Monday, June 11, 2012
Sunday, June 10, 2012, Ellen once again joined me on a trip to Sunflower, AZ. Sunflower is not really a town per se, but a place with a few inhabitants and some awesome scenery and great birding. We had heard that a pair of Common Black Hawks were nesting in the area. They have nested there in past years so it seemed appropriate to see if they were back. The Common Black Hawk is not too common in the United States being found only in the US southwest. It is more common in Mexico and Central America and it feeds mostly on many aquatic animals such as fish, frogs, etc., so it seems a bit strange to find them in desert habitats, but they usually nest in trees along streams. We found the nest, thanks to one of the local residents and were able to observe parents bring food back to the nest. Below is a photo of an adult bringing in some food and the 2nd photo shows the fuzzy back of the head of one of the chicks.
We had seen many Hooded Orioles in our adventure, but it was not until the last that one of them actually sat long enough on a distant Saguaro Cactus that I was finally able to capture a photo of this very colorful bird.
Common Black Hawk
Common Black Hawk with chick
Further up the road we also found the returning Zone-tailed Hawks and they also have a nesting site, but too far away from the road to discern if there were any chicks. What a protective and possessive pair of parents! They saw us coming from a distance and immediately let us know that we were infringing on their territory with their screams and flying overhead from one side of the canyon to the other.
Further up the road we found a Blue Grosbeak actually on an exposed branch and they are always a delight to find. And a bit further up the road from there we had a Summer Tanager give us some good views. And shortly after that we got a Yellow Warbler to expose himself a bit so we were able to complete the circle of the 3 primary colors: Blue, Red, and Yellow.
Another very common bird in this area is the Bell's Vireo, a rather drab gray bird that is most generally secretive, but very vocal. They have one of the easiest songs to identify if you are a novice birder. The trees were full of these wonderful little birds.
We had been seeing Violet-green Swallows all day as they darted here, there and every where in the pursuit of insects in the air, but on the way back down the road we noticed one fly to a large tree branch and discovered a nest cavity with baby heads sticking out. We watched for some time as both parents made frequent visits to the nest to feed their young. What a great time of the year to discover not only the hawks nesting but also the swallows nesting as well.
These are but a few of the many birds we found in this small area and it is another great birding location for those that enjoy watching these marvelous creatures in their native habitat.