Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Slow Days

It has been a while since I have done any birding, which is why I haven't updated the blog recently. The field season ends on Friday, and I have been crunching numbers in anticipation of the end. Friday we leave for Texas! We will leave Friday afternoon so we can arrive at Salineno in the morning on Saturday for the Brown Jay.

Keep checking back. I'll do a big update after Texas!


Sunday, February 19, 2012

Sandia Crest

Sandia Crest is well known for being the easiest place to see all three species of Rosy-Finch. Having never been there, and since we are only 7 hours from the place, we decided to leave Friday after work. After sleeping in the Yukon at 10,000 feet and 15 degrees, we woke up early and hit the crest.

Unfortunately, the building doesn't open until 10am, so we bummed around for a while, finding my year Cassin's Finch and Hairy Woodpecker. We saw some Rosies before the store opened, getting nice looks at both Brown-capped and Black. When the store opened, we enjoyed some Hot Chocolate and more Rosy-Finches. The Black Rosy-Finches were most common.

I also made sure to get a photo of a Brown-capped Rosy Finch, just for the records (far left bird).

While waiting for a Gray-crowned to show up, we started talking with a guy from Ontario. After some conversation, he revealed himself to be Martin Bowman, younger brother of Scotty Bowman (aka the best NHL hockey coach ever)!

Finally, a Gray-crowned did show up, just one, but it was good enough for the Rosy-Finch sweep!

Back in Albuquerque, we stopped for a Winter Wren that has been around all winter. Given that it was very vocal, we quickly located it, and Garrett celebrated another lifer (#2 for the day). We also picked up Wood Duck and Downy Woodpecker, bringing the day total to 9 year birds. We then started the long drive back to Whitewater Draw.

Today is a lazy-Sunday. The only two big misses so far in AZ are Hepatic Tanager and Elegant Trogon, and it looks like I won't have time to get to Patagonia again, so these may not make it to my year list.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Huachuca Spotted Owl

Yesterday (2/15), we sprung a flat tire on our way to survey. This required a trip to Sierra Vista to get the tire replaced. Since we were in the area, we decided we should at least attempt to find a Spotted Owl, so we searched Scheelite Canyon in the Huachucas.

We hiked up the steep, rocky canyon scouring every suitable roost tree, until Garrett mentioned "Hmm, there is a lot of white-wash here...". We looked up and gazed into the brown nether-regions of a Spotted Owl. Repositioning ourselves gave us a more pleasing view. Of course, I had no intention of being in the Huachucas yesterday, so I did not have my camera. Here is a Spotted Owl from 2006.

We also bummed around lower Garden Canyon and scored a snazzy Townsend's Warbler sporting his spring colors.

Tomorrow, after surveys (if it doesn't rain), we leave for Sandia Crest in New Mexico!

Monday, February 13, 2012

As Good as it Gets!

The title says it all. My dad is visiting from Michigan, he flew in on Friday. Friday afternoon we ventured into the Tucson Mountain Park where we easily rid of our first target, Gilded Flicker. Superb scope views were had. We also picked up fun birds like Rufous-winged Sparrow, Black-tailed Gnatcatcher and Canyon Towhee, among others. From here we stepped inside Tohono Chul park. It was only a matter of seconds after paying our entrance fee that we spotted a nice male Costa's Hummingbird, my dads second lifer of the day. This picture does it no justice.

It was getting dark, so we picked up my new birding buddy, Mike Lester, and we hit the long road to Parker, just south of where the Nutting's Flycatcher has taken up winter residence.

Saturday morning started early, too early in fact. We made it to the Nutting's Flycatcher spot before sunrise. However, I had a brilliant idea. It only took a few hoots from the Iphone before 3-4 Western Screech-Owls were doing battle with their voices. My dad made the mistake of trying to imitate one and almost got a claw in the eye as an owl buzzed his head. We also heard Great-horned Owl before the sun was up.

At 7:30am on the dot, we heard the glorious, unmistakable "WEEP" call of the Nutting's Flycatcher. It cooperated wonderfully and everyone got great, close looks while it somewhat actively fed only feet away from us. It finally crossed the road and retreated into the riparian, which was our cue to move on. We stopped briefly at the lake so I could pick up my year Clark's Grebe, Greater Scaup and Barrow's Goldeneye.

After some driving, we made it to the infamous Thrasher spot (Baseline and Salome Hwy). We found quite a few Sage Sparrows, 2 Sage Thrashers, but, albeit hearing 3 different Le Conte's Thrashers, it took some serious effort to get one to show. One did, eventually, pop up so Mike and my dad could enjoy yet another lifer.

The Smith's Longspur was the next target, but with 3 people and a huge field, the bird could have been difficult. The bird, however, was found within 10 minutes of entering the field, and located by sight, walking on the ground, before it was even heard! Too easy...

