Sunday, July 15, 2007

Red-faced storm

What better healing for a broken heart than a “most-wanted” lifer? Saturday morning, Liz and I made the climb up Mount Lemmon to the Marshall Gulch picnic area in search of a red-faced Warbler or two. The temperatures were much lower on top of the mountain and we’d both wished we had dressed just a tad warmer. Parking was already getting tight at 8:30am at Marshall’s Gulch picnic area where we encountered a large group of noisy hikers at the rest rooms, one of whom apparently had never seen birders before – “Look! A birder!”

We hadn’t ventured far from the picnic area when we heard a lot of “pishing” Stellar’s Jays and although we never did find what was causing their upset, it brought a flurry of activity to where we were. First there were Brown Creepers, Mountain Chickadees and a White-breasted Nuthatch. Then three Pygmy Nuthatches appeared at the base of a gnarled oak tree. After a short while, Liz shouted that she had a Red-faced Warbler. I was unable to see it for several minutes. Just as I was about to give it up as gone, I saw it. Not just one, but an entire flock of Red-faced Warblers! There were at least 8 or 10 of then. Some were obviously juveniles with pinkish to orange-ish faces, but the adults were absolutely vibrant red. For a few minutes, the trees seemed to drip with them. It was amazing. During this fray, we also spotted an Orange-crowned Warbler, a pair of (Red-shafted) Northern Flickers and a Red-breasted Nuthatch, plus an unidentified bright yellow warbler sp. Then, as suddenly as it began, the noise and flutter subsided. We waited a few minutes and then headed back down the mountain and into the heat.

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