Sunday, May 27, 2007

Lower Santa Catalina Mountains

This was one of the largest turnouts I’ve ever seen on a TAS trip – over 30 people in 10 cars. It’s great to know there is so much interest in birding, but the crowd made for a noisy and mostly unproductive day even though our leader, Barbara, split the group into two. Our first stop was at the Molino Basin camping area. Here our group saw a pair of Ash-throated Flycatchers feeding young in a dead tree stump and a couple of Canyon Towhees.

Old Prison Camp was the next stop. We had a little more luck here and saw Black-headed Grosbeak, Bewick’s Wren, Summer Tanager, White-throated Swift, and Wilson’s Warbler. Three Cassin’s Kingbirds gave an exciting chase to a Cooper’s Hawk. Then on to Bear Canyon picnic area where we saw Painted Redstart, Grace’s Warbler, Hairy Woodpecker, Mexican Jay, Acorn woodpecker, White-breasted Nuthatch, Yellow-eyed Junco, and Bridled Titmouse. We also heard a Western Wood Peewee, but he was not very cooperative.

Finally, we made the trip up to our leaders cabin near Willow Canyon and hit pay-dirt at her feeders. Even with thirty some people on the porch and around the house, the feeders were very active with Lesser Goldfinch, Pine Siskins, White-breasted and Pygmy Nuthatches. Black-chinned, Broad-tailed, Broad-billed and Magnificent Hummingbirds populated the hummingbird feeders, while *Mountain Chickadee, Bridled Titmouse, Grace’s Warbler, Hepatic Tanager, and American Robin were seen slightly beyond the feeders.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Boyce-Thomspon Arboretum

Arlene and I met at Danny’s house to carpool up to the Boyce-Thomspon Arboretum near Superior, AZ. Danny provided a wonderful traveling breakfast of western-omelet sandwiches (on his famous homemade rolls) and tea. At BTA, we immediately heard a lot of birds singing, but had a difficult time finding them. We were about to give them up as invisible when we spotted a beautiful Northern Cardinal male singing from the tree-tops, Ruby-Crowned Kinglet and two Bell’s Vireos (adult and young) chattering incessantly among the bushes. We also saw Broad-billed and Costa’s Hummingbirds in the flower beds. We stopped for a while at a small fountain and sat quietly for a few minutes. We were rewarded by a Western Tanager coming in for a drink. Lesser Goldfinches and House Finches had also found the water source. As we slowly made our way to the pond, we saw a singing Abert’s Towhee, Phainopepla, and Turkey Vulture. At the pond, we sat for a long time under the shade of the viewing platform. There didn’t seem to be a whole lot of activity and it was starting to get very hot even though it wasn’t yet 10. In addition to the many Great-tailed Grackles, there was a female Pied-billed Grebe with her young. Five stuck very close to her, but one more seemed to have been ostracized from the family. We guessed it would be either raptor or turtle food within a day or so. We also found a Common Yellowthroat and Violet-green Swallows here.

We had to force ourselves out of the shade, but continued along the path to the next ramanda. There we again sat for a while to cool off. A brilliant male Summer Tanager kept us company for a while. We hurried a bit to get to the herb garden which was a wonderful respite. There’s a little 2-room stone structure in the garden that was the original house on the property, but was then turned in to a playhouse for the grandchildren. By the time we reached the end of the trail, we were too hot and thirsty to think about birds anymore, so we quickly buzzed the gift shop after deciding that the Dos Hermanos restaurant up the highway a bit would be the perfect place to satisfy our hunger and thirst.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Hummingbirds for Beginners

This week’s TAS trip was led by John Higgins and promised visits to three hummingbird hot spots. I rode with John, Louise, Danny, and Jason (from Vancouver, BC) to Paton’s in Patagonia. There we saw Broad-billed, Violet-crowned, Black-chinned, and Anna’s hummingbirds. The feeders also brought in Bronzed and Brown-headed Cowbird, Black-headed Grosbeak, House Finches, Lesser Goldfinch, and Mourning Dove. On our way out of Paton’s, we got great looks at the *Thick-billed Flycatcher that inhabits the area.

Next we headed to Beatty’s Bed and Breakfast in Miller Canyon. There we found Costa’s, Magnificent, *White-eared and *Broad-tailed Hummingbirds. Some of the others saw the Blue-throated, but I did not. We eat lunch here and watched the hummers buzz around the feeders while Violet-green Swallows buzzed around the pond.

