Sunday, April 19, 2015

The Land Of Shadows

Grace's Warbler
This past week was a whole lot of crazy.  I had a hard time coming up with a theme for this post. Birds and Blossoms?  No.  The Mt. Ord Jinx?  No.  Updates on the owls? No.  So instead, it's an assortment of fun. 

Sonoran Bumblebee
My week started out well but soon turned into crazy at work. I had decided that my focus for the birding trek over the weekend would be centered around Gray Vireos, Hermit and Grace's Warblers.  It would also include flowering plants found around the various areas. However, an Eared Quetzal, the gem of all gems, showed up in a remote area known as Gardener Canyon.  This tropical bird is so quiet and elusive that it makes the chase very difficult.  I decided to stick to my original plan and let all the other birders do the chase.  Glad I did!

Ocotillo Bloom
We had been receiving updates from Gardener Canyon throughout the day. The Eared Quetzal was a no show for the 20+ birders. So the gamble paid off...this time.  On Saturday, me and the Magill headed up to Mt. Ord to find the above mentioned bird species. But little did I know, a dark shadow lay between Magill and this mountain. It didn't take long before we began spotting birds. Whenever there are Ocotillo blooms(above), the Broad-billed Hummingbirds will zip around the blossoms.  Now the Broad-billed Hummingbird is considered a rare bird for Maricopa, but it is quite common in the Tucson area all year round!  So we lucked out on this day and found two of them!  That was a pretty special way to kick start the day. 

Broad-billed Hummingbird
While up on Mt. Ord, we spotted two other rare birds.  The first species was Laurence Butler(Butleri larencei) while the other was Gordon Karre(Kare gordonis).  And mentally, I was relieved! Why?  Well, apparently they had also decided not to chase the Eared Quetzal. When the holy triad of cars came together on the dirt road, I smiled. While it was brief, it was nice seeing everyone together. It doesn't happen often! The moment lasted for a few minutes and then it was back to "work".  

Desert Mariposa Lily
So while I was planning on working with one group of birds, I found myself distracted by other things.....which is natural.  It's not always about the birds. 

Microtia dymas or Tiny Checkerspot
We found large numbers of Black-throated Gray Warblers moving through the area.  They were the dominant warbler species on this day. Our count had an amazing 40+ tally!

Black-throated Gray Warbler
Blue-gray Gnatcatchers would also be quite numerous on this day. 

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
And we kept on the dusty and rocky roads observing several of our target birds which included the Gray Vireo. Our Mt. Ord bird count was outstanding! However our return trek down the mountain side would prove to be too much for Magill's car. The shadow of Ord.

Gray Vireo
As you might imagine with treks like these, our amazing views and amazing birds can sometimes come with a hefty price:)  Magill has had issues on this nasty road twice!  This trek, unfortunately, wouldn't be any different.  We got a flat on the way down.  At least it wasn't at the summit!  As we attempted to change the tire, the jack slipped on the uneven dirt road as we were about to put on the spare.  And now the jack was bent. 

Top of Mt. Ord
 While we tried figuring out what to do(since our cell service was spotty), a Scott's Oriole sang in the background. "With a sigh you turn away.  With a deepening heart no more words to say.  You will find that the world has changed forever. And the trees are now turning from green to gold. And the sun is now fading." It was really quite sad. But this brilliant yellow oriole sang to the feathered gods and our birdy prayers were answered. A golden gas guzzling hummer slowed down to help us out. Within this majestic vehicle, there were two friendly Canadians.  And they had the jack of all car jacks! A hummer car jack! Invincible!  

Magill calling AAA.  The catch?  AAA doesn't cover dirt roads.  Of course.
Together we were able to change the tire while Magill told these poor souls about the horror stories that have happened on Mt. Ord:) Afterwards, we slowly crawled back to Phoenix on the spare. Magill said good-bye one last time to Mt. Ord. Never again will she attempt to drive the hairpin turns along this mountain's rocky one lane road. It was over.  But I also remember Cher saying the same thing about her retirement concerts. However, you can find her in Las Vegas STILL performing! So we'll see.....

"Fame" Rose Bush.  A good and almost pest free Rose bush for Tucson.  Only catch?  Not fragrant like other roses.  But the roses last longer.  We placed this particular rose bush within our school garden several years ago and it has endured the test of time!  
I hadn't planned on studying swallows and their nest sites, but I did:)  Below are two swallow species found in Arizona.  Both nest differently.  The Cliff Swallows create mud huts over water while the Violet-green Swallows live at higher altitudes nesting within tree cavities.  

And FINALLY!  This past week at my job, I've been able to monitor our nesting Great Horned Owls.  They began hanging out on the rim of the baskets which is a very good sign.  My guess is that they are no longer in the basket.  Well, the weaker one might still be there. There's always the one that lingers. Two are pretty bold and the third is a yawny follower:) Both owl parents have been near them during this transition period.  For the next several weeks, they will develop their leg strength as they learn to eat their prey and climb trees.  During the last part of May and beginning part of June, they will begin to fly.  

So there you have it!  It has been a pretty amazing week full of fun treks.  

The next several weeks will prove to be challenging and exciting as we get into migration more. I'd like to once again acknowledge Doug Taron and Margarette Brummermann for helping me out with the bug ID's. 

Spotted Towhee
Here's a parting glance at a Chitalpa blossom from the El Presidio garden:)  A little impressionism for you all:)

For more from other birders and their friends, check out Hootin' Anni's Chronicles and Wild Bird Wednesday. Until next time....


