Monday, June 3, 2013

Arizona Keeps Giving

May 25, 2013- Our first full day in Arizona. We camped the previous night at Barfoot in the Chiricahua Mountains. After packing up camp at first light, we moved to Rustler where we had a taste of some of the Southeast Arizona specialties. Almost immediately after stepping out of the car, a Greater Pewee was heard singing insistently. This is a bird I missed last year, and hadn’t seen since 2006!

Greater Pewee

As we were watching and listening to the Pewee, a Red-faced Warbler began singing. Then a Grace’s Warbler. Then a Yellow-eyed Junco at close range! It kept getting better and better.

Red-faced Warbler

Yellow-eyed Junco

Grace's Warbler
We spent a while with these wonderful birds, but it was time to move down canyon. On our trip down we kept the windows open. This is how we got our first singing Townsend’s Warbler of our trip.

Townsend's Warbler
We moved further down and kept flushing Steller’s Jays. Finally one posed for a moment.

Steller's Jay
At the intersection that leads to Paradise, we had a tip that a pair of Mexican Chickadees were setting up territory. We missed them the day before, but eagle-eye Kevin spotted the pair as I was busy photographing a cooperative Painted Redstart.

Mexican Chickadee (look at the size of that black "bib"!)

Painted Redstart
It seemed like everything was going our way. However, we still had a lot of specialties we wanted to see. We decided the South Fork area would be our best bet. It soon became obvious why this is one of the premier birding locations in all of Southeast Arizona. First, an Arizona Woodpecker joined a Hairy right along the road.

Arizona Woodpecker
A little further up, a rustle in the understory turned out to be three Montezuma Quail! How lucky can you get!? This is a bird I figured I would miss this year as they can be extremely hard to find and we didn’t have much time to search. I scrambled to get a few shots off as they scrambled up the hillside. I’m glad one turned out to be identifiable… barely.

Montezuma Quail
As we were watching the quail, an Elegant Trogon started calling a little up the canyon. This was getting ridiculous. We walked up the canyon but the Trogon fell silent. Finally, seemingly out of nowhere, the bird appeared. It couldn’t have provided any better views!

Elegant Trogon
The last bird I had really hoped for on the trail was Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher. There were plenty of sycamores around, the preferred tree of the Flycatcher. A pair finally sounded off, blowing their cover. They were a bit far, but I had no complaints.

Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher
Having pretty much cleaned up in South Fork, Kevin and I decided it was time to move on. There were a few goodies recently reported at Willcox, including a would-be lifer Franklin’s Gull for Kevin, so this was our obvious destination. One can bird Willcox relatively quickly. The Franklin’s Gull(s) did not disappoint while the Baird’s and White-rumped Sandpipers did.

Franklin's Gull (again sorry for the quality; heat haze, distance, excuses)
Besides the gulls, Willcox was dead. And the Huachucah Mountains were calling. We could get there with a solid few hours of daylight left. This meant we could visit Beatty’s in Miller Canyon where we would hope to catch up with the continuing White-eared Hummingbird or the cooperative Spotted Owls. We got to the feeders and watched Broad-tailed, Magnificent, Black-chinned, Broad-billed and a female Blue-throated Hummingbird all fight for possession of the nectar. Finally, the White-eared Hummingbird fought for control over a feeder right in front of us. Now that is a snazzy hummingbird!

Blue-throated Hummingbird (female)

Broad-tailed Hummingbird (notice the rufous in the tail)

Magnificent Hummingbird

White-eared Hummingbird
On our way down from the feeders, before heading towards the canyon where the Spotted Owls lurk, a family of Rock Wrens with at least 4 recently fledged young were roaming the area. They weren’t shy either!

Rock Wren
Up the canyon we went, attempting to follow the very detailed (almost too detailed?) directions we received for the Spotted Owl location. After much trial and error, we found a silent, sleeping Spotted Owl snuggled next to a pine tree trunk. This wasn’t the greatest spot for a nap as a gang of Mexican Jays later found and harassed the owl.

Spotted Owl
We had one more bird we could hope for in this area. We heard that a Northern Pygmy-Owl nest had been found further up the canyon, but we weren’t sure where. We gave it our all, but came up empty. As we were heading down, a photographer promised to show us the nest location. Back up the canyon we went. We waited and waited by the nest with no sign of the owls. I spied movement from up the canyon wall, behind the nest tree, but a ways back. I couldn’t believe it when it turned out to be one of the Pygmy-Owls. It never came closer while Kevin and I were there. I can’t even believe this picture turned out at all! As if location wasn’t enough, the spotted sides of the breast rule out Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl.

Northern Pygmy-Owl
Having enjoyed some incredible birding, mixed with a lot of luck, we decided it was time to set up camp. We chose Carr Canyon and our campsite became even nicer when a Buff-breasted Flycatcher started singing before dusk. Then, a chorus of Greater Pewees sang us to sleep. Oh how I miss Arizona.

Buff-breasted Flycatcher
More pictures from this day can be found here.

I’ll do at least one more update from our trip to Arizona. Then, I’ll attempt to update with all the pictures I’ve taken from Nevada and eastern California. I have a few days off coming up, which may be spent in the Kern River Valley (California)… The birds (and butterflies) are great right now. Keep checking back.

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