Thursday, September 19, 2013

When You Do Something Good

1. WAVI-kab Warbling Vireo at Agua Caliente Park 9-4-13

Sometimes when you do something good, something good happens in return. Though I was not expecting a reward the day I took my grandson to school for his dad. My son had early meetings and did not have time to drop his son at school. It was a task I was happy to do, but since my grandson’s school is so close to Agua Caliente Park it only made sense to me to bring along my camera and binoculars and go for a short walk and do a quick bird count. I thought I would stay at the park about twenty to thirty minutes and then get home and back to work. I had so much to do before leaving for our trip to Utah and Yellowstone National Park. After a quick good-bye I was on my way.

2. NOCA-kab Wednesday, September 4th was a hot and sunny day. As I drove into the park I was surprised by the lack of people and cars in the parking lot. So many times lately when I have birded here this place has been so busy! Now it was mostly quiet except for a couple of workers doing grounds keeping. As I put on my binocular harness and donned my hat and camera a stiff breeze blew helping to mitigate the heat of the day. Already I can hear bird calls and songs. I look beneath a nearby lime tree where I find a pair of young cardinals bathing in the irrigation water beneath the tree. The male flew up soaking wet to the top of the tree while the female heads for the shade of a nearby mesquite tree. The mesquite tree is part of a cluster of foliage that includes palms and other bushes and trees that line the stream and runs from the spring to the pond. The thick foliage casts a cool dark shade over the area and draws me and the birds to its canopy. This area is very active and I soon spot my first MacGillivry’s warbler of the year.

3. BLPH-kab Poking around in this same vegetation I find Warbling Vireos, Canyon and Abert’s Towhees, Western Tanagers, and a Black Phoebe (pictured above)! While the sun blazes above, this area is nothing but cools greens and grays. I cross the now dry stream bed in search of the birds I am hearing.

4. CEWA-kab Out in the bright sunshine again I see a pair of Cedar Waxwings near the entrance to Agua Caliente Park perched in a dead snag. Gila Woodpeckers call and fly from tree to tree. Purple Martins soar on darkened wings against the clear blue sky chattering amicably to one another in flight. These are the sights and sounds that make me happy and bring me peace.

5.YBCH-kab But the heat of the sun causes me to seek the shade once again. As I near the edge of the pond I am amazed to find a Yellow-breasted Chat working its way up through a tree. This bird is very silent for a chat, but a chat nonetheless and the first time I have ever seen this species at this location! It quickly becomes apparent to me that I will be staying here longer than twenty minutes! There are birds everywhere! While I am enjoying my time alone, I also wish that Chris Rohrer could be here because I know that he would be going nuts over all these birds! However, I decide to relax and enjoy the peacefulness and the rush of excitement each time I see another bird!

6. WETA-kab Western Tanagers were everywhere!


7. HOWR-kab I hear the scolding of a House Wren, then find the tiny gray bird in the reeds!


8. LAWO-kab In a nearby tree I spot a Ladder-backed Woodpecker!

It just kept getting better! There are not many ducks in the pond, though, just the typical mallards. I did happen to see a Great Blue Heron rise on ponderous wings when I first arrived, but I do not even find a coot on this day. I work my way across the lawn and past the old farm house to the trail beyond that leads into the mesquite bosque. All is still in the soft green-gray shade as branches reach across the path and form an speckled tunnel.

9. mesquite bosque-kab So many times I have wandered down this path searching for the elusive Northern Beardless Tyrannulet. I searched for it with Chris Rohrer on the first day I met him here. Earlier this spring Gordon Karre and I searched for it twice on the same day with no luck. I have looked for it on my own. A couple of weeks ago Gus and I came on a Sunday morning and sat at a picnic table by the pink house and the abandoned nest for 40 minutes hoping to see the bird, but still with no luck. The Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet had become my nemesis bird. I have been looking for it since I first moved to Tucson and became an eBirder over 6 years ago. Now I heard something! It was something different! I moved slowly and waited. There was no one but me on the path. Tiny birds moved through the thick twigs as if I did not exist. I felt as if the whole world was holding its breath, and then I saw this:

10. what-kab Could it be true?

11. tyrranulett-kab Then it flew into view and there was no mistaking it!

A Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet!

*Life Bird Number 458!

12. NAWA-kab And while the tyrannulet flutters around me I also find a Nashville Warbler and another McGillivry’s! I don’t know who to watch or photograph first!

