Sunday, December 2, 2018

The Shores of the Santa Rita Mountains

Red-tailed Hawk
If the Santa Ritas Mountains are part of the sky islands of Southern Arizona, then the surrounding habitat would be considered the "shore" followed by a sea of grassland.  I love the Santa Rita Mountains, but I love the habitat that surrounds this mountain just slightly more.  


Particularly the grasslands. And specifically, the winter grasslands.  This is a special time of year when beautiful wintering grassland species show up.  And sometimes, a special visitor, or two, shows up for several months. 

The Gray Ghost, or male Northern Harrier, flies over the Cienegas Grasslands
Between numerous Northern Harriers and different morphs and subspecies of Red-tailed Hawks.......


a rare Rough-legged Hawk
And among the countless meadowlarks, sparrows and longspurs, hide a few goodies like the Baird's Sparrow, Short-eared Owl and sometimes.....a Rough-legged Hawk.  Southern Arizona can be hit or miss with this species each year.  But this year, there were TWO in the same general area of Sonoita flying between Santa Cruz and Pima counties. Friendly Pima birder man, Brian Nicholson found one of them hanging out on Pima county lands. 


There were several birders there who needed this lifer.  The road was busy and tricky.  Every bird was a Rough-legged Hawk until it wasn't.  Northern Harriers.  So I clued them in on the behaviors of the bird.  "Look for kiting".  It's either a White-tailed Kite or not.  And if it's not, it's the Rough-legged Hawk.  As a sign from the bird gods, a hawk flew over our heads and began to hover and kite for all to see.  Then off it went up into the thermals far far away from us over into Pima County lands. 

Black Phoebe
With one mission complete, I stopped at the iconic Sonoita gas station to purchase yet another pair of sun glasses.  I lose them all the time.  

A classic and scenic gas station in Sonoita makes for a great meeting place
Then it was off to Patagonia for some relaxing birding.  This weekend was a "just me" weekend but it didn't turn out that way. It's good to be connected to the community and I enjoyed the company. There was lots of talking and meeting new people.  It's easy to do when people have the bird spark. The teacher gene is like a magnet to people and I like it because people are really interested in the habitat and birds. If I don't have anything going on, I take the time and get to know the people on the trails if they are interested in conversation.  Sometimes, I disappear into obscure places but since this rare hawk attracted all the chasers, I waited a bit for them to see the hawk and disappear.  They like to tick birds off the list and are very competitive with each other. I don't like it. So I waited. The afternoon crowd is more my style.  They want to observe behaviors and enjoy longer sustained looks at the raptors in the area. While they were there for the Rough-legged Hawk; they were also there to explore and see some cool stuff.  And that's a beautiful thing. 

A Sharp-shinned Hawk
I went to Patagonia to finish off my day in the most beautiful weather ever.  I thought I'd have alone time there, but there was a birder who asked for help ID'ing a vireo.  It was a Hutton's.  While there, we had a rare appearance of a Chihuahan Raven.  Over the years, I've gotten really good with this species.  They are not common in Patagonia, but a few do show up from time to time.  Their vocalizations are different from that of the Common Raven and when they call, it's an ID snap.  If they don't call, it can be SUPER tricky.  Thankfully most ravens are talkative in flight.  The high "haw haw haw" of the bird stood out among all the Common Ravens.  I had a birder play the call to learn the call.  The raven responded and flew near us on top of an Aleppo Pine.  Total bird nerds geeking out.  

Cedar Waxwing
I am enjoying this lull before things start picking up again.  We'll be traveling to the west coast this winter, Wales in March, a road trek with Gordon in April, June with Ms. Kathie Brown in Wisconsin, July in New Zealand, Maine in October......and December, I've left open to be spontaneous.  Life is amazing and this is how it flies by so quickly! This blog is all about exploration and discovery. Until next time....

This weeks haul from the POWWOW in Tucson.  12 dollars for 70 pounds.  Much of this will be shared to other families. This program helps eliminate food waste on this planet.  We throw away such wonderful produce.  For 12 bucks every weekend, you are guaranteed fresh veggies every week.  And you're helping the planet.  And sharing helps spread the love.

15 comments:

  1. Loved seeing the birds of prey in your images and i see you have next year all mapped out. I could not find an email address for you on your blog and I wanted to send you a home made Christmas E Card now as I am going to Cape Town to be with all my family and as I will NOT have any internet i am now wishing you a happy Christmas an may 2019 be a healthy and peaceful one with good birding

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    1. Hello there! My email is rohrerbot@yahoo.com
      Happy holidays to you! Have fun in Cape Town. Looking forward to your pics!

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  2. Great set of photos. I do love the birds of prey. Hope that you have a good week, Diane

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  3. Hello, Chris. What a nice outing. The raptors sighted are all beautiful. Great photos. You are nice to help people id and find their birds. I have come across birders in my own state that will not even say hello, much less share a sighting. Happy birding. enjoy your day and new week!

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    1. Thank you! Well I have to say that we have them too. After reading this blog, one of them ended up dropping off of FB with me. She's a nice lady so I'm not sure what happened or what I wrote that offended her because we had a nice visit. Very strange. Sometimes it's easier communicating with birds:)

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  4. What an amazing array of birds Chris - it sounds like you had another wonderful weekend. You have some exciting trips planned for next year too :) Love all those vegetables in the last photo :)

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    1. The veggies are fun. I gave away 7 bags full of goodies to different families. I love veggies so much but even better is soup with those veggies:) I am looking forward to Great Britain. You have lots of wonderful birds there! And maybe I'll get to try some of that yummy dessert.

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  5. It's nice to get a birding visit from your interesting blog. The grey ghost shot over the grass is sweet! Enjoy your winter birding adventures. Mine will take me to Costa Rica for the 6th time.

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    1. Ooooo!!!! Love love love! Have fun and look forward to your pics and reads:)

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  6. Love all your discussions of the bird world! Have a great time and take care during all your travels.

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    1. Thank you Janice! Hope you are having a great week!

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  7. What a nice a blog. Big kisses from Turkei!

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  8. Those veggies look amazing and what a wonderful idea it is. Love all the birds and am in awe and, I must admit, envy of the great photos, especially the flight shots. Your travel plans are awe inspiring as well.

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