At Ash Canyon Bed and Breakfast, we added Lucifer Hummingbird to our list as well as White-winged Dove, and something else which I don’t remember at the moment. The trip ended on a good note with a refreshing stop at Cold Stone Creamery for ice cream.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Northern Arizona

My aunt and I spent the past few days in northern Arizona, specifically in Sedona, Page and the Grand Canyon. Since it was more a vacation for us both, there was little in the way of formal birding trips, but we did see some good species. During a rafting trip down the Colorado in Page, we saw two adult Golden Eagles soaring above their nest and also heard several Canyon Wrens. At the Grand Canyon, we were honored to be able to watch eight *California Condors come in to roost at the South Rim near Bright Angel Lodge. This was a special thrill for me as I remember not having much hope as a child that I would ever see this magnificent bird in the wild. Their rescue from near extinction is certainly one of the few ecological celebrations we have these days. In addition to the condors, we also saw quite a few Common Ravens (who seemed almost tame no doubt due to the food associated with humans) as well as *Clark’s Nutcrackers. Pictures from this trip can be seen at

Sunday, May 13, 2007

ASDM/ Mount Lemmon

My aunt who is visiting from Pennsylvania and I took a morning trip to the desert museum and participated in the daily bird walk at the museum before the heat of the day. The docent led the eight participants to some of the best birding sites, including the desert garden and the Otter/Big Horn Sheep exhibit areas. Besides the usual suspects, Cactus Wren, Verdin, Cooper’s Hawk, Gila Woodpecker, MoDo, White-winged Dove, and Gilded Flicker; we also got some pretty decent looks at a Bronzed Cowbird*, Hooded Oriole*, and a Scott’s Oriole.

Once I drug my aunt away from the museum gift shop, we went to lunch at Guilin’sand then headed to Mount Lemmon (or Lymon Mountain as it is sometimes now known – sorry, inside joke!) where we explored several outlooks. Rose Canyon Lake was particularly interesting with its Ponderosa pines. I heard quite a few American Robins, but didn’t see any. We saw a few Turkey Vultures and a raven sp. who scavenged a Dorito dropped, no doubt, by a fisherman or a child. As we ascended the mountain, it became noticeably cooler, or, better said, less oven-like. Only bird seen toward the top was a single Yellow-eyed Junco who responded to pishing. I was hoping for a Red-faced Warbler, but perhaps another day…

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Trogans and Tanagers and Grosbeaks, oh my!

After a phone call from Danny, who taunted me about the birds he saw last Monday at Madera, I decided it was high time I made another trip to the canyon to see some of the fabulous birds that have been sighted there recently. I took along a non-birding work friend who turned out to be an excellent set of eyes and ears. We decided to head straight up the road into the canyon bypassing all the usual spots people stop to bird in Madera and then bird our way back down. This turned out to be an excellent strategy and we worked against the flow of all the other birders and hikers. There was plenty of parking at the top of the canyon road. We followed Old baldy trail to the Sycamore strands where we listened hard for the “unusual” call of the Elegant Trogan*. This wasn’t all that easy since neither of us knew exactly what it sounded like. However, after about 30 minutes of wandering slowly up the trail, we knew at once when we heard it call, that the description that of the call that sounds somewhere between a dog barking and a frog croaking was about as accurate as one could get. We made our way a little way further up the trail when Laurie-Ann spotted it. We looked and listened for several minutes before heading back down. Lifer number 403.

Our next stop was Chuparosa B&B where were got great looks at Black-headed Grosbeak and a Hepatic Tanager* that practically landed on us! Also saw several hummers at the feeders as well as Lesser Goldfinch, House Finch, and Acorn Woodpecker which were all new to Laurie-Ann.

A stop at the Kabu gift shop was the next destination. We didn’t have to wait long for Western Tanager who was resplendent in yellow and red. The Flame-colored Tanager* required a bit more waiting, but he was definitely worth the wait! He was, well there’s no other word for it, flaming orange in the sunlight. Lots and lots of Black-headed grosbeaks here (best looks I’ve ever gotten), as well as Acorn Woodpeckers, White-breasted Nuthatch, a gorgeous male Rose-breasted Grosbeak who hung around for while, and Bridled Titmouse.

While we could have stayed longer, we headed back to town for some cheese enchilladas and lemonade at El Charro. Feliz Cinco de Mayo!