Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Return to Arizona: January 20-26, 2015

If I have not lost count, this was my seventh trip to Arizona since I began birding in 2012,  including 5 times during my Big Year.  This time it was a chance for Sue to come along, and for me to hopefully, finally see and photograph the elusive Montezuma Quail.  Little did I guess what it would take to do exactly that.

Before that little adventure, we began slowly, after flying into Phoenix and heading directly to Encanto Park, home to a nice variety of birds, including the lovely Rosy-faced Lovebirds.  Many, including the Gila Woodpecker and Gilded Flicker were Lifers for Sue.  I'd have to wait a day for my first Lifer of the trip.

     Rosy-faced Lovebirds:

                                This one is rather messy looking, perhaps a baby:

 Our next stop on on our first day was another great birding destination, Boyce Thompsom Arboretum.  I had been there a few times and it's a great place to get lost in.  In previous years I had been looking for a Williamson's Sapsucker, with no luck.  This trip I would find one, but not here.  We did see a lovely bunch of birds here, including Costa's Hummingbird, Red-naped Sapsucker, Hutton's Vireo and Black Phoebe.

Panorama from the bridge over the river in the Boyce Thompson Arboredum

That night we were scheduled to stay at the Madira Kubo B&B.  I've birded at their feeders in past years, so it was going to be fun to stay in one of their "gingerbread" cabins.  

As it turned out, there is no heat but a log burning stove, and it gets pretty cold in the mountains of Arizona in January.  Also, reports of a Williamson's Sapsucker up the road at the Santa Rita Lodge were being delivered to my phone via e-Bird, so I was excited to get there the next morning. 

ABA Lifer, 634: Williamson's Sapsucker

I've never seen so many Pine Siskins:


Arizona Woodpecker:


Inca Dove:

Painted Bunting:

Rufous-crowned Sparrow:                                          

Magnificent Hummingbird:

Hepatic Tanager:

Our journeys then took us down to Patagonia, where we stayed for the next two nights, allowing us to visit Patagonia Lake State Park and meet up, once again, with Matt Brown, one of my favorite guides to bird with in North America.  He took us to see the Sinaola Wren, which Sue caught a glimpse of, but I failed to see.  Matt had taken me to find it in late 2014, so I wasn't too bumbed out to miss it, and it was, of course, a Lifer for Sue.  

We travelled on our own to the famous Patten House, which the Arizona Audubon has taken over, and to Patagonia Lake State Park, and the wildlife preserve just outside the gates, the next day,  where we saw, amongst others,

 Gray Flycatcher, Cinnamon Teal, a Golden Eagle, Green-tailed Towhee, and Bridled Titmouse:

But the prize bird of the day, if the Golden Eagle wasn't enough, was the same Elegant Trogon I saw back near the end of my 2012 Big Year.  We walked along the same route I took back then, and after an hour or so, I crossed a creek and found it for us and some other birders along the trail.  Our views weren't great, but we all got a good look at the Trogon:

That evening Matt took us Owling, and I got a good photo of a Western Screech Owl:

Our next goal was the Baird's Sparrow and Montezuma Quail.  Both are prized amongst birders for their level of dificulty in finding them.  We struck out with the Baird's Sparrow, up in San Rafael Valley, but did get to see a family of Montezuma Quail on the road leading to Beaty's Guest Ranch. where we spend another couple of cold Arizona nights.  It was the wrong time of year for Hummingbirds and the Spotted Owl I had also seen here in 2012, but all in all, a great experience.  Well the roads in and out are kind of scary, but nothing close to what we experienced going to and leaving Portal.

The Near Mythical Montazuma Quail: Beatty's Guest Ranch:

On the road from Portal: 

 Our next stop was at Whitewater Draw, where there were thousands upon thousands of Sandhill Cranes and hundreds of Snow Geese and Ross's Geese:

There was also a Barn Owl, in pretty much the same spot,(and likely the same one), as in 2012.  This one did not require bushwacking to find, however we were not able to get too close to it.

One of the non birding highlights of the trip was eating at the Bisbee Breakfast Club, a place we stopped at on the way to Portal, in an old Copper Mining town:

Now, that's a breakfast!

Up in Portal, which was not such drive unto, but one of the most white knuckled drives down as I ever saw, we missed getting photos of the Juniper Titmouse, and only heard the Mexican Chickadee.

One of our last birds of the trip was a Lewis's Woodpecker in Tucson:

We saw over 100 species for the trip and I left Arizona having seen 194 species since starting my list, December 10 in California.

Monday, 12 January 2015

New Year, New Birds!

I have now been a birder for 3 years.  I still love it and am still, somewhat obsessive about it.  I still go out most days and have spent more days outdoors standing in the cold in the last 3 years than I probably did in the previous 25.  My ABA List is now at 633 Species, all but the Dusky Grouse seen in since I started birding in January of 2012.  My World Life List, which includes a trip to Costa Rica this year is 2 shy of 800.  I hope to get to and pass 800 in Arizona later this month.

So to wrap up 2014, I saw 555 total species,(including over 200 in Costa Rica), and added 15 ABA species to my North American List.  In 2013 I added 20, so based on the progession, 10 Lifers might be a good target to reach and surpass in 2015

Here are some of the birds from early this year, including a few local rarities

 The Evening Grosbeaks hung around into the New Year in High Park:

As did the Painted Bunting on Oakville's Arkendo Drive, along with a few friends:

 Painted Bunting:

Female Nortern Cardinal:

 Carolina Wren:

White-breasted Nuthatch:

Snowy Owls are back again in 2015, along Lake Ontario:

And the First Year Male King Eider has also hung out into the New Year: