Friday, February 5, 2016

The Twice-told Tale

Glassy reflections at the San Rafael Grasslands

"All this has happened before and it will happen again."  Each year I retrace my steps, but I am certainly coming to the end of it all.  There is only "out there" now, beyond Arizona. 

I've finished up most of my work in Arizona and there are just a few places I need to survey again for my final birds. The Black Rail, the American Three-toed Woodpecker and Dusky Grouse. I need a photo of the Flammulated Owl, but I can do that elsewhere.  Arizona, it has been fun, but it is time to focus on the world at large.  Now my work will take me into the various locales around the Americas. Or I will be helping out with various projects around the state.

American Kestrel
So when it came time to plan for the weekend, I could only think of the grasslands. They are my favorite places to bird. I asked my friend Marla if she wanted to go for a drive through an amazing area.  And she was up for it.  There was that same rare Yellow-throated Warbler hanging out in Patagonia Park again this year, but I had no desire to chase it. Those days are over. Instead, I helped guide some visitor's to where the bird may be hanging out.  If you want to read about it, you can click on last year's report.  I'm not telling the same story twice on this blog:)

The beautiful San Rafael Grasslands
I saw my Baird's Sparrow and White-tailed Kites, but I was more interested in letting Marla find them.  She had never seen these birds before and it was great showing her around the San Rafael Grasslands.  There is something fun about helping others explore new areas. I like taking pictures but lately, I've been into the binos a lot more. So in a moment of my yearly reflection, I thought about what I will plan for this upcoming year. No more chasing the same rare birds. No more of the "same" experiences.  It's time to focus on other things. 

When with non-birders, it's fun to make finding birds a game. And it was fun watching Marla stumble upon a rafter of turkeys. After I heard her gasp, I knew she spotted something nice. They were our first of the year Wild Turkeys!  After counting each and every one of them twice, we came to the conclusion that there were 28 of them!

Wild Turkeys in Patagonia
January has passed and I will disappear for awhile from the birding world in Arizona.  It's a break long overdue.  There is still one trip left in Yuma.  And one for Greer.  I think I feel this way EVERY winter before spring break.  It's hard to break routine:)  Even with fun hobbies!

Canyon Towhee in Patagonia
One last note. Before the weekend started, I went with my colleagues to prepare for the annual breeding event at our school. And yes I'm talking owls here:) My ebird records were showing that it was time for our Mama Owl to begin nesting. So we prepped her nest, Oro Valley style, and cleaned out the debris from last year for our very high maintenance Soccer Mom Owl:)  And we loved it!

Peter Fletcher climbs the ladder to clean out the debris with gloves.  We put in a new blanket so that Mom can stay cozy on her nest.
 By Monday, our Great Horned Owls were preparing to nest again and we were thrilled. This is one of the reasons why keeping data is awesome! It has happened before and it will hopefully happen again. And there is something very rejuvenating about it all.

Last years brood:)
 It's like seeing that first tulip appear out of the snow.  A sign that vacation is near:) 

In the meantime, I'll continue working in the bird world.  I'm thinking about doing another "Birds in Blooms" series while I'm waiting for the next big trek. I'll be out in the grasslands again doing more surveys for my own records and helping out Tucson Audubon with Longspur and Sparrow studies. My favorites!

Dark-eyed Junco(Pink-sided) 
I plan to finish off this last series of "grassland" blogs at the Buenos Aires Wildlife Refuge next week.  

Arizona Woodpecker

Here are my half hearted(or whole hearted) attempts at good photos of birds already seen.  Although, I still strive to get better photos of a Red-necked Grebe:)  The pic below represents a slice of the 179 species seen during the month of January. After seeing birds over and over again, I have learned to hone in on their behaviors and it is rewarding. My difficult objective was achieved, 7 new state birds and 4 new lifers(Yellow-billed Loon, McCown's Longspur, American Bittern and Barrow's Goldeneye!) The challenge has ended and now it's time for adventure! 


  1. Wonderful are your plans and most importantly, that all connected with what you love birds. Wonder is a photo of an owl looking out of the basket. Regards.

  2. Ha ha those fuzzy owlets were absolutely adorable!

  3. I so adore your passion, and sharing it with others is so rewarding. Excited to see the owls are back.

    1. And I admire yours! I want your life!:) Either way, we've been lucky to live our dreams:)

  4. Love the first photo with those beautiful reflections. Wonderful post as always Chris with your passion for wildlife shining through.

    So pleased the owls are back. Enjoy your birding :)

  5. That first image is beautiful, Chris. I look forward to hearing the progress of your Great Horned Owls this year.

    Best wishes - - Richard

  6. Hello Chris, Awesome owl shot.Birding in Arizona sounds like an adventure to me. Wonderful post and photos. Happy Birding!

  7. Beautiful birds and those grasslands are very special. I like the sense of space and distance you have captured. The first photo of the reflections in the still pond is perfect!

  8. A most enjoyable read. I like the way you have different birding goals and ways of sharing them!

  9. The first photo makes you want to be there.


  10. Chris, you never cease to amaze me. Though you complain sometimes, you lead a charmed life! 179 species in one month! That is impressive! I am so glad you are still having fun! Love the photos of the grasslands.

  11. The owls in the basket are a wonderful - hope you find more and more birds!

    cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

  12. Enjoy your break! I am so happy the owls are nesting again. I need to visit your blog (not just your linked posts) again! I am so far behind! But I noticed on facebook you had a cactus wren post!

  13. I am always amazed at the new and different birds you see, Chris.... Amazing what an interest in birding has done for you.... AWESOME....

    Great pictures... I've seen and had Juncos here --but not with that pretty PINK color.... Neat!


  14. I am a big fan of photos with water reflections, and I find that first photo very beautiful.


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