On Sunday, I had the honor and privilege to take Walter Thurber birding at my most common birding spot, Pima Canyon Wash in South Mountain Park. Walter was the person that asked me to assist his group in doing the Tom's Thumb transect survey in the McDowell Sonoran Preserve a couple of times this past year. The Tom's Thumb trail is much more difficult than my regular hike in Pima Canyon Wash, but in some respects, the habitat is a bit similar but due to the variance in the elevation, there does tend to be a bit different make up of the bird life. Yes, many of the species are common to both spots, but just enough of a difference to make it interesting.
In checking eBird, I think I have contributed more reports than anyone else at this location. (Doesn't mean that other birders have not birded there, but if they did, they are not reporting on eBird.) Time and time again, I think I have seen all I can find at this location in terms of new species, but every once in a while I find something new and this was precisely the case on this day with Walter joining me. Burrowing Owls are by no means a rare bird in Maricopa County as I know of 4 locations where they can be seen regularly; 2 locations are due to man made habitats for them, one is a college campus and one is a natural setting where they found the right place to make a home. But on Sunday, I discovered one of these birds in Pima Canyon Wash for the first time. Not sure if this is a going to be a regular spot for this bird or not, but it will be interesting to check it out in future hikes. So I am looking forward to another trip back to this location to check it out. As one can see from the photo, this one has found a hiding spot in a small cave area along one of the cliffs. It was great to share my excitement with Walter on this find.
Of course we were also treated to many of the regulars such as Anna's Hummingbirds (quite common throughout the year), Black-throated Sparrow (also common throughout the year), White-crowned Sparrow (just returned to spend their winter here), and the Loggerhead Shrike (another permanent resident).
Another permanent resident is Harris's Antelope Ground Squirrel. When I first started birding in this location, this rodent really gave me fits on the first couple of trips. I hate to admit how many times I chased down its call thinking it was a bird. I finally learned to recognize its call and no longer have to chase down the sound.
Harris's Antelope Ground Squirrel
When we finally returned to the trail head and stopped to take a break in the shade of the ramada, we were blessed by a visit by a Greater Roadrunner that came right up to the ramada and actually came in looking for handouts. All the while it was approaching it was being mobbed by a couple of Black-tailed Gnatcatchers and a couple of Verdin that were scolding it. Once the Roadrunner started feeding on the human handouts that were being offered by some of the other humans in the ramada, the smaller birds stopped their harassment and left it alone while we were treated to various poses by the Roadrunner. This bird must be used to receiving handouts as it showed very little fear of the humans nearby. I really do not condone the feeding of wild birds in the wild settings because of what the humans are feeding (in this case donuts or bread), are not the proper diet of what these creatures normally feed on, but I will admit, it presented a unique viewing of this marvelous and lovable bird. (Now if I can just figure out how to capture a lizard and offer that as a treat!)
One last bird came into view by soaring in the sky near the ramada as we were getting ready to head out, a Red-tailed Hawk made several passes over us and the rest of the hikers that were in awe of this gorgeous raptor. It had been some time since I had seen on of these birds in this location, so it was a welcomed site.
After all the visits I have made to this spot, I have decided it is time to start on a report or at least a species list of the birds that I have been able to document in this location. Sounds like a lot of work, so not sure how quickly that will be, but gives me some plans for the future.