Thursday, March 28, 2013

Notes From My Nest

3-28-13 Notes from my nest

Anna’s Hummingbird in Nest at Perry Park 3-7-13

I’m snug as a bird in its nest after falling while hiking and birding in Saguaro National Park yesterday. I was with my good friend, Celeste as we headed down a canyon counting birds as we went. As I took a step down with my left foot the rock I stepped on gave way beneath me and I went down hard. My whole lower left leg has abrasions with a deep laceration on my knee. I put my left hand out instinctively to stop the fall and ended up with a deep bruise in the muscle of my left thumb. Since I am left-handed, this makes opening bottles or writing a bit of a painful chore. Still, though my knee was bleeding, it was my left hand that hurt the worst. Since I had bandages with me I cleaned up the wounds and bandaged them and continued the short hike. Afterwards I went home and showered and cleaned the wounds and fell asleep for the rest of the afternoon. This morning I decided it was prudent to get a tetanus shot since my last one was back in 2003, exactly 10 years ago. I am feeling a bit better today, but my knee and hand still hurt and now my right shoulder aches from where they gave me the Tetanus shot this morning. Still, I could not resist relaxing and counting birds after the doctor’s visit, so I stopped by Michael Perry Park on my way home and sat at a picnic table and counted birds. I counted 22 species in 50 minutes!

Now back at home I am trying to get myself to rest. I have so many wonderful stories to tell and over 450 new photos to process from all the birding adventures I have been on in the last 3 weeks! Chris Rohrer had last week off and my friend, Celeste has been in town this week. I try to do it all, but am discovering I can’t. So, with a little patience I will be back soon. I am missing my blog and my blogging buddies and readers!

As an update I can tell you that I have roses blooming in my yard. The creosote bush and Acacia trees are also in bloom. I am seeing White-winged Doves and Turkey Vultures on a regular basis now, and I have even had Lucy’s Warblers in my yard! The Yellow-rumped Warblers are all molting into their brilliant spring finery and they are also still hanging around my yard as well as at Perry Park. Celeste and I saw scores of them at Empire Gulch when we were there on Monday. I am going to rest now, but will be back soon! I hope you all have a Happy Easter and a Happy Spring!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Saguaro National Park Birds

1. CUTH-kab Curve-billed Thrasher 3-10-13 Saguaro NP Rincon Mt. Unit

One of my favorite places to bird in Saguaro National Park is the Javalina Picnic area of the Rincon Mountain Unit. You do not have to drive the entire Cactus Forest Loop road to get here. After passing through the gate you just turn right and follow the road to the end. If you are smart you will have brought your breakfast or lunch or cup of coffee, but either way, you just pick out a picnic table and sit down and wait for the birds to come to you! While you are waiting you can drink your coffee or tea, or cold beverage in the summer time and relax. Just make sure you have your camera ready, because the birds will get up close and personal with you! I drove here after finding the Crissal thrasher with Chris and though there were lots of people, there were also lots of birds! This is the same place we took Cynthia to when she visited a week before.

2. Gila-kab Gila Woodpecker

3. Cactus wren-kab Cactus Wren

4. Canyon towhee-kab Canyon Towhee

5. Gambel's Quail-kab Gambel’s Quail

6. Black-throated sparrow-kab Black-throated Sparrow

I just want to give a big shout out to all of our National Parks and Refuges which are under threat from the sequester. As citizens we have already paid for these parks. They are our heritage and the preservation of our natural future. They provide beauty, recreation, and peace for us, and habitat for wildlife. We need to continue to fund these parks. They need to stay open! Every year I buy the interagency pass so that I can visit as often as I like. They are my favorite playground. Please support your National Parks and hug a ranger while you’re at it! (or at least tell them thank you!)

Happy Birthday to my favorite park ranger, Gaelyn!


Towhee on Trash Can. Nesting material anyone?


Monday, March 25, 2013

The Crissal Thrasher’s Song

1. Saguaro NP-kab Saguaro National Park-Rincon Mountain Unit 3-10-13

On a sunny Sunday morning I went in pursuit of the Crissal’s Thrasher’s song. It had called me off the road over 2 weeks ago on a snowy drive through Saguaro National Park, and now I was back with my birding buddy and friend, Chris Rohrer. If we could find the bird, it would be a lifer for him. We followed the loop road around to the Loma Verde Trail, then followed the trail down into the wash.

