Revisiting Old Friends
This past week, after the onslaught of birders searching for the Eared Quetzal without any luck, they abandoned their hopeful searches and turned their eyes to our other specialties. It was mayhem. They still continue to search. And a few birders have reported a female now. So it's possible the Eared Quetzals are nesting somewhere on the mountain. Whatever the case, birders need to be aware that covid has spread among the community AND birders need to follow ethical protocols. There are times when some things should be kept secret, especially during their breeding season. Playback is terrible during this time of year and people should refrain from using it.
I was back in those old birding routes that every new hopeful birder visits. It was rather strange. With covid abound everywhere, I was forced to stay home during this very nasty time in Arizona. Many of us locals leave Arizona to go birding in cooler temps. Guides, generally, don't offer their services during this month due to nesting conditions and of course, that sweltering heat. Everything picks up again in July when our monsoon gets into full swing and bird life is ALIVE!
There are still windows of opportunity to bird. Early mornings are best. Evenings are second best. Afternoons are a no no unless you are at higher elevations but one of my favorite places to take people is currently on fire. And it's a tragedy. So many nesting birds gone, many of them warblers. Between crazy birders chasing that quetzal, covid closures and covid in general, the heat and the fires, it is a bit too much to take. I regulated my outings with my friend because I can't do those extreme chases anymore for an entire day. One of the days, I felt heat exhaustion coming on in the 104 degree temps. Yes, I wore sun screen, a hat and drank plenty of water, but there comes a point when your body just shuts down. Words get blurry, that little headache begins and birds become a second thought.
There were also flashbacks during our treks. A sadness that only one would know had they grown up as a birder with the people they once knew. Take for example the Lucifer's Hummingbird. Nearly every birder has gone to Mary Jo's Bed and Breakfast for their lifer Lucifer's Hummingbird. Mary Jo passed away a little over a year now. I haven't gone back because there are a lot of fond memories with that lady. But we went because it's the one reliable place for birders who like photography, such as myself, to observe the secretive Montezuma Quail and of course that very special hummingbird. Her place is now a sanctuary and it's still very special. But I sat and looked at her home where the volunteers stay now. And it was a different experience. The volunteers were wonderful, but Mary Jo wasn't there. Or her African Gray Parrot.
I took a day off to just work on house stuff and hang out with my neighbors. On that day, a Least Tern showed up at Canoa Ranch. It was a fun and fast trek to see the bird fly over the waters there. The following day, we went to search for some difficult birds. You have to prioritize your birds. So you choose your targets carefully. Sometimes you spend an entire morning on ONE bird. And that's what we did. Anything after that window is a gift. We achieved our targeted goals. We stopped at another great birdy area, the Holy Trinity Monastery. Another formerly owned Catholic property and magnet for incredible birds like the Gray Hawk, Mississippi Kite, Tropical Kingbirds and other special birds. But on the day we went there, the place looked unkept. The shop was closed. The pond was overgrown with algae. Broke my heart. I sat in the meditation garden and noticed several of the wonderful shady trees were gone.
During our travels, we noticed Lesser Nighthawks hunting in broad daylight. 'Tis the season for feeding babies. Normally these birds are only seen at dawn or dusk and at night around lights catching bugs.
There are several birds in Arizona that are well protected and kept secret. However, those secrets get leaked and then coordinates appear. Such is the case with the Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl, a very sensitive species in AZ. The species is another Holy Grail for birders, ABA'ers, state listers, county listers, etc. There are few spots in the US that you can see them. Texas is the best place for them. Arizona has many but they are located in VERY difficult access places far away from civilization. The best place for these owls is still Organ Pipe National Monument in a VERY accessible place. And that's all I will say:)
I think the most exciting part of our journeys came from observing all three quail species. It was a lot of fun revisiting these old sites for some great birds. Currently my plans are on hold. As we see a spike in covid around the country, it has once again messed with travel plans. Testing in this country is a joke. I'll leave it at that.
Stay cool everyone. And stay safe! Until next time....
|juvenile Gambel's Quail|
Wonderful images, Chris. My only encounter with the Montezuma Quail was years ago in the Davis Mountains of SW Texas. Unforgettable! I share your concerns about the dangers of heat exhaustion. I remember when RT Peterson wrote a column in which he expressed sadness about not being able to spend as much time as he wanted in SE Arizona because of his intolerance to the heat. I think his final illness was a stroke which may have been related to heat stress.ReplyDelete
Hi there! Heat stress is nothing to play with. So many birders come in June, which is one of the worst times to visit to find birds and they ask if we'd like to join them. Most of us won't unless it's at higher elevations or from the car. Or in a shady area. I guess it's comparable to birding the midwest in subzero conditions....although I kind of like that birding:) Stay safe my friendDelete
A terrific series of shots! Love that hummer.ReplyDelete
I enjoy reading your birding reports. It is sad to hear how some birders are behaving. I am glad you learned to take care in the extreme heat. Your birds and photos are just awesome. Take care! Have a great day!
Hi Eileen! You do the same. It's crazy out there. All birding plans are on hold for the next several weeks as we both battle covid. So far we are on week 1 and it's nasty stuff. Yell at anyone who refuses to social distance! If you have a water balloon, throw one at them. Be safe. This covid virus is no joke.Delete
So many interesting birds in your area. The photos are stunning. The Lucifer hummingbird is a beauty but the tufted quail is my favourite. Love the topknot. Another round of patience as covid rears it's ugly head again. Bird safely.ReplyDelete
These are stunning birds. It's a shame that thing have changed so drastically, but it's a part of life--sad, though it may be. I do hope the birds are kept safe from humans.ReplyDelete
'My Corner of the World' is happy to see you this week! Thanks for linking.
Glad you can get out sometimes. It's rather strange being in the park with visitors. I've yet to see the owls at Organ Pipe, maybe next winter. Be well, stay safe.ReplyDelete
We can't anymore. We got it Gaelyn. I don't know how but we did after doing all the right things. We still couldn't control the anti maskers out there which makes me angry. I really do not like this country right now. For now, we are focusing on getting better. There are good days and bad ones. I am having a good one but Micheal is not. Anyone who refuses to wear a mask, push them off a cliff. I won't say anything:)Delete
Your images are stunning and so beautiful. Stay safe and well and take care during these worrying times.ReplyDelete
It's too late for me and my other half. We have contracted the disease. I don't know how but we did. It's not good here in the US, but it's even worse in Arizona. We have been self isolating for months! And when I went out it was for need only. Plus I wore and mask and washed my hands everywhere I went. And yet, there were those who refused to wear a mask and now it's done. We've been at home for over a week with symptoms coming and going. We finally had a test yesterday after a week of trying to get one. Our country is a huge embarrassment and I wish I was never born here. Sometimes I wish I lived in Canada or Mexico. Be well and be safe.Delete
Very nice post - often birding is as much about people as it is birds. (Well, for me anyway!) And birding in the heat? Just not fun.ReplyDelete
Hope all is well - Stewart M - Melbourne