13. NBTY-kab But the Tyrannulets make it easy for me when they come even closer as if to inspect me! Yes, there are more than one! Wow! What a way to conquer a nemesis bird! I had arrived at Aqua Caliente Park around 8:30 AM. By now it is after 10 and the temperature is rising. As I gaze at the birds through my bins a mom and her little son came walking down the path. They want to know if the path continues in a loop and I tell them that it does. I am happy to see this mom taking her son out to enjoy nature, but I am hot, tired and thirsty. I realize that it is time for me to go. So, I turn and begin my walk back to the car. As I emerge from the bosque trail onto the grounds of the park I spot a small sparrow in the grass.

14. juv chipping sparrow-kabA juvenile Chipping Sparrow!

What a way to end my morning of birding at Agua Caliente Park! When I left the house this morning I never expected this. And while I will always be more than happy to help out my son and give my grandson a ride to school I can’t help but think that finding the tyrannulet was my reward for the day and anyone who saw me could tell by my smile how happy I was! I carried that contentment and satisfaction around in my heart for the rest of the day like a tiny chirping bird!

Birding Agua Caliente Park

Time of arrival: 8:30 AM

Total Time Birding: 2 hours 17 minutes

Distance Traveled: 1/2 mile

Birds seen at Agua Caliente Park on September 4, 2013:

  1. Mallards-13
  2. Great Blue Heron-1
  3. Turkey Vulture-2
  4. red-tailed hawk-1
  5. Mourning Dove-2
  6. Broad-billed Hummingbird-3
  7. Gila Woodpecker-12
  8. Ladder-backed Woodpecker-1
  9. American kestrel-1
  10. *Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet-2
  11. Black Phoebe-2
  12. Vermillion flycatcher-2
  13. Bell’s Vireo-1
  14. Warbling Vireo-6
  15. Purple martin-6
  16. Verdin-8
  17. House Wren-1
  18. Bewick’s Wren-1
  19. Cactus Wren-2
  20. Curve-billed thrasher-1
  21. Cedar Waxwing-2
  22. Nashville Warbler-1 (FOTY)
  23. MacGillivry’s Warbler-3 (FOTY)
  24. Wilson’s Warbler-8
  25. Yellow-breasted Chat-1
  26. Green-tailed Towhee-1
  27. Canyon Towhee-2
  28. Abert’s Towhee-2
  29. Chipping Sparrow-1
  30. summer Tanager-1
  31. Western Tanager-8
  32. Northern Cardinal-2
  33. House Finch-6
  34. Lesser Goldfinch-14

*Life Bird-a bird species a birder has seen for the first time in their life. Most birders keep a Life List of all the bird species they have seen and I am no different! (Click on the link to see posts about other Life Birds I have found.)


  1. That park is a strange one. Hit or miss. Like you, I was there alone one day with all of those incredible finds....but then you go back the next day and it's super quiet! Congrats on this awesome lifebird. No Spanish needed for this one;) I have been waiting to see your pics and so glad you had nice views:)

  2. That was a good morning! Glad you got the lifer!

  3. Kathie, wow what a wonderful list of sightings. And, congratulations on number 458! Beautiful images.

  4. Congratulations on 458. I sometimes find that I haven't managed to see or photograph a bird despite trying, but then I see it, then it becomes something I see fairly regularly at least! It sounds like a great morning.

    1. happy wanderer, I have had the same experience as well!

  5. Kathie, sounds like an awesome park for birding. You have a nice list of birds seen during your visit. Congrats on your lifer! The post and photos are great. Happy Birding!

    1. eileen, it is a great park. One of my favorites in Tucson!

  6. What a great collection Kathie.
    Well, thats Birding.
    One day you see nothing much all day, another day you see your target bird in the first 10 minutes.

    1. Roy, spoken like a true birder! You are so right!

  7. You have much better luck and better birds without me! I must be a bad omen, haha. Congrats and a great post!

    1. Gordon, you are not a bad omen! We saw lots of good birds that day! I am just sorry we did not see this bird that day, but this just means you need to come back!

  8. HI Katie Well that was one very specialmorning you had birding. Congrats on a lifer. You photos are great and I loved reading the post.

  9. Wonderful all your pictures.

  10. When you least expect it. How delightful to find the lifer.

  11. Congrats on the life bird! It gets harder to get new ones when you are in the 400 club! I counted 18 birds on your list that I have never seen, and only some of those are rare strays to Minnesota. It's so amazing how many different birds you have than we do.

    1. Josh, yes, I did not know when I first moved to Tucson what a birding mecca it is! I try not to take it for granted now.


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.