Fan-tailed Warbler

Fan-tailed Warbler

Monday, May 30, 2016

On the 'PROW'L for an Arizona Vagrant

Living in Arizona and being a fervent birder, I have been able to add most of all the Arizona regular bird species to my life list.  So it has become harder and harder to add a new life bird for me in Arizona.  There is still a handful of species that exist in the state, but are not easy to find, or they are located in some very remote areas that I have not yet visited.  Hopefully within the next year, I will be able to knock a couple of these species from my bucket list.  The other method of adding new birds to my life list is chasing down the vagrants that are passing through.  Such was the case on May 1st of this year.  For those that are curious about the headline of this post, 'PROW' is in quotes, as those 4 letters is the 4-letter banding code for this target bird.

One of North America's most beautiful 'eastern' warblers came to town in Tucson; a stunning Prothonotary Warbler (PROW).  I was figuring that I was going to only find and see this bird in the eastern part of the United States in a future trip back east.  Brian Johnson contacted me and asked if I was interested in chasing this beautiful bird.  Birding friend, Chris Rohrer, who lives in Tucson, headed to the location the day after it was reported and his photos really had my mind reeling.  There was no hesitation with my answer, and I said yes.  We headed out of Mesa very early in the morning and once we arrived at the location, we quickly found 5 more birders in the area also searching for it.  After about a 20 minute wait, the bird popped out and came out long enough to allow great looks and some photos for all that were there.  Life bird number 642 was a spectacular specimen!

PROW is the 4 letter banding code for Prothonotary Warbler.

 Prothonotary Warbler

While waiting for this bird to show itself, a few Western Tanagers were also making themselves quite obvious.  This is a bird that I will always try to photograph if possible as they are quite colorful.  They can sometimes be difficult to photograph as they can be a bit shy.

Western Tanager

Since we were fortunate enough to find this bird fairly early, we decided to make the most of our day and head to the southwestern part of Maricopa County to chase a county bird.  This was an area that I had never visited as it is quite a distance from the Phoenix metro area.  In trying to add birds to my Maricopa County list for the year, my target bird for this area was the Willet.  Not necessarily a rare bird for the county, but definitely not all that common in migration and there had been a couple reports of them in some of the ponds in the area around Gila Bend.  After checking out some of the ponds and coming up empty, our last stop was at the Gila Bend Sewage Ponds and we hit paydirt with a single Willet.


Since we were in the Gila Bend area, it made a lot of sense to make the route back to the Phoenix area via Highway 85 and make a stop at Glendale Recharge Ponds.  This stop also paid off with the result being a lone Forster's Tern hanging out in Pond 3, which was another new county bird for me for the year.  

 Forster's Tern

Also located 2 Killdeer chicks with parents.  4 days prior to this visit I found a pair with 4 chicks.  Can't be sure if it is the same pair or not, but since the chicks cannot fly at this age, there is a good chance it is the same pair.  What became of the other 2 chicks, I do not know, but they also could have been hiding somewhere and got overlooked.

Killdeer with 2 chicks

And here is a photo of one of the chicks only 4 days earlier  Note how much they grew in just four days!

It was nice to see the Semipalmated Plovers again and this time they appeared close to each other and I was able to get both of them in one frame.

Semipalmated Plovers

Another great day with some great birds, including a new lifer for me.  


Thursday, May 26, 2016

More of Sonora - Chapter 2

Day 2 quickly turned into the day of the Sinaloa Wren.  This is a bird whose range is predominantly in Mexico, but occasionally a few stray into southeastern Arizona.  In fact there is currently one in Arizona that has been reported for almost 2 years.  They can be a very secretive wren, but their loud song is unmistakable.  The bird in Arizona was quite cooperative for photos back in February when I visited and my blog post for that trip can be found Here.

This trip to Aribabi was an eye opener for all of us.  Sinaloa Wrens were quite numerous and their singing was quite loud.  We even had the fortune of finding a pair in the process of constructing a nest.

