Archivos de diario de noviembre 2015

27 de noviembre de 2015

Trip Highlights: Southern Arizona November 2015

This is the story of how I reached my 500th life bird. (Plus one more.)

Mid-day on Sunday, November 22, my friend and fellow birder Ed Stonick picked me up at my house in La Crescenta, California to embark on a short trip, but my first, to the birding mecca that is southern Arizona. Along the way, we stopped in Fallbrook, in San Diego County, to pick up the third member of our party, Bill Moramarco. We arrived at our hotel in Sierra Vista at nearly midnight Arizona time, yet we would still be up before dawn the next day to seek out all the birds we could.

We began the morning of Monday, November 23 by first getting our required passes to enter the military base of Fort Huachuca, wherein Huachuca Canyon and its birding treasures awaited. Luckily this didn't take long, and we were out in the oak, sycamore, and pine-covered foothills of the canyon around 8:00 AM. Our priority was the first picnic area up the canyon, where an ABA Code 5 (i.e., a mega-rarity in the USA/Canada) Sinaloa Wren had been present since 2013. Sure enough, said wren became my first lifer (#495) of the trip, although for Ed the wren was a milestone of much greater magnitude (#700), likewise for Bill (#625); it was the only bird on the trip to be a lifer for all three of us. A mother and doe White-tailed Deer were also in the vicinity of the wren. Traveling up the canyon, I added 3 more lifers, all common specialties of the southeastern Arizona "sky islands": Bridled Titmouse, Mexican Jay, and Arizona Woodpecker. At mile 1.7, the end of the road, we ran into local birders Alan and Ann Miller, along with a pair of Arizona Gray Squirrels in the trees, but then, in one of the damndest moments of the trip, I discovered a brilliant male Rose-breasted Grosbeak (normally a bird of the eastern USA) as it flew into the trees not far from our group. On our return drive back down the canyon, we looked again for the Sinaloa Wren, with no luck.

That afternoon, we headed to several of the canyons further south, starting with Ramsey Canyon and its namesake Preserve, owned by The Nature Conservancy. Ostensibly, the plan had been to look for the Tufted Flycatchers some distance up the canyon, but these birds (the USA's first nesting record) had not been seen for over a month, so our walk was cut short. Nevertheless, we saw some good birds at Ramsey, including a Painted Redstart and, flying high in the trees between the Preserve visitor center and the Inn, a female Magnificent Hummingbird, which ended up being lifer #499 for me. On the way out of the canyon and back towards the main highway, we stopped in the desert-grassland habitat to search for one of my most-wanted species, Scaled Quail; alas, we found none, but we saw lots of other good birds there (Greater Roadrunner, Pyrrhuloxia, and Arizona's state bird, the Cactus Wren).

By now it was late afternoon, and I was only one bird away from #500. Continuing southward, our next stop was Miller Canyon and Beatty's Guest Ranch. Bill, Ed and I had considered ascending the canyon to look for the local Spotted Owls we knew were there, but we were all tired and would likely not have done so if Tom Beatty had not offered to show us the owls himself. We'd only traveled a short distance from the ranch when I chanced upon a pair of juncos hanging out on some rocks at the side of the trail; one was a "Gray-headed" Dark-eyed Junco, which I'd already seen plenty of, but the other was a Yellow-eyed Junco, my lifer #500! Unfortunately, no one else got a look at the Yellow-eyed, nor could I get a photo of my milestone bird, but the important thing was that I'd gotten there. With neither fellow observers nor photos to substantiate it, the sighting was almost anti-climactic.

A short while later, we saw the "Mexican" Spotted Owls 0.7 miles up the canyon, as we'd hoped for, and make no mistake, it was a great finish to a great day's birding, but those owls will always stand in the shadow of a little junco to me.

Did I mention we still had another full day in Arizona? Because we did. We checked out early from our Sierra Vista hotel on Tuesday, November 24, so as to get to Ajo, 3.5 hours to the west, at a reasonable hour, but "noon-ish", not the best time of day for birding, ended up being that hour. Eager to bird while the day was still young and thus checking the local rare bird alerts, Bill, Ed and I decided to stop at Sweetwater Wetlands, right along the interstate just north of Tucson, where a number of rarities (Brown Thrasher, Black-and-white Warbler, Baltimore Oriole, a late Greater Pewee) had been reported in the past few days. We missed the warbler by a hair, and completely dipped on everything else as well, but we at least got to add a number of waterbirds to our trip list, otherwise full mostly of woodland and desert birds. Between Gila Bend and Ajo on AZ-85 in Maricopa County, we saw a Prairie Falcon fly off a telephone pole, which was Arizona bird #300 for Bill. By the time we arrived in Ajo at mid-day, our focus was clear: find a Rufous-backed Robin anywhere they had been reported. The previous day, a birder had seen this annual rarity from Mexico in a yard at the Gibson Neighborhood Park's northwestern corner, so that was our first and main location within town. No robin, but a pair of Harris's Hawks put on a nice show. After an hour, we left that park to search two other nearby spots: the Ajo Community Golf Course (where the Rufous-backed had been seen) and Bud Walker Park (where a Spague's Pipit and Painted Bunting had been seen). Again, no Rufous-backed Robin (there were a few Americans), but we did see a ridiculous number of Gila Woodpeckers at the golf course and a male Vermilion Flycatcher at Bud Walker. We spent the remainder of the afternoon, another two hours, at Gibson Park, hoping the robin would show up at some point. It didn't, but as some compensation, we found females of both a Purple Finch (rare in Arizona) and Northern Cardinal, among other goodies. Leaving Ajo with minutes left of daylight, we stopped along the roadside north of town so I could check the Saguaros for Gilded Flickers, another potential lifer that I ended up not seeing. We arrived at our hotel in Yuma at about 7:30 PM.

Bill had to be home by 1:00 PM on Wednesday, November 25, but luckily Arizona was an hour ahead of California, which meant we could get some birding in at dawn in Yuma before we had to leave. Using Henry Detwiler's Yuma County birding book as a reference, we spent some time at the Yuma West Wetlands along the Colorado River right in town, and eventually we found our target: Crissal Thrasher, a lifer (#501) for me, my 7th and last of the trip. Including both lifers and otherwise, I'd added 84 birds to my Arizona list from November 23-25, bringing my state list up from 26 to 110 species, making it my fourth state list to cross the 100-species threshold (after CA, TX and OR) and also my fourth-highest state list in general. When we finally - after enduring some rough traffic that made us miss the deadline by a half hour - arrived at Bill's house in Fallbrook that day, a trio of Acorn Woodpeckers appeared in the palm tree across the street, which were a new addition (#109, #105 native) to my San Diego County list in California, serving as a welcome conclusion to a fantastic trip.

Ingresado el 27 de noviembre de 2015 por john8 john8 | 39 observaciones | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

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