  1. Good to hear that the tyre was changed. It looked a long walk.
    Great shot of the bee.

  2. Enjoyed this post as always Chris, your last I age is faaaaabulous and guess how thril!ed I am that there is a Grace's Warbler :)

  3. I have to agree, it's not always about the chase and you saw so much beauty. Alas, the tire problem not great but you were saved.

    1. You have some of those vehicular issues as well:) I am always amazed at how you do it all. You are one incredible traveler. I am not worthy Ms. Gypsy:)

  4. Adventures always have a few surprises. That road doesn't look too bad. Glad you got the tire changed. Been there.
    Amazing photos. Love seeing the flower colors showing up!

    1. I know. I've been inspired again to work around my garden. I think it's the spring temps. I still do garden maintenance and enjoy it. But I usually do it during the weekdays now:)

  5. Woot! It was great running into you guys, and shocking to hear about Magil's 3rd strike. By coincidence, I sent an out-of-town birder friend up today and he too got a flat.

    Somehow I have escaped a dozen trips up there in a low-clearance sedan with not but dust and dirt to cause be grief.

    How'd you get that Grace's to come so low???

    1. You have luck on your side! I thought we'd make it to Sunflower without incident and then.....yeah:) As for Grace? Well with Magill right there, the bird flew right next to us. The bird was just hanging out in the tree when it came two feet from us!!!!! Pretty awesome....never expected that. I think I learned that you need a female on the team to get the attention of all female named Warblers:)

  6. Today was eventful post. There were flowers, butterflies, bees and of course the beautiful birds. Well, the sad adventure ended with a car to fit well. Regards.

    1. Hello Giga. Eventful is right! Thanks for stopping by!

  7. A great post with some amazing photos - loved the butterfly and the bee :) Glad you got some help with they tyre change! and good to have an update on the nesting owls :)

    You do visit some wonderful places Chris - the scenery is stunning!

    1. Thanks!!! Arizona has some of the most diverse and stunning landscapes in the US. It's fun to live here. With states like California, Utah, New Mexico and Colorado next door, it's always a lot of fun to road trip.

  8. Amazing views indeed! I wouldn't know what to photograph first!

  9. the blooms are so vivid and gorgeous, the birds actually have a hard time competing this time. ;) so sorry about the flat, but yay for friendly and helpful canadians!!

  10. So....color me GREEN with envy on the Towhee!! I saw ONE here in South Texas a couple of years ago and didn't have my camera at the time. Now that I carry it wherever I towhees to be seen.

    The owl family is priceless. Oh to have an ocotillo in my back yard again. They are one of the most fascinating desert plants, ever!!

    If you have time...stop by my WBW post today and find what I received in my email last night.

  11. Love the bee on the thistle. We have millions of them (thistles, that is) this year due to all the rain. Luckily my pasture lessee has come and mowed and/or chopped them all down.

  12. Awesome varied post! Oh, no, about that flat tire but that yellow hummer coming along and saving the day was awesome! LOVE the broad-billed hummer photo, and those roses are just amazingly beautiful! I think your owlets are wonderful and I forgot to tell you that last week. Just too incredibly cute to have them nesting in those baskets! Great photos of everything.

  13. Marvellous posst with great shots and views

  14. Lots of new birds for me there, but I particularly like the Grace's Warbler.

  15. A beautiful collection of birds, butterflies and flowers and thanks for giving us another look at the owls! Hope you have a great week,

  16. A great post, Chris, even if there were some sinister undertones with Mt.Ord - sounds like something from Tolkein there! I've got a taboo place like that - the tiny village of Branscombe in Devon. My daughter nearly drowned in a boat (yep IN not FROM!) and a couple of hours later the son of a friend went into anaphylactic shock after a wasp sting and the hospital told me that I'd only just got him there in time! My wife refuses to return to that place.

    A superb collection of birds and images to prove that you made the right choice in not going to Gardener Canyon.

    Thank you, also, for the update on your wonderful Great Horned Owls. Sounds as if they'll be branch-walking soon.

    Best wishes from England - - - - Richard

  17. Wow Richard! That is quite the story. I agree about Ord sounding very Lord of the Rings:) I agree with you regarding certain areas having a bad vibe to them. I had a similar experience with my sister almost drowning while we birding this rather dangerous river. I went back one more time with a little fear from the past experience. Just glad we both did not suffer a drowning. It is one of the scariest experiences that I will never forget.

    Our owls are now ALL out of the nest. Pretty cool stuff. Owls are amazing. Have a great weekend! Chris

  18. A brilliant post today Chris. You're a great story teller. For once this birder found himself drawn to the incredible flowers you show and the bright reds in the Ocotillo and the Mariposa lily. While I know of Cliff Swallows I didn't know that Violet-green Swallows nested in tree cavities so thanks for pointing that out.

    Good to see those hornys doing so well.

    Take care of those tyres now.

  19. Hi Chris, awesome post. I love the birds and the blooms.. The owlets are adorable.. Thank God for nice people helping you to change the tire.. Happy Birding!

  20. People can be so nice.. Glad you got help changing the tire so that you could get back down that mountain.

    You are so lucky to be able to check out the owls and owlets from your work place. SO special.

    Great pictures --not just the birds but the flowers and just that gorgeous area... AWESOME.


  21. Chris, I cannot believe I am so far behind on reading all your blogposts! Oh My! It's fun to catch up though and see all the photos that go with the adventures you have told me about! Mt. Ord is an enigma with its promise of birds and its threats of trouble! It does not yield its secrets with out price! I am so glad that it was the jack that got bent and not you or Magill!


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