Saturday, August 22, 2015

Her Blue Mug

Magnificent Hummingbird
She emailed me and asked if I would be around to bird.  I never met her but I had heard so many wonderful things about this lady. Facebook may not be for everyone, but it can and does connect us with some of the most amazing people.  Over time and through the birding community, we find out who is legit, mass murderer or authentic:) I knew I would be meeting a legit person thanks to word of mouth by my birding friends.  And so at the brilliant hour of 6 AM, I met the woman who loves to put a Blue Mug in her pictures on FB.  This mug represents a happy moment or highlight from the day.  For Kathleen Cameron, it would be her first trek into Southern Arizona.  She brought a companion by the name of Zeke(or was it the other way around:)? Together we scoured the road up Madera Canyon. 

Painted Redstart
I am a natural birder with targets in mind but if I don't find them for the day, I'm ok.  But when birders come to get life birds and ask for help, the pressure is on! I want to get them all of their lifers, but sometimes the birds have other ideas. 

Canyon Wren
Thankfully, it was a great day out and every bird cooperated!  Timing is another thing.  Some windows are better than others.  For example, we dipped on the Elegant Trogon in the afternoon.  The best time for this bird is EARLY in the morning.  Most Trogons around the world are easy to find, but I have to admit that our Elegant Trogon can be a stinker to find for many visiting birders.  

Rufous-crowned Sparrow
We began our fun at the Santa Rita Lodge and did a stationary count.  Later we hiked a trail to find the Trogons. During our observations at the Santa Rita Lodge, I was fascinated by all the birds chowing down on the white moths hanging out near the lodge. It was like popcorn for them. There were 5 different species of bird all feasting on the same moth.   

Bridled Titmouse
Over the years, I have witnessed the increased sightings of Plain-capped Starthroat hummingbirds here in Southern Arizona.  Their populations seem to continue to grow.  This once very rare bird is still considered rare but not RARE like it used to be.  For Zeke, it would be a lifer.  Thankfully, the bird showed up!

Left to right, Broad-billed Hummingbird and Plain-capped Starthroat
This photo below was taken last year.  One of the field marks to look for on this large hummer is their vertical white stripe on the back.  It's also the largest hummingbird of the charm.  Even larger than the Magnificent Hummingbird featured above!

While we were there observing lots of awesome birds, I learned much about this place known as Idaho(pronounced Eye-dah-hoe).  Apparently they have birds there that include the ones I need!  From what I understood from our conversations, Idaho is a beautiful place full of fantastic creatures. However, it's about a thousand miles away and a FULL day of driving to get there. I know this only because this is what these two crazy birders did!  They got up at 4:30 AM and arrived into Southern Arizona at 9 PM!!!!!  Now that's dedication!

We went up to Bog Springs and they set up camp for a few days.  While we were there, I knew of several places where Whiskered screech owls like to hang out when they are not nesting.  Of course, they are never there when I take birders to see this would-be-lifer.  So I was just going to tell them to keep an eye out in a certain area for this pretty awesome owl.  As I pointed to the hole, everyone just dropped their jaw with several indiscernible words coming out of our mouths.  This was a moment!  Quietly, we all took our photos from a distance careful not to disturb this beautiful creature. 

We spent a longer while observing this often-heard-but-rarely-seen owl.  Talk about luck! This was a Christmas miracle especially now that their nesting has finished. Many will begin their migration back south during the month of August.  

Whiskered-screech Owl
We continued on after seeing an increase in people around the canyon.  Owls make people crazy and even if a person isn't a birder, they still go bananas for them.  So to keep the owl safe and protected, we casually moved up the trail not attracting attention. 

As for that blue mug?  Well, I got to hold it with my new friends!

Photo by Zeke Watkins-an ebird reviewer in Idaho
Here's a little info on Kathleen Cameron.  She is a birding guide based out of Idaho.  Founder of her company, Majestic Feathers Birding Tours, she leads tours into wonderful places like Peru, Costa Rica, Panama, etc etc! In fact, Colombia is on their agenda for next year. Over the past couple of years, Colombia has really become a safe place for birders and tourists to travel.  In fact, this year I have been getting many positive reports from birders and travelers alike about the country.  For birders, this is an AWESOME opportunity to explore one of the birdiest countries in the world.  After spending the day with Kathleen and Zeke, I can say I would love to bird again with them both.  My trip to Mexico zapped a lot of my bird energy.  With the temps rising and my energy levels disappearing, I had to return home to regenerate again:)

Kathleen also produced a documentary called Connecting With Owls.  This is a great DVD full of owl info and fun.  To purchase her DVD, you can click here. The Whiskered screech owl, a bird that only makes it up into Southern Arizona during the spring and summer, was a new owl for Kathleen which made the day a whole lot more special. Maybe it was her blue mug that brought us such fortune? Anyhow, birding is awesome and so are the people.   

