Fan-tailed Warbler

Fan-tailed Warbler

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Empire Ranch and more

On Saturday, April 21st, our group of birders from the Desert Rivers Audubon Society started the day by visiting the Empire Ranch in Santa Cruz County.  This ranch is now managed by the BLM and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  The ranch is situated near a stream bed called Empire Gulch that is marked by very tall and large cottonwood trees and has a trail that is easily followed.  We encountered over 30 species of birds in this area including more Gray Hawks which we found perched in the trees and also found many of them soaring on the thermals.  My photo below really does not do these magnificent raptors justice.  This one was sitting partially in the shade, but since it was a new bird for me, any and all photos were better than none at all.

We were also treated to a pair of Vermilion Flycatchers.  The male of this species happens to be one of the most photographed birds in Arizona due to its vibrant colors.  I remember the first time I saw one of these birds after I had relocated to Arizona from Nebraska and it was an exciting moment for me.  At that time my little point and shoot camera just didn't do them justice.  Now I will take photos of these birds just about anytime I find them.  Females have eluded me so far in the photgraphic department; they are a bit more subtle in coloration, but still quite attractive.

Another bird that we found several of in this location is the Summer Tanager.  They had begun the spring migration and we found several in the Cottonwoods along the stream bed.  This bird has also been a little tough to capture in a photo as most the time they are up in the highest parts of trees in the foliage or well hidden in the shady parts of the tree.  The male below was also in the shade, but he at least perched on a branch near main trunk of the tree and allowed us some clear views and a photo.

As we ventured down the dry stream bed we eventually found water trickling from some underground springs that eventually turned into a small stream of flowing water.  Near the source of the springs, it pooled up under trees and we encountered some Leopard Frogs basking in the sun.  Not sure of the exact species of Leopard Frogs they might be, but they almost look out of place in the desert.

We finally departed the Empire Ranch site about 11:00 am and ventured back to the town of Sonoita where we stopped for sandwiches and then continued on back to Patagonia and then ventured back into Harshaw Canyon.  At the site of the former village of Harshaw we stopped and visited a very small but old cemetery and also discovered a Red-tailed Hawk nest high in a tree above us.  We found the mother on the nest in a crouched position with wings out a bit giving us thought that she might have babies.  Sure enough, when she took flight, we saw 3 little white fuzzy heads pop up just barely visible over the edge of the nest.  When she returned and landed on a branch near the nest, one of the chicks moved to that side of the nest, but thankfully did not fall out.

The heat was starting to build and the bird life was quieting down in mid afternoon, so we decided to call it a day and head back to the Duquesne Bed and Breakfast for some rest and relaxation.  The hammock in the back yard was ideal for relaxation and watching the birds fly around the back yard.

1 comment:

  1. Very cool. Grey Hawk and Summer Tanager would both be new birds for me--need to check out this Ranch!

    Thanks for sharing Gordon