Monday, February 27, 2017

Winter's Final Grasp

Every year, I make my winter trek down to Willcox or the Whitewater Draw and say good-bye to the Sandhill Cranes and Chestnut-collared Longspurs.  For some, this experience is comparable to a holiday or birthday celebration.

It's also my way of saying good-bye to winter.  It's hard to let go of the colder days knowing that those unbearable hotter ones are only a few months away. I now can sense when the migration is beginning to move. I can't explain it.  I can't plan it. I just know.  

I leave my car and listen carefully to the wind and focus on longspur titters in the grass

So I moved quickly on my day off to see the cranes one last time.  When I arrived, they swirled high above me.  Then......

......they began their descent all around me. Again, I can feel their patterns.  I can't plan it.  I just know the moment when they are going to do it.

  I am in sync with certain species while with others, I still have a long ways to go.

Their departure marks the end of winter and the beginning of our spring migration.  I am excited about what's to come, but I will miss these cold and windy days.  These are the days when I can play outside all day long and just enjoy the weather.

As we finish up with the AZ winter series over the next couple weeks, we'll begin a new chapter of exploration.  Stay tuned for more.....

Monday, February 20, 2017

Drops Of Discovery

The very polluted Guy Tobin Trail of the DeAnza Trail.  It's here where the Ruddy Ground-Doves hung out.

This past weekend, another winter storm helped soften the moderate to severe drought in parts of our state.  At this time, all streams, washes and rivers are flowing at capacity....and then some!

male Ruddy Ground-Dove
Between the storm clouds, I decided to keep myself busy and revisit some very cool birds around the state. 

Female Ruddy Ground-Dove
It has been nearly two years since I last saw Ruddy Ground-Doves.  So I thought, why not? Here, near the US/Mexican border on a very littered DeAnza trail, I had very nice views of these two birds.

Sunset Point
But life.  Life has been crazy.  It gets in the way ALL the time.  Over the past few months, I have been planning two very big trips with my friend Gordon that could potentially propel us both closer to the 1000 life bird category.  Now remember, this blog is about the discovery and adventure leading to 10,000 lifebirds:)  And oh is it slow going right now. 

Inca Dove
The rain.  That beautiful and wonderful rain continued into my Sunday birding schedule.

near the Page Springs Fish Hatchery
So, Magill texted me and asked, "You up for finding a Tennessee Warbler?"  Since it was a lifer and I haven't had one in quite awhile, it was a no brainer.  On Sunday morning, I woke up to the cold rainy weather and just pulled the covers over my head. NOOOOO.  It's going to be such a long day driving back and forth from the Phoenix area! And to make things worse, my cat decided to snuggle with me.

American Kestrel
Then the text. "Are you coming up?"  Yes, but it's raining and snowing and cloudy and cold....and I'm lazy:) This is exactly why you need a birder friend to motivate:)

And what a gorgeous day it was around the Page Springs Fish Hatchery near Sedona.  It was a first for both of us.  We had heard about people birding there but we just never got around to exploring it. Which made us think....

a wintering Common Black Hawk! much of this state don't we know about?!!!  I mean, we're birders!  We thought we covered pretty much all of it.  It appears that there are still secrets and surprises waiting to be had.

As our winter winds down, there is a dramatic pause with wintering birds and a sense that migration has already begun.  It's a tad early this year.  We are seeing birds move in February that should be moving in mid to late March.  Take for example, the Common Black Hawk above.  As of this date, I have found all summer dwelling hawks(minus the Short-tailed and Swainson's Hawks) before their mass March migration.  That is a first in my nearly six years of birding!

Birding is not easy.  Well sometimes it is.  We had such a great time exploring the area that when we finally got to the Tennessee Warbler spot, we were in a good mood.  As we pointed to where we thought the warbler might hang out, the bird popped up on cue for us.  We had great views as it sat there watching us before joining the Ruby-crowned Kinglets down the river.  It was a lifebird.  Just one.  But enough to keep me going.

a rare Tennessee Warbler
This blog is a work of love.  Every life bird has a story.  Some are very hard to find while others, like this Tennessee Warbler, are easy. 

So another lifer down.  And another 9,253 to go! I leave you all with a look at Arizona's doves(minus the Pigeons).  I swear that if you live in Arizona long enough, you'll find every North American bird:) Until next time....

Monday, February 13, 2017

The Tasty Pinecone


"YOU SHALL NOT PASS!", shouted the Cliff Chipmunk as he slammed his staff down onto the rock. 

So I parked my car and walked around him:)  But he was right.  The road behind him was not passable at all. Too much ice!  So I went on foot into the quiet forest of snow and pinecone. 

