopped at the second gift shop. Upon exiting, we saw the redstart once more. This time he stuck around and let us look at him. He even ducked under the little bridge and took a bath so that we could watch him preen in the tree. There were also several Acorn Woodpeckers at this site. As we turned to leave, we heard a sound that Danny ID’d as a hummingbird and sure enough, there was a hummer at the feeder. He also sat in the tree and let us get a really good look at him. A truly Magnificent Hummingbird* was he!
We left Madera Canyon after lunch as it was getting really warm and a bit buggy as well. On the way back home, we went to Sweetwater Wetlands off of Prince Road. This sewage treatment plant is tucked away behind the Interstate and is well worth the trip! There are several ponds with a wide variety of bird life. Here we saw (in no particular order) Common Moorhen, Ruddy Duck, American Coot, American Widgeon, Gadwall, Mallard, Northern Shoveler, Green-winged Teal, Lesser Scaup, Pied-billed Grebe, Gambel’s Quail, Northern Harrier, Harris’s Hawk*, Sora (heard only), Mourning Dove, Gila Woodpecker, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Common Raven, Marsh Wren, White-crowned Sparrow, Red-winged Blackbird, and Great-tailed Grackle. We had the Harris’s Hawk in the scope for a while as he was quite cooperative in giving us good views of all his best sides. I definitely will need to come back here! That’s 4 lifers today plus the 5 from yesterday make 9 lifers this weekend- pretty amazing!
Saturday, November 4, 2006
We then proceeded down to Bear Creek and walked along its banks crisscrossing the stream several times. We spent much of our time here as it was very good birding. Among the cottonwood and sycamore trees there were dozens of Ruby-crowned Kinglets including one pumped-up male who displayed his crown several times for us. Also saw Northern Cardinal, House Finch, Hermit Thrush, Orange-crowned Warbler, a beautiful Green Heron, Red-tailed Hawk, Cooper’s Hawk, Cactus Wren, Bewick’s Wren, Rock Wren, House Wren, Hairy Woodpecker, Ladder-backed Woodpecker, Black Phoebe, a very faded Yellow-rumped Warbler, Common Raven, Verdin, several different species of Hummingbirds, probably Anna’s and Broad-tailed. In addition to these fine birds, we saw some really spectacular species, including several great views of a Prairie Falcon* both in flight and at rest, a Red-naped Sapsucker* that let me get close enough to take its picture (above and thanks to Ben for encouraging me to take my camera today!), a Black-throated Gray Warbler*, and an ARIZONA Woodpecker* (a truly rare and uncommon bird). At one point we could see all four from the same spot. Phenomenal!
How do you top something like that? Actually, you can’t. Reluctantly, we hiked up the trail toward the road. From there we connected with a smaller trail that led back to our starting point. Along the way we saw several more Phainopeplas, but it was all kind of anticlimactic, however, as you can see Sabino Canyon is certainly well-marked as one of Arizona’s Important Bird Areas
Tuesday, October 31, 2006
This is less of a blog entry than it is a test of the Google Doc's blog settings feature, but I do have one small tidbit of birding news to share. Tonight, I experienced the beauty of the Saguro National park on the west side of Tucson. As I was driving back on this dirt road a sinlge Gambel's Quail ran in front of my car. I had to wonder where he was hurrying to at the end of his day. The sunset was so fabulous that I felt a bit breathless.
Hmmmm.... i'm looking for a spell checker here and can't find one, but if you want to try this out the address is http://docs.google.com Pretty interesting stuff. Hope there aren't too many spelling errors :-) Here's goes nothing...
Saturday, October 28, 2006
The group met at the Houghton Road spot at 6 am. It was a small group today – just 7 of us including the leader(s) so we only needed 2 vehicles. I rode with Howard and Mary who have just moved to Tucson from Montana. They will be “part-time” residents and are avid birders. Sid also rode with us, so it was the four participants in one car and the three leaders in the other. As we left the parking area, we all noted how beautiful the oranges, pinks, and reds were in the sunrise. Actually, it was quite cold this morning and got colder as we climbed in elevation making our way south and east. I was wishing I had dressed just a little warmer.
