Costa's Hummingbird

Costa's Hummingbird

Friday, September 4, 2020

2020: A Chaotic Year

 Not even sure where to begin, as the year 2020 has become probably the most Chaotic Year in my lifetime.  First couple of months of the year were pretty much normal and I was anticipating new and exciting international adventures.  When March rolled around, things changed quickly.  Covid-19 was a new coronavirus that affected all of our lives, and in many different aspects.  Just as tighter security and restrictions affected all of us in 2001 due to the World Trade Center incident, Covid-19, has changed our daily lives by learning to assist in stopping the spread of this deadly virus.  Most of us have now started wearing face masks, gloves, (when appropriate), hand sanitizers, and disinfectant wipes.  Finally, about six months later, we are seeing hope that a vaccine might be on the horizon.  Unfortunately, even when a proven effective one is approved for distribution, it is going to be a very long process for people to get vaccinated.  So it is not going to be a quick solution that will make this virus disappear.  

The need for social distancing, and taking proactive measures, has greatly changed the world of birding.  The birding guides in the tropics have been especially hit hard as it stopped all of the birders throughout the world from visiting those countries and left many people without jobs and income.  

For me, all birding with friends and guiding came to an abrupt halt and I decided to stay home for much of the time to avoid the possibly of being exposed.  Then at the end of April, Chuck, became ill and ended up in the hospital for a total of 10 days and then another 2½ weeks in a rehab center.  Once he was released, I became an at-home care giver and it has curtailed a lot of my birding adventures.  He is making improvement and I can now leave for a day or two and he can care for himself.  Since my quarantining at home, I have had few opportunities to get out and go birding alone. With all the great rarities showing up in Arizona, I had to stay home and miss out on most of them.  However, I finally broke down and chased a rarity in southeast Arizona;  the Eared Quetzal.

It is bird that I have often pondered when looking through bird field guide books and longed to see, but figured it was rare enough that it might not show up in Arizona in my lifetime.  It is a bird from the Sierra Madre Occidental in Mexico and there have been a handful of reports of this bird in Arizona in the past but they are not frequent.  A pair has been reported in the Chiricuahua Mountains in southeast Arizona this year and many people were getting good views of them.  So I decided to take on a one day trip to try for them even though it was a 4 hour drive to the location from home and another 4 hours back.  I went with the option of maybe spending a night somewhere in case I missed them the first day.  Luckily, I did not have to do that and I made the trip there and back in one day. There were many other birders also searching for it and all of them were showing constraint and not chasing or stressing out the paid that was there.  My photos were a little soft since I got to see them at a distance, but the welfare of the birds is more important than perfect photos.

Eared Quetzal

Brown Creeper

Yellow-eyed Junco

I also found a way to do a little birding in Navajo and Apache Counties of Arizona.  We have had a brutally HOT summer this year which broke a lot of records, including the number of days that Phoenix has hit 110° +.  Before this year, we normally had 19 days at those extremes.  Last year we recorded 33 days, and this year we have currently had 50 days at 110° or higher with a few more on the way.  Plus our monsoon season has been a bust with very little rain, leaving the desert parched and dry which in turn has created a very high wildfire danger.  My trips to Navajo and Apache Counties at least got me into higher elevations with cooler temperatures and some intermittent rain showers. 

On these two trips, I was able to add 18 new species of birds to my Navajo County list and 3 new species to my Apache County list.  The trips were definitely worth it and I had my friends Barb and Jeanne to assist me and accompany me on my forays. 

Rufous Hummingbird -male

Rufous Hummingbird - male, with light reflecting at a different angle.

American Dipper - One of my favorite birds and I enjoy seeing them.

Band-tailed Pigeon - This is the best photo I have ever got of this species.

Lazuli Buntings - What's not to love?

Western Bluebird - Juvenile, recently fledged.
Another Western Bluebird - Juvenile and recently fledged.

Green-tailed Towhee - recently fledged juvenile.  Had never seen a juvenile before.

Clark's Nutcracker - Not a super common bird in Arizona.

Broad-tailed Hummingbird

Arroyo Bluet - This was a new new for me.

Mexican Forktail - Another new one for me.