2. rufouswing-kab While Rufous-crowned Sparrows are always adorable…the Crissal was the prize!

3. Crissal-akbDown in the wash the gray bird sang from the top of a tree. Upon seeing us, it dove for cover, appearing farther down the wash from us. Chris moved through the brush in one direction, while I stalked form another. We both took our shots. His are better than mine, but we both got good looks and heard the song repeated over and over again. This bird just HAD to sing it seems! What amazed me most about this bird was the difference in behavior from the similar looking Curve-billed Thrasher. For one thing, it is incredibly shy. Every time we got close, it dropped to the ground, then emerged again at the top of a tree or bush. Not once did it call out the traditional “whit WHEET” of the Curve-billed. Its posture was more upright and its tail longer. The bill is not only de-curved, it also seems thinner to me. The twiggy brush always seemed to obscure the rufous under-tail coverts and the malar stripe, but that song was unmistakable and very different from the Curve-bill’s. It was this song that lured me off the road back in February and now we found the singer once again.

4. poppies-kabWe finally left the bird and walked farther down the wash. We found the first signs of spring in the buds of these poppies growing along the edge. Soon they will open to the warming sun. We found a large flock of chipping and other sparrows in the tall dry grasses on the hillside.

5. Trail-kab We followed the wash until it crossed the path back towards the car. Everything looked gray and scraggly except for the green of Palo Verde trees and the skins of the cactus.

6. mt lemmon-kab A glance towards the north revealed snow still atop Mount Lemmon.

7. cactus-kab But this multi-headed barrel cactus still bent towards the warming sun. And every morning it wakes to the song of the Crissal Thrasher as the sun comes over the ridge.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Madera Canyon Birding

1. YE junco-kab Yellow-eyed Junco 3-6-13

Early in March I met Chris Rohrer after school at Madera Canyon for a few hours of birding.

2. Madera-kab The snow covered peaks of the Santa Rita Mountains are such a contrast to the Sonoran desert I drove through on my way up Whitehouse Canyon Road. When I saw the tree-coved slopes and the canyon opening before me I was literally moved to tears by the beauty of this place. When I pulled into the Proctor Parking Lot, I was hoping Chris would not see my moist eyes.

3. Proctor trail-kab After a brief greeting we started down the trail. Chris travels light with only a camera, but I was weighed down with camera, bins and fanny pack filled with my cell phone, eye glasses, notebook, pen, and emergency supplies. Yes, I am a good Girl Scout! You would think with all the stuff I haul around I would lose more weight! (One can only hope!)

4. deer-kab A White-tailed deer moved quietly through the brush beside us.

5. sycamore-kab We walked down by the Sycamore-lined creek, which tumbled cheerfully over the rocks. We watched and listed for birds, but did not see many in this area, only a pair of Northern Cardinals.

6. aligator cedar-kab I love the bumpy bark of the Alligator Juniper.

We followed the trail across the dirt road and up around the two bridges. We stopped at the Whitehouse Ruins where we did find a Green-tailed Towhee and a Spotted Towhee, but most of the rest of the walk was quiet, with only a Ruby-crowned Kinglet, some Verdin, and a few Chipping sparrows to be found. So, we walked back to our cars in the parking lot where a small flock of White-crowned sparrows gathered in some brush and a Say’s Phoebe called from the top of a bush. To me it is such a plaintive cry which fills me with longing. Sunlight streamed brightly on us as we headed farther up the canyon to the Whitehouse picnic area.

7. gray-headed junco-kab Dark-eyed (Gray-headed ) Junco

There was more bird activity at the Whitehouse picnic area, a place I actually rarely bird, but after today, I changed my mind. We were hoping to see the Red-breasted Sapsucker which had been seen in the area, but no luck. We found a small flock of Dark-eyed Juncos on the ground and at first Chris and I thought we were seeing the sub-species of Red-backed juncos but upon further research and review of our pictures we realized we were seeing the gray-headed sub-species instead. There are several subspecies of Dark-eyed Juncos after the American Ornithological Union lumped all the species together quite a few years ago. While Slate-colored it the sub-species most often seen in New England, you can see almost all 6 sub-species here in Arizona. The Gray-headed and the Red-backed are very similar, but the Red-backed has a bi-colored bill while the Gray-headed has a pink bill like all the rest of the Dark-eyed Juncos.