It took almost 2 hours to get to out first stop, White Water Draw and we were all getting a little antsy to do some birding which meant that we started stopping to look at the Red-tailed hawks along the road. This proved to be more than a little dangerous as there really wasn’t a good place to pull over and we almost got rear-ended once. (Folks, birding and driving are almost as dangerous as drinking and driving. Don’t let your friends bird and drive!) However, as we turned onto the road leading to White Water Draw we did stop to take a look around and bang, bang, bang, I had my first four lifers of the day – Bendire's Thrasher*, Lark Bunting*, Western Meadowlark*, and Sandhill Crane*! The cranes were just fabulous in that totally prehistoric way that Great Blue Herons are; only there were many of them flying in groups and you could hear them well before you could see them. It was then that I started to appreciate how good these guys were. Keith was excellent at pointing out the distinguishing marks between two similar species and Jake was great at getting every bird in his scope and making sure we all got to look at it. It was like having our own private pro birding team. Here we also saw a Loggerhead Shrike, Mourning Doves, and Great-tailed Grackle.
From what I could tell, White Water Draw is usually one fairly large pond created by a dam, however with all the rain we’ve had recently, it is now kind of a series of ponds. There was even water submerging the dam breast at some point so we couldn’t walk from one side to the other over the breast. Westarted out looking for owls near the pole barn, but didn’t find any. In the water of the main pond there were quite a few American Coots, Eared Grebes, and Cinnamon Teal. We also saw a Greater Yellow legs, some Killdeer, Spotted and Least Sandpipers, and Black-bellied Plover along its banks while an adult and a juvenile male Vermillion Flyctacher, Say’s Phoebe and Black Phoebe caught bugs in the are surrounding the ponds and a Northern Harrier and Cooper’s Hawk surveyed the fields for prey. Making our way around the pools, we saw a Yellow-rumped Warbler, and several sparrows including Vesper, White-crowned, and Brewer’s, Tree Swallows, Barn Swallow, Violet-green Swallow (which I didn’t see) and House Finch. The back pools provided us with a small flock of Snow Geese and 2 Ross’s Geese*, A ruby-crowned Kinglet, Northern Shoveler (one dead and one alive), Ruddy Ducks, Gadwall, American Widgeon, and Ring-necked Duck. Finally, as we started to leave, it started to warm up a little.
Next we headed toward Willcox, but had a few good birds on the way. One was a Greater Roadrunner that was perched in a tree (!) and flew down just as we approached it in the cars. Another good one was a Ferruginous Hawk* that was soaring with a Red-tail. Finally, we stopped to flush some sparrows and found a Black-throated Sparrow. We were hoping for a Sage Sparrow, but I don’t think we ever found one.
Once we got to Willcox, there didn’t seem (to me) to be a whole lot going on. Again, lots of Coots, but also a beautiful great Blue Heron perched high atop what looked like an empty swing set although it was somehow in the pond. Then overhead erupted lots of twittering which Keith ID’d as a flock of Chestnut-collared Longspurs. I didn’t get a great look, so I probably won’t count those on my list just yet, but I did see a flock of 20-30 small dark birds fly by ::grins::
Other birds of note here were Long-billed Dowitcher, Blue-winged teal, Pied-billed Grebe, Raven sp, Mallards, and Savannah Sparrow. That’s almost 50 species (the “boys” counted 57 on their list) and 5 lifers today. ¡Excelente!
As a side note, it turns out that two of our leaders are from Pennsylvania. John is from suburban Philly and went to Penn State. Jake grew up in Bangor, went to Kutztown U and then Penn state. They were impressed that I actually knew were Bangor was. Small world, huh? Well, I should've known...look at those great PA Dutch names :-)
Saturday, October 21, 2006
Our first stop was in Rio Rico at the fields next to the road. We birded the pond and found a pair of Wood Ducks and a Belted Kingfisher among the many Mallards. We also saw a first-year and an adult male Vermillion Flycatcher, Kestrel, Laurence’s Goldfinch, Red-winged blackbird, Brewer’s Blackbird, and a few Black-bellied Whistling Ducks that were feeding along the berm of the pond.
We moved onto the de Anza trail system a few miles down the road, but it was already almost 9:30 until we got there and it seemed the birds had already settled for the morning. We walked the trail for quite a while. Our leader, Scott Wilbor who is an AZ IBA Conservation Biologist, told us of the multi-faceted conversation efforts all along the Santa Cruz river corridor. He was a surprised as we were when we found that the river had actually rerouted itself through a field which is quite a distance from its original route.
We did find one really good spot where some pishing brought out a great variety of birds, including Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, White-breasted Nuthatch, Bridled Titmouse*, Blue Grosbeak, and Nashville Warbler. We also saw an oriole sp. in the willows by the river, but were unable to further id it. On the way back to the vehicles, someone spotted an abandoned Gray Hawk nest. Looks like I’ll have to wait until next spring to add these guys to my list.
Afterward, Roger took us to the Amado water treatment pond where we were able to view Black-bellied Whistling Ducks with their young at a close range. We also saw a pair of American Coots, a pair of Ruddy Ducks, a Spotted Sandpiper, and Great-tailed Grackle here.
