Sunday, June 16, 2013

The Fabulous Birds of Mount Lemmon

1. cordilleran-kab Cordilleran Flycatcher at Palisades Visitor’s Center May 24, 2013
May 24, 2013: The heat is coming on early nowadays. I arise early as well and drive over to Celeste's house to pick her up. We are going on a birding adventure this morning but we must beat the heat if we want to see birds. It’s been a while since she has been up Mount Lemmon and she has never been up there just to bird, so off we go. By 7 AM we are standing at the Molina Vista overlook looking for birds.
2. rock squirrel-kabAt first all we find is a Rock Squirrel at Molina Vista Overlook
3. grosbeak-kabBut then a Black-headed Grosbeak shows up.
4. western tananger-kab Male Western Tanager at Molina Vista Overlook
We are both treated to wonderful views of several pairs of Western Tanagers. It is a lovely morning, still a bit cool but warming fast.  We are almost ready to head off to our next destination when something strange happens. A pick-up truck pulls into the parking area and an elderly woman yells out the window, “Are you seeing anything good?” I eagerly respond, “Yes! we just saw some Western Tanagers!” I am surprised by her response.
“Well, I don’t care about them! I’ve already got them on my list for this year.”
“Oh, well, I did hear some sort of flycatcher down in the canyon,” I reply.
“What kind,” she eagerly asks? “I’m not from around here. I need flycatchers!”
I am thinking that if she is not from around here that Western Tanagers should be wonderful! At this point she bolts from the truck and her male companion drives off to park it. I am a bit shocked by her rude behavior and the fact that she does not think Western Tanagers are wonderful. She walks towards us. She is a thin woman with disheveled looking short white hair. I am not sure if that is her style or she didn’t care to comb it when she got up. I tell her we have seen a black-headed grosbeak and some hummingbirds down the short, paved path, but she informs me that she cannot walk that far and she has no time to explain why. She just wants her flycatcher and she wants me to identify it for her. She also pumps me for information on where to find the nesting pair of Red-faced Warblers. Apparently she also needs them for her year list. I tell her I have heard they are up the road at Molina Basin. By now Celeste and I have both shot each other a look as we head back to the car. We wish her well on her hunt and we leave for Molina Basin just up the road. We want to get there before the rude woman.
5. hooded oriole-kab Male Hooded Oriole at Molina Basin
I pull into the parking area and discover the basin is closed off except for the first parking lot. I park the car and roll down the windows because we can hear birds everywhere! We spot a male hooded oriole right off and we are both delighted! House Finches are calling, birds are flying overhead and singing from the trees. I have never been birding in this area so it is all new to me. As we are looking around suddenly Celeste points to my car. The male oriole is attacking his reflection in my side mirrors!
6. mirrior covering-kabCeleste tells me of a time when a male red-winged Blackbird attacked the mirror of a car and got its foot stuck in-between the mirror and the edge and it was badly injured. she suggests we wrap the mirrors to protect the oriole and I agree. I open the car doors and take out my shirt and a small sweater. I toss one to Celeste and we wrap both mirrors, then lock up the car and head down the path.
7. canyon towhee-kab Canyon Towhee at Molina Basin
I am happy to see the barricade that prevents cars from driving farther into the basin. You can still walk in, but apparently this camping area is closed for the summer and will reopen again in the fall. I am thinking that if the rude lady shows up she will not be able to go any farther than the first parking lot since she can’t walk very far. But I am soon to find out that she didn’t quite tell the truth. It’s already been a few hours since Celeste and I have been out and about. We find a shaded picnic table and decide to walk back to the car to get some drinks and snacks, then come back and sit in the shade and watch birds. On our way back to the car we see the lady’s truck. Then, shock of all shocks, she has passed the barrier and is walking our way! birds are calling all around us. She stops to ask me if I know bird calls. I tell her I don’t know many, why? Then she asks if I know that bird’s call. That one right there singing in the tree. “Oh, you mean the Bell’s Vireo,” I reply? “Yes! she exclaims triumphantly! I should have recognized that, she exclaims!”
8. bewicks wren-kab Bewick’s Wren at Molina Basin
Celeste and I get our stuff from the car and walk back to our picnic table. By now the lady who cannot walk is climbing all over the hilly and rocky path and wandering up past the picnic table we have picked out to sit at. This is a good quarter of a mile from the parking lot. We give each other a look once again and head over to sit down. That’s when rude lady comes over and tell us that this looks like the area that someone described to her as being the location of the Red-faced Warbler. Then, she des the only polite thing of the whole day. She asks if we mind if she plays a recording to draw the bird out. I look at Celeste and she looks at me. we are both hoping the other one will reply. I hem and haw. I do not like when people play recordings over and over again and get the birds all excited and they waste their energy. I do not object when people use players judicially, but I actually prefer to find the birds on my own. That is part of the fun and the challenge of birding. I ask Celeste what she thinks and she says she really doesn't like it. so, the lady walks off.  after our snacks are done we walk back to the car to leave our bottles and lunch boxes behind. The woman is still looking for her birds while her male companion is sleeping in the shade in the truck.
9. funnel web-kab Funnel Web in tree at Molina Basin
Before we leave Celeste and I walk back into the basin to do more exploring. we find white-throated swifts slicing the air above us. We find canyon towhees everywhere. In a nearby tree we find a pair of nesting Bewicks wrens. We hear a flycatcher calling from behind the restrooms and walk back there to discover a pair of Western Kingbirds. We are supremely happy. In a tree behind the restrooms Celeste’s points out the web of a funnel web spider spun perfectly into a knot hole on the tree. We both stop to admire its beauty. We walk a bit further down the paved road but the air is heating up and the vegetation has diminished. We are in blazing open sun so we turn back. We have probably seen all the birds we are going to see at this location, but we did not see the Red-faced Warbler.
10. magnificent-kab Magnificent Hummingbird at Palisades Visitor’s Center
It is close to noon by the time we stop at the Palisades Visitor‘s Center. Celeste has never been here before either. We grab our gear and head straight for the deck on the side of the building where there is a hummingbird feeder set up. As we walk down the ramp a Broad-billed hummingbird whistles by. We find a shady place to sit, and then we wait. Soon a male Magnificent Hummingbird makes his appearance at the feeder. Then the female flies in. In a nearby tree a Cordilleran flycatcher winks at us. We are in birding heaven!
11. house wren-kab House Wren at Palisades Visitor’s Center
Soon a sweet little House Wren shows up and shows off! I watch its antics for ten minutes or more. A Broad-billed hummingbird lands on the feeder. Celeste sees a robin on a fallen tree trunk down the slope. Then, while I am distracted by the wren or the Cordilleran, Celeste whispers to me, “Kathie! Kathie! Look! Look!” I turn my head and focus my bins on the pine tree over the deck where the hummingbird feeder hangs and there, working its way through the branches, is a Red-faced warbler! Oh, it is so pretty and I am so busy looking at it that I forget to raise my camera. when I finally come to my sense and pick it up slowly and cautiously the bird sees me and takes off! Still, we both saw it! We both saw it without using any mechanical means to draw it in. It just revealed itself to us! Life Bird for us both!
12. house wren-kab House Wren clinging to windowsill at Palisades Visitor’s Center
13. house wren-kab House Wren at Palisades Visitor’s Center
14. house wren-kab House Wren at Palisades Visitor’s Center
15. YE junco-kabA Yellow-eyed Junco at Palisades Visitor’s Center digs in the grass.
By now we are both hungry, so we head up the road to the cookie cottage for some pizza. It is the Friday before the Memorial day weekend and people are already coming up the mountain. It is lovely and cool up here at only 70 degrees while down in the valley it is nearing the 100 mark. amazingly there is only one young girl working the whole restaurant and she tells us it may be awhile before our pizza is ready. No worries. we purchase tea and a giant cookie to eat while we wait. After all, Celeste is English and it is time for our tea! I must confess that I am the one who wanted the cookie though. I was starving and 25 minutes or more to wait for pizza seemed like an eternity to me at the moment! We sat outside and watched birds while drinking our tea and waiting for our pizza to arrive. A wonderful Stellar’s jay entertained us in the tall pines overhead and a yellow-eyed junco walked around our feet while we sat at our table!
16. mt. chickadee-kab Mountain Chickadee at Marshall Gulch 5-24-13
after tea and pizza we headed down through the village to Marshall Gulch. Her a little creek tumbles along the tree lined street to the forest service parking area with picnic tables strewn all along the way. Most of these we already full of picnickers enjoying the lovely day. However, with people and kids playing and listening to music it didn’t make for very good birding at first until we found the trailhead behind the restroom. there, just a short distance up the trail, we found all kinds of birds, including a Mountain chickadee, and a huge flock of pine siskins feeding on cones overhead. We also saw a Hairy woodpecker, several Cordilleran flycatchers, and we heard a Hermit Thrush singing. By now we realized it was time to head back down the mountain. But before we did, we drove all the way to the top. We didn’t see many birds up there, but we did find a cute horned toad, and the views were spectacular, though a bit hazy from all the dust!
17. horned toad-kab
18. tucson valley-kab View from the top of Mount Lemmon over the Tucson Valley
Today has been a wonderful day birding with a wonderful friend. Anyone who reads this blog on a regular basis or knows me knows that I like to keep lists of all the birds I see and I get excited when I see a new bird or get a new species in anew county. I have lists of list, but they are the side pleasure. the main pleasure for me is being outside and seeing the birds. I am happy to see a Robin as much as a Red-faced Warbler. I just love the birds. And I love to count them.


