This will be the last post from this location for awhile. Been hitting this trail kind of hot and heavy recently for a couple reasons. 1. I need to get myself in shape for an upcoming hike to Tom's Thumb which is a bit more strenuous as it has an altitude gain of almost 1100 feet which can be a bit of a challenge. 2. I have recently found some new and incredible birds at Pima Canyon Wash that make me want to go back to check them out a bit closer. One of those birds is the Common Poorwill which is one of those nocturnal birds belonging to the family of Goatsuckers. A week ago I arrived very early, before the sun was up and I heard a bird calling from up on the banks of the canyon that I was unfamiliar with. I narrowed it down to one of the species in this family since it was nocturnal and calling while it was pitch black out and after listening to the Common Poorwill's call, I knew immediately what it was. I had never encountered this bird there before, but then I have never went birding out there in the dark. There is a good chance that this species has been there all this time and perhaps even breeds in this location. Since then I have gone out while it was dark in hopes of actually finding one. That is going to be a tough mission to accomplish as they sit on the ground or rocks in the daytime, completely motionless and they blend in so well you would never see them unless you stepped on it.
This morning my mission was early again to try finding the Common Poorwill and sure enough I heard them calling again, but no sightings. Then I also heard two Western Screech Owls calling their soft hooting calls. I actually saw one of these in the dark fly to a nearby tree, but I was never able to get my flashlight on it for viewing or a photo. So these two species has rekindled my interest once again for this area. On this day, I deviated off onto another drainage wash that I had never hiked before and found out that it led to some incredible new areas that is definitely worth exploring more in the future. Another positive note to this hike today, is that when I checked the Great Horned Owl roost, we now have two owls, not one. Maybe it is the same pair that raised young for 2 years in row in 2010 and 2011. I don't think most hikers are even aware that these magnificent birds are perched in the rocks every day.
Great Horned Owls
One of the most common birds in this habitat is the Black-throated Sparrow. It is so common that I have gotten pretty good at identifying it by its single note chip call. I hear them constantly, but do not always see them as they have a tendency to forage on the ground and they blend in well with the rocks, gravel and vegetation fairly easy. Today, very in early in the morning, one of them presented itself on a rock for me. One has to agree that this is one dapper looking sparrow with that black bib and contrasting facial markings.
A Gilded Flicker flew into my area just long enough to snap off a photo. This is another bird that most of the time I will heard off in the distance and not see it. To have one come in close enough for a photo is always a plus. In this photo, the yellow coloring on the underside of it primaries can be seen along the edge of the wing. This is one of the key identification marks on this bird.
Another bird that I have noticed more frequently in the past few weeks is the Phainopepla (otherwise known as one of those 'P' birds in Arizona that is hard to pronounce, the other being the Pyrrhuloxia!). I have seen Phainopepla in this canyon before, but they are not very common, and I am not totally sure why as there seems to be an abundant supply of mistletoe, which is one of their foods sources. Maybe they are starting to expand their range into this area. Always a great bird to see.
Found two species of raptors today; a Red-tailed Hawk and a pair of American Kestrels. The Red-tail was a fly over and while the photo is not a great one, it does point out a couple of the key identification marks. Notice the belly band of dark feather across the middle of its belly, and also note the dark patagial bars on the front edge of the underside of its wings. Key marks in most of these birds, however there are a few color morphs where these markings cannot be seen.
On my return, I discovered a Black-headed Grosbeak and for once it wasn't quite so skittish and came out into the open for some photos. Yes, it still preferred to stay in the shade, but with this bird I will take any photo I can get. You can definitely see how this group of birds got their names 'grosbeak'. That is one massive beak on a bird this size.
But the day probably belonged to the Rock Wrens. They were quite common and calling from the hillsides and deep in the wash, I found a pair that I think might be preparing to breed once more as they were favoring a rock crevice and watching me with interest. The recent monsoon rains will often set in motion another breeding cycle for many birds. In one of my photos I discovered an Ornate Tree Lizard trying to get in on the act. Funny part was that I had no idea it was there until I started processing my photos at home.
Rock Wren with Ornate Tree Lizard
One bird photo then a couple more of non-avian critters. Of course there is always Black-tailed Gnatcatchers and of course I am always taking photos of them, so anyone can skip over this photo if they are tired of seeing photos of this bird.
Saw lots of lizards during the hike, but this time I caught one in the action of feeding on a bee. It is not often I see a lizard with prey. This is a Common Side-blotched Lizard that caught a bee and I think the bee lost.
Common Side-blotched Lizard with prey
And finally I found a Coyote that did not even pay attention to me. Not sure if it knew I was around or not, but it was slowly working its way up a secluded wash very leisurely, but never once turned around to even stare at me.
Tomorrow is a different destination and next weekend who knows where I will venture.