Sunday, October 15, 2006
Saturday, October 14, 2006
I wasn’t sure if this walk would go or not as the weather people have been predicting rain and storms all week for this weekend. However, there were clouds, but no rain when I left this morning and, as it turned out, the weather people were wrong (again). We met our leader, Kendall, just off Irvington Road which is on the south side of Tucson and then traveled to a second meeting place in Green Valley. I drove this week after assurances from Kendall that my car would make it. Newbie Leslie (today was her very first birding trip!) and old-timer/ field guide, Bob rode with me to Esperanza Ranch which is just north of Nogales on I-19.
As we walked down the access road to the ranch, we met two more birders who said they saw a Black-throated Gray warbler. As I didn’t see it, I’m not counting it among today’s list, but it was a “Darn! That one got away” bird! It wasn’t long before we came to a small pond that was rich in birdlife. Here we saw: Barn Swallow, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, American Coot, Lesser Scaup, Pied-billed Grebes, Vermilion Flycatcher, Say’s Phoebe, Yellow-headed Blackbirds, Mallards, and Yellow-rumped Warblers. We spotted a Great-horned Owl who had been roused from his hiding place and flew over the pond (twice). He was really a treat!
We again saw many sparrows this week. Around the back end of the pond, we had Brewer’s, Lark*, Lincoln’s, Savannah, White-crowned and Vesper sparrows. Another great treat was an entire flock of Lawrence’s Goldfinch*. The males were still very beautiful in their (not quite dismantled) breeding plumage. Another frequently seen, but never tiring bird was the Lazuli Bunting* – a lifer for me. As pretty as the males were, I was also fascinated by the females who looked as though someone dunked their tails in blue ink.
Moving along the trail behind the pond, the amaranth fields yielded a few more surprises for us. Among the first was a Loggerhead Shrike and a Northern Harrier. One of the best though was a Plumbeous Vireo* who was singing in one of the mesquite trees. His white spectacles and gray plumage were easily spotted with bins.
Other notable passerines today were: Abert’s Towhee, Green-tailed Towhee, Barn Swallow, Black Phoebe, Bewick’s Wren, Cassin’s Kingbird, Common Ground Dove, Gila woodpecker, House finch (that’s for Leslie – her first!), Ladder-backed Woodpecker, Lesser Goldfinch (nice contrast with seeing the Lawrence’s today), Mourning Dove, and Northern Cardinal.
At the end point, while we were watching the Common Ground Dove, two Black-bellied Whistling Ducks and a Greater White-fronted Goose were spotted. We also found a Loggerhead Shrike who had caught his breakfast, a lizard, and had it speared on a mesquite thorn. I had often seen that behavior illustrated in books, but never in real life. Cool! As we headed back toward the pond, someone spotted a Green Heron, American Kestrel, Solitary Sandpiper, and Northern Flicker (red-shafted). I count 42 species (not including the Black-throated Gray warbler or the Red-naped Sapsucker that I didn’t see). It was very much worth risking the rain!
Life List count: 353!
Saturday, October 7, 2006
The full moon graced the morning sky as I drove to the meeting point at Houghton Road and I-10 for this week’s Audubon Society bird walk. Our leader, Scott, made sure that we carpooled as compactly as possible and I ended up as a passenger with co-leaders Craig and Dave and fellow birder Danny in Craig’s SUV after originally offering to drive. However, as the morning wore on, I was more and more grateful that I hadn’t driven as the roads to Bog Pond were, to put it mildly, treacherous. The Celica would have never made it.
However, those treacherous roads led to some pretty decent birding. Scott found a White-tailed Kite waiting for us by the road. We had several minutes to look at his very white breast and back before he floated off.
As we birded Bog Pond, we found Sora, Pied-billed Grebe, American Coot, Green-winged Teal, Savannah Sparrow, Vermillion Flycatcher (the male was absolutely stunning in the sunlight!), Black Phoebe, Say’s Phoebe, Meadowlark sp., Cassin’s Kingbird and Northern Harrier. We also flushed about a dozen Scaled Quail from the tall grasses. Some of us almost stepped on the birds (unknowingly, of course) before they broke flight.
As promised, there were many sparrow species present. Savannah seemed to be the most prevalent today, but we also had, after much looking and debate, a Baird’s Sparrow. Lincoln, Grasshopper, Chipping, Vesper, and White-crowned were represented as well.
