Sunday, July 17, 2016

Arizona Birding

Five-striped Sparrow
Since I have been home from Wisconsin, I have forced myself to get out of the house to help friends and new visitors to Arizona find birds in this relentless heat. You might think they are crazy for visiting Arizona during this time of year until you see what birds have been showing up!  So here is the latest from the Arizona highway birding patrol.......

Mesquite Beetles
A couple weeks ago, birding friend Ernie came to visit from New York to find the ABA countable Five-striped Sparrow in the remote California Gulch. However, it was more than a tick for him. He just wanted to see the bird! While I was in Wisconsin, I was mentally planning for his arrival in Southern Arizona. He was doing the same on his side. The Gulch is a rough area and can be quite dangerous during monsoon. But in a miraculous turn of events, we had the most beautiful weather ever! 

The California Gulch on a cloudy day
The Gulch is hot and very remote.  Ernie rented an SUV and the ride was smooth.  He really wanted to see this sparrow and quite honestly, the summer is the best time to find it there.  We had overcast skies and a gentle rain that day.  It was an amazing morning full of wonderful birds and other critters.  But even better?  Ernie had great views of the sparrow. 

Five-striped Sparrow
I'm always afraid that I won't deliver on my part.  I try my best to help others find the birds and most of the time, the birds cooperate.  I had such a wonderful morning out with Ernie and Fran.  And we couldn't have asked for better weather on this day.  

Widow Skimmer-thank you Gordon for the ID!
We listened to the night sky and heard owls and nightjars.  And something strange that growled at us from beyond the edge of darkness!  Still not sure what it was, but I know there is a Mama Cougar in the area and the call was reminiscent of a larger mammal.  The night is dark and full of terrors!  Well if I could have ID'd the growl, it would have been less terrifying:)

The rough and beautiful Proctor Road at sunset
After Ernie left, a series of events happened.  One right after the other:)  They were quick and easy spots.  On a very hot and muggy day, I met up with Jon and Michael to find a rare Purple Gallinule at Sweetwater Wetlands.  After 20+ minutes, we located the bird.  I began to see stars from the heat and it was time to get back into the car.  But WOW! I's a purple bird.  It was a lifer for Michael and a state bird for Jon.  It was great to see their smiling faces on the trails. 

Purple Gallinule
Then it came time to go find the Scissor-tailed Flycatcher that made Sierra Vista home for a couple weeks.  So we went down to visit family but stopped along the way to view this very beautiful bird.  Easy summer birding! The heat once again pulled us back into our vehicle after a really great time observing the bird. 

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher
After several expeditions between rare bird chases, I went with Gordon and Jeff to the Huachucas for some honest and real birding.  This time the bird gods would grant us a rare and beautiful Berryline Hummingbird.  Finally!  I've never been around when one shows up.  So this bird taught me to let it happen as it happens:)

Berryline Hummingbird
 While we were up in the Huachucas, the birding community received word that rare Black Skimmers and a Hudsonian Godwit were found in a hot and muggy agricultural area in Buckeye. 

The old Gillespie River Dam bridge
The Hudsonian Godwit would be a lifer and it was a no brainer.  I dipped on the Black Skimmers but had a great time observing the Hudsonian Godwit!  Again this was an easy observation.  Get out of your car.  Look through a scope(thanks Caleb and Tommy!).  And watch the bird.  Then it was back in the car.

Hudsonian Godwit surrounded by Black-necked Stilts, Killdeer and other peeps
After the viewing, I didn't want to drive back to Tucson wasting gas on just one bird.  So I met up with good friend Magill for some fun research to various areas around the Gila Bend area. We mostly birded from the car and had a lot of great laughs.  And along the way we found a bird or two checking out historical ebird hotspots.

Migration has begun and I feel it in the air.  Shorebirds and hummingbirds are beginning their journey south.  As you can see, Arizona is a hot bed for birds(in every way possible).  It has been a thrill to help out on surveys, help friends find birds, etc.  We have one last summer trip planned up into the North to find some great birds.  I need two more expected birds to complete my Arizona list.  They would be two more lifers and bring me closer to my year goal of finding 100 new birds. 

Beatty's Ranch House
Birds guide me.  By finding birds and hanging out with friends, the summer seems to be flying by quickly.  Life is good.  And so are the Arizona birds!  Until next time....


  1. Great set of birds - always bit of pressure when you want to find a specific bird.

    Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

    1. Yes it is! You do very well:) Hope to see you in the field one day here:)

  2. You should never worry that you won't find the bird your friend is looking are definitely the "bird whisperer!" Anyone who goes on an excursion with you always seems to have success. You got some great photos!

    1. This birding stuff can get quite complex! So one favor or one bird helps you find a difficult one elsewhere in the country or around the world. It's not easy, I'll tell you that much. But what fun!

  3. I really like those beetles. Nice and colourful.

  4. Y'know....when we lived in Tucson, I wasn't 'into birding'...oh yes, I looked for them when we'd hike in the Catalinas and the Tucson Mtns. or down by Green Valley and Tombstone, but never took photos. Oh how I wish I'd done just that.

    Your photos...AND YOUR COMMENTARY...took me back home for a fleeting moment. Wonderful

    1. Thank you Anni! So sorry it has taken me this long to respond. I've been on the road and finally am catching up. The heat here is like the heat there I imagine....but we do have mountains here to help escape. Texas is on my list.....just don't know when.....but perhaps next year! I hope to meet you down the road. Have a great week! Chris

  5. More wonderful photos and sightings - so love the way you help others find birds Chris :) Good Luck with your quest for the two "expected" birds. The beetles in the first photo are so cool :)

    1. It feels great helping others. I remember doing this alone and I sometimes how to work alone now. We benefit so much from collaboration that it's actually fun working together to find birds and what not. And those beetles are awesome. There is another beetle that is not so awesome. It's huge and ugly and bites....called the Palo Verde Beetle. Both these beetles thrive off of their name trees. Our desert is an interesting one.


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