June 8, 2013 turned out to be probably my longest day of birding so far in my life. At a very early hour of 4:00 am, I met up with a couple of extraordinary birders, Tommy DeBardeleben and Mark Ochs and we headed to the southern parts of Arizona to try and find some great birds, including the rare Buff-collared Nightjar that had been recently reported near Madera Canyon. That was going to be our last objective as it is a nocturnal bird and becomes active at dusk and into the night. Before the day was over, we had covered over 550 miles and it encompassed about 20 hours.
Our first destination was the Monastery at St David. We struck out in trying to locate the Mississippi Kite, but we did make a short hike down to the dry riverbed and back. We did find plenty of good birds and I was able to capture some photos of a couple of different kingbirds, Cassin's Kingbird and the Tropical Kingbird. A novice birder might look at these 2 photos and think these are the same species, but alas they are not the same. Their songs are very different along with some other subtle differences.
Another cool bird that we found was a juvenile Gray Hawk. I have seen adults before, but never a juvenile, so this was a great learning experience for me.
Gray Hawk, Juvenile
From there we headed south and west to the Huachuca Mountain area and drove up Miller Canyon to Beatty's B & B. Great place for hummingbirds and some other specialties as well. At the hummingbird feeders, I got my first of 4 new life birds and this was the White-eared Hummingbird. The long white stripe behind the eye surely verifies where it got its name.
Besides this beauty, there were several other species of hummingbirds visiting the feeders, including the Magnificent Hummingbird, the Blue-throated Hummingbird, and plenty of Broad-tailed Hummingbirds. One of the Broad-tailed Hummingbirds really gave me a excellent close-up that allowed for an up-close shot of the head and a very fine detailed photo of the feathering on the head.
Broad-tailed Hummingbird-Close up
A couple of other birds that paid us a visit while we were viewing the hummingbird feeders were an Acorn Woodpecker who apparently needed some sugar water, and a Rock Wren paid us a visit by posing on some metal. (Do you think it was secretly wishing it was a 'metal' Wren?)
Two more special birds were waiting for us further up the canyon and stream bed. This place is well known for its resident Spotted Owls and on this day I had the best views I have ever had of this species. And even further up the steep canyon, we got to observe a Northern Goshawk nest with a fledgling still in it. We waited around for some time, hoping one or both parents might come in to feed it, but did not get that lucky. But since this was another new life bird, I was happy to get a photo from across the canyon to definitely identify this magnificent bird. This was my second life bird for the day.
This is turning into probably my longest blog post, but since it was a long day, this post should be long. From Miller Canyon, we headed further west to the Patagonia area and I was able to add my third life bird, the Thick-billed Kingbird to my life list. No photos, but I now know where to find them and then we ventured on to Madera Canyon. While waiting for the sun to set we stopped at Santa Rita Lodge to help kill some time and just before sunset, the Blue Grosbeaks came out and put on quite a show. I had never seen so many of these birds all in one spot and what a gorgeous bird to observe, even the females are very sleek looking even if not quite as colorful as the males.
Also seen near Proctor Road was Botteri's Sparrow. I managed to get 1 so-so photo of one of these dry grass loving birds that do not spend much time off the ground. Usually found by hearing their song.
The day ended about 2 hours after the sun set. We ventured down Proctor Road a little before sunset so we could be there when the Buff-collared Nightjar started calling. A group of about 10 people had gathered and sure enough we started hearing their call and we determined there were 2 out there in the brush somewhere. Since this was a nocturnal bird, I had already decided that photos would not be feasible, but we tried chasing one down with flashlights with very little success. It was not until we were leaving that another car load had found one not far off the road and I was able to at least catch a glimpse of the green glow of its eye in the beam of a flashlight. A rare bird to be found in the United States and one of the few places to find them, but it rounded out my day as my 4th life bird for the day. What a great finish to a long, tiresome, but fruitful day of birding.