April 14, 2013: Two weeks after I fell in Saguaro National Park a fellow birder and blogger from the Phoenix area contacted Chris Rohrer and I about going birding with him in the Tucson area. He planned to come down and spend the weekend to try to increase his Pima county List and perhaps pick up a couple of Life Birds. Chris was out of town for the weekend but I agreed to go and we met at Agua Caliente Park. I was still hobbling around, so I warned Gordon that I would not be up to any vigorous hiking and he was fine with that. Agua Caliente is a gentle place to walk about and he wanted to see if we could find the Northern Beardless Tryrranulet. It would be a Life Bird for both of us and it is know to hang out in this particular park. People all over the birding world were reporting and photographing it here. Alas, we were not one of them. Though we hunted all over and searched near the expected area, we saw and heard nothing like a tyrranulet!
Though we saw quite a few birds here the wind was gusting quite fiercely and as the temperature rose and people filled the park we decided to move on. Agua Caliente is close to the Catalina highway and Mt. Lemmon. Gordon had never birded here and since it would involve more driving than walking, we headed up!
The only bird we saw here was a Gila Woodpecker.
Farther up the road we stopped at the Molina Vista Overlook. We saw many more birds here, including a pair of Blue-gray Gnatcatchers and some Chipping sparrows.
We drove farther up the mountain and stopped at a picnic area that yielded little more than a western spotted towhee before moving on. The road snaked and climbed to Windy Point, a favorite place for rock climbers and tourists with spectacular views of the valley below.
We walked out to this edge where white-throated swifts dashed about in the sky and darted over the ledge. We think they had a nest somewhere down on the face of this cliff, for we could hear the nestlings chirping. it was amazing to have those black and white bullets dash past our heads so swiftly that it was impossible to get off a shot. It became very apparent why they got their name of “Swift!”
After spending about 20 minutes here we headed farther up the road to Rose Canyon Lake. Chris R had told me that many desirable species were being seen here. I have only birded this lake one other time, so I was anxious and excited to see what we would see. As I stopped to pay the fee to enter Rose Canyon Gordon jumped out of the car to see what bird a couple of guys with spotting scopes and cameras were looking at. It turned out to be a Painted Redstart! This was going to be good!
It was a little over a mile drive down to the farthest parking lot. all along the way we drove with our windows open so we could see, hear, and count birds. After parking we still had a quarter of a mile hike down to the lake, then about a 1 mile hike out along its eastern edge. Loaded up with two cameras and my binoculars as well as my trusty fanny pack filled with emergency stuff and a granola bar we headed for the trail. I have to say that Gordon was such a gentleman and was very patient with me as I hobbled along taking care to not twist my ankle or slip and fall once again. At one point there was quite a steep step down and he offered me his hand since my knee would still not bear my weight very well. But seriously, this was about birding and we got on with it!
We went as far as the dam, then turned around and headed back. When I spotted a nice straight and sturdy stick alongside the trail I picked it up and used it as a walking stick as we headed back along the trail to the parking lot. By now my knee was swollen and painful and I was trying very hard not to limp. Gordon, who is tall and long legged and very fit could have easily hurried on, but he was very patient and courteous with me. Soon we were back by the parking lot and looking for a hummingbird nest someone had told us about.
Eventually we did find the hummingbird nest when we saw the female fly in with some soft nesting material to tuck inside. It was well camouflaged but only about 5 feet off the ground and hanging over the pathway where a tall person or a kid waving a stick could easily hit it. I can only hope she and her nest survived.
By now it was well past lunchtime and we were both starving! I drove us up to Summerhaven where we both got pizza and a cookie at the Cookie Cottage. While there we also counted birds and found a Stellar’s Jay, among other species. On our way back down the mountain we did stop at the Palisade Visitor’s Center to see if there were any hummingbirds hanging out at their hummingbird feeders. Frequently one can find a magnificent hummingbird here, but they only had one feeder up and all I saw was another Broad-tailed hummingbird, so we headed on down the road. Our destination now was Agua Caliente Park again where Gordon had left his car. Once there we took one more look around for that blasted tryrranulet to no avail. I guess it is my new Nemesis Bird!
It was a very fun day. I found Gordon to have a birding style similar to Chris R and I and we talked of plans to get together in the future. Gordon was headed for Sierra Vista tomorrow and our plan was for him to drive and take me along but I was so exhausted and my knee was hurting so badly by now that I declined. Beside, he was meeting another birder and they talked of hiking up some canyons and I did not want to hold them back! So, we both went our separate ways with dreams of future birding adventures that would come sooner than I thought they would! In the end I was very glad that I didn’t go because he and his friend did hike some steep mountain trails and find some great birds! You will have to read Gordon's blog to see what he saw on his trip! He is an excellent photographer and his blog has gorgeous bird photos! He is also a very good and faithful eBirder and at the top of the list in Arizona!
Our trip summary: We saw 28 species at Agua Caliente Park in the morning; 11 species at Molina Canyon Vista; 4 species at Windy Point; 19 species at Rose Canyon Lake; 5 species in Summerhaven, and 19 species back at Agua Caliente Park in the evening!