Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Arizona: Desert Delight

Today was not really about birding...ok, everyday is about birding, but instead of hiking lots of trails and travelling to multiple destinations, I spent the morning at the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum, and the afternoon in the Santa Catalina Mountains. I woke this morning at 5:30am and departed a little before 6:00am...straight to Starbucks.

I arrived at the museum at 6:45am, which didn't open until 7:30am. My early arrival was intentional, as my goal was to do some photography around the entrance. As predicted, there were excellent opportunities to photograph Cactus Wren and Gila Woodpecker. One of my target birds to photograph, White-winged Dove, was perched perfectly atop a saguaro cactus. As I began to approach it burst into flight...spooked by an annoying “amateur” photographer with a point-and-shoot; no White-winged Dover for me. Once inside the park I headed in the opposite direction of most other people, and straight to the aviary. Photography in the aviary generally isn’t very good, as the light is poor and the vegetation dense. I did manage to get some shots of White-winged Dove, but it’s not the same as w a wild bird.

Back on the trails I slowly trudged around the trails lugging my 30-lbs worth of camera gear. Not unexpectedly, most people felt compelled to make comments about my camera...with some speculating on just how “powerful” it must be...yes, I can see the moon with it...just as I can with the naked eye but at a slightly greater magnification! Near the “riparian zone” of the park I got some great shots of Gila woodpecker feeding on an ocotillo. Further around the park I got some good profile shots of bobcat, and shortly after that I got Curve-billed Thrasher perched on a saguaro – this was a bonus, as I hadn’t expected to get this one. By now the heat was turning up in the desert, and so I returned to the car and dumped my gear. I then did another circuit of the park to do some birding, but I didn’t add much to the list. I picked up a t-shirt for Amelia before I departed for the Santa Catalina’s.

From the desert museum I headed to Madera Canyon, a very well-known destination among the birding community and a place often in the top-ten places to go birding in the United States. I arrived at about 11:00am, and although temperatures were cooler in the canyon, the winds had picked up. I first spent a bit of time at the feeders to pick up Black-chinned Hummingbird, Mexican Jay, Magnificent Hummingbird, and Wild Turkey, among others. I then went for a walk down the main trail, and back up along the road. During the hike I picked up Townsend’s Warbler, White-breasted Nuthatch, Dusky-capped Flycatcher, Cordilleran Flycatcher, and Painted Redstart. Back at the feeders I added Acorn Woodpecker, Rufous Hummingbird, Sharp-shinned Hawk, and Broad-tailed Hummingbird.

From Madera Canyon I decided to pay a short visit to Florida Canyon, located about 8 miles away. This site has been home to recent sightings of Rufous-capped Warbler, so I thought I’d give it a try. After spending about two hours in the region, I had no luck. However, I did pick up a few new species for the trip list, including Rock Wren and Canyon Wren. A Rufous-crowned Sparrow also gave amazing views.

With only a couple hours left in the day I decided to take a quick trip up Chino Canyon. However, after travelling 45 minutes to the entrance gate, and 20 minutes along an extremely rough road only to realize I was only a quarter of the way there, I decided to head back. My one reward for the effort was a short-horned lizard that permitted excellent photos. I arrived at my hotel in Green Valley by 6:00pm and went for dinner at Manuel’s Mexican Restaurant...it was packed, but good.

Total Species for the Day: 42
Total Species for the Trip: 114
Total Lifers for the Day: 0
Total Lifers for the Trip: 2

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