Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Back to Back Red Letter Days

It seems almost unreal, but in just 48 hours I traveled from San Francisco to south Florida, then to SE Arizona, and I am now back in northern California having just checked into my motel for the nite. You have heard about Florida already, so this post is all about my quick stop in Tucson.

I left Miami at 6:30 this morning, taking 2 flights to get to Tucson by 10 AM. I made the 55 mile drive down to Patagonia in less than an hour to visit the Paton's. For birders, the Paton's has been one of the meccas of birding for many years. Its future is uncertain since Mrs. Paton died last year. For now it is still open to the public, and all the birds that like to visit its feeders. In particular, there are about a dozen sugar feeders which have for years been the one sure place to find a violet crowned hummer. On Sunday the rarely seen in the U.S. plain-capped starthroat (hummer) showed up at the feeders.

When I arrived today a woman was leaving having not seen the bird. She said it had come in at 8:45 but not since. When I got to the feeder area I found 2 birders with large cameras patiently waiting for the starthroat to return. Soon another birder arrived. We all kept scanning the feeders and about 11:15 the starthroat flew in to feed. It then flew up into a nearby tree and proceeded to preen for 20 minutes. The light was not the best, but the bird was very visible. The 2 photos above were the best I could get with my camera--remember to double click on the photos to make them larger. The bottom one also has what looks like a black-chinned hummer which you can see is much smaller than the starthroat.

I have never visited the Paton's in September and was thrilled to see the huge number of hummers that were at the feeders. The only place that compares to what I saw today is Beatty's over in Miller Canyon in the Huachucas. It was not uncommon to see 4 or 5 birds on a feeder. The hummers that I saw included black-chinned, broad-billed, Anna's, Costa's, violet crowned and the starthroat. One of the photographers said he saw as many as 8 different violet crowned.

I saw 17 more new birds for this week, and the starthroat is an ABA area lifer for me (I have seen it before in Sonora, Mexico). The YTD is now up to 678. Tomorrow I will be land birding here in California before starting a series of pelagic trips later this week. Stay tuned!

1 comment: