Saturday, April 5, 2014

...97, 98, 99...

When I woke this morning at 5:00am, the first thing I did was look outside to see what the wind was doing; it seemed to have subsided, and so the prospect of good birding loomed. I departed the hotel at 5:20am and immediately went to San Pedro House (right after Starbucks) at SPRCA. I arrived there at 6:10am, and it was quite light; the gate was closed and the sign read "open from dawn to dusk". As far as I was concerned it was dawn, so in I went, leaving the car parked next to the highway. It was a very crisp morning, registering at 1 degree Celsius and not a breathe of wind.

First bird of the day was Mourning Dove, followed quickly after by Loggerhead Shrike, House Finch and Ash-throated Flycatcher. Near the feeders, a flock of 80 Red-winged Blackbirds came in for seed, and in smaller numbers there was Rufous Hummingbird, Broad-billed Hummingbird, Black-chinned Hummingbird, and Ladder-backed Woodpecker. Beyond the visitor centre, I made my way along the grassland trail that led to one of two ponds in the area. Among the grasslands was Northern Harrier, Vermillion Flycatcher, Green-tailed Towhee, and innumerable sparrows including Chipping, White-crowned, Brewer's, Vesper, Lincoln's, and Lark. At the first wetland was a good tally of species including Yellow Warbler, American Coot, Pied-billed Grebe, Great Blue Heron, Song Sparrow, Common Yellowthroat, and others. At the second wetland I added Belted Kingfisher, Marsh Wren, Hammond's Flycatcher, Lucy's Warbler, and Northern rough-winged Swallow.

After a productive two hours of birding, I slowly made my way back to the car via the cottonwoods trail. Here I added White-throated Sparrow, Curve-billed Thrasher, Yellow-rumped Warbler, and Gambel's Quail. Once back at the car, it was still relatively early at just 9:15am and the temperature was still relatively cool. I therefore decided to visit Ramsay Canyon, about 20 minutes away. Upon arrival the parking lot was packed, although I did manage to quite literally squeeze into what, at least in part, could be considered a designated parking stall. Ramsay Canyon had changed a lot since I was last here nearly 20 years ago; the part that changed was the nature house and feeder setup. I think it was a lot better 20 years ago; the feeders were nearly unattended by hummingbirds, and the trails were much more manicured than they once were. Despite the changes, I hiked about a half-mile up the canyon to see if the bird activity was good, and generally it wasn't. Highlights included Painted Redstart, Golden Eagle, Hutton's Vireo, and Hepatic Tanager. Back at the visitor centre I bought a new hat to support the Nature Conservancy, and then on a local tip, headed to Ash Canyon B&B where I was told that a Lucifer Hummingbird had been showing up at the feeders.

Ash Canyon B&B was about a 20 minute drive away, and upon arrival it was evident that a lot of birders had come with the hopes of seeing the rare hummingbird. I spent about an hour there, chatting to a retired math teacher from California, and had no luck. I did manage to add Scott's Oriole to the trip list, so that was cool. There were also three very chubby yarrow spiny lizards walking up the wall of the B&B; so fun to see. After departing Ash Canyon, I now had the relatively long drive toward Douglas. I was going to go directly there, but after browsing the birder's guide a bit, I decided to make a circuit to Whitewater Draw, Elfrida, and through Rucker Canyon. Still, the temperature wasn't cooking and bird activity seemed to be holding steady.

Whitewater Draw turned out to be quite a little gem amidst the baked desert sandscape. On approach I spotted a pair of Ferruginous Hawks, but the great birds were in the ponds themselves. At the parking area was flycatcher central: a single Western Kingbird, a Cassin's Kingbird, a Black Phoebe, a pair of Vermillion Flycatchers, and a Say's Phoebe. On the water were several new trip-list additions, including Glossy Ibis, Solitary Sandpiper, Blue-winged Teal, Canada Goose, Greater Yellowlegs, Cliff Swallow, and American Pipit.

After Whitewater Draw I worked the various back roads toward Elfrida, a small town just north, south, east, and west of nowhere. Birds didn't seem to mind though, as I added Eastern Meadowlark, Prairie Falcon, Swainson's Hawk, Horned Lark, and Greater Roadrunner to the day's list. Beyond Elfrida I decided to go through Rucker Canyon. The wind was finally starting to pick up, and so too was the temperature - it was 2:30pm. The road through Rucker Canyon was very nice and scenic. I think birding would have been good here early in the morning, but wherever I stopped it was complete silence. I added very few species to the day list along Rucker Canyon road, despite it being nearly 40 miles long. I did get 8 Wild Turkey standing on the road (mmm, now I'm hungry), and the last new bird of the day was Townsend's Solitaire.

The long lonely drive back to Douglas was not as lonely as I would have liked. At about 20 miles north of Douglas I was pulled over by state police for speeding...ooops. He asked if I knew why I was pulled over and of course I said I did. But he wanted to hear me say I said speeding. He then asked if I knew what the speed limit was, and how fast I was going. I said 55 (correct) and 70 (incorrect); apparently I was going 84...double oops. He then spent about 10 minutes at his car doing whatever it is they do at there car when they've pulled someone over. During that time one of his colleagues joined the party, and when he heard I was from Canada he reacted completely stunned. Finally, the office returned and let me off with a verbal warning, then warned me of the drug smuggling and illegal immigrants that are rampant in the area. I have no doubt that the verbal warning was entirely due to my stunningly good looks and pleasant demeanor. The downside to the entire incident was that I didn't add a single new bird for the trip.

I arrived in Douglas at 5:30pm, had a quick shower and some dinner, and hit the hay by 8:00pm. Tomorrow I was getting up 4:30am so that I could be in Portal by sunrise. Therefore, I didn't even realize until two days later that my tally of species for today was my best yet...101 species! Wild Turkey was number 100, and Townsend's Solitaire was 101. Yippee!!!

Total Species for the Day: 101
Total Species for the Trip: 159
Total Lifers for the Day: 0
Total Lifers for the Trip: 2

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