Saturday morning I awoke before the sun had even risen and what woke me was the multitude of bird songs all around us outside the ranch house. Of course I was excited and headed outside and heard the Buff-collared Nightjars calling their last calls before they went to rest for the day. Those nocturnal birds are hard to get visuals, but once you learn their calls, you know they are out there. We had already been told by Jim Rorabaugh that the hillside to the west of the ranch house would have Five-striped Sparrows singing in the morning, he was absolutely correct. This is a bird that is very hard to find in the United States as it is only found in a couple of very remote canyons of southern Arizona, so it was one of my target birds on this little trip. We found several singing all over the hillside and they were being especially cooperative and allowing several photo opportunities. It is another one of those handsome sparrows. So, Saturday started out fantastic as I got my first new life bird of the weekend! (But things were going to get even better fairly quickly.)
As we were standing there looking up a small draw at the Five-striped Sparrows, I heard a rattle call and saw a bird fly in and onto some dead branches just below some Saguaro Cactus. That call immediately made me think of a kingfisher and low and behold, a Green Kingfisher had landed on those dead branches. I was almost afraid to call out the ID on it because it really did not belong here; should have found this bird down in the stream bead and the trees and heavy shade. This was a female and it sat there for several minutes allowing all of us to get some good looks and of course some photos. This bird does show up occasionally in Arizona, but it is far from being common and not easy to find when it is present. Another new life bird for me and one that I had secretly hoped to find, but thought it was going to be harder to find.
What a way to start the day! Also during all of this our resident pair of Barn Swallows took a rest in this area as well. It is not often one gets photos of them on vegetation as they love to perch on power lines and fences. This pair has a nest on the patio portion of the ranch house, so they were our constant companions along with a couple of Canyon Towhees that kept the patio free and clear of a lot of insects. Even a Black Phoebe flew in to snack on a few flying insects once in a while.
Other birds that were seen constantly in and around the ranch house were red and blue, such as the Blue Grosbeak and the Summer Tanagers and Northern Cardinals. Yes, these birds can be seen in Arizona, but here they were constantly all around us.
Summer Tanager- Male and Female
During my wanderings on Saturday, I finally got around to photographing some of the many flycatchers located at this place. Dusky-capped Flycatchers were abundant as were Brown-crested and Ash-throated Flycatchers. We also had kingbirds, Cassin's Western, and Thick-billed Kingbirds. I was really pleased to see the Thick-billed Kingbirds as it was a bird that I had only seen fleetingly in early June, but this time I was able to capture photos of this huge billed kingbird. No doubt where it got its name.
Of course we also had both species of vultures. The Black Vulture is one that is usually a bit harder to find and capture in a photo, so I took advantage of this one perched on an electrical pole. Another bird that was seen in abundant numbers was the Common Ground Dove. They are found in Arizona as well, especially in the south and occasionally they do stray as far north as the Phoenix area as I have seen them at a couple of places in the urban areas.
Common Ground Dove
A person never knew what to expect flying in the canopy of trees and even though we had heard them a few times, finally a Yellow-billed Cuckoo flew from right to left and actually landed on a branch for good viewing. This is another one of those secretive birds that one hears a lot and gets an occasional glimpse. Still not the best photos that I would like of this elusive bird, but much better than any I have captured before.
Anytime anyone wanted to take a break, we could sit around on the patio and watch the hummingbirds. For the most part only 2 species were making regular visits; the Broad-billed Hummingbird and the Violet-crowned Hummingbird. (A third species made an appearance on Sunday, but that will be on my next post.)
Must have been lunch time to find all of us together in the daylight.
This was the full crew, minus myself in this photo
Finding out how long this post turned into, I have decided to stop and continue on the 3rd and final post which will include a photo of the only snake we found.