Tuesday, June 5, 2018

June Birding in Southern Arizona

Watering holes, like this one, are very important for wildlife like this Arizona Gray Squirrel during the month of June
During the first weeks of June, I lose my sense of purpose.  I find projects that force me to stay birding.  Over the past week, I've learned to sleep a little more and bird when I could. 

This pic from a local Arivaca Cafe caught my attention and I got lost in the image
On one project, this was personal, I went to check up on nesting Gray Hawks at the Empire Ranch in the grasslands.  Last year, an off duty border patrol agent was target practicing during the driest month of the year (with an explosive target of all things!) and admitted to starting a major fire that swept miles across the grassland burning several structures. Thankfully no one was hurt, but it did have an affect on riparian corridor bird species. It also destroyed some historic Arizona Cottonwoods that people had come to love.  The nesting Gray and Zone-tailed Hawks were not seen in their usual spots last year. The White-tailed Kites moved location. So I did a follow up.

Wildflowers love the sun and add a lovely splash of color along pounds or founds.  They also are a source of food for hummingbirds and insects like butterflies and bees
The good news?  The Gray Hawks were back in the remaining living patches of the riparian area of the Empire Gulch.  I did not detect the Zone-tailed Hawks, but we didn't explore that sector of the grasslands due to the heat.  The sun and heat were much too strong to be outside for long. At 107 degrees, we have to be careful. It always begs the question, how does the wildlife do it?

Wildlife aficionados around the Tucson area help out Mother Nature by placing fountains and other water sources out for their critters.  In this harshest of months, the wildlife and native vegetation are put to the test.  

I would have missed this night blooming cacti flower had I not gotten up early enough.  In the morning, the flower closes up. 
We are currently suffering drought conditions around the state which stresses out the wildlife even more.  So anything we can do to help can make a difference to their survival. So my 2nd project has been my gardens. 

The Mediterranean House Gecko enjoys the warm summer nights around lights as bugs like moths are drawn to the lights
Every night, I go out to my bird feeders and water stations and refill them for the morning's flurry of activity.  There I sit watching all my wonderful critters in Midtown Tucson go crazy.  So while I can't bird long hours like in the fall, winter or spring, I can enjoy my backyard for birding. 

The sun is bright and strong.  The heat is unbearable.  Humans exist within their a/c run structures.  The curtains are drawn to reflect the sun and heat from outside.  For wildlife, they stay near the few water sources that exist.  Most cling to the shade or their burrows during the day.  At night, humans and other mammals leave their homes for a walk or an outdoor dinner event.  We here in Tucson turn into vampires at night(minus the blood sucking).  

Arizona Song Sparrow or what some call the Desert Song Sparrow

It never hurts to ask. I was bored.  There was a golf course in Tucson that had a body of water.  I walked to the visitor center and heard lots of bird song, but I turned around and got back into my car.  Then I said to myself "screw it".  I drove all the way there and for what? To turn around and drive home? Heck no. So I went to the front desk and asked to see their pond.  The owner looked at me weird and eyed my camera wearily.  In fact, I've noticed over the last several weeks that people have been hypersensitive about the camera.  One lady even told me that my camera looked like a gun.  So I have become sensitive to my public presence. I don't want to scare people (even though some would say that it's my right to carry a concealed weapon).  The thing is that it's just a big and heavy scary looking camera:)  But I think it's good that the public is noticing. 

The hidden pond of Roger Enke Golf Course

 Anyhow, the manager looked at me strangely and I smiled and told him I was doing a bird count in the area and wondered if I could check the pond.  I reassured him that I'd stay out of the way of the golfers and then he told me, "No problem." So it never hurts to ask.

Round-tailed Ground Squirrels are active in the shade
I was able to collect nesting and breeding data from the golf course and I was thankful for the opportunity.  

Neotropic Cormorants are found around our local watering holes in Tucson
Then it was back to Reid Park for my weekly bird check.  I try to monitor the park once a week for a count.  It's close to home.  

While we both are researching, our cats love to "help out". Typing can be a real challenge.  And if I'm not watching carefully, they'll do some typing for me!

Band-tailed Pigeon!  This year has been a good year for them!
The Elegant Trogon survey, with Tucson Audubon, is happening right now.  Jennie MacFarland is leading the efforts to help keep tabs on our trogons in Southern Arizona.  She asked if I would be interested and I said yes:)

The lovely sanctuary known as Ramsey Canyon
The mornings are still nice in some areas like around the foothills of our mountains.  They didn't have anyone to survey Ramsey Canyon so I jumped at the chance.  For the first time, I was able to bird Ramsey Canyon alone without all the walking and talking people.  

Common Ground-Dove

It was pretty magical and it was the largest count I've ever had in that area without all the people around.  So it goes to show that human activity does have an affect on wildlife.  Also it helped birding early.  Here in Southern Arizona, bird numbers and activity are highest between the hours of 4 AM until 8 AM.  Yeah.  It's early. Miss that window and you'll have to wait until 5 PM for everything to sort of pick up again.  

The interior sub-species of White-breasted Nuthatch
Creating these projects, whether they be with organizations or personal, are important contributions for your communities and your own bird data.  It's fun and forces one to get out and keep birding in the worst of conditions:)

Western Wood-Pewee

Go early.  Freeze water bottles the night before to stay cool. Or if you have a water cooler, pack it with ice.  It will melt:) Stay shaded as often as you can.  Wear sun protections like a hat or sunscreen.  A lot of birds are on nests right now and it's pretty exciting to see.  

The Red-shafted Northern Flicker

For Arizona birders, June is often the month to travel to other worlds.  I'll be flying out soon.  But for now, it's house chores and travel prep.  

For my surveys, click on the "here". 
For the Gray Hawks at Las Cienegas, click here.
For the Trogon Survey at Ramsey Canyon, click here.
For my weekly patch count at Reid Park, click here.
Until next time....

Bullock's Oriole


  1. Glad the fire was put out quickly! So sorry about the drought...hopefully the monsoons will be good this year. Loved the night-blooming cactus! Lovely shots! Hope you have a good summer.

  2. Stunning photos as always and good news about the Gray Hawks. I don't think I could stand the heat you experience over there! It sounds SO hot!

  3. I am most vigilant about filling water containers every morning for birds, squirrels, deer, javelina, and whoever else I'm not seeing. Word is there's two bears in the area. The seed intake has slowed down a bit while I'm going through sugar like crazy.


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