After a brief stop at the Patagonia rest area, we headed to Paton’s. I vaguely remember reading about this place a while ago, but I guess I didn’t understand the full extent of the idea here. Paton’s is a private residence – a pre-fab home, really that has quite a few hummingbird feeders in the yard. The residents of the house keep the feeders filled and allow the public to come in and view the birds. This has been going on for some 20 years, so the feeders and the birds are very stable.
Today there were four hummingbird feeders, although there were spots for at least 8 more feeders. Each feeder is numbered, so birders can call, for example, “There’s an Anna’s at 9” meaning that an Anna’s Hummingbird is feeding at feeder #9 which is a good thing because the birds come and go so fast that you’d probably miss them without the numbers for reference. Hummers seen today included Anna’s, Broad-billed, Black-chinned, Rufous, and Violet-crowned. They all glimmered in the sunlight like the little jewels that I had read so much about, but what impressed me most, coming from the east coast, was the shear variety of hummers in one spot sharing feeders. Yes, they were aggressive, but many times there were three or four different species all enjoying the same feeder at one time.
There were a few other birds here as well. I got my first look at an Acorn Woodpecker which was very stunning in his black, white and red feathers. Danny found a Gray Hawk that we heard, but I couldn’t get it in my bins fast enough. There was also a Lesser Goldfinch that was almost fully black on his back – just a little bit of dark green. He hung around the fountain for a drink.
Our car was the last to leave Paton’s and now that the “official” trip was over, Craig suggested we check out the nearby Nature Conservancy reserve which is only about a mile away. We stopped along the road for a Canyon Towhee and a few more Cassin’s Kingbirds. We also stopped for a large-ish bird sitting in a bare tree and debated whether it was a hawk, a vulture, a dove or something else. We spent a good 10 minutes trying to decide, but in the end we gave up. It would be our mystery bird for the day. As we were backing the car out of the parking lot, the bird finally turned positions so that we could all clearly see it was a Black Vulture. So much for our mystery bird!
One more bird show awaited us as we drove toward Tucson. Craig spotted a small raptor flying fast on our left. Until we got the car turned around and found the spot, it was gone, however, on the other side of the road was a Red-tailed Hawk being harassed by a Northern Harrier being harassed by an American Kestrel. We thought it unusual for three raptors to be engaged in such a dispute, but it was a great ending to one more great day of birding in and around Tucson.
Saturday, September 30, 2006
The 6am meeting spot was frequented by a panhandler who was hoping (unsuccessfully) for a hamburger. Our leader today was Kendall Kroesen from the Tucson Audubon Society. Kendall led the way to our first stopping point were the society has helped Burrowing Owls retain habitat. We saw several owls sitting outside of holes and on the ground. The society built a few raised burrows that the owls seem to have taken to it nicely. At this spot, we also saw Eastern Meadowlark, American Kestrel, and Turkey Vulture.
We then proceeded to the farm area proper were we were almost immediately and briefly greeted by an Abert’s Towhee. The area around here was flooded during this summer's monsoons and was very overgrown with amaranth, however much of the ground was dry and cracked already. Brewer’s Sparrows* abounded here. There were either hundreds or the same flock of 20 or so birds that we kept flushing and pushing forward during the entire morning. It was great to be able to really get good looks at this little non-descript sparrow who is apparently a substitute for the Chipping Sparrow “back home”. We also saw Mourning Doves and turkey Vultures in abundance.
Special sightings included a few Green-tailed Towhees* that popped up to Kendalls pishing, a pair if blue-gray gnatcatchers, a Ladder-backed Woodpecker, Red-tailed hawk, an Orange-crowned Warbler, and a White-winged Dove. We also had some very good looks at several Western Kingbirds* in the morning sunlight. My very favorite though was the Loggerhead Shrike who sat in a bare tree with a flock of Mourning Doves to survey the field below him. He allowed us to view him for a long time.
In addition to these, we saw Barn Swallows, Gila Woodpecker, Lesser Goldfinch, Song Sparrow, and White-crowned Sparrows (juvenile who didn’t quite have his song right as yet). Finally, on the way out of the parking lot, 5 vultures flew overhead. Two of them were Turkey Vultures, but the other three were Black Vultures. A good find here!
Time for a new Life List count…339. Not too shabby…up from 323 in May of this year without any big or focused trips :-)
Saturday, September 23, 2006
Today I attended my first Tucson Audubon Society bird walk. I met the group and its leader, Bill Wieboldt, at the junction of Tange Verde and Catalina. We then traveled to the Tange Verde Ranch at the very end of Speedway. This is property that is usually reserved for private guests of the ranch, but Bill had special permission to bird there today. Although it would have probably seemed mundane to many Tucson area birders, I found a special thrill in birding the area because just about everything was new. Well, some birds, like the Northern cardinal, Mourning Dove, Barn Swallow, Turkey Vulture and House Finch weren’t new. Plus, I identified Northern Mockingbird while everyone else was trying to decide if it was a mocker or some sort of thrasher since I didn’t have all those confusing thrashers floating around in my bird bank.
