Once again, back to one of my old standby hiking and birding spots, Pima Canyon Wash, in South Mountain Park. With the warmer weather coming up in the future, I wanted to check out this spot once again befoire it got so hot that one cannot even enjoy hiking in this spot even at 5 or 6 in the morning. Turned out to be quite an enjoyable day with a few unusual birds that made it interesting.
The first interesting find was a pair of Costa's Hummingbirds in the process of courting and actually breeding. This behavior was new to me and interesting to watch. I have heard this hummingbird in this location many times, even in the cold of winter, but sometimes, the viewing leaves a bit to be desired. This time a bright male was very cooperative and kept returning to a couple of favorite perches.
Breeding has been in full swing for a few species already as I discovered a pair of Loggerhead Shrikes attending to a couple of fledglings in the trees. The young ones would squawk and cry to be fed as both parents would fly out and return with food for them.
Loggerhead Shrike, adult below and fledgling above
One of the unusual birds that I discovered was a Gray Vireo. A different part of South Mountain Park has a few spots where this bird can be found in the winter months, but by now, most of them should have returned to their breeding grounds a bit further north and in higher elevations. I heard this bird before I saw and knew I had a vireo in the area and once I finally laid eyes on it, I was happy to see this bird and hear its song.
A couple of migrating warblers were also seen; my first of the season, Wilson's Warbler and also a Townsend's Warbler. I had also seen a Townsend's Warbler about a week before further south in Huachuca Canyon, but one of the 2 that I found here, gave me a couple of photo. The Wilson's Warbler was a bit harder to get photos, but I managed to get a couple fairly decent. Just goes to show that colorful birds do show up on occasions in this location.
To really make my day difficult, the Empidonax flycatchers, were quite numerous. One of the most difficult group of birds to identify. They all have unique calls, but when they are silent like all of these were, a few of them left me scratching my head. I was able to identify 3 of them, with confidence, but a couple more left me in the dark. Two of the 3 were Pacific-sloped Flycatchers, which is only a migrant in this part of Arizona as they migrate north and west to the Pacific northwest. One of these had found a moth and was fueling up on energy before heading north. It really make the photo a bit tough to shoot among the branches, but glad I caught it with prey in its beak. Another one I was able to ID was a Gray Flycatcher, thanks to the downward phoebe like pump of its tail, which is a good indicator of this species.
Pacific-sloped Flycatcher with prey
Some lizards were starting to show themselves as well. While I do not linger a lot on lizards, they are still intriguing and their presence provides food for many other animals including birds and other reptiles.
Common Side-blotched Lizard
Ornate Tree Lizard
And a mammal that I see on almost every trip to this location, a Harris's Antelope Ground Squirrel, had to run to the top of a rock to check me out and posed quite well for.
Harris's Antelope Ground Squirrel
After seeing the variety that this visit produced, now I know why I return to this spot frequently. seems I always find something a bit unusual or unique.