8. hepatic tan-kab The Hepatic Tanager was sitting on a branch right over a picnic table!

Several birders were here to see this bird and snap its picture. The Hepatic Tanager differs from the Summer Tanager by its brownish back and cheek patch. It is frequently seen in Madera Canyon and can be seen almost anywhere along the creek. I have seen it at the Santa Rita Lodge, the Madera Picnic Area and now the Whitehouse Canyon Picnic area.

9. brown creeper-kab As Chris and I sat at a table a Brown Creeper flew in and landed on a nearby tree. This is one of my all-time favorite birds and the first time I have seen one since moving back to Arizona. I was thrilled!

10. hutton vireo-kab We also found this cute little Hutton’s Vireo. See the hooked beak? This bird is often confused with the similar Ruby-crowned Kinglet, but the beak and the wing-bars help to make the correct ID. Ruby-crowns have a short, pointy bill and one white wing-bar with a dark wing-bar behind it.

11. yeju-kab Yellow-Eyed Junco

We ended our afternoon of birding at the Santa Rita Lodge where I found this obliging Yellow-eyed junco. The Yellow-eyed Junco is a separate species from the Dark-eyed Junco. In the United states it is only found in Southeast Arizona in the mountains. Unlike the Dark-eyed junco, this species walks instead of hops on the ground. It also has a bi-colored bill and that yellow eye is unmistakable! I recently saw this species up on Mount Lemmon as well. It was fun to get out of the house and spend a few house walking around Madera Canyon. While we didn’t get a big list today, but we did see some special birds and I was glad I made the drive down here.

12. yeju-kab

Birds seen in Madera Canyon on 3-6-13 with Chris Rohrer:

  1. Wild Turkey
  2. Acorn Woodpecker
  3. Say’s Phoebe
  4. Mexican Jay
  5. Bridled Titmouse
  6. Brown Creeper
  7. Verdin
  8. Ruby-crowned Kinglet
  9. Painted Redstart
  10. Hepatic Tanager
  11. Green-tailed Towhee
  12. Dark-eyed Junco
  13. Yellow-eyed Junco
  14. Chipping Sparrow
  15. White-crowned Sparrow
  16. Northern Cardinal
  17. House Finch

Notes From My Nest: The bird activity is really picking up around here with several new species seen in my yard over the past week. I have noticed the change in their behavior as well. Up until about 2 weeks ago the birds did not get active until the sun hit the yard and the feeders, but now they are starting to sing before dawn, and the bird activity starts to die down around ten a.m. As a result, I am having to get up earlier and earlier if I want to see the birds, and anytime Chris and I head out on a birding expedition we have to leave much earlier than we did before. I keep trying to get caught up with all my blogposts and I have made progress, but I still have so many stories to tell. I hate it when I rush through a post like this instead of telling the whole story, but I hope you enjoy the pictures at least. Chris and I are heading off on yet another birding adventure in the morning and I need to get to bed early tonight because we are laving at 6 a.m., which means getting up even earlier! Yikes! (More pictures and stories to follow!) Until then, enjoy the birds, because migration has begun and they are heading your way!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

A Sunday Drive

DSCN2474 Santa Rita Mountains south of Sonoita 3-3-13

A couple of weeks ago Gus took me for a drive down through Sonoita and Patagonia and back up through Rio Rico and Tubac. After a cold February it was finally nice enough to drive with the top down and enjoy our beautiful Arizona scenery. I took this picture with the car in motion as we rushed by with the sun on our heads and the wind in our faces!