The feeders in front of the ranch were filled with Lesser Goldfinch. They were very animated on the swirling feeder. I learned that the American Goldfinch that I saw so frequently at home is a rare winter time visitor to this part of the country and people had fond recollections of seeing them.
We saw lots of Gila Woodpeckers, so I’m starting to get them down pat. Also saw a beautiful pair of vermillion flycatchers. The male was just stunning in his orange and dark brown plumage. Also seen were Black Phoebe, Say’s Phoebe*, Black-headed Grosbeak*, Western Tanager*, Bewick’s Wren, Cactus Wren, Western Wood Peewee, Rufous-winged Sparrow* (which was a VERY good bird!), American Kestrel, Red-tailed Hawk and either a Abert’s or Canyon Towhee. A Bell’s Vireo was also heard.
After the walk a few of us diehards (Bill, Sharon, Arlene, Danny, and myself) stayed for lunch at the ranch. It was an excellent buffet with salad, entrees, breads and more desserts than any of us could eat. All in all a good start to birding in AZ.
Wednesday, September 20, 2006
After a five day cross-country excursion, I touched down in Tucson on Monday September 18th around 8pm. Got up early Tuesday morning intending to go for a quick walk around the area, however, on the way to my car to get out my sneakers, we spied a hummingbird and a Cactus Wren* which made us change plans, take the binoculars and go for a bird walk.
We walked up W. Broadway and spotted a Verdin* among the House Sparrows and House Finches. He stayed right out in the open for quite a few minutes so that both Jenn and I got good looks at him. We turned onto Shannon Road, we saw Lesser Goldfinch, Gila woodpecker, and Phainopepla*. Also saw many Mourning doves and one White-winged Dove. As we continued along Shannon Road, we heard a lot of clucking with at first we couldn’t identify. Pretty soon though we saw a Gambel’s Quail cross the road. Then we saw two more and then more and more in groups of three and four. It was an amazing sight! Again, we were allowed very close looks at many of them which was really great. That was 3 lifers within 30 minutes of my first morning in Tucson!
Later in the day, we drove to Mt. Lemmon. This ride is an experience unlike any other I’ve had. We started out with views of the Sonoran desert and then ascended into semi-arid desert grasslands, then oak forest, pine forest, and finally scrub pine forest. The temperature was probably 20 degrees cooler from bottom to top and the plant life changed just as dramatically. Birds of note were White-breasted Nuthatch (one of those I was bemoaning not seeing just a few days ago), Brown Creeper, Rock Wren, Red-tailed Hawk, and Turkey Vulture.
Wednesday, September 13, 2006
The Blue Jays are heralding the arrival of the movers. I’m moving to Tucson, Arizona tomorrow to start a new life and have new adventures, but this week has been bittersweet saying goodbye to friends, family, and familiarity. I’ve been keenly aware of the many eastern species that I will no longer hear with such regularity: Blue Jay, Gray Catbird, Eastern Towhee, Downy Woodpecker, Carolina Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, and even Common Grackle. These species have been a huge part of my birding life since I was a small girl and I can still remember my delight at first attracting some of them to the feeders at our house on South 15th Street.
There was a grape arbor in the backyard that had a small wooden shelf that the former owner used as a planting shelf. My mother encouraged me to put some breadcrumbs out. After a few weeks, we added store-bought variety birdseed and then sunflower seeds. The Northern Cardinals also came, as did the American Goldfinches, Pine Siskins, and the Black-capped Chickadees. This started what became a life-long passion for studying birds.
There are some species I can look forward to seeing in Tucson also. Of course, the ever present European Starling, House Finch, and House Sparrow cover the country, so there’s no chance of leaving them behind. I was also pleased to see that I will find Northern Cardinal, Red-winged Blackbird, Great-horned Owl, and Dark-eyed Junco in my new surroundings. However, on the other side of this bittersweetness are the new species I can look forward to seeing: Sandhill Crane, Gambel’s Quail, Greater Roadrunner, and the many hummingbird species!
Today I will say “:goodbye” to my long-time friends, but tomorrow I will say “hello” to new ones.
Sunday, August 20, 2006
During our final 12 mile run before our half marathon in 2 weeks, Kim and I saw at least 4 Great Blue Herons at Gring's Mill today. Even better, we saw a Green Heron as we crossed the Mill bridge. He was a beautiful specimen in the morning sunlight.