Plains Forktail

Spotted Spreadwing - Another new one for me.

Blue-eyed Darner

Blue-eyed Darner

Eight-spotted Skimmer

Arizona Sister - Did not notice the little fly until I added this photo to this bog post.

Western Pygmy-Blue - Often mentioned as the smallest butterfly in the world.

Greater Short-horned Lizard - Just a baby and the next photo will give some perspective of its size.

Here it is in my hand.  What a cutie and glad I was alert enough to spot it.

With Covid-19 coupled with the severe summer heat in Arizona this year,it has been a challenge to really enjoy the outdoors and all that nature has to offer.  But with the summer starting to wind down and lower temperatures on the way, I hope to get out and see and enjoy a lot more of nature in very near future.  Just getting out into nature and some solitude can do wonders for my soul.  

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

February: A Costa's Kind of Month

The month of February this year is not only a Leap Year month with 29 days, but it has proven to be a great month for me in observing one of the my favorite hummingbirds; the Costa's Hummingbird.  When the desert receives some proper rainfall, the Wolfberry (Lycium andersonii) bushes come to life and start blooming. This shrub in bloom is a favorite of hummingbirds with the small lavender blossoms and when they set fruit and it ripens, many other species of birds feed on the berries when they ripen.  This winter has been fairly decent in the rainfall department, so it has been fun observing the Anna's and Costa's Hummingbirds fight over feeding rights and defending their territories.  These mornings have allowed me to get some fun photos of the Costa's Hummingbirds and a few of the Anna's as well. Below are 3 photos of Costa's males and 3 photos of Costa's females, followed by 2 photos each of Anna's males and females.

Costa's Hummingbird - Male

Sipping nectar from Wolfberry blossoms.

Costa's Hummingbird - Female

Anna's Hummingbird - Male

Anna's Hummingbird - Female

Hummingbirds have kind of been the stars of the show for the month, but they are most definitely the only interesting and great birds that were observed.  The one regular Western Screech-Owl that I had been monitoring, turned into two after discovering a second one in a second cavity.  

Western Screech-Owl - Number 1

Number 2

One of the biggest highlights for me in February was getting a new yard bird.  Glanced up in my neighbor's tree to see a small falcon and at first glance, thought it was just an American Kestrel, which I see almost yearly in the neighborhood.  But its posture looked a little odd, so I hurried into the house to grab my binoculars and took a second look and WOW!  It was a Merlin!  This is a male and it is the 'Prairie' subspecies (richardsonii).  What a great bird to add to my yard list.

Merlin - Male

A trip out west of the Phoenix metro area with 3 birding friends allowed me to get some photos of some really good birds that presented themselves well enough to capture a few photos.  Bell's Sparrow can sometimes be a bit difficult to to find and identify in the winter due to the fact that we have many more Sagebrush Sparrows and the 2 are not always easy to distinguish one from the other.  Plus, I have never really gotten very good photos of Bell's Sparrow.  LeConte's Thrasher.  What can I say about this bird, except that it is one of the most sought after birds in Maricopa County?  And who doesn't like Long-billed Curlews?  When a flock flies over, you start clicking away. 

 Bell's Sparrow

 LeConte's Thrasher

 Long-billed Curlew

A trip to southeastern Arizona gave me a chance to photograph a Mexican Duck and this post is the first time that I have included it in one of of blog posts since it is now considered a separate species according to Clements list of birds of the world.  Hepatic Tanagers and two species of titmouse are nice additions for the month.

 Mexican Duck

Hepatic Tanager

 Bridled Titmouse 

Juniper Titmouse

And finally a few of the desert regulars that I have had the pleasure of seeing in February.

 Gambel's Quail - Female

 Cactus Wren


Black-tailed Gnatcatcher - Male in breeding plumage

Greater Roadrunner

With the milder weather in February a few butterflies are starting to make an appearance.  Got to see my first Painted Lady on the first of the month and some lovely Lupine Blues on the fifteenth.  

Painted lady

 Lupine Blue

 Lupine Blue

The month of February was a month of enjoying our fine feathered friends in the Sonoran Desert.  Spring migration is just around the corner.