It is a hot and sunny afternoon when my birding and blogging friend, Chris and I set out for the Tanque Verde Wash. We had already birded Lakeside Park in Tucson earlier in the day on October 9th and after returning to my house for a break from the heat and a late breakfast we are hitting the birding hotspots again! When I lived here before I counted birds along Wentworth Road on the east side of Tucson. The Tanque Verde Wash is a well known birding hotspot and a designated Important Bird Area for Tucson Audubon. Though it is autumn and I know it will be hot hiking in the middle of the afternoon, I am still excited to finally go walking in this wash!
While I have never hiked the wash before, Chris has, so he sets out in front, leading the way. We head for the southern edge of the wash where the towering trees provide cover for the birds and shade for us. The sand and gravel crunches beneath our feet as we walk and I am wondering how we will ever sneak up on a bird! However, it isn’t long before we are seeing and hearing things along the brushy edge. I find a Hermit Thrush deep in the shadows but Chris never gets to see it before it slips farther away into the brush. We hear and then see an Abert’s Towhee, but the lighting conditions are too poor for a photo, so we move on.
Chris tells me he often sees hawks in this area. I am enjoying the tall trees along the wash. While it is not a New England forest, it does have its own beauty.
We find a couple of vireos along the edge of the wash. We are standing quietly looking at birds. We can see that there are houses along the edge of the wash, but we do not enter their yards or point our bins at the homes. Still, a pair of dogs comes rushing around the edge of a house barking and snarling at us. We calmly stand our ground, but the dogs do not leave, so we walk slowly and quietly away from the edge and more towards the center of the wash. There is a good stand of cottonwoods here and we are seeing and hearing birds. We find a ruby-crowned kinglet, and I think I see a warbler, but it flies off before a positive ID is made.
At one point a Great Blue Heron flies out of a pond along the edge of the wash. Then I hear the call of a Western Wood Pewee! We find it high in the top of a dead snag silhouetted against the burning blue sky. In the same area we also find a Black Phoebe! Though the shadows are starting to grow longer and I can feel the temperature has dropped some, it is still hot and we have walked almost a mile, so we turn back. We follow the sandy channels through the grasses and shrubs of the wash. Beneath our feet the sand slips and slides and leaps into our shoes. I am hot. I am tired. But I am also happy.
As we are nearing another small stand of cottonwood trees I suddenly spot a small bird near its center. Chris and I move slowly closer trying to identify the bird. It shows no fear and even closes it’s eyes briefly as if to take a nap. Then it preens itself, still unconcerned as these two bipeds move around the tree pointing large black eyes at it.
I am straining my brain trying to identify this bird. I look for field marks as I snap away, making mental notes in my head. Pink bill, notched tail, eye line, streaked crown, 2 wing bars…everything about it says “chipping sparrow” to me except for the lack of a rusty crown. But I am thinking this is either a juvenile, or a winter chipping sparrow.
Finally it has had enough of us and flies down to the ground before landing in another nearby tree. Chris and I take one last look and a couple more shots, then leave the bird to itself. Once at the car I take off my hiking shoes and dump the sand out. Instead of putting them back on, I put on my sandals, which I have brought along just for this purpose! It has been a long, hot day of birding. Chris and I were here for two hours as well! The air conditioning in the car sure feels good and I cannot WAIT to get home and take a shower, but I would do it all again. It was a fun adventure!
- Las Adventuras (Chris’ Blog)
- The Birds of Lakeside Park (what we saw earlier in the day)
- The Battle of the Blackbirds (at Lakeside Park)
Birds seen at the Tangue Verde Wash:
- Turkey Vulture
- Harris Hawk
- Red-tailed Hawk
- American kestrel
- Great Blue Heron
- Gila woodpecker
- Northern Flicker
- Western Wood Pewee
- Black Phoebe
- Plumbeous Vireo
- Common raven
- Ruby-crowned Kinglet
- Hermit Thrush
- Abert’s Towhee
- Chipping Sparrow
- Lincoln’s sparrow
- Lesser Goldfinch