Sunday, May 23, 2010
Another Fine Day of Birding in Arizona
I began today at 5 AM driving down to Florida canyon for my 3rd try this week, and 5th time this year, to locate the rufous-capped warbler. I stopped enroute to look for some rufous-winged sparrows and found them singing away. I had barely started walking up the trail into Florida canyon when I ran into 2 other birders--a local woman, and a guy who lives near Cape May, NJ. So we hiked up together.
There is a small dam that you have to climb around in order to get up to the area where the warbler nested last year. The woman had seen the bird before, so she waited at the dam. I led the NJ birder up, and as we approached the nesting zone we distinctly heard the bird calling. As we rounded the bend there it was sitting on a prickly pear cactus. Imagine my exhiliration after so many tries.
I walked back down to tell the woman. We chatted a few minutes when the NJ birder came down to say that several varied buntings had also shown up. The local woman wanted to see them, as did I, so we all hiked back up. Not only did we see the varied buntings, but also 2 indigo buntings, and had more views of the warbler. Both birds are new year birds. Also, it was very good for my overall big year scheduling process to find them now rather than having to look for them later in the summer.
About 8 AM we all hiked back down to our vehicles and drove on up to Madera canyon to see what was around. We heard the buff-breasted flycatcher calling. We looked and listened for the black-capped gnatcatcher. While I am not as familiar with this bird as some others, I thought I heard one calling, and flushed a bird that could have been one. I ran into a group of birders I had met in Miller canyon, and we all looked in the area where I thought the black-capped might be, but came up empty. Since I was not fully satisfied with the look of the bird I flushed, or absolutely certain that it was a black-capped calling, I am not adding it to the year list.
The 2 photos above I chose for today because they are common birds in the summer here in SE Arizona. The top photo is of the black-headed grosbeak, and the bottom one is of a western kingbird. The cassin's kingbird also is in SE AZ, and at first glance it looks very similar to the western kingbird. One of the key marks to look for is that the tail of the western has light outer tail feathers (check photo). A cassin's has a light band at the end of the tail. Tropical kingbirds which also are here have uniformly brown tail feathers. They all have gray heads, brown backs and wings, and yellow bellies. Of course their calls are all different.
On my way back into Tucson I drove thru the Saguaro NP trying to see a gilded flicker, but only found gila woodpeckers. So today I am thru birding earlier than normal. The weekly count is now up to 84 birds with 2 new year birds making the YTD number 590. Tomorrow I will bird in the morning before catching my flight back to North Carolina. Stay tuned!