DSCN2476 Later I got him to stop at the Patagonia Roadside Rest Area where I briefly counted birds. I saw my first black vulture of the month flying high overhead and a couple of shy Chipping Sparrows which hid in the grasses and trees. This is the place to look for the Rose-throated Becard when it returns. If it does, I will be back! I have never seen that species…yet!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Harris Hawk at Michael Perry Park

1. Screaming-kab Harris Hawk near Perry Park in Tucson 2-25-13

I often see Harris Hawks when I am birding at Michael Perry Park off Golf Links Road in Tucson. Sometimes they are in the park, and other times I see them farther southeast down the trail along the Pantano Wash or even closer to Harrison Road. Chris Rohrer and I observed this hawk the same night we saw the Black-tailed Gnatcatchers. Harris Hawks live and hunt in family groups and while this hawk was on a utility pole close to where we were standing there was another Harris Hawk on a distant pole. The two birds seemed to be communicating with one another and it was fun to photograph the bird as it flew from one pole to the next.

2. Harris hawk-kab 

3. taking wing-kab 

4. beauty-kab 

5. landing-kab 

6. scream again-kab It is not often that I get this close to such a wild hawk!


Birds seen at Michael Perry Park on 2-25-13:

  1. Gambel’s Quail-28
  2. Cooper’s Hawk-1
  3. Harris hawk-2
  4. Red-tailed hawk-2
  5. Rock Pigeon-1
  6. Eurasian-collared Dove-4
  7. Mourning Dove-210
  8. Greater Roadrunner-1
  9. Anna’s Hummingbird-5
  10. Costa's Hummingbird-1
  11. Gila woodpecker-3
  12. American Kestrel-1
  13. Say’s Phoebe-2
  14. Vermilion flycatcher-1
  15. Common Raven-4
  16. Verdin-3
  17. Cactus Wren-2
  18. Black-tailed Gnatcatcher 6
  19. Western Bluebird-4
  20. Curve-billed thrashers-2
  21. Phainopepla-7
  22. Yellow-rumped Warbler-6
  23. White-crowned Sparrow-22
  24. Great-tailed Grackle-66
  25. Bronzed Cowbird-46
  26. House Finch-23
  27. Lesser Goldfinch-11
  28. House Sparrow-33

Chris and I started counting birds at 4:10 PM and birded for 2:10 hours; we traveled 2 miles from Perry Park to Sellarole St and back.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Black-tailed Gnatcatcher at Michael Perry Park

1. black-tailed gnatcatcher-kab Black-tailed Gnatcatcher 2-25-13

Since I live only about 2 miles from Michael Perry Park I have started counting birds there on a regular basis. Last month Chris Rohrer joined me in the afternoon and we walked through the park and along the Pantano Wash counting birds. In the nearby desert scrub we found three pairs of Black-tailed Gnatcatchers. Here in Arizona it is possible to see three species of gnatcatcher: the Blue-gray, the Black-tailed and the very rare Black-capped. I have seen 2 of the three species. It is the rare Black-capped that I am missing.

2. black tail-kab It can be quite difficult to tell the three species apart, and getting a glimpse of the underside of the tail certainly helps. Black-tailed Gnatcatchers have a mostly black under-tail feathers. The Blue-gray’s under-tail is mostly white.

3. BT gnatcather-kab All three species have a white eye-ring, but from what I understand, the Blue-gray inhabits more riparian or treed habitats and is often solitary. The Black-tailed likes desert scrub and usually travels in pairs. The Black-capped is a rare visitor from Mexico, though a few breeding pairs have been observed just over the border. They all have different voices, which I am still trying to learn.

4. verfl-kab We did see a gorgeous male Vermillion Flycatcher,

5. webl-kab as well as a few Western Bluebirds in a pasture at the far southeast end of the park.

6. amke-kab We also found a cute Kestrel in the same area, but the Gnatcatchers were the highlight of the day!

7. clinging-kab Black-tailed Gnatcatcher

8. staring-kab 

9. aren't i cute-kab Giving me the  “come hither” look!

10. fluffing-kab All fluffed up!

