SE Arizona - Madera Canyon (18-19 Feb 2013)

by AJ 19. February 2013 17:55

Grabbed some coffee and headed west on Ruby Road to Pena Blanca Lake.  I don't know how many times I've driven Ruby Road and never stopped here because we were on to destinations further into the middle of nowhere.  This time I would forego Sycamore Canyon and California Gulch for a bit of civilized birding.

The morning was cold and it took awhile for the activity to pick up.  The lake held several waterfowl and coots but the prize was one Least Grebe.  After a successful nesting the numbers are down but maybe more will arrive later.  It was fun to have a Hammond's Flycatcher trying to stir up the bugs and a Red-naped Sapsucker was a pleasant surprise.

From there it was north on I19 and across the scrub to Montosa Canyon.  This ended up being a bird free zone, bit on the way back to the Interstate I pulled off to dump out some cold coffee.  Jumping around the scrub were both Black-throated and Rufous-winged Sparrows.  Nice!

On to Madera Canyon.  After a night in a cheap motel in Nogales with trains on one side and trucks on the other, I splurged for a night in a casita at Santa Rita Lodge.  There aren't a lot of people staying in the canyon this time of year and what a peaceful time it was.  The finch feeders were loaded with Pine Siskins and Lesser Goldfinches while juncos cleaned up the mess under the feeders.  The real vacuum cleaner, however, was this coatimundi.


A side trip to Florida Canyon found some small pools of water and a number of birds such as juncos, kinglets, and a Hermit Thrush.  I was tempted to try the hike up the trail but thought better of it.


The night was so interestingly quiet.  Other times I have been in Madera Canyon after dark we have had sensational owling.  I guess February is just too early and all was eerily quiet (except for the wind).

The next morning I spent a good deal of time just sitting on the benches at Santa Rita Lodge and snapping photos of the birds coming in to feed.  Here are a few of the shots I got.


Bridled Titmouse


Acorn Woodpecker


Arizona Woodpecker


Dark-eyed Junco (Oregon race)


Dark-eyed Junco (Red-backed race)


Hepatic Tanager

Up the road at Madera Kubo I found the female Hepatic Tanager, a pair of Magnificent Hummingbirds, and this guy.


Painted Redstart

With a weather forecast of mucho snow the next day, I headed to Tucson rather than spend another night in Madera Canyon.  Narrow, steep, slippery roads just didn't sound all that appealing.


Birds | Travel


SE Arizona - Sonoita and Patagonia (17 Feb 2013)

by AJ 17. February 2013 15:18

Starting from Willcox I drove east to Benson and then south toward Sierra Vista.  After a short internal debate about birding the Sierra Vista area, I decided to explore some new areas and went on east toward Sonoita.  Just to the northeast of Sonoita is the old Empire Ranch which has been acquired by the BLM and is now Las Cienegas Preserve.  This was an interesting ride through the grasslands although the winds held most of the birds down.  The most interesting were a small flock of Chestnut-collared Longspurs that flushed and a Sage Thrasher.

On to Sonoita Creek Sanctuary, a Nature Conservancy preserve and a place I had not visited for years.  The target species here, a Rusty Blackbird, was a no-show but it was a pleasant walk along this small perennial stream.  From there it was on to lounge at the feeding stations at the Paton property where I saw a nice selection of birds.


Audubon's (Yellow-rumped) Warbler


Bewick's Wren


Gambel's Quail


Green-tailed Towhee


White-throated Sparrow (rare winter visitor)


Ladder-backed Woodpecker

After a quick stop at Lake Patagonia State Park where a Ruddy Ground-Dove had been occasionally seen (dipped) it was on to Nogales for the night.  This is as close as I would get to Mexico this year.


