Fan-tailed Warbler

Fan-tailed Warbler

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Another Chase

Birders are a strange lot, and that includes moi!  We sometimes get lethargic with observing our regular resident birds and we hear of an unexpected rarity showing up and away we go, chasing it.  Recently a Fan-tailed Warbler was reported in the yard of a Portal, Arizona, resident who is also great birder and leads many bird excursions, in the US and abroad.  Rick Taylor has even published a book on Birds of Southeastern Arizona.  And I highly recommend this book to be added to anyone's bird guide library.  When the word got out about the warbler, I had an appointment that next day that prevented me from going to try for it.  Plus the fact, that Portal is about a 4 hour drive from Mesa and that would have made for a very long day all by myself.  I did get an offer the next evening to try for it on Sunday, but I was exhausted and foolishly passed on the offer.  Then as Sunday progressed, I had misgivings about my decision, but it was too late to act on it that day.  A phone call from birding buddy, Mark Ochs, on Sunday changed all of that and we made plans to head out on Monday to see if we could locate it.

All the best plans in the world can fall apart!  We had planned on meeting at Picacho Peak exit off of I-10 at 6:00 am which would be great timing to get to Portal at a decent hour.  Well an I-10 closure about 8 miles north of our meeting point due to an accident, created quite a delay and cost us about an hour.  As we got back on the road together, I thought to myself, this is a bad omen.  We continued on the road without any further delays and arrived at the Taylor yard where it was already packed with birders and their smiling faces told us that yes, the bird had been showing well that morning.  As soon as we found parking, we hustled to the yard and finally, I had the pleasure of observing this bird and its behavior.  This is an ABA Code 4 bird.

 Fan-tailed Warbler

 Fan-tailed Warbler

 Fan-tailed Warbler

Fan-tailed Warbler

At one point, I even took a video of this warbler foraging in the grass.  Towards the end of the video, a large insect flies into the area, which you can catch a glimpse of it, and the warbler jumps up and snatches it out of the air.  Pretty amazing!

Fan-tailed Warbler

The Taylor's yard is simply amazing and they were so gracious to allow us the opportunity to take in all they had to offer.  The next few photos are just some of the amazing birds that are visiting their yard and feeders.  They have reported a total of 10 hummingbird species in their yard and we were able to observe 8 of those during our visit.  

 Broad-tailed Hummingbird

 Blue-throated Hummingbird

 2 Cassin's Finch males & 1 House Finch male. A good comparison on the differences in these two species.

 Scott's Oriole

 Hooded Oriole

 Rivoli's Hummingbird

 Rufous Hummingbird

 Rufous Hummingbird (top) & Black-chinned Hummingbird (bottom)

 Wilson's Warbler

'Audubon's' Yellow-rumped Warbler

We finally had to say farewell to the Taylor's and start heading for home.  We had just entered I-10 and started heading west, when Mark noticed a tire pressure warning on the right rear tire.  We pulled over and sure enough it was low and leaking.  So we changed the tire and hoped that we could find a tire repair shop at the next exit and believe it or not, there was a tire repair shop.  We had to wait for the shop worker to finish his lunch, but they got it fixed and we got it put back on the car and then headed for home.  Great day of birding even though there were delays at both ends of the trip.  It will all be good fodder to laugh about in the future.   

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Carolina Visits Arizona

Arizona is one of the top birding states in the United States and that is due to several reasons.  First and foremost is the proximity to Mexico and the vast area of Central America that is a short distance south which harbors a huge variety of different species.  Arizona is also a great place for migrants to pass through on their travels.  This was the case with a recently found Carolina Wren that was discovered at Patagonia Lake State Park in Santa Cruz County, Arizona.  Its westernmost range in the US is west-central Texas.  This species had been documented in Arizona less than 6 times in the past, including a sighting in Overgaard, AZ, in Navajo County a few years ago.  I , along with 3 friends, chased that one in the winter and when someone found it and pointed it out to me, by the time I got my binoculars up, it had flown and was not seen again that day.  That was one of those lifers that I always labeled as a 'BVD', (Better View Desired). 

So when this one was reported in Santa Cruz County this year, Barb Meding and I decided to head south to see if we could find it.  Of course we found it and now I feel much better with this bird being on my life list.  Strangely, I did not have to head to the eastern part of the US to add it to my life list.  Once again, the state of Arizona can turn up some very unexpected species from time to time.

 Carolina Wren

Since we had traveled that far for this bird, of course visited some other spots as well and enjoyed the birds of southeastern Arizona; some that are not seen very often in the Phoenix area.

 Broad-billed Hummingbird

 Cassin's Finch

 Costa's Hummingbird

 Dusky Flycatcher

 Green-tailed Towhee

 Plumbeous Vireo

 Violet-crowned Hummingbird

Vermilion Flycatcher

Got lucky and found a new species of butterfly for me, the Golden-headed Scallopwing.