Saturday, August 12, 2006
Jen and I drove down to Ron and Yvonne’s place on Friday afternoon. We ordered dinner from “The Depot” and sat around drinking Cavet’s Pinot Grigot until almost 10 which is late for some of us :-)
In the morning we started out at Higbee’s Beach which was very productive and yielded several species of birds including:
Gray Catbird (Ralph, the Obligatory Catbird)
Jen was a great help with ID’ing by ear.
After Higbee’s, we headed to Sunset Beach, the Meadows, and the point where we saw shorebirds and more:
Greater Black-backed Gull
Great Blue Heron
Belted Kingfisher (at the pond by the CMBO)
Great Blue Heron
After lunch at my favorite place in Cape May (Cape Orient for Curry Roma Tofu, of course), we headed up to Brigantine. Lots of egrets, gulls and ibises, as well as…
American Bittern (Jen spotted this one! What a great find!)
Add to these the House Sparrows at Yvonne’s house and the total species count is 52. We ended the day with dinner at my second favorite restaurant at Exit 0, Gecko's!
Sadly, this will probably be my last trip to Cape May for a while. I must here pay tribute to my good friend Yvonne who has been my host, my birding companion, and my friend these last 7 years. Although we won’t be close enough for a short jaunt together on weekends any more, I know there are many good birding adventures in store for us, i.e. lots of Western birds for our life lists :-)
Tuesday, July 4, 2006
I drove to Cape May the next weekend to do some birding with my friend Yvonne, however, neither the weather nor the birds cooperated. I went down on Friday afternoon and it rained the entire way down, but cleared in Cape May enough for us to dine at Gecko’s (my favorite Mexican place there). Yvonne and I birded the Concrete Ship, the Meadows, and Higby’s Beach on Saturday morning without seeing anything spectacular. We eventually gave up and headed to Historic Cold Springs Village which was hosting a quilt show. The village is captivating and if you like history (even just a little bit), go. The staff gave us interesting building/ grounds history as well as information about the products made in the area. The printer, the potter and the lace maker were especially interesting. Around noon we went to Cape Orient (my favorite Asian place there) with Ron for lunch. After lunch I followed Yvonne to her new house in Stowe Creek. The house is beautiful and has a great little pond in the backyard. There we heard/saw a Belted kingfisher, Great-crested flycatcher, and several other species under the gray skies before I headed out. Once I hit Philly, it started to rain once again and continued through most of the night. The whole reason I left early on Saturday was to complete a 12 mile run with Kim, but, once again, the weather did not cooperate. It rained most of the day and by Tuesday night there was flooding in much of the area, including my place of employment as shown above.
Although I had scheduled it months ago, my trip to Tucson, Arizona on Thursday couldn’t have come at a better time! I flew with my daughter to find her a job, an apartment, and other relocation-related activities. She’s not much of an outdoorswoman (dressed mostly in miniskirts and pumps), but she tolerated a few short forays into the desert for dear old mom. At the Santa Cruz River path, we spotted Bushtits, Great-tailed Grackles, Northern Cardinals and White-winged doves. On Saturday we spotted a Greater roadrunner in the back of a shopping center (of all places!). He run in back of the car, jumped up on a retaining wall, and displayed his wings and crest for Kat. She was quite impressed, however we couldn’t get our cameras fast enough to get a picture. He was gone before I got the car in park and we ran to the wall. It was so hot there as to be almost unbearable (but I DO love the sunshine), so I didn’t get nearly the birding done as I would have like to have gotten done. I did get some really lousy pictures of Gila Woodpeckers* that I saw at the University of Arizona campus, Pima Community College’s west campus and on “A” Mountain. The trip back to Philly was unremarkable – you know the typical babies screaming and kids kicking the back of your seat the whole way. Why, oh why do people subject the rest of us to their little “angels” on cross-country flights? This particular flight had a woman with three, count them, one, two, three children ages infant (screaming), barely out of toddler (kicking my seat and talking non-stop), and not yet school age (crying because he had to sit alone). What was SHE thinking??? Sorry, enough ranting for today…
Saturday, May 13, 2006
Little Blue Heron
American Tree Sparrow
61 species, 1 lifer, life list total count: 323
3 best birds: Yellow-breasted Chat (mimicking a duck!), White-rumped Sandpiper (best ID of the day), and Indigo Bunting (singing his heart out)
Lunch was what else but Curry Roma Tofu at Cape Orient. I’m serious, this stuff is the BEST!!!!