Birds | Travel


SE Arizona - Sulphur Springs Valley (16 Feb 2013)

by AJ 16. February 2013 12:49

After two days of hard driving it was time to relax and have some fun.  The first push was from Las Cruces, NM to Willcox, AZ and then south to Whitewater Draw where I hooked up with friends Sheri and Tom for a brief time.  Whitewater Draw has enough water this year that it's attractive to the wintering Sandhill Cranes and before we even got our hello out Tom pointed out a circling Golden Eagle making the cranes a bit nervous.  It won't be much longer until these guys head north.  The "Draw" also had Snow Geese, various ducks, a couple species of shorebirds, and the first Great Egret of the trip.  The place was pretty busy with crane seekers and the hoped for American Bittern was no where to be found.

After lunch it was off to cruising the roads of the Sulphur Springs Valley.  I was lucky to find a couple of juvenile Ferruginous Hawks - one light morph which was pretty straightforward but the dark morph took a bit of time to figure out for sure.  As always Northern Harriers glided easily over the grasslands.

The highlight of a lap around Lake Cochise at the Willcox golf course was the group of 32 Long-billed Curlews, a bird I don't get to see often.  No more hard driving - early night in Willcox.


Birds | Travel


The 2013 Trek Southwest

by AJ 15. February 2013 10:31

For those interested in tracking on the places I've birded, I have created this Google map.

I left home about 8:00 AM on 14 February and pretty much just stayed the course south and west all day.  Raptors were neat in the Flint Hills of Kansas with numerous Red-tailed Hawks and a few hovering Rough-legged Hawks.  Northern Harriers coursed the grasslands looking for tasty morsels.  By the end of the day I found my self in the Texas panhandle with 800 miles under my belt.

The next day it was up early to hit the road again.  Just east of Albuquerque I made a detour north into the Sandia Mountains.  There was some snow and ice in the higher elevations and the wind was pretty intense so birding wasn't all that great.  I did manage to see a swirling flock of rosy-finches and could pick out both Black and Gray-crowned.  Although a common mountain bird, Stellar's Jay is always fun.

The next stop was at the Owl Cafe at San Antonio, NM for one of their famous green chile cheeseburgers.  A drive through Bosque del Apache NWR is always fun and it was great to have Snow and Ross' Goose side by side for comparison.



Following the Rio Grande River south I arrived in Las Cruces as darkness fell and after a shorter day (only 600 miles) called it a night.  The next day I would begin birding Arizona, starting with trying to make connections with friends Sheri Williamson and Tom Wood who were leading a trip to Whitewater Draw on Saturday.



Birds | Travel


Unseen Predators

by AJ 28. January 2013 11:41

My feeders are usually pretty active, but every once in awhile I look out and everything is motionless.  One day a Downy Woodpecker didn't even twitch for twenty minutes! That's the sign that a raptor, probably an accipiter, is in the area.  This winter I have had two different Cooper's Hawks, an adult and a juvenile, cruising the area for snacks.  Last week I saw all the activity abruptly stop and got up to look out the window.  I could see nothing but the birds obviously knew it was close.  All of a sudden the adult Cooper's landed on the shepherd's hook three feet from my nose.  It was frustrating but reaching for my camera was out of the question.  What a gorgeous bird!

It looked around a bit and then took off for the brushy area where tons of House Sparrows hang out.  What fun to watch the hawk jump through the brush in search of a bite to eat.  It's amazing how such a big bird can fly through the tangles.

I think my all-time favorite accipiter encounter was several years ago while searching for No. Saw-whet Owls at Lake Ahquabi State Park.  As I came around a tree, there was a Northern Goshawk with a freshly killed bunny.  Now a Goshawk is a big bird but try as it might it just couldn't fly carrying its bunny rabbit.  It eyed me, tried again and failed, and finally moved off.  So did I.  It's tough enough making a living with all that snow cover.





by AJ 24. January 2013 16:30

Welcome to my blog site.  This area of my website is intended for my collection of trip reports (listed as pages) as well as the occasional ramblings of what's going on my world.  I hope you enjoy reading from time to time.



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