Another voice called out from the Ponderosa Pines.  It was the Olive Warbler!

There she hopped around screaming her scratchy, "Teacher teacher teacher!" call.  Yes, I know! I'm a teacher!

After she left, the woods went silent again.  

Until I heard a pine cone drop.  

One of the Abert's Squirrels said aloud, "It's not me!"

The Cliff Chipmunk just told me to keep moving along. 

In the sunlight, the snow turned to water and filled the creeks.  But in the shadows of the mountain, the snow remained. 

More silence until another pinecone fell. I looked up and saw Mr. Abert's having lunch. 

Then.  Breaking the silence, a high pitched "zzzt" sliced through the cold air.  Recognizing the call, my eyes scanned the lichen covered bark until I spied the movement of a camouflaged back. It was that of the Brown Creeper.

A Pine Siskin called out for me and said "hi". 

As I left the snowy trail, I found snow people enjoying the nearby ski lift. 

What a perfect day to go birding up on Mt. Lemmon!

There is still snow up on the mountain and plenty of pinecones for the critters to munch on. Until next time.........

Sunday, February 5, 2017

As Broad As It's Long

Every weekend brings a new challenge.  The question is, "What bird will it be?"

Water flows in every wash around Southern Arizona
This weekend, Gordon attempted to help friend Joe find his nemesis bird, the Elegant Trogon. I joined up with them to see if we could do the impossible. Several weeks ago I posted our finds at Patagonia Lake.  Unfortunately, we were not able to relocate the male this time.  Our theory is that the bird is now in a more remote area around the lake away from the birding trail. 

a rare Winter Wren at Patagonia Lake
So we headed to the remote Florida Canyon of the Santa Rita mountains.  There had been a female Trogon recently reported....but we missed the window.  Trogons can be very tricky.  They are active in the morning and later take a siesta somewhere in the deep shadows during the afternoon. 

A Black-capped Gnatcatcher-a bird people from all over the US come to find
 While most of the country is still freezing, Arizona is enjoying warmer than average temps.  On our day out, the temps went from a cold 32 degrees in the morning to a warm 80 by mid afternoon.  While that sounds nice for most people, I'm not most people. I get enough heat from our summer months to last me the year. It would be nice to have a longer and cooler winter this year:)

The beautiful and remote Florida Canyon
In the photo above, you'll see the space between the riparian corridor and desert scrub.  It's a natural border that can attract two different groups of birds.  Those from the desert and those who require trees and water. 

An Orange-crowned Warbler
 As the day progressed, I switched from my pants to shorts. I did the same with my shoes but forgot that my "shorts" shoes didn't have any grips on them!

The moon over Florida Canyon
 The snow melt from the mountains has every wash flowing right now in the Santa Rita mountains. It's really quite beautiful. 

the Inca Dove of the Santa Rita Lodge in Madera Canyon
 Normally, the streams flow with a slow and steady trickle. But not on this day! We crossed several ice cold streams balancing ourselves on the rocks while trying to keep our equipment dry from the splashing water.  I did well for the most part until a rock gave out from under my foot......and then it was SPLUNK!  

the dam at Florida is flowing
We hiked up the canyon wall, or at least Gordon and Joe did.  I hiked up the steep trail realizing after the fact that I didn't have any grips on my shoes!  So I naturally let them go ahead of me.  Me on the other hand?  Well I slowly inched my way down.....until I slipped and fell on my padded rear! This was also the same place that my friend Kathie almost fell.  So if you go to Florida Canyon, home of the rare Rufous-capped Warblers and Black-capped Gnatcatchers, bring lots of water, good hiking shoes and a friend.  It's remote!

Wild Turkey(the tom)
 I continued on my own the following day looking for a rare Brown Thrasher.  I did find the bird but it's a skulker and these were the looks I had of it(below).  This is birding.  Sometimes you have incredible views and sometimes you have views like the ones below or worse!

a skulky Brown Thrasher
As I was attempting rare bird number 2, I ran into a group of Javelina blocking me on the trail.  One of them made the attack posture and I said, "That's ok."  I slowly headed back to my car and called it a day.  Laundry needed to get done. 

Javelina stop me in my tracks.
There are so many choices right now in the state of Arizona that a birder has to pick and choose their battles.  Watch the incredible flight of the wintering Sandhill Cranes at Wilcox Lake or find a rare Sprague's Pipit in the ag fields of the Santa Cruz Flats.  So many choices.  So many birds.

Bridled Titmouse
 Arizona is a big place.  Where will our adventures take us next week?  Until next time.....