Saturday, August 7, 2010

A Red Letter Day for the 1st Day of Week #32

On Wednesday a possible eared quetzal was reported in Miller Canyon down near Sierra Vista. But since no further reports were made I decided to return this morning to Montosa Canyon for one last attempt to get a better look at a black-capped gnatcatcher, and maybe even a photo. You may wonder why I kept going back. The answer is simple and is best explained by something a birder from Missouri said to me when we were both in South Dakota a couple of weeks ago to see the orange-billed nightingale-thrush. We had a few fly-by views of the bird, but we wanted better looks. Her comment was that the fly-by was a satisfactory look (meaning you had no doubt what the bird was), but it was not a satisfying look (meaning you could really study the bird and soak it up).

I spent another 2+ hours in Montosa, and most of the same birds from the past 2 mornings were still around. A couple from California that I met the evening before during the nightjar hunt came to bird there as well. They found a family of blue-gray gnatcatchers, but we again did not see or hear any black-capped. I finally packed it in and began my drive west towards southern California.

I am on my way to Elko, NV but had enough time to try for a 2nd time to see a ruddy ground dove in Wellton, AZ. I missed seeing it on Tuesday on my way over to AZ. Since this is the only known location currently of this very rare bird, it made sense to try again. I arrived just after 3 PM at the woman's house where it has been seen over the past few months. The top photo shows that the temp was 104. She told me that she had seen the dove 2 days ago, so I pulled up a yard chair and began my vigil in hopes that it would fly in. The heat was mitigated by a breeze, shade and the huge glass of ice tea that she gave me.

I proceeded to watch the comings and goings of her yard birds. The house sparrows and finches were everywhere. The eurasion collared and white-winged doves came and went. Western tanagers, black-headed grosbeaks, and a black phoebe were in and out as well. Black-chinned and broad-tailed hummers regularly came to eat sugar water or have aerial duels. A kestrel even dropped into the huge cottonwood tree at one point to see if it could find a meal.

The key was the inca doves. I only saw 1 last Tuesday morning, but this afternoon there were 3 that finally got used to my sitting there. They would fly in to get a drink at the drip bucket and then soon leave for awhile. I kept a close eye on them, and sure enough about 5 PM a beautiful ruddy ground dove came in right after the incas had settled down.

It was great to see the 2 doves side by side. The incas are very understated in comparison. The ruddy was ruddy on its body and wings, and it has an unpatterned whitish head and throat area, a gray bill and well defined dark markings on its wings. It took a drink of water and was off in less than 30 seconds. Since it was so warm, I decided to scram as well. I thanked the lady for her hospitality. On my way out I took a photo of the bat above.

Because it was early enough, I powered on into California and up to the Salton Sea. On my way into the southern part of the sea I found a total of 8 burrowing owls--more than I have ever seen at one time. I went to Obsidian Buttes to look for yellow-footed gulls. I had missed seeing them back in February. The first shore area I pulled into had several of them hanging about taking in the last rays of the day. There were also lots of other shorebirds and waterfowl in the area. I drove up the east side of the Salton Sea as the sun was setting. Hundreds of lesser nighthawks were cruising for bugs but I still had to spend 5 minutes cleaning bugs off my windshield.

For those who have been following this blog, you may be thinking today was a red letter day because the dove and gull are life birds for me since most of my red letter days this year have been when I have gotten a new life bird. It would be a good guess but wrong. Instead I think today is a red letter day because by seeing both of these birds today I have reduced the amount of travel I will need to do in the next few months because I won't have to make additional trips to find a very rare dove, and a gull that is only seen at the Salton Sea.

Week #32 begins with 44 birds seen, and the dove and gull raise the YTD total to 664. I am in Indio, CA for the nite and will be going to the Big Morongo Canyon Preserve early tomorrow to try for lawrence's goldfinch again before making the drive up to Elko. Stay tuned!

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