Monday, April 23, 2012

Arizona trip continued

Broad-billed Hummingbird on nest

I just returned from a weeklong trip out to Arizona spending time around Tucson.  Yet another successful and interesting trip out west.  The total for the trip included a total of 155 species of birds, 17 new species in Arizona (total now at 205 for the state) and two life birds: Black-capped Gnatcatcher and Flammulated Owl.

Lucy's Warbler, Tucson, AZ, April 7, 2012

Curve-billed Thrasher, Tucson, AZ, April 8, 2012

Hooded Oriole males fighting in front of female, Tucson, April 7, 2012 (taken through window)
Black-tailed Gnatcatcher, Saguaro NP, April 8, 2012
Black and White Warbler, Tanque Verde Wash, Tucson, AZ, April 8, 2012

Cassin's Vireo, Tanque Verde Wash, Tucson, AZ, April 8, 2012
The first full day in Arizona I spent by making a predawn trip up to Mount Lemmon to try for some owls and nightjars.   I made it up as far as Rose Canyon and had Great Horned Owls, Whiskered Screech Owls and Common Poorwills.  I spent a little time around Rose Canyon looking for upper elevation birds before escaping the hordes of people out for their early morning Easter outings.  I made my way back down the mountain to Tanque Verde Wash and spent a couple hours there.  Highlights included a pair of Harris Hawks, Gray Hawks and a variety of migrant passerines including an unusual Black and White Warbler.  After mid morning I made it back to the rental house and then we headed out to explore the east unit of Saguaro National Park before it got too hot.  By midday the temperatures had reached around 90 so we headed back to find some shade.
Cinnamon Teal, Patagonia Lake SP, April 9, 2012

Rufous Hummingbird, Paton's yard, Patagonia, AZ, April 9, 2012

Violet-crowned Hummingbird, Paton's yard, Patagonia, AZ, April 9, 2012
Vermilion Flycatcher nest, Patagonia Lake SP, April 9, 2012
On April 9th we took a trip down to Patagonia Lake State Park to try and catch up with a reported Black-capped Gnatcatcher that has been seen along one of the washes there.  We arrived a little before 7:30 and headed out on the trail around the pond.  The pond held a variety of waterfowl including a flock of 13 Lesser Scaup with a male Redhead in among them plus a couple Eared Grebes, Cinnamon and Green-winged Teal, Mallards and loads of American Coots.  The trail along the lake with its various washes were quite active and we found a couple Vermilion Flycatcher nests, many migrant birds working through the trees and after a bit of looking, a vocal Black-capped Gnatcatcher which provided my first life bird of the trip.  After a few hours at Patagonia Lake we headed to Patagonia-Sonoita Creek Preserve which we quickly discovered to our dismay was closed for the day.  I didn’t check on it before hand so I couldn’t be too upset about it.  We quickly changed our plans and stopped at the famous Paton’s yard a little earlier than expected.  It has been years since I have been there and it was much as I remember it.  As usual the hummingbird (and other bird) show did not disappoint with numerous species constantly coming into the feeders including Violet-crowned (this is the most regular spot in the US for the species), Broad-billed, Black-chinned, Rufous, and Anna’s  Hummingbirds.  In addition there was a nice selection of other birds such as White-throated Sparrows, Lazuli Buntings, Lark Sparrows, Great Egret and many others.  A truly special place that thankfully remains open to the public.  After an hour plus of watching the activity we headed back north stopping at one of the local wineries before heading back to Tucson.

Cooper's Hawk with nest material, Sweetwater Wetlands, April 10, 2012

Ruddy Duck, Sweetwater Wetlands, April 10, 2012

American Avocets, Sweetwater Wetlands, April 10, 2012

Northern Shovelers in flight, Sweetwater Wetlands, April 10, 2012
 The morning of our fourth day found us heading west through Tucson to the Sweetwater Wetlands area.  I got dropped off here and spent the entire morning exploring the various ponds, hedgerows and recharge basins.  As usual a great variety of birds were present with a great selection of waterfowl including Gadwall, 140+ Northern Shovelers, Pied-billed Grebe, Mallards, American Coots, Common Gallinule and Cinnamon, Blue-wined and Green-winged Teal.  The trees around the various ponds held some migrants but not as many warblers as I have had in the past.  The recharge basins were very active with Sora, American Avocet, Black-necked Stilts, Long-billed Dowitchers, a Solitary Sandpiper, peeps, White-faced Ibis, Great Blue Heron and a variety of swallow species including a Tree, Violet-green, Barn, Northern-rough winged and Bank.  I found quite a few birds here I have never had before in Arizona.  The temperature reached near 90 by midday as we headed back east.
Great Horned Owl nest with adult and two owlets, Tanque Verde Wash, April 9, 2012
Despite the heat I decided to take an afternoon walk along Tanque Verde wash and see what I might find.  There was not a lot of activity but still some birds moving around and vocalizing.  The surprise was a Great Horned Owl that called.  I eventually came across the nest high in a cottonwood.  There was an adult with two owlets in the nest.
Sunset from Mt Lemmon, April 9, 2012
In the evening we took a trip up Mount Lemmon as far as Windy Point to watch the sunset.  It is a beautiful spot to watch the sunset over the west end of the Catalina’s.  While waiting for the sun to set there were a pair of Peregrine Falcons that buzzed through the mountains as well as kiting Red-tailed Hawk and a Merlin that was heading north just after the sun had set.  Once it got dark we headed down to the Middle Bear picnic area where I had my second life bird of the trip, a Flammulated Owl.