11. Screaming-kab

But who is this screaming at us? Come back tomorrow to find out!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Birding with my Blogging Buddies

1. Cynthia and Chris-kab Two Tired (but happy) Birders! 3-2-13

On March 2nd Chris and I met fellow blogger and birder, Cynthia Gabert White at a local coffee shop for a day full of birding. While Chris had the pleasure of meeting Cynthia earlier this year, this would be my first time to meet her in person, though I did already know her somewhat from her blog. After chatting a bit with her and her husband, Chris and I whisked her away and we were off to Sweetwater Wetlands for our first bird count of the day. All three of us belong to a birding group started by Dawn Fine called The Birders who blog, Tweet, and Chirp. We were hoping Dawn would be here this winter so we could convene a gathering of bird bloggers once again, but sadly, things did not work out. But, in a way, we were our own little group of BwBTC and we thought of and spoke of Dawn often throughout the day! Dawn, we missed you!

2. sol sand-kab Solitary Sandpiper 3-2-13 at Sweetwater Wetlands

We barely parked the car and we were already seeing and hearing birds. Besides the birds, there were birders everywhere! It looked like it would be a busy morning. Besides seeing the regular species, we were on the hunt for a summer tanager that had been reported there, as well as a black and white warbler, which is far out of its range. When we saw a streaky little bird up in a tree near the bridge we thought we found the black and white warbler…until we got a better look at it!

3. song sp-kab Only a song sparrow!

4. stop-kab Quit taking my picture!

5. whatyoulookinat-kab Quit taking my picture!

I think Chris and the song sparrow have similar looks on their faces!

6. at Sweetwater-kab Cynthia and Chris looking at birds in one of the ponds.

Many times when I am with other birders I tend to step back and search for birds, then let them take the photos. Cynthia saw many new Life Birds today. We were all having a great time.

7. summer tananger-kab We soon found the female Summer Tanager on the east side of the park. The Black and white Warbler was in the same area and at times in the same tree as the tanager, but I did not get any photos of it.

8. cuth-kab Further down the trail we found a Curve-billed Thrasher thrashing in the dirt!

9. common gallinule-kab Common Gallinule (moorhen)

After wandering around the park for over an hour it started to get very warm and we were just about done when I saw a strange bird across the pond. While Chris and Cynthia stayed behind to chat with another birder, I went in search of the unknown bird. Left to myself, I did find this White-crowned sparrow up in a tree, which I find unusual since I am used to seeing them on the ground. It was our first sighting of a white-crowned for the day, so I sent Chris a text telling him to bring Cynthia over to this side. I never did find the mystery bird, which looked like a bunting when I was on the other side.

10. wcsparrow-kab White-crowned sparrow 3-2-13 Sweetwater Wetlands

11. ocwarbler-kab While I waited for Chris and Cynthia I photographed a very obliging Orange-crowned Warbler!

12. sora-kab Then, in the reeds behind us we found a Sora!

After leaving Sweetwater we stopped for a quick breakfast, then headed for Saguaro National Park’s Rincon Unit on the east side, but when Cynthia said she did not have a good photo of a Vermilion Flycatcher we decided to stop at Reid Park on the way which is a reliable place to find them. However, since it was the weekend the place was PACKED! I mean Packed! People were waiting for parking spaces as a baseball game was going on in one of the venues. I grabbed one of the last ones and we trekked across the park searching for a vermilion. With all the people there they were a bit harder to find. With the temperature rising we were all hot and trying to bird by hopping from shady spot to shady spot. Finally, on our way back to the car we found the Vermilion!

13. GHOW-kab Great Horned Owl in Saguaro National Park 3-2-13

It was getting late in the day by the time we arrived at Saguaro National Park. We only had about an hour to bird before we needed to get Cynthia back to her husband in time for them to have dinner together, so we drove the 8 mile loop road quickly. On our way I spotted a Great Horned Owl perches atop a saguaro! I pulled over and we all hopped out to photograph it, but it was still quite distant from us and the photos weren’t the best, especially with the western sun shining so brightly on the bird. We then headed for the Javalina Picnic area, since Cynthia really wanted a picture of a Northern Cardinal, which she says she never sees in her area of Arizona. I can reliably find Northern Cardinals at the Javalina Picnic area and sure enough, we found three! Cynthia was in photographic bliss as she snapped away! Then, it was time to leave. We said good-bye in front of her hotel, then went on our way. It was a full day of birding and so much fun. I think we were all tired but I fear Chris and I wore Cynthia out!

14. chrisrohrerbot-kab Chris’ motto: Always have your camera ready!