 Golden-headed Scallopwing

 Golden-headed Scallopwing

Texan Crescent

A few days after our trip to the Patagonia area, I made a solo trip to Mt Ord and Sycamore Creek in Maricopa County.  This is a spot I always enjoy visiting as it gets me away from the hustle of the city and out into nature; many times I have the place to myself as I did on this day.   On Mt Ord, I was lucky to find a couple of birds that are not always so common in the county; Golden-crowned Kinglet and Mountain Chickadee.  

 Golden-crowned Kinglet

Mountain Chickadee

Crissal Thrashers are common in this location, but not often seen, so it was a delight when one of them posed long enough for a photo.  

Crissal Thrasher

At Sycamore Creek, a Lucy's Warbler was singing and since it was the first of the year for me with that bird, it took me a few seconds to figure out what was making that song.  

Lucy's Warbler

Butterflies and moths were active and finding a Brown Elfin was a new butterfly for me and so was a Sagebrush Checkerspot.  

 Brown Elfin

Sagebrush Checkerspot

A couple of moths were new to me.  I normally don't spend a lot of time on moths, but these 2 species are a bit more colorful than most moths and reminded me of butterflies.  Never hurts to add new species to a person's list of creatures.  

 Moth - Litocala sexsignata

Moth-Annaphila astrologa

What is interesting about many of the moths is that they do not always have common names and have to be referred to by their scientific names.  Being at peace in nature and away from the hoards of mankind and concrete and steel and exhaust is always a treat for the soul.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Continuing Education: Grasslands and Riparian

It did not take long for me to head back south to the grasslands of southeastern Arizona after my first trip with Barb and Jeanne.  Four days later, I was heading back again and this time I asked Kyle Waites if he would be interested in checking out some of these grasslands.  He readily accepted and off we went.  This time we headed straight to the grasslands and the longspur pond just east of the town of Sonoita, Arizona.  We arrived early, around sunrise, and it was overcast, cloudy and windy.  But we had prepared for that and we bundled up, got out our scopes and started scanning.  We actually arrived a bit too early as the only activity we had in the beginning was a few Horned Larks and Savannah Sparrows. It did not take long to hear the first of the longspurs flying in.  Once again, this was educational for me to experience their flight calls as they arrived and to also observe the flight patterns and compare those flight patterns to the Horned Lark flocks.  One can read about these details in books and hear it from other birders, but to actually experience it, it then gives a new meaning to continuing education. Hopefully, I will remember these points for the future.

On this visit I managed to capture a photo of the single Lapland Longspur that had eluded me on the first visit. Sad fact to this photo was that after finding the bird in my scope, and then trying to find it in my binoculars, when I raised my camera, I had no idea what I was seeing.  I just saw something moving in all the piles of cattle manure, I just started taking photos.  Surprised to get home and find I had the right bird.  We did manage to find and see all 3 species of longspurs;  Chestnut-collared, McCown's, and Lapland .

Lapland Longspur

Grsshopper Sparrow - Nice have this one pay a visit as well.

Pronghorn - I always love seeing these mammals.

From here we headed to the quaint and fun town of Patagonia to stop in for a visit to Paton's Hummingbird Haven which is now managed by the Tucson Audubon Society.  This place is well known to most birders in the United States as the best place to find the Violet-crowned Hummingbird.  And once again it lived up to its expectations as one came in to visit one of the feeders.  

 Violet-crowned Hummingbird

Keeping an eye to the sky!

Finding Cassin's Finches at this location was a bit unexpected and was a welcome bird to add to my Santa Cruz County list.  

 Cassin's Finch - Female

 Cassin's Finch - Male

 Lincoln's Sparrow

And of course Pyrrhuloxia is never a bad bird to see.

 Pyrrhuloxia - Male

Pyrrhuloxia - Female

Since we were already that far south and needed to plan a route home, I suggested stopping at Santa Gertrudis Lane on the west side of the Santa Rita Mountains.  There had been reports of a Sinaloa Wren in the recent past, but it had proven to be a bit difficult to find and did not always cooperate with many birders.  Guess this day, it decided to cooperate with a few of us birders that were there. This is Mexican species that seems to be a bit more regular in the past few years in Arizona.  It has not been reported in any other state in the United States. 

Sinaloa Wren

Our final stop was at the Santa Rita Lodge in Madera Canyon, which is one of my favorite spots in the entire state of Arizona.  They have created a great setup for birders to watch and enjoy the birds.  And they have made it very friendly for the birds themselves.  

 Arizona Woodpecker

 Hepatic Tanager - Male

 Rivoli's Hummingbird

 Rufous-winged Sparrow

Wild Turkey - Male

We had an amazing day of birding and was able to see many of the southeastern Arizona specialties along with a lot of the really great regulars as well.  I believe Kyle ended up with 8 new life birds and he now knows where to find some great birds in some amazing spots in that part of the state. I am sure he will venture to the southeastern part of the state a bit more in the future.  It is amazing in the diversity of birds only a couple hours away from the Phoenix metro area.  We have our specialties as well, so many from the southeast also make the trek northward to see some of our great birds.