And speaking of owls, here is the lastest update on the ones I've seen this year.  It has been a good year indeed! For more fun about birds, check out I'D Rather B Birdin' over at Anni's blog! Until next time friends.....

L to R
Barn, Western screech, Ferruginous Pygmy Owls
Northern Pygmy, Great Horned, Burrowing Owls
Long-eared, Whiskered screech, Snowy Owl(in WI this year)
Spotted, Elf and Great Horned Owlet


  1. Oh my gosh...what an experience. I really enjoyed reading about your meeting, and going to the Canyon. Actually anywhere in AZ is a great place for birding.

    The different birds are awesome. I finally saw one and photographed the painted redstart IN TEXAS. A vagrant...and oh so pretty.

    You should share this link this weekend at I'd Rather B Birdin' for all the bird enthusiasts to meet. Ms. Cameron and perhaps visit with HER also. Just a suggestion.

  2. ps...reading about her DVD on owls...a great series, I'm sure. The Barred Owl is one of my favorites.

    1. I am so glad you decided to share this. I hope other birders appreciate that you took the time. Thank you.

    2. My pleasure! I was out yesterday running around doing my typical weekend birding so it took me awhile to respond and for that I apologize. Hope all is well with you. I would love to be in Texas right now. Hopefully one day we'll get to meet!

  3. Chris, it is wonderful that we are now friends. Thank you so very much for meeting us in Madera Canyon and showing us around this place that you clearly love. Every bird that we saw while birding with you was a thrill! I enjoyed seeing this part of Arizona through your eyes as well as my first "time eyes" because really, your enthusiasm for "your" part of Arizona is fresh and vibrant like you too are there for the first time. Thank you for your warm hospitality and for rescuing us when we had no place to lodge...down pours and floods and evacuations on my! The Whiskered Screech Owl was just the best! I really felt unsure that we would be lucky enough to see one but thanks to you we did. That owl was so serene and peace just seemed to flow onto us while we admired it. I appreciate the shout out for my labor or love "Connecting with Owls" thank you so much. I plan to take you birding in Idaho so lets make a plan! All the best to you and yours always, Owl we need is Love. Kathleen P.S. hey Zeke thank you for organizing our trip and for your excellent good company and friendship!

    1. Kathleen, I wish I had had full birding powers to get you all of the birds on your trek:) Had I been younger, I think I would have been able to continue straight after Mexico but my body wasn't having any of it:) I have to pace myself now. I remember my first year of birding just a few years ago. It was all very exciting....but much of it was local. Now a lot of it is long range with lots of planning:) I look forward to seeing you and Zeke again someday.

  4. Oh, what a thrilling post! The magnificent was indeed magnificent, but I have never seen that plain capped star throat and would love to! (Would love to see a trogon!) Made me sad that I can't REALLY bird because of my physical limitations. I am so glad you met up with Kathleen and Zeke. What an amazing excursion for all of you! Oh, and the screech owl. I would just DIE to see any owl. I have only seen fleeting glimpses of some flying, in the dark, very few times. I've never seen one in the daylight. I've heard screech owls. Amazing sound! And I just finished reading the book Wesley the Owl about the barn owl raised by a biologist...WONDERFUL book! Anni recommended it. Going to have to share this with everyone. Anyway, thank you so much for your comment on my purple martin. Seeing him/her was a real gift that day, and I was so grateful to get the photos and video. Just sitting on the bench (I can only make it to that first bench!) listening to his song above my head was a spiritual experience! So, they are headed away now. This happened of course three weeks ago. I learn so much from your comments on my posts, and I always hope others will read your comments as well as my posts to get more data. Take care!

    1. Marie, so glad you are going out in this heat! What's great about birding is that you can just sit and watch the birds. Many times, my friends who can't do the hike will still see the birds and get great views. Hope you get better. I am so ready for this heat to be done. If you haven't done this, I would highly recommend checking out Ash Canyon at Mary Jo's. No walking involved and lots of amazing birds to see. It's like going to Santa Rita lodge with the possibilities of observing new birds:)

  5. Hi Chris!!!.. Great collection of pictures Beautiful birds. Love al the owls .. Many greetings

  6. Wow!! What a successful day. The owl is magnificent. I really enjoyed these photos.

  7. How wonderful to connect with a fellow birder. Love the blue mug idea. Great shots as always. Thanks for sharing your trip.

  8. Chris, I am so glad you two got to meet and so sad that I was not there to join you! Perhaps we can bird Idaho with Kathleen together? We will have to see what can be done about THAT! Great post and pics!

  9. What a birds seeker's life you lead!
    So interesting to read all about it.

  10. If ever a bird was aptly named it's Magnificent Hummingbird!

  11. What a wonderful day out and lovely to meet up with a fellow birder :)


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