Sunday, June 19, 2016

Always Chasing Rainbows

The hikes have been grueling lately.  With desert heat and rarities popping up left and right, it has made the birding a true challenge.  Which bird should I chase first?  Many of the birds are in difficult or remote locations!

Violet-green Swallow
For all the "hits" I get on my target birds, there are also the misses.  Aztec Thrush, Berryline Hummingbird, Rose-throated Becard, Slate-throated Redstart. All misses because of time.  Only one would be a lifebird.  And when I dip on a bird like I did with the Aztec Thrush, it burns bad. Timing.  It all comes down to the timing. When you don't have the time, you appreciate every minute you have more.  My life is one long schedule.  It's pretty awesome, but like everyone else reading this blog, we have lives outside our hobby that require us to be present:)  It will just make the story sweeter when I do finally see these birds in Arizona:)

Black-throated Gray Warbler
I'll hike miles to find a new bird.  But with time constraints, it makes waiting around for a bird difficult.  Had I only waited 10 minutes, I would have seen the bird!!!  BUT NO.  We had to head back down the mountain to get home.  It's a terrible feeling.  I got into my car and couldn't talk for awhile.  I got a text from a friend who told me that the bird popped out as we were heading back down the trail. 

Gordon spots an Hepatic Tanager.  In the distance, a wildfire burns near Young, Arizona.
Time was ticking and my window for the Aztec Thrush closed. No more Southern Arizona birding for awhile.  On our last days in Arizona, I birded with Gordon(above) once more on Mt. Ord.  

The heat was an astounding 117 degrees in the desert!!  I use this reliable kitty weather forecast for help. So we had to climb the mountains for some reprieve.  But not by much. It still was pretty hot up there!

It's amazing how birds can even survive these extreme temps!

Hutton's Vireo
Like good Arizona birders, we pack lots of water. Some it is frozen while the rest is chilled.  The body MUST stay cool in the extreme heat!  We also went early and left the house by 5 AM. Although, you can get up at 4 AM to start!!!  But that's way TOO early! Or is it?

Hepatic Tanager
We track water sources.  Cattle tanks.  Mountain streams, etc etc to find birds. During the Arizona summer, birds will feed before the sun rises(the 4:30 AM time period), hang out in the shade during the sunny and hot times of the day and stay near any water sources that may be around the area. Visiting birders need to take care and do the same!

We find plenty of wildlife resting in the shaded areas.  We also take advantage of these areas along the road staying out of the intense sun.  As we do, we spot several deer casually crossing the road ahead of us. 

It is also completely acceptable to sit at public bird feeders and search for rarities:)  Especially after the 10 AM time period.  

Lucifer Hummingbird
Sometimes I will chase ONE bird for 30 minutes in the sun. I am confident about where these birds are hanging out. Otherwise, I wouldn't go and get them. So I get my pic and run back to my air conditioned car:) Take for example the Tropical Kingbird below. It is currently nesting in its' typical spot at the Sweetwater Wetlands. Easy.

Tropical Kingbird
There are even easier ones to snag. Park and bird! There is nothing wrong with birding from your car. This American White Pelican decided to hang out at Lakeside Park for a few days before taking flight.  

American White Pelican from the Utah area(note green tag)
And around the same time, a Least Tern returned to the same spot.  I think it's the same one that I discovered here a year ago. The migration dates were almost exactly the same. Note the times I used "same" in this paragraph:)

Least Tern
But when it gets too hot, it's time to head up to the higher elevations.  Early mornings are still the best as they provide cooler temps. 

House Wren
While the canyons are still dark, you'll hear the owls finish up their last calls. 

Brown Creeper
Of course you have to do some hiking to see some of this stuff, but WOW!

And then an owl calls.  It's like a dream come true.  WHOA!  And the crowd goes wild!

In the shadows, lurks a Northern Pygmy Owl
With so much hiking going on, it was time to just rest and get ready for the cooler temps. June is the BEST month to leave Tucson or Phoenix.  It's hot and the rare bird alert is fairly quiet during this month.  Where do we go?  North:) Or West, to the beaches of San Diego.

It's hard to get up when you have such cute cats around you purring nearby.
My blog series will once again focus on a new birding area outside of Arizona. It can be cool, rainy.......and GREEN!

Until then, I'm going to do as this male Anna's Hummingbird is doing.....hanging out in the shade!  Birds will often "pant" to exhale the hot temps in the body through evaporation of moisture along their mouth, throat and lungs.  In other words, they stay cool.  

A HOT male Anna's Hummingbird hanging out in the shade on a 117 degree day!

Stay tuned for our next adventure.  Gordon will be joining me on an epic journey into one of the most beautiful states of the US.....Wisconsin.  So get your bug spray on and pull out those cheesehead hats!  Until next time!


  1. Much of this seems Soooo long ago!

    1. I know!!! It's weird to think that this trip has come and gone already! We spend months planning and then in a blink of an eye, it's over. Well, it'll be back to the drawing boards again:)

  2. A wonderful trip chasing birds and some great shots Chris.relax in the cool for a bit now.

  3. Hello Chris!:) My visit to you is long over due but I always enjoy seeing your bird photos. It was a shame you missed seeing the Aztec Thrush. I'm not a birder, but I know that feeling one gets after a missed opportunity, and still recall with regret that I did not get that shot of four young Hoopoe's sitting on our television aerial!:)) Ah well, that's how it goes!! Stay well, and cool Chris, and take care.:)

    1. Hi there! It has been awhile on my part as well. I hope to catch up with everyone after vacation is over. I'll be locked up in my house in the heat so I'll have plenty of time to reconnect with everyone. I've been on the road for most of the month. Hope your summer has been great so far. The picture/bird thing happens to all of us:) Hey, at least we try. I have not invented a way to assemble a camera onto to this ever aging body:) One day....

  4. I assume this was a final trek before leaving town...yep, it's all about the heat, isn't it! Great post! You got some amazing shots of some rare birds/ elusive finds. I enjoyed this post, as I always do!

  5. Amazing wildlife Chris even if you did miss one of your target birds.Its always so difficult to try and fit in passions and hobbies with everyday life :(

    It sounds so hot over there - I'd never cope with the temperatures - glad you are going somewhere cooler!


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