September 27, 2010

Arizona - Hummers and Flycatchers

September 20 – This morning I went out for a little light birding with Jean Ellen Wilder at Dead Horse Ranch State Park in Cottonwood, AZ. Shortly after arriving we located our target bird, a beautiful young male VERMILLION FLYCATCHER (Life Bird) perched low in a tree by the parking lot. I've been waiting a long time to see this bird and he was extremely cooperative and easy to photograph. We walked around the ponds for a while and saw a possible Rufous Hummingbird and an unidentified bunting. Finally we found a little mixed flock of songbirds in a hedgerow that included a BRIDLED TITIMOUSE, a Verdin, lots of Lesser Goldfinches and a single, fast-moving LUCY'S WARBLER (Life Bird).

September 22 – We spent the past two days in southeastern Arizona, staying overnight in Tucson. Yesterday, we visited Madera Canyon for most of the morning and early afternoon. We had a very pleasant time with some nice birds and other wildlife, including my first tarantula! Hummingbirds were plentiful at the Santa Rita Lodge. Lots of Anna's, Rufous, Broad-tailed and BLACK-CHINNED HUMMINGBIRDS (Life Bird) were visiting the feeders with smaller numbers of BROAD-BILLED and MAGNIFICENT HUMMINGBIRDS, some of which were still in terrific plumage. Also at the feeders were Mexican Jays, Arizona and Acorn Woodpeckers, Lesser Goldfinches and Bridled Titmice. We drove up to the top of the canyon and hiked up part of Old Baldy Trail. Along the way I had several small mixed flocks of birds that included Hutton's and PLUMBEOUS VIREOS (Life Bird), Orange-crowned, Townsends, Nashville, Wilson's, Black-throated Gray and GRACE'S WARBLER (Life Bird) plus several pairs of PAINTED REDSTARTS and an Olive-sided Flycatcher. Today I went down to Patagonia with Sky and Anne Hilts. The weather was oddly cool, misty and even rainy so that might have affected some of what we saw. We missed the Starthroat (seen the day before) at Patton's hummingbird feeders but we did have a terrific showing of VIOLET-CROWNED HUMMINGBIRDS (Life Bird); I think at least four different birds. BROAD-BILLED HUMMINGBIRDS were more numerous here than they were in Madera. It was great fun to watch all the action at the feeders for a while. There was a BLACK-HEADED GROSBEAK that visited one of the feeders as well. This wasn't a “new” lifer; supposedly I saw one several years ago in Washington but it was a bad look and I probably shouldn't have counted it. Along Blue Haven Road and at the Patagonia-Sonoita Creek Preserve I had a couple flocks of long-awaited LAZULI BUNTINGS (Life Bird), nice looks at a soaring adult GRAY HAWK, Lincoln's Sparrows, a cooperative female MACGILLVARY'S WARBLER (Life Bird), several CASSIN'S KINGBIRDS (Life Bird) and a VERMILLION FLYCATCHER. I didn't even realize it until I got back and checked my lists but CANYON TOWHEE was also a Life Bird for me. Maybe the best find of the day was a single THICK-BILLED KINGBIRD (Life Bird) at the well-known “Roadside Rest” area, along with my first male Western Tanager. We spent some time looking for sparrows and buntings in the Kino Springs area but our only other exciting birds of the day were a juvenile GRAY HAWK and a well-hidden Black-bellied Whistling-Duck. Both yesterday and today we had several silent and unidentified Empid flycatchers; probably at least one Hammond's but I guess I'll leave that for another time. I ended up with 81 species for my week in Arizona and eleven lifers!

Vermilion Flycatcher
Violet-crowned Hummingbird