Saturday, May 6, 2006
As I ascended the hill toward the mansion, I encountered an Acadian flycatcher on one side of the trail and a Louisiana Waterthrush on the other side. I got a peek at the flycatcher before he flew away, but never got to actually see the waterthrush. Other birds of mention along the trail were: Red-bellied woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, Eastern Phoebe, Red-eyed Vireo, Blue Jay, Chickadee sp., Carolina Wren, Robin, Gray Catbird, Northern Parula, Scarlet Tanager, Chipping Sparrow, Northern Cardinal, and American Goldfinch.
Once again, the best place to bird in the whole forest turned out to be at the mansion where I can sit on the stone pillars and watch the shrubs and fountains. I usually have to wait quietly for a few minutes, but I am almost always rewarded. Today, it was a Veery who ventured into the garden first. He made short hops from shrub to shrub and pecked at the salvia lying by the fountain-side. He took a few sips of water, fluttered his wings and took off. A few minutes later I simultaneously heard chips and saw movement in the rhododendrons behind the fountain. Short chipping and flashes of blue were the only signs of activity at first, but then I saw 8-10 Yellow-rumped Warblers flitting downward one at a time into the pool. Just when I thought they were all “butter butts”, a gorgeous Black-throated Blue Warbler male popped out onto a branch. He was quickly followed by a female and they allowed me to enjoy them for several minutes before heading off. It was right around this time that I heard the cry of a Pileated Woodpecker in the trees above me. Didn’t get to see him, but I know he was there.
My return trip to the car was relatively uneventful. The waterthrush continued to taunt me by singing very close, but not allowing me to view him. As I rounded the corner almost at the edge of the parking lot, I saw a flash of orange and black being chased by some brown blur. Must have been a Baltimore Oriole – nothing else is that black and vivid orange. Two last more birds before I hit the road were House Wren and Common Yellowthroat. All in all a very nice way to spend 2 hours.
Sunday, April 30, 2006
Friday April 28, 2006: Encounter with a Tom
On making my way to Jenn's house for the first of three AT hikes, I slowed on Tilden road to look at two Wild Turkey hens that had crossed the road (right to left). As I slowed the car, a huge tom attacked my car from the right. Apparently, I was cutting him off from the hens and he was none too happy about it! He puffed out his feathers, spread his tail and waggled his waddle all the while gobbling quite loudly. I put the car in reverse to try to back away so he could cross the road, but he ran alongside the car and continued to attack it. He stretched his neck so that he could look into the car and continued gobbling. I put the car in drive and tried to drive past him, but he then ran in front of the car and stood his ground pecking at the bumper. Finally, he gave up and strutted back into the field, gobbling all the way. He was not giving up, he was walking away and I knew who the winner was!
The remainder of the day was comparatively uneventful, but yielded a few good birds anyway. We hiked from Eckville to Windsor Furnace and the weather was perfect: sunny, warm, not a cloud in the sky, with a very gentle breeze. We saw a few gorgeous Red-winged Blackbirds in the fields beyond Hawk Mountain, as well as Eastern Phoebe, Yellow-Rumped Warbler, Black-throated Green Warbler, Red-eyed Vireo, and Black and White Warbler. Three woodpecker species made themselves heard: Downy, Flicker and Pileated. The best looks for the day came from the Turkey and Black vultures gliding just below our vantage point at the Pinnacle. They were so close we could see their eyeballs. Well, we could see the feet on the Black vultures anyway no lifers for me, but several for Jenn.
Saturday April 29, 2006: Black and White Warbler Day
This was the best birding day of the weekend. We saw a total of 24 species between our hike from Shartelsville to Port Clinton and Jenn's backyard that evening. The day was overall a little cooler and breezier than Friday. We kept our jackets (and pant legs) on for most of the day. By far the best birds of the day were the Black and White Warblers. We must have heard 15 or 20 different birds as he hiked along the trail. Many allowed us good looks at them, especially at Auburn lookout where we spent close to two hours sunning ourselves and looking down on the black and whites (yours truly managed a short nap and got a bit sunburned- ouch!). Other birds on the trail include Turkey vulture, Blue Jay, Black-capped Chickadee, Ovenbird, Eastern Towhee, Pileated Woodpecker, Eastern Phoebe, Wild Turkey, Downy Woodpecker, Mockingbird, Goldfinch, Cardinal, Field Sparrow, Chipping Sparrow, Red-winged Blackbird, and American Robin. There were 2 birds of note at Jenn’s house. First was the Killdeer pair whose male displayed every time anyone got close to the side of the house. It was a great broken wing display (I'd heard about it, but never seen it before then). The other was a Northern Flicker who sat in Jenn's yard eating ants. The sun was starting to set and the light made the color of his red cap simply pop off his head.