  1. What a delightful birding day, despite the rude woman.

    1. Gaelyn, it was fun and the company was great!

  2. Haha I did smile at your account of our birding companion, she really was a piece of work wasn't she? What a lovely day we had and you write about it so beautifully.

  3. Great post. I'll be up there this week, and I hope to see as many beautiful birds.

    1. Carole, good luck! I hope you see all of these and more!

  4. Wow, what an amazing day! Awesome birds and the toad sighting is cool. Great post and photos, Kathie!

  5. Hi Kathie. What a fabulous day you had together. Your way of birding matches my own relaxed style ... we see what we see and enjoy every moment.

    The 'rude' lady reminds me of many similar 'tick listers' I have encountered over the years who pay scant regard for all the 'common' species. When I'm asked if I have seen anything interesting the answer is always ... yes, everything.

    1. Frank, I love it! You are a birder after my own heart!

  6. Hi Kathie

    Sounds like a wonderful day over all. You saw a lot of birds rare or not and that is always a great joy.


  7. Thought for sure at the end of your story about the rude lady birder there would be a reward at the end! Some miracle about being nice to the more unfortunate...perhaps that would be seeing the Red-faced Warbler afterall!? Great recap of your birding adventure this day. So enjoyed all of the excellent photos. Thanks for sharing!!

  8. Beautiful shots! Interesting to know what is up on Mt. Lemmon.


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.