|Least Tern at Sweetwater, marks the 300th bird|
Pima County, Arizona is an amazing place to bird. It's one of the birdiest areas of the US! Thanks to our mountain, canyon, grassland and desert habitat, it's home to so many wonderful critters.
Yesterday was an important day for me as I hit the 300 species mark in Pima County. A rare Least Tern flew into Sweetwater Wetlands helping me achieve this unintended goal. The highest species count for Pima County is 445 birds. Here is a look back at some of the gems discovered around Tucson and surrounding areas.
Black-capped Gnatcatcher on Proctor Road
Pima County has a special group of birds that most birders need on their lists. Eventually they have to make their way to Southern Arizona:) It's amazing how many people just care about getting these birds on their US list. And then there is that ABA list! If they aren't on the ABA list, it's not important. I don't get that thinking. I understand it, but I'm not the kind of person that likes having someone tell me whether or not a bird "counts". All birds matter! Either way, these two birds are countable and very much desired! I had seen both of these birds in other countries first. Later, I added them onto my US list.
Rufous-capped Warbler at Florida Canyon
Articles have been written on both of the Black-capped Gnatcatchers and Rufous-capped Warblers. Thanks to global warming, these birds are beginning to expand their range.
It's always a treat to find birds migrating through our various areas like the Sage Thrasher(above). A central to lower US state bird, the Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, erased my terrible day woes last year as it flew right past me at Sweetwater Wetlands! It perched on a branch for a few moments reminding me that work is just work. Life is more important. While work is important, it doesn't define who I am. I am more.
I think I can speak for most birders this year on these birds below. Trumpeter Swans flew into the Sweetwater Wetlands shocking the local birding establishments! People wet their pants and dropped whatever they were doing and ran to Sweetwater! I'm serious. I'm going to write something here that speaks volumes about us. We could be in the most serious conversations. Maybe we are signing divorce papers, attending a funeral, etc. But mention a rare bird and watch your birder friends secretly slip out the door:) These incredible swans stuck around for the day allowing many birders to join together on this unofficial holiday. They were one day wonders! And I would say that these two swans have been the best birds so far in Pima County this year.
Trumpeter Swans at Sweetwater
Another excellent bird for us this year has been the Heerman's Gull. There have been several sightings over the past several months! This is a pretty cool gull and a bird I hadn't thought I'd add to my Pima list anytime soon! They are found along the coasts of Southern California and Mexico. It's a pretty sexy gull and an easy ID for people who aren't great with gull ID.
One of my favorite birds is the Common Loon. Never in a million years when I first started birding did I think Tucson could have visiting Loons. As a young child growing up around Wisconsin and Minnesota, I remember their magical calls. An all-time favorite movie, On Golden Pond, always comes to mind when I see one of these majestic birds.
So here's a weird one. The Black Scoter. On a cloudy and rainy day, a massive storm front delivered a Black Scoter to the Old Pueblo! There, for several months in a random deep pond, a female scoter hung out. An ocean bird in the desert!
Other shockers included this Juvenile Tricolored Heron on a golf course.
Or this random Whimbrel in the middle of the desert. And just for fun, it hung out with a Long-billed Curlew to mess with birders:)
Other birds, like this Barn Owl, are sometimes hard to come by! What a treat to have seen one here within the Tucson limits! Again I don't advertise their locations as there are a few photographers who who will cross unethical lines. Since when is a picture more important than the welfare of our birds? One of the tenants of a good birder is to never intentionally disturb a bird out in the field. If I see them eating or nesting, I keep my distance. I have met several birders/photographers in the field who bait their birds(i.e. hawks, etc) for a better photo. Or they cut a branch down to get that "annoying" thing out of the way.....for a better photo. This is unethical. And that is why this particular Barn Owl left the tree. Thanks to some crazy owl fanatic who decided to cut down a couple branches, this Barn Owl didn't return to that spot.
Barn Owl at Sweetwater
Mt. Lemmon is a prime location for finding nesting Red-faced and Olive Warblers during our summer months!
Once birders believed that Elegant Trogons(below) could not be found in Pima County. Then last year, the infamous Florida Canyon sported a pair. And they were in Pima County. This year they are still there!
During my beginning days as a birder, I went to see the visiting Brown Pelican during our monsoon at a nearby park. I was hot and sweaty, but I sure enjoyed viewing this pelican. During monsoon, it's common to have a Brown Pelican or two blown into the deserts. Many times they are rescued and taken back to San Diego, CA. A small few have remained and can be found up around the Phoenix area. Pelicans in the desert.
Finally, several years ago, a Groove-billed Ani came to the Sweetwater Wetlands and got me excited. I love Spanish and the tropics! Nothing says tropical like an Ani! I fell in love with this bird so much, I went back several times to observe it. This is one of my top ten favorite birds...for now:) The Audubon guide who discovered this bird flipped out! And this bird put Tucson on the US map for a week!
As you can see, birding within your own area can be fun and exciting. It's a challenge like everything else, but all these birds add up over time. Have you tried birding within your own county? If so, what were some of the cool birds you've discovered?
Black-bellied Whistling Duck
I have several key trips planned this year that will hopefully propel me towards the 800 life bird mark. In June, I celebrate my 4th year as a birder. This life journey continues to change me forever. We'll be heading out of Arizona to several states this summer while also traveling to Southern Mexico.
On a whim, I followed a theory and discovered a 2nd tern on my own in the city of Tucson! That was a bonus! Here it is flying about at Lakeside Park. Pretty cool!