Sunday April 30, 2006: Port Clinton to Winsdor Furnace
Although today's hike was the shortest of the weekend, we both felt it was the most difficult, partly because neither of us had hiked that section before and partly because we were really tired from the previous two hikes. It was also quite rocky, as is most of the AT in Berks. The weather was just a bit warmer than yesterday, but for whatever reason, there were many fewer birds today. There were two really good ones as we crossed Rt 61 and began the steep incline. The first was a Blue-gray gnatcatcher in the trees just over the overpass. He seemed to be passing through. He didn't pish and quickly worked his way from tree to tree around the mountainside. The other bird was a Wood Thrush that we saw very near the top of the ascent. He was very quite and was flushed by someone’s golden retriever. Other than those two, we heard only Black and white warblers, Black-throated Green Warblers and saw more Turkey vultures.
Friday, April 14, 2006
While running along the trails near the Reading Museum, Kim and I saw a magnificent specimen of Red-tailed Hawk. He had a gorgeous rust colored tail that he displayed as he flew to a tree top carrying a large stick. As we continued along the trails behind Wyomissing toward Lancaster Avenue, we heard quite a few other species, including Flicker, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Chickadee sp., Tufted Titmouse, Northern Cardinal, American Robin, Blue Jay, House Finch, Brown-headed Cowbird, Am. Goldfinch, and White-throated Sparrow.
Saturday, March 18, 2006
As we pulled into Lewes, we saw lots of Buffleheads, Brant, and Double-crested Cormormants plus one Pied-billed Grebe. Gulls on this side of the bay included Lesser Black-backed, Herring, Laughing and Ring-billed.
After debarkation, Yvonne and I when to Poverty Beach and the inlet near the Lobster House looking for Long-tailed Ducks. We didn't see any, but we did find several pairs of Common Mergansers and more Buffleheads and Brant.
Sunday, March 12, 2006
Friday, March 10, 2006
As we headed out of the parking lot toward the dam breast, we pulled over to the side of the road where one to two hundred Snow Geese were grazing in the fields. Took more pictures and then found some shade to view them on the full-size tablet PC screen. Ah, technology - very cool! Later, we pulled around the dam breast and watched a Belted Kingfisher. He was in full breeding plumage and looking very spiffy!
Can’t remember the name of the restaurant we stopped at for dinner. It was originally just a bladder stop, but we stayed for a bite to eat. It was a diner/ dairy bar that was billed as “utter-ly delicious”. The grilled cheese was the tiniest sandwich I ever saw, but the banana milkshake was supreme!
Links for pictures: http://iwhipple.multiply.com/photos/album/3
Sunday, January 15, 2006
I then drove to Hawk Mountain and watched their feeders for a while. Additional species there included Downy Woodpecker, White-breasted Nuthatch and Carolina Wren. On the way home from there, I stopped at Lake Ontelaunee to catch a glimpse of the Snow Geese that have settled there. I think it’s a bit early for them, but the lake was completely open, so I guess they’re comfortable there.
Sunday, January 1, 2006
In my family there’s a belief that whatever happens to you on New Year’s Day will happen to you all year long and I have long believed that there’s some truth in that. I remember the year I was in 7th grade, my sisters and I stayed overnight at my aunt’s house and had pork and sauerkraut for lunch. When we got home that afternoon, mom was making pork and sauerkraut for dinner. At least once a week that entire year, I would come home to find that the dinner menu was exactly the same as the school lunch menu albeit better tasting. I don’t remember that happening any other year before that or since.
If this old belief is true, then it must be good (birding) luck to hear birds before one’s eyes are open on New Year’s Day. I pulled the shade on the window to see my very first birds of 2006: a pair of Tufted Titmice followed swiftly by a Blue Jay, a pair of Chickadee sp., and House Finches. That’s four species before my feet hit the floor! House Sparrows at the feeder and an American Crow in the crabapple tree rounded out the rest of the morning.
The trip to my aunt’s house in Allentown this afternoon (yes, still eating sauerkraut on New Year’s Day) yielded several raptors, including 2 Red-tailed Hawks, an American Kestrel and a Sharp-shinned Hawk. All were perched on utility lines or trees and sitting very still. We had some bad weather yesterday, so they were probably pretty hungry today. Also added Rock Pigeon, Slate-colored Junco, White-throated sparrow, Common Grackle, and Starling to the day list. New Year’s Day total for 2006… 14 species. OK, not stellar, but not a bad count for a non-birding day in early January. :-)