Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Continuing Quest for #700 - Part 4

Today, Monday, August 31, the first destination was going to be Fort Huachuca in the Huachuca Mountains, for the first chance for Allen's 700th ABA species. After a two hour drive from Green Valley, the mountains came into view as we approached the city of Sierra Vista.
Huachuca Mountains, Arizona

We arrived at the security checkpoint for this military base just before 8 a.m., and unfortunately there were about 20 people ahead of us. Entry now requires getting a photo ID, and an on-site background check is conducted. It took us about an hour to get into the base and on to the birding, but at least they were giving out monthly ID passes. The southern portions, including Sawmill Canyon, were closed due to flood damage from last year, but luckily our target bird, Sinaloa Wren, was near the east end of Huachuca Canyon. It had been silent, or not in the area, most of the summer, but had started calling and singing a few days before. We waited about 45 minutes before we heard even a single rachet-like call. After another half-hour we heard a couple of songs. Then, after almost two hours the bird began scolding and made an appearance, along with a Bridled Titmouse, down in a dense tangle. It didn't cooperate for photos, but this lifer was also Allen's #700! About the only things that were cooperative for photos here were the butterflies.
Bordered Patch. Huachuca Canyon, Arizona

Southern Dogface. Huachuca Canyon, Arizona

Marine Blue. Huachuca Canyon, Arizona

The allure of the Huachucas are the canyons on their east slope, heading west into the higher elevations, with several of them providing great birding. Our next stop was Ramsey Canyon, where today's backup target bird was Tufted Flycatcher, which had nested earlier in the year about two miles up the canyon. It was raining when we arrived, so it was easy to pass on a 4-mile hike for a bird that we'd seen many times south of the border.
Ramsey Canyon, Arizona

We enjoyed the feeders for a while, and when our attention turned to the huge orb-weaving spiders (Araneae) under the eaves of the building, we decided to move on to another canyon where it wasn't raining, farther south at Ash Canyon.
Orb-weaving spider, Ramsey Canyon, Arizona

Ash Canyon, Arizona

The attraction here was the array of feeders, with good photo opportunities, providing a good way to spend an hour relaxing. The seed feeders had a number of interesting species, including two mainly terrestrial species, Rufous-crowned Sparrow and Canyon Towhee.
Canyon Towhee. Ash Canyon, Arizona

Rufous-crowned Sparrow. Ash Canyon, Arizona

A Ladder-backed Woodpecker was visiting a suet cake, and a small group of Mexican Jays paid us a visit as well.
Ladder-backed Woodpecker. Ash Canyon, Arizona

Mexican Jay. Ash Canyon, Arizona

Mexican Jay. Ash Canyon, Arizona

Of course, the highlight of the feeders here are the hummingbird feeders. Those toward the back of the property were frequented by the big one, Magnificent Hummingbird.
Magnificent Hummingbird. Ash Canyon, Arizona

And, at times, this particular canyon can be a reliable spot to see Lucifer Hummingbird in Arizona. This year must be a good one for them, as the photo below shows three different Lucifers (of at least 4 that were present) on the feeder at the same time.
Lucifer Hummingbirds. Ash Canyon, Arizona

There were some nice butterflies around too, including the Spicebush Swallowtail below.
Spicebush Swallowtail. Ash Canyon, Arizona

Our final destination of the day was going to be Miller Canyon, where there were again lots of hummingbirds, including possible White-eared, but we'd done that before in other years, and it looked like rain coming in the mountains, so we headed east into a drier area to San Pedro House. The feeders weren't too active, with two main species. A couple of Gila Woodpeckers were dominating the hummingbird feeders, feeding on nectar and also snapping the numerous bees out of the air if they got too close!
Gila Woodpecker. San Pedro House, Arizona

And the thistle feeders were covered with Lesser Goldfinches.
Lesser Goldfinch. San Pedro House, Arizona

The restroom building provided interesting non-bird subjects, including a grasshopper that is tentatively identified here, and a  lizard which is positively identified.
Two-striped Grasshopper (Melanoplus bivittatus)
San Pedro House, Arizona

Clark's Spiny Lizard (Sceloporus clarkii)
San Pedro House, Arizona

On Tuesday, September 1, we began our long departure for home, but with one more species on our target list, which was in the Phoenix area. On the way there, about half way between Tucson and Phoenix, is scenic Picacho Peak. We stopped briefly to enjoy the scenery.
Picacho Peak, Arizona

Picacho Peak, Arizona

Picacho Peak, Arizona

This was also almost our last chance to check out some of the many species of cactus in this part of Arizona.
Saguaro Cactus

Tree Cholla

Cane Cholla

Teddy-bear Cholla

Along the way, we found this Tree Lizard on the wall of a rest area restroom.
Tree Lizard (Urosaurusn ornatus)

Once we got into Phoenix, we had a bunch of places to try to see our target species, the introduced Rosy-faced Lovebird (formerly named Peach-faced Lovebird), which the ABA has recently added as a "countable" species. The best location was supposed to be Encanto Park, adjacent to the Encanto Golf Course. As luck would have it, thunderstorms that had rolled through the area the night before hit this area the hardest, with trees down, and lots of traffic lights out. Traffic was a nightmare, but once we got into the park, it was a pleasant walk, and not difficult to find the lovebirds, which seemed to prefer the palm trees.
Rosy-faced Lovebirds. Encanto Park, Arizona

Rosy-faced Lovebirds. Encanto Park, Arizona

Rosy-faced Lovebird. Encanto Park, Arizona

After ticking #701 in the ABA area, we headed out of Phoenix as quickly as possible. On the western side of town, in a suburb, we visited an area of reservoirs where there was a nice (but distant) breeding plumaged Sabine's Gull. Driving north to Flagstaff, we then headed