Sunday, April 5, 2015
AAAA+ - An Amazing Arizona Adventure (Part 2)
After dropping Josh off at his hotel and family in Green Valley on Tuesday night, Tommy and I headed back to Madera Canyon to set up camp at Bog Springs Campground. While Tommy and I were discussing the best place to try and locate the Elegant Trogon search for the next day, Josh was busy in the motel checking out the latest reports of this bird on eBird. Josh texted us stating that two days prior there was a report of 2 male Elegant Trogons in Madera Canyon about ¼ a mile from the parking lot and on the Super Trail. So Tommy and I decided to try scouting this trail before darkness set in and away we went. Discovered it was a great trail and prime habitat for the Trogon, but we did not detect one in the twilight, however we did hear one calling a bit up on the ridge from the actual trail. So plans were made to pick up Josh early in the morning and hike the Super Trail and hope for the best.
With darkness setting in on Madera Canyon, Tommy and I decided to see if we could hear any owls when total darkness descended on the canyon. We were hanging out in the Amphitheater parking area listening to the Wild Turkeys settle in for the night when suddenly Tommy heard a Whiskered Screech-Owl calling. We took off on foot towards the hooting and within 5 minutes, Tommy had located one of them with his flashlight, just waking up from a day of slumber. This is a bird that I have heard before and already added it to my life list as a 'heard only' species. So this was a real treat for me to actually see one for the first time. I was surprised at how small they are at only 7¼ inches, which is about a inch smaller than the Eastern and Western Screech-Owls. The range of this species is predominately in Mexico, but it does reach into southeastern Arizona and possibly a very tiny area of New Mexico. Now my camera, does not do well in low light situations, so I was not expecting much in the way of photos and I am not fond of using my flash on nocturnal birds. So I bumped my ISO up to 3200 and hoped for the best with light from Tommy's flashlight. He would shine it on the owl briefly for a couple of photos, then point it away to avoid continual light in its eyes. All my photos were taken without a flash and I was quite pleased with how some of them turned out considering this is a nocturnal bird that is going to be hard to photograph. While we were watching the first owl, we heard a noise behind us and turned around to find a second one had landed in a tree behind us and had a lizard in its grasp and its wings spread out. We later found another one, but it may have been one of the first 2; we are not certain on that.
Whiskered Screech-Owl - Note lizard foot in bottom of photo
We also heard and got some brief views of Elf Owls, but were not able to get photos. What an incredible time birding at night.
The next morning we picked up Josh and we were lucky to have his son Evan join us for the morning of birding. This youngster has quite the eye and loves to add birds to his life list as well. We headed straight to the Super Trail at the top parking lot in Madera Canyon. We had not traveled far on the trail when Josh quickly pointed out an unusual mammal coming down the trail towards us. It just happened to be a Hooded Skunk. I have seen many skunks in my life, but not this species and it was quite a treat. When it sensed our presence, it quickly left the trail and went down to the stream bed leaving us to contend with photos from above.
As we headed up the trail, we finally heard an Elegant Trogon and we pursued the sound and were treated to some brief views of it. I tried to keep my eyes focused on where it landed as it moved up the slope so that Josh and Evan could get some good looks of it and some photos. This was the number 1 target bird for Josh and we were happy that we found one for him on this trip. Although it was not the most cooperative for photos, it still is a fantastic bird to find in the United States. (The photo that I am including in this post, is one that I captured in 2013. Wanted to include a photo of this really awesome bird so others understand why this is so special for Josh, Evan and many others.)
Elegant Trogon (photo from 2013)
After another search that was deemed successful, we headed back down the trail and just before we reached the trailhead, a small flock of Bridled Titmouse made an appearance and it has to be one of the cutest little birds around.
We stopped for a short time near the Santa Rita Lodge and found this Band-tailed Pigeon.
We then returned Josh and Evan back to the motel in Green Valley so they could check out with their family. But they took out a little time to show Tommy and me a pair of Great-horned Owls that Evan had discovered the day before hanging around the motel. We took an elevator to the 3rd floor and once the elevator door opened, there was one on them viewable on the roof just outside the window. Another one was trying to remain unseen in one of the palm trees outside.
Great-horned Owl - Photo taken through window of hotel
Great-horned Owl - Photo taken through window of hotel
What an incredible two days of birding! Anytime someone gets the privilege of seeing an Elegant Trogon it is a great day of birding. Really enjoyed my time birding with Tommy and also meeting Josh and Evan and being able to find some cool birds. A very enjoyable two days. (Now to start planning on owling in Minnesota in the winter in the future!!!!)