Tuesday, January 24, 2017
Let's Go South!
So far, it has been a very nice winter in Arizona with a more-than-normal abundance of rainfall in the lower elevations and snowfall in the higher elevations. Hopefully this moisture will result in some incredible wildflower displays come springtime. All this precipitation sometimes brings on some challenges to the birding. Decided to head south to the Tucson area to spend a couple days of birding with good friend Chris Rohrer. The first day was spent at various sites in and around Tucson itself and this is where the rain was a bit of a challenge. It rained off and on all day. We still got in some great birding, but photographs were a bit limited as we left cameras in the car for protection from the rain, while we birded with umbrellas.
Cooper's Hawk in the rain
Snowy Egret in the rain
Female Vermilion Flycatcher in the rain
On Monday, we headed to Patagonia Lake State Park which is a great spot for birding and about an hour from Tucson. The first surprise came when we drove up to the pay booth to pay our day fare for visiting. Today it was FREE! It just happened to be Martin Luther King holiday and all the state parks in Arizona were designated as free admission on that holiday. I even made a comment in the car, 'This is going to be a great day of birding!'. That statement turned out to be so true. We had an incredible time at this location with some incredible birds. We even ran into some familiar faces from the Phoenix area that were birding there as well; Caleb Strand, Joshua Smith, and Laura Ellis and her husband. So we got to share all of these incredible birds with them.
One of the reasons for coming to this place was to look for the Green Kingfisher, a species that I have seen in Sonora, Mexico, a few times, but never in the United States. Adding it to my Arizona list is pretty sweet.
Also on the radar was the wintering male Elegant Trogon which is always a thrill to observe. Incredibly, when we originally saw him he had his back to us on a tree branch which allowed the chance to get a photo of its coppery colored tail. Then it swooped down to the ground and into the grass and came up with a katydid in its beak. It then proceeded to perch on a log facing us, and gave us quite a show as we watched it devour its morsel. What an incredible moment to share with this elegant bird that gave me a chance to capture a pretty neat sequence of photos!
Elegant Trogon with a katydid
We knew a Gray Catbird had also been reported in this spot and sure enough, we were able to find it when it flew into a brushy tangle in front of us and then laid low in hiding. Finally it worked its way up into the tree and made itself visible to all of us.
A Hermit Thrush was a nice bird to find as well, although they are not at all rare in Arizona. But a bird that I always enjoy seeing.
Caleb was quick to point out a couple of Swamp Sparrows as well. Not a rare bird by any means, but not super common and sometimes hard to locate.
We were also lucky to locate the Winter Wren that had been reported by many in the past couple of weeks.
This visit was an awesome visit with lots of special birds and with very good company. A place I relish the thought of returning to.