One last stop at Encanto Park in Phoenix failed to turn up the Lewis's Woodpecker, but did turn up a group of Rosy-faced Lovebirds. These Lovebirds are quite numerous in Phoenix and are believed to be countable after the next round of voting by the ABA. We returned to Tucson after a very long, productive day of birding.

Sunday morning we were at it again, this time only my dad and I. We started with the Rufous-capped Warblers in Florida Canyon. They were just above the dam, calling and working their way up the canyon. At one point they were mere feet away. Black-chinned Sparrow also showed nicely in the canyon, but this picture is nothing more than a record shot.

I also worked on my "ABA Birds Photographed" list by adding this Canyon Wren.

We ventured over to Madera Canyon to attempt to locate an Arizona Woodpecker. We drove to the top and worked our way down to the Kubo. En-route we heard one, but it was elusive. On the way back up, a male put on quite a show. You guessed it, another lifer for my dad! We also had nice looks at a Magnificent Hummingbird at the Kubo.

We ended at Whitewater Draw, where, after searching and searching for weeks for the reported American Bittern, I spotted the beast sitting atop some cat-tails, feet above the water. It almost appeared to be sunning itself. A nice state, and year bird!

Today (Monday), we got to sleep in a bit as our target, Baird's Sparrow, doesn't require an early morning presence. We pulled up to the field we found during training that was chock-full of Baird's around 8am, fully expecting to see them. It took around a half-hour before we flushed a non-Savannah Sparrow, but when we did, a very cooperative Baird's Sparrow sat and fed right in front of us. Of course, today is the day I forgot my camera. I never tire of seeing this skulky Ammodramus!

Since all of my dads reasonable targets were conquered, we figured we would just go into the Chiricahua Mountains and see some mountain birds. On Turkey Creek Road, we pulled off when the habitat turned to Oak-Savannah, to see if we could beat out a Montezuma Quail. I had zero confidence we would find one since I have been looking for two winters in appropriate habitat and failed to turn one up. I whistled the call of the female that Rich Hoyer suggested we try, and immediately 2-3 Montezuma males responded back. I was in total disbelieve since I have been whistling all season with absolutely nothing to show for it. So, I kept whistling, and the Quail kept responding, each time closer and closer. Finally, I spied a male creeping through the grass... then a female. Eventually 6 females flushed, and the males retreated further into the grass. This was a huge score, a smashing success, and just a damn good time! Having the males respond to my every call was simply amazing! Not to mention life bird #9, and ABA bird #10 for my dad, not including the Lovebirds.

Tomorrow my dad flies out, so we will drive early to Sweetwater Wetlands and bird for a few hours before his plane leaves.

For those of you who may know, I'm attempting to see 500 birds in the ABA this year. I'm already at 251, and I've seen 39 species thus far that I failed to see last year! I have many tricks up my sleeve, and the fun is just beginning, so stay tuned!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Portal and the Chiricahua Mountains

Since we had a couple blocks to survey near Portal, AZ, Garrett and I decided to meet up with the rest of the crew camping at Stewart Campground in the Chiricahua Mountains, just up the road from Portal. We first stopped by Paradise, where the feeding station and very generous homeowner showed us our "year" Juniper Titmouse. The feeding station was incredible!

We went back down to Portal where we poked around some feeders for the Brown Thrasher that has taken up residence for the winter, but missed it. The "Red" Fox Sparrow we found (another year bird), and the Black-chinned Sparrow made up for it.

At the campground, we anxiously awaited dusk when the Whiskered Screech-Owls were to put on a show. We were all more than happy with how well they cooperated!

We all were thrilled with hearing/seeing 4 Whiskered Screech-Owls, right outside our tents. When we woke early to tear down camp, one of the owls was still hooting!

My dad flies into Tucson on Friday. We will be birding non-stop from Friday afternoon until Tuesday morning. I'll be revisiting some old friends (i.e. Nuttin's Flycatcher, Rufous-capped Warblers, ect). It is sure to be a blast!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

A New Streak Begins!

Last post I mentioned missing the Streak-backed Oriole in Tubac, AZ by 9 minutes. Today, the story reads different. Garrett and I got up at 3:15am and were out the door by 4am to get to Tubac in hopes the Oriole would continue to show. At 7:45, our hopes turned to reality when another birder said "There is our bird!" There were quite a few happy birders this morning enjoying the Oriole as it fed right above the trail for 10+ minutes.

From the trail, find the first brown sign on the trail start looking for the bird. Best bet is very early in the morning, it seems by 8am the bird disappears.

Photographing a bird right above you high in the canopy is a trick I have yet to master, so here are a couple crummy shots.

We had good luck at the Paton's in Patagonia where the Violet-crowned Hummingbird showed up for us. It only took 3 trips to get it! The Hepatic Tanager was no where to be found in town.

Check back soon, it looks like Portal might be in the making for tomorrow!