Sunday, October 11, 2009

Let's Get Down and Birdy

Cactus Wren on our TV antenna

On our way from Florence we stopped at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum outside Tucson. This was a tough day for Carol. When she got up in the morning most of her body went north but her back went south. One of us managed to walk through the museum grounds while the other rolled – in a wheelchair. Fortunately, by the next morning she was well on the mend. (Note: always make sure wheelchair tires are inflated – they roll much easier when inflated).

Since entering Arizona we’ve been finding and devoting much more time to birding. Finally! Understandably we were a bit late in the season for several species, which have already departed but we haven’t done too badly. It has helped that we’ve linked up with the Smiths who are like-minded birders. Four pairs of eyes (and ears) are better than two. Karen isn’t exactly an early morning person but when it comes to birding…

We arrived at the Mountain View RV Park on October 3 and departed on October 9. The Smiths arrived and departed from the Tombstone Territories RV Resort during the same time frame. The parks were about 15 minutes apart so we were able to get together every day to hit some of Southeast Arizona’s better-known birding destinations. Doubly nice that we were able to divide up driving responsibilities.

Areas we managed to bird included Miller Canyon (Beatty’s feeders), Ash Canyon B&B (Mary Jo Ballator’s), Ramsey Canyon (Ramsey Canyon Nature Conservancy Preserve), San Pedro Riparian Conservation Area (San Pedro House), Sierra Wastewater Wetlands, Patagonia (Paton’s), Madera Canyon (Santa Rita Lodge and the Madera Kubos feeders) and Fort Huachuca (Garden and Sawmill Canyons).

San Pedro Riparian Conservation Area

The last time Carol and I visited this area was ten years ago so there had been a few changes. And a few new places we had not been to before.


Our yard list is growing in leaps and bounds since our yard has become far more widespread! Gambel’s Quail, Eurasian Collared-Dove, Black-chinned and Rufous Hummingbirds, Gila, Ladder-backed, and Acorn Woodpeckers, Cactus and Bewick’s Wren, Curve-billed Thrasher, Canyon Towhee, Cassin’s Finch, Chihuahuan and Common Ravens, Lesser Goldfinch, and Inca Doves are just some of the species. Putting out feeders and a bit of water (when allowed) makes all the difference.

Acorn Woodpecker

Gambel's Quail

Owing to the time of year, areas that would have been hot a month and a half ago were now slow. Even in the desert southwest, bird species migrate south. Private property feeder locations in general like Beatty’s and Paton’s were way down in species numbers. (Speaking with someone at the Paton property, it sounds like the house and yard it will be up for sale - apparently the Paton children wish to sell). We did manage to snag the Sinaloa Wren that has been hanging out along Hwy 82 outside Patagonia. Santa Rita Lodge feeders were also slow but just up the road at the Madera Kudos the feeders were hopping (Berylline was the prize). The feeders at Mary Jo Ballater’s were hot – Lucifer Hummingbird was very much still present.

Ash Canyon B&B (Mary Jo Ballator's)

Overall we now have 11 hummingbird species. Not bad for this time of year: Broad-billed, Berylline, Violet-crowned, Blue-throated, Magnificent, Lucifer, Ruby-throated, Black-chinned, Anna’s, Broad-tailed, and Rufous. Warblers have pretty much gone save for Townsend’s and Black-throated Gray, a smattering of Orange-crowneds and scads of Audubon’s Yellow-rumps. Wow – we’d forgotten just how stunning the Audubon’s are!

Montezuma Quail

At Fort Huachuca, travel to the top of Garden Canyon seemed futile since most of the target birds were gone (mainly the flycatchers) but the drive to Sawmill Canyon turned out well. Driving through the fort we nearly ran over a covey of Montezuma Quail, which wound up running beneath the truck. A nemesis life bird for Tom no more. And something for you K-9 handlers reading the blog. Fort Huachuca had "Warning: This Area Patrolled By Military Working Dogs" signs which evoked a special reaction only a K-9 handler could fully appreciate. And then this link to Fort Huachuca.

Mexican Jay

Because our WI birding this year was severely limited while selling our house, our annual list is pretty meager. Still, we’ve managed to eke out 360 ABA species thus far. Conversely, the Smiths, owing to their trip to Alaska, are now over the annual ABA 500 mark. On the other hand, throw in our trip to Costa Rica and we’re well over 600 species for the year. We have to say it’s been FUN!

Red-naped Sapsucker

Currently we’re parked at Rusty’s RV Ranch in New Mexico along with the Smiths. This is very near Rodeo, NM and Portal, AZ. We’ll be here for seven nights to bird surrounding areas. We’ll no doubt be able to further expand our list.

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