Saturday, September 22, 2007

Las Cienegas

I’m coming to hate birding with large groups and today was no exception. Twenty-seven birders showed up for the TAS trip to Las Cienegas and even though we split into two groups, it was still very noisy and generally not good birding for me. Despite that, there were a few friends and good birders among the group which more than made up for the lack of “seeables”. Raptors were perhaps the highlight of the day, with excellent comparisons*Zone-tailed and *Gray Hawks. Red-tailed, Swainson's, Cooper's, Northern Harrier and American Kestrels were also there for good measure.

Another good study was the comparisons between Western and Cassin's Kingbirds. Western Wood-Pewees were numerous on any exposed snags. The weather was a bit windy and that combined with the noise levels made warbler numbers seem very low. I did see Wilson's and Orange-crowned as well as a Warbling Vireo. Also seen were Summer and Western Tanagers, lots of Blue Grosbeaks, Green-tailed Towhee, plus Brewer's, Lincoln's, and Song Sparrows.

Thursday, September 20, 2007



It’s been a while since I’ve updated, mostly because I don’t feel as though I’ve done a whole bunch of birding lately even though I’m aware that migration is in full swing here. Let’s see… the hummingbird feeder was pretty intense the part two or three weeks as Costa’s, Anna’s, and Rufous hummers fought for seating. However, all of a sudden this week it’s very quiet on the balcony. Tonight I saw 2 birds sharing the feeder - no noise, no fussing.

Got out to support Liz’s TAS trip at Sabino Canyon a few weekends ago. Best bird there was *Vaux’s Swift. Also got some awesome looks at the desert regulars through the eyes of a pair from Britain. It’s refreshing for us “locals” to look again at a White-winged Dove or a Cactus Wren and try to see it for the first time.

Yvonne came out for a visit last week. We went to the Desert Museum where she got her first looks at Gila Woodpecker and Curved-billed Thrasher. On Tuesday, we started with a short trek up the street and found a Black-tailed Gnatcatcher. Then we went to the morning walk at Agua Caliente, but due to high wind, it was almost a complete bust! She did get Broad-billed hummer which she ID’d herself. We then went to Mount Lemmon to pick up Mountain Chickadee, Acorn Woodpecker, Arizona Woodpecker and (I think) Yellow-eyed Junco. What was disappointing were the birds we didn’t get her: Verdin, Phainopepla, and Painted Redstart among others that should have been little tiny feathered pieces of cake. We had a good time nevertheless doing the Tucson tourist thing. I already wish she were back here :-(

Last weekend was a bit better. Liz, Rosie and I headed for the Chiracahuas for some high altitude mountain birding. We rented cottages at Cave Creek Ranch in Portal. I do think the ranch grounds were one of the best places, if not for birds, for wildlife in general. We saw deer, javalina, squirrels, chipmunks, and a bobcat with bob kittens (a first for me!). The bobcat and I startled each other. It was lying underneath the shade of a tree near the office property. S/he jumped up when we spotted each other and for a moment I thought it looked crouched to spring, but it turned and scampered off. We saw it a few more times throughout the weekend.

As for the birds, the ranch feeder list is extensive: Black-headed grosbeak; White-breasted Nuthatch; Gambel’s Quail; White-winged Dove; Black-chinned, Anna’s, Costa’s, and Rufous/Allen’s hummingbirds. Also on the grounds were Red-tailed Hawk, Greater Roadrunner, Curve-billed Thrasher (by far the first one vocal in the mornings!), Cassin’s Kingbird, Common Raven, Cactus Wren, American Robin, Cassin’s Vireo, Western Tanager, and Ladder-backed Woodpecker.

On Saturday, we drove a few of the roads around Portal. Most of them were pretty dead, but we did get some good activity on South Fork Road. The very first bid we turned up was a female Elegant Trogan! She squawked as we invaded her “space” by the creek, but allowed us to look at her for quite some time. Also along this road we found Hermit Thrush; *Mexican Chickadee; Mexican Jay; Bridled Titmouse; Painted Redstart; Sharp-shinned Hawk; Cooper’s Hawk; Red-shafted Flicker; Orange-crowned Warbler; Black-throated Gray Warbler; Canyon Wren; Brown Creeper; Turkey Vulture; and Arizona, Hairy, and Acorn Woodpeckers.

After that, we dove down to the Museum of Natural History’s Southwest Research Center to watch their feeders. There was a larger assortment of hummers here including Blue-throated (monsters!), Magnificent (also monsters!), and Rufous. There was also a female Summer Tanager hopping among the branches.

On Sunday, after a very quite drive up the mountain road, we decided to optimize our birding and head for the George Walker House in Paradise. The feeders were alive with little buzzing jewels and we added Calliope and Broad-tailed to our hummer list. Say’s Phoebe, Canyon Towhee, and Lesser Goldfinch rounded out the list for that region. The owners of The George Walker House, Winston and Jackie Lewis, are wonderful people. Jackie was so helpful in ID’ing the hummers! What a great life that must be.

As we left GW House, the storm clouds were brewing, so we decided to head for home. On the way home though, I was awakened from my snooze (Rosie drove) to find that we were going to Willcox to look at “Cochise Lake.” The lake is really part of the sewage treatment system in Willcox and is well known for its waterfowl and shorebird populations. It turned out to be a great stop even though the storm clouds (and lightening and thunder) had followed us west. The list here included: Great Blue Heron, Northern Shoveler (large numbers), Western Sandpiper, Least Sandpiper, American Avocet (gets my vote for most graceful bird), Ruddy ducks, American Coots, Northern Harrier, Northern Pintail, Mourning Dove, White-faced Ibis (a lifer for Rosie), Long-billed Dowitchers, and two *Sabine’s Gulls that only got identified after the fact through the WG05 listserv.

I guess that about covers it. I feel as though I’m starting to get back into the swing of things again (finally!). Here’s to good bird and birding friends!