On the 11th of April I stayed around the local area of the east end of Tucson visiting Aqua Caliente Park, Tanque Verde Wash and Saguaro National Park again.  By late morning it once again had gotten quite warm with temperatures near 90 and a strong wind blowing.   As usual Aqua Caliente Park was fairly birdy before crowds arrived but got quiet later on.  Not too much of note today bird wise.

Broad-billed Hummingbird, Florida Canyon, April 12, 2012

White-throated Swifts, Florida Canyon, April 12, 2012

Golden Eagle soaring distantly over hills, Florida Canyon, April 12, 2012
On April 12 we headed south to the Madera Canyon area to spend the night at the Chuparosa Inn.  Before heading into Madera Canyon we made a stop at Florida Canyon to try to find the Rufous-capped Warblers that have been seen in the area.  I was surprised to find the parking lot quite full when we arrived.  I ran across several birders along the trail and no one had any luck.  Unfortunately there were several photographers and birders present that had used tapes to try and lure the birds in but instead seem to have scared the birds off (or at least forced them to be silent).  Although strictly against the rules in this area and certainly unethical given the unusual nature of the bird in the United States it didn’t stop them.  I searched high and low for the bird but had no luck.  There were other nice birds in Florida Canyon including Rufous capped Sparrow, a high flying Golden Eagle, White-throated Swifts, various flycatchers, warblers and hummingbirds.  We next travelled into Madera Canyon proper taking various walks in the canyon on yet another warm and sunny day.  Stops included the Proctor road area, Madera Canyon picnic area, Santa Rita Lodge, Madera Kubo and eventually the Chuparosa Inn.  The evening produced a few owls around the Chuparosa Inn including Elf and Whiskered Screech Owls.

Painted Redstart, Madera Canyon, April 13, 2012

Scott's Oriole, Madera Canyon, April 13, 2012
I started my morning in Madera Canyon before dawn visiting various spots in the canyon from Proctor Road up through the Mt. Wrightson parking area.  I managed to find five species of owls including Great Horned, Western Screech, Whiskered Screech, Elf and Northern Pygmy Owls plus Mexican Whip-Poor-Wills and Common Poorwills before the sun rose.  The day started out at a frosty 38 degrees and eventually warmed into the 80’s.  After dawn I headed up the Carrie Nation trail up past the Vault Mine trail to look for Elegant Trogons.  I had at least two vocal individuals with one fairly low down the canyon but over the top of the ridge and the other about .25 miles past the intersection with the Vault Mine trail.  I never got a good look at the birds but they were quite vocal at times.  After coming back down canyon I walked a few other sections of the trail along Madera Creek and spent a few minutes checking the feeders at the Santa Rita Lodge and Madera Kubo before heading back to the Chuparosa Inn before checking out and heading back over the Florida Canyon to try my luck one more time.  I didn’t expect much given the fact it was early afternoon and had warmed up considerably.  No luck again with the warbler but there were still some birds out and about.  We then made the drive back north to Tucson.
The last day in Tucson dawned cloudy, cool and rainy.  I tried a walk at Saguaro NP but got rained out.  The temperature never made it out of the 40’s and it continued to be rainy and windy.  Oddly the weather back some was some 20 degrees warmer for the day so it made it a bit easier to leave and head home.

Additional photos from the trip can be found at my Flickr site.  I will continue to add more photos as I have time.  Here is the link to the site:


  1. Love your pics Larry. Sounds like you had an eventful time here in Tucson. There's always so much here to see. Glad you got a chance to see the birds. I still have yet to find a rufous hummingbird and several of the warblers....but I keep looking. And the owls....I only have 3 on the list so far this year. Lots of Great Horned Owls nesting...the owlets right now are plenty all over town....if you know where to look:) All my best. Chris

  2. Glad you like the pics. It was (as always) a good time out in southeast Arizona. The owls out there are just great...sometimes easy to hear but tough to see most of the time.

  3. Wonderful photos. i love Birding Arizona!

  4. Thanks...I love it too. The trips out there never disappoint.