Sinaloa Wrens and nest

And as a bit of an experiment, I tried my luck at making a video of this process. (Quickly realized that I definitely need to improve my video skills!)  Right at the end of the video, you will see the wren emerge from the bottom of the nest and fly off and shortly thereafter, you will hear its very loud call. 

Sinaloa Wren in nest and its song is recorded at the tail end of the video.

 Black Vulture

 Gray Hawk

 Gray Hawk pair

 Crappy photo of a Violet-crowned Hummingbird

 Western Wood-Pewee

Yellow-breasted Chat

This is just part of the fine group of avian experts embarking on their early morning adventure that morning.

Some of the other non-avian finds for the day included some damselflies and a butterfly.

 American Rubyspot - Female

American Rubyspot - Male

 Unidentified Damselflies

Texan Crescent Butterfly

Common Checkered Skipper or perhaps a White Checkered Skipper

Siesta time.

At dusk on Saturday evening, the bats began to emerge from the rafters of the hacienda.

 Bat emergence

And finally after darkness overtook the area, a few of us managed to find a pair of Western Screech Owls.  (Found an Elf Owl the night before, but it did not allow any photos.)  Even the Western Screech Owls were difficult to photograph due to the low light and trying to hold a flashlight and take photos at the same time.

Western Screech-Owl

Sunday morning meant for an early departure but it did allow for a couple of hours of further exploration and a few more photos.

 Backside of a Rufous-winged Sparrow

 Another Sinaloa Wren

Vermilion Flycatcher

Flame Skimmer Dragonfly

This was one more very enjoyable weekend.  I have plans to return for a couple of nights in July and maybe someday in the far off future, I might even consider taking a small group of new people to this remote place where one can just enjoy nature without lots of humans.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

More of Sonora - Chapter 1

Recently I had the opportunity to make another trek to Rancho El Aribabi in Sonora, Mexico, and once again, this trip took place at a different time of the year than my previous trips.  It is always interesting to see what changes take place at different times of the year.  This was my third trip; the first one took place in July, and second one took place in November, and now this one was taking place in May.  This time we had a fairly large group of birders join us and it was nice to see all the enthusiasm.

First order of business when we arrived was for me to set up my tent, but before hitting the trails, I wanted to see if the Five-striped Sparrows were still as prevalent as they had been before.  Did not take long to find one singing and showing how handsome these sparrows can be.

 Five-striped Sparrow

It is always a joy to find Varied Buntings as they are so unique with their summer finest attire and this location in summer is a great place to find them and view them.  

 Varied Bunting

Some of the other birds that were found on that first day, include Dusky-capped Flycatchers, Black-chinned Hummingbird, and Common-ground Dove (which I erroneously identified as Ruddy-ground Doves at first). 

 Dusky-capped Flycatcher

 Black-chinned Hummingbird - Female

Common-ground Dove

As usual, I very rarely focus solely on birds, but also on other flora and fauna that intrigue my interest, and this trip was no exception.  Flowering thistles provide quite a feast for bees and other nectar loving insects.  These insects in turn, then provide a food source to arachnids and other creatures higher up in the food chain.

 Thistle with a crab spider waiting for an unsuspecting insect.

Slowly, I am becoming a bit more knowledgeable on butterflies as well and when I see some that actually sit still long enough to allow photos, then I attempt to capture a photo to ID later on.

I believe this is a female Marine Blue.

Probably one of the coolest encounters on this first day was a couple of White-nosed Coati that came running in and across my path while I was exploring the river area.  I have seen these awesome mammals several times in the past, but this time, their presence allowed for much better photos than I have ever had. 

 White-nosed Coati

Here are a couple of photos of the habitat in and around this area.

And of course the veranda at the hacienda was most generally the most popular spot to relax and enjoy.

The rest of the trip will be covered in Chapter 2 of this trip.