Sunday, June 9, 2013

Arizona Day 2

May 26, 2013- Our second and last full day in Arizona. Having birded so hard the day before, I thought seeing new birds would start to get a little tougher. It seems I forgot just how diverse the avifauna is in Arizona during the summer!

We descended from Carr Canyon without seeing much new. A distant back-light Rufous-crowned Sparrow was the only thing of minor interest. We headed for the Ash Canyon Bed and Breakfast where a very well maintained feeding station hosts hummingbirds, woodpeckers, sparrows and more. I always make a point to visit this location when I am in the Huachucas. As always, this place did not disappoint.

The woodpecker diversity consisted of Gila, Ladder-backed and Acorn. I had failed to photograph any of these earlier in the trip, so it was nice to run into them again. 

Acorn Woodpecker

Gila Woodpecker

Ladder-backed Woodpecker
A Canyon Towhee was busy scratching under the feeders.

Canyon Towhee
We had hoped the Lucifer Hummingbirds would show, but it seems they are an evening bird. We decided it was time to move on. There were still plenty of birds to be seen in Patagonia. Along the way, I finally got a Swainson’s Hawk photo. 

Swainson's Hawk

Yet another feeding station, this time in Patagonia, yielded even more new birds. One bird stands out among the others, though. These feeders are famous for their reliable Violet-crowned Hummingbird!

Violet-crowned Hummingbird
 Abert’s Towhees and Inca Doves also patrol the grounds.

Abert's Towhee
At this point, we were about to leave, when we realized someone locked the keys in the car. I’ll give you a hint, it wasn’t me. Anyway, it turned out that this was a “blessing” as it got me to search the surrounding areas for new birds while we waited for someone to pick the lock. This is where I turned up a few new species like Black Phoebe, Bewick’s Wren and Lark Sparrow.

Bewick's Wren

Black Phoebe

Lark Sparrow
When I returned to the car, it still hadn’t been unlocked, so more exploring I did. I finally had a close encounter with a Phainopepla.

I then heard a singing Rufous-winged Sparrow. I thought this to be a very unusual spot for one (basically in the town of Patagonia). I wasn’t complaining, and it was very cooperative.

Rufous-winged Sparrow
An AAA employee finally showed up to pick our lock and we were back on our way. The next stop was the famous Patagonia Rest Stop. I knew there had been reports of Thick-billed Kingbird here, but I wasn’t sure exactly where. It was a small area, we would run into one eventually, right?

Right as we pulled up, Kevin got on a perched young Gray Hawk. It was a bit surprising we hadn’t seen one until this point, but we weren’t exactly in great habitat either. It hung around the hillside the entire time we were there.

Gray Hawk
We walked the entire length of the rest area and came up kingbirdless. We decided to walk along the road on the way back for a different angle. Wouldn’t you know it, perched on a snag not visible from the rest area side, was a Thick-billed Kingbird. Score!

Thick-billed Kingbird

We moved off the road, started walking back, but I stopped dead in my tracks as I heard the unmistakable song of a Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet. It was close. We eventually got the best looks I’ve ever had as the bird investigated our presence. The rest area was good (perhaps too good) to us...

Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet
Patagonia Lake State Park provided similar habitat that we had already been through, but it is always worth a stop. We saw a smattering of Lucy’s Warblers, a few Neotropic Cormorants, and a lot of bovine. I could have done without the latter.

We checked the AZ Listserve earlier in the day and to our extreme surprise, a Buff-collared Nightjar was reported from Proctor Road near Madera Canyon. Since we didn’t have a place to camp picked out, why not camp near the Nightjar. We got to Proctor Road a little early, but that was part of the plan as I still hadn’t seen a Verdin. This just wouldn’t do. I spent a while unsuccessfully chasing down some calling Verdin with no success. Then, while setting up my tent, one came right in to the tree next to me. Go figure.

As darkness fell, night birds began to awaken. First were the Lesser Nighthawks. Next were the Common Poorwills. Then a distant Western Screech-Owl. Finally, the Buff-collared Nigthjar started calling non-stop for the next couple hours. We were able to sneak up on it a few times. Most of the time all I saw was eyeshine, but one viewing was of the bird singing from the ground, lit by a spotlight. It wasn’t super bright, but it was bright enough that I could see the entire bird, including the collar, as it sang away.

This was my 699th ABA area bird. As exciting as that was, one of my worst fears became realized. My 700th would turn out to be an exotic. Worst yet, I had already seen them before they were “established”, so it wouldn’t even really be new. What is the bird you ask? Stay tuned…

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