Early in March I met Chris Rohrer after school at Madera Canyon for a few hours of birding.
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.
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!)
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
Birds seen in Madera Canyon on 3-6-13 with Chris Rohrer:
- Wild Turkey
- Acorn Woodpecker
- Say’s Phoebe
- Mexican Jay
- Bridled Titmouse
- Brown Creeper
- Ruby-crowned Kinglet
- Painted Redstart
- Hepatic Tanager
- Green-tailed Towhee
- Dark-eyed Junco
- Yellow-eyed Junco
- Chipping Sparrow
- White-crowned Sparrow
- Northern Cardinal
- 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!