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!


  1. Hey Kathie great photos! I'm so envious y'all can mosey to Madera after work and such, but at least I can see your photos and have a vicarious adventure : )

    Love all the Juncos and that Hepatic is a killer cool bird. Good luck in the Huachucas tomorrow!

    1. Thanks Laurence, we had a great time and I saw a certain spotted owl (or two!) I saw that you had quite the trip there yourself!

  2. I'm going to have to look closer at my yard junkos now.

    Have more fun out birding tomorrow.

    1. Gaelyn, we are back and we had a blast and I am so tired and dirty! Glad you learned something about the juncos!

  3. Great outing and birds, Kathie! My favorite is the Yellow-eyed Junco! Happy Birding!

  4. Brilliant shots of the Junco and it must be lovely to be that close to a deer Kathie.

    1. Roy, it is, and the ones we see down here are a smaller version called Coues White-tailed deer!

  5. I love following your adventures Kathie! Beautiful birds and I read such joy in your words.

    1. AW,Thank you so much Mia! That means a lot to me!

  6. Hi Katie...Fabulous post you have so many different birds to add to your list!!
    Love the Junco, some different then the one here in Maine isn't it!!
    Nice bird the Tanger, lovely place!!

    1. Grammie, much different than Maine! But Maine holds its own beauty and its own special bird species!

  7. These birds are both beautiful and adorable! So round and looking well fed. :) Looks like it was a gorgeous walk. And the hawk photos below are magnificent!

    Hope you got to see a lot of birds this morning!

    1. Bella, you are so sweet! Thank you for your kind words and your lovely illustrations which always cheer me up!

  8. Hi Kathy

    The first photo of the junco was outstanding. Good to see your birding is so successful.


  9. Madera Canyon is definitely a favourite spot for me, I am so glad you shared it and of course it will always live in infamy for the the non-feathered species we saw there :)
    Lovely photos as always.

    1. Thanks Celeste! It was and will always be magical!

  10. I got fooled by that vireo when someone posted a pic in an id quiz a few years ago.I couldn't believe there was another bird that looked so much like an RC Kinglet.


Welcome to my nest! I hope you will enjoy spending time here with me and the birds. Thank you for your comments. I will try to get back to you as soon as I get back from counting more birds.