Saturday, April 29, 2017

A Tucson Spring

It's spring here in the desert.  I've kept it local for several weeks because I need to budget my money for a bigger trek coming up.  It has been an enjoyable challenge because I am forced to play within the perimeters of my own area.  It's a different kind of birding, but it's still quite enjoyable. 

Mallard duckling
Outsiders often visit the Old Pueblo in April and ask the locals, "When is your spring?"  People living here KNOW that spring is subtle.  Our trees leaf out and release terrible amounts of pollen:) But our trees aren't bold and tall like the ones found on the eastern part of the US. For birders, we visibly see the migration happening before our very eyes. 

While waiting for my master lens to return from the shop, I took cell phone pics and used a smaller lens for some of these shots.  Imagine going to your work place and finding this Great Horned Owlet staring back at you?!  It was hard to focus and listen to the adults talking in the room:)

Least Sandpipers
While Tucson doesn't have a lot of watering holes, we do have a few that attract some special migrants.  This time of year is good for rare sandpipers.  The most common are Least, Spotted, Western and Solitary Sandpipers.  Pectoral and Stilt Sandpipers are good birds but they are not always reliable. I have found that I need to be in the right place at the right time to spot these passing migrants.  The key is to place yourself in those spots for a possible sighting. 

Solitary Sandpiper
 Staying in one area also allows for a VERY in depth look at our local birds.  Take for example this Killdeer below. 

Many of us know that a Killdeer parent will act injured to draw a predator away from the nest. While I am not a predator, I am clearly a danger in a different kind of way.  

Almost every living creature on this planet uses some form of communication.  As a birder, it's my job to interpret that communication for a better understanding of the birds.  It offers a very satisfying observation as well. 

In this particular case, I knew I was near a nest.  I stopped quickly and scanned the area.  Had I made a few more steps in the wrong direction, I might have stepped on these eggs.  Thankfully, I understood what the bird was telling me. Look at how much this Killdeer's eggs look like the surrounding rocks!  Nature is amazing. 

I believe that Coachline, or El Río Preserve, will be one of Marana and Tucson's premiere birding spots when it's all finished.  It has been a wonderful success.  A walking/bike path have been put into the area making this premiere birding spot even better.  There is now a parking area (with a ramada for lunch and shade).  As a local, I can tell you that I am super excited about this transition.  And my tires are glad as well.  No more gravel/sharp rock parking:)

Several years ago, friend and birder, Magill sat with me as we did a Big Sit and counted birds under the awning at this place for the day.  It was a lot of fun as we ended our observations with lots of Lesser Nighthawks flying around us. 

Black-crowned Night Heron
 After two weeks, my master lens returned back to me repaired and I was so excited to get the darn thing that I headed to Reid Park to film Great-tailed Grackles collecting mud.  It. Was. Great.  Even if they were just Great-tailed Grackles:)  That's how happy I was!

But during those grueling two weeks of waiting, I did some research for our upcoming Wrenegades event.  Every year, we get together to raise money for the birds of Southern Arizona.  It helps support Tucson Audubon's projects. 

I spiced up my treks but kept it cheap.  A really nice place to bird on Mt. Lemmon is the Rose Canyon Lake area.  But I didn't want to pay the hefty entrance fee so I parked off the highway and hiked down to the lake.  Another woman did the same but as she was hiking down into the area, she didn't realize how far it was:)  So I kept encouraging her to keep going.  "Where is the damn lake? My kids better be down there."  I told her not to worry.  We chatted the mile hike down and got to the lake.  She didn't see them but from her conversation about her kids, I guessed they'd be at the floating dock fishing.  And there they were.  That trek, for the day, landed me a Lewis's Woodpecker. 

I also scouted around for the ducks.  Again for our birdathon.  There are a few wintering ducks still this proud drake Ring-necked Duck. 

A Round-tailed Ground Squirrel eats some refreshing Barrel Cactus fruit on a hot near 100 degree day. 

And my research takes me into new areas around town locating new Burrowing Owl locations.  The one at our airport is now gone which means that the construction crew destroyed the burrow:(  Thankfully birders saved the birds and had them relocated.  It was very sad to see them go.  But it also forced me to scout out new locations which was fun. 

Next week, I join up with my fellow Wrenegades to find as many birds in a 24 hour time period as we can.  Will we break our old record?  Stay tuned for more.....


  1. Loved seeing the eggs in the gravel...they look so vulnerable!! Great photos. Those little round tailed ground squirrels are so cute. Loved all the photos.

    1. They are. Hoping your weather is starting to warm up with a little sunshine:)

  2. Wonderful post and great photos Chris. Glad you have got your big lens back :) Love the camouflage on the Killdeer's eggs - as you say nature is just amazing. Good to see the video of the Great Horned Owlet too :)

    1. Me too!!! Been so busy over here, I haven't been able to respond back to you. Hope you're have a great start to your week! Chris

  3. The spring, summer etc thing does not really work in many parts of the world - its sort of works here, but the indigenous people used a six season way of reckoning - and it makes far more sense.

    Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

  4. Série très riche en variétés ;-)
    Céline & Philippe


Thanks for stopping by!