Sunday, September 28, 2014

Swiftly Passing By


 I spent a whole week debating what I would do....chase birds or just relax and bird a favorite hotspot.  There are more birds I need to find but they are simply too far out of range to observe properly within the short amount of time given.  Everything now points to California but I only had the weekend for birding.  And I didn't want to be on the road driving for most of it. 

Sparrow love.....Vesper Sparrow
When I am conflicted with direction, I know what I must do.  Bird the Whitewater Draw.  I think it has to be one of my absolute places to visit.  The location feels like I'm back in the Great Lakes region again.  It's a pretty special place. 



Now if we took the mountains out of the shot above, this could be a wetlands somewhere in central Wisconsin. During the winter months, this place becomes a hotspot for many birders as thousands of Sandhill Cranes congregate these waters and surrounding farmer's fields. As one might imagine, lots of waterfowl also hang out here. 


It's a little too soon for all of these birds, but we did have one large flock of Cinnamon Teal hiding out in the reeds.  We did a little walk around the area and flushed over 60 of these ducks!


It's still warm and it's still wet in Southern Arizona.  Another storm passed through our area from the Pacific Northwest and it pushed down several more migrating Vaux's Swifts. 


Vaux's Swifts are pudgy swifts with short tails that breed between Southern Alaska and central California during the summer.  As they head back to Central and South America, several will pass through Arizona. Many times, this bird can be seen riding the winds in front of major storms around watering holes.  In my case, Hurricane Odile helped me locate one around the Sweetwater Wetlands. This year has been a very good year for many birders in Southern Arizona with all of our monsoon storm activity. 



There were lots of brown and gray birds from our adventures.  From top to bottom and left to right.  
Merlin, Northern Rough-winged Swallow, Red-tailed Hawk
Loggerhead Shrike, Killdeer, Mississippi Kite
Common ground-dove, female Lazuli Bunting, Vaux's Swift



Perhaps the most significant part of this trek was observing migrating swallows as they gather in great numbers heading south.  The highlight of our day is captured below on this fence line. Swallows tend to be tricky birds to capture on camera.  And it's rare having 3 different swallows sit still long enough for a picture. As I've stated in previous posts, a lot of birders have a hard time id'ing swallows above them because they fly so fast.  On this trek, they surrounded us in great numbers.  We stood inside their cloud amazed by their acrobatics.  There were lots of bugs....including chiggers.

L to R- Bank Swallow, Tree Swallow, Barn Swallow
The bug life increases with heat and moisture.  This Great Swallowtail below found our citrus trees at El Presidio, laid the eggs and is now in the final stages of butterfly life. A bit like Charlotte's web. 

Giant Swallowtail
There is a birding loop I make if we go to the Whitewater Draw.  We drive through Benson and Tombstone and count birds along the way.  Once we arrive at the Whitewater Draw near McNeal, we spend a good portion of our time birding.  At around lunch time, we head over to Bisbee for break and then head over to the San Pedro House near the San Pedro river for an afternoon of birding there. Then it's visiting our relatives in Sierra Vista and back home in Tucson. 


And Arizona sunsets are always amazing.  If you haven't birded Arizona, you're missing out.  Over the next several weeks, my journeys will take me to Globe, Colorado and a return back to California.  And the adventure continues.....



For more fascinating finds, check out Wild Bird Wednesday!

32 comments:

  1. I really enjoyed the insects. Such colourful variety.

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  2. Concerning the swallows, they are a sign of coming spring over here. Right now they are preparing their migration towards Africa and gathering food.
    Birding is such a great way to pay attention to what is in front of us.

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  3. Chris, cool capture of the three swallows togethers. Love the sparrow shot. Beautiful scenery and a lovely sunset.. Happy Birding!

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  4. Awesome captures of the scenery and insects--love the detail! I think I just saw a Vesper sparrow around my place the other day.

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  5. Just great the way you captured those 3 Swallow species together there Chris. More or less all of our Swallows have gone south now although quite recently so I'm guessing they're less than half way to Africa. That Swallowtail is huge, so much so and plus the other insects that if was in Arizona I think I would be into insects as well as birds.

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  6. Wonderful post Chris! The photos are awesome!

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  7. What a great post full of vistas, birds and bugs. I'm from Wisconsin originally. I finally appreciate what it has to offer.

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  8. Looks like there is a lot of activity for you with the changing season and the monsoons. Amazing photos of the birds and other critters. Love that sunset too.

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  9. Yay... Bug wings!!!
    I am fascinated with that spiders web. Your photography improves all the time. Excellent!!

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  10. Busy, busy birding, and bugging. Love that shot of the three different swallows, not something seen every day.

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  11. Great photos Chris, I love the first one.

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  12. Gorgeous photos Chris - what a wonderful trip :) Well done on getting the 3 swallow species in one photo too :) The Giant Swallowtail is just amazing :)

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  13. Great post - the truth is, where ever you go there is something to see.

    Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

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  14. Fabulous photos! I especially enjoyed the swallowtail and the three swallows in the same shot.

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  15. HI Chris Wonderful post and that certainly looks a great place to bird. Love the 3 swallows on the line and the Swallowtail butterfly.

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  16. just love the fence-sitters. :) beautiful color in the grasses, too.

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  17. The sparrow looks sweet and I love the spider and grasshoppers. You sure have been busy!

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  18. Beautiful photos - especially that last sunset! Very special to get that photo of the 3 different swallows so close together.

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  19. Excellent post Chris and plenty of wildlife to keep you occupied.

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  20. Brilliant pictures. Superb Swallowtail.

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  21. One of these days, I'm gonna spot a kite!!! And not the kind that has the string tails and paper construction.

    I'm soooooooo jealous.

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  22. A perfect area for photography. Amazing shots! I enjoyed them all, love the 3 swallows on the wire!

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  23. What a great time you must have had bagging all those birds and macros of the insects. A delightful post.

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  24. There's so much to see and enjoy out there, especially if you take your camera. Really nice collection of insect, arachnids and birds, Chris.

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  25. Wow this does look like an awesome place to look for birds. I really enjoyed your photos. The spider and web was super cool. Neat that you got 3 different swallows in one shot. They are very fast birds. Enjoyed the mosaic too of the various birds and the beautiful sunset.

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  26. Wonderful photos, but that grasshopper is awesome!

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  27. Awww... you have a cute little sparrow too.... can't say I've seen one like that around here....

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  28. Chris, you sure do get around. How exciting all this birding must be. I can't wait to see where you go next and see and hear what you find! Good luck! Nice photos as always!

    P.S. reading yours and Celeste's posts really make me miss Tucson!

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  29. Stunning shots, Chris! I love the three swallows on the fence! What a moment, seeing them there! And the insects and birds are wonderful. Love your sunset too. We went to Tumacacori last weekend. Saw a swallow in the chapel. Need to id him. Also saw another bird that I need to id. Don't know when I'll post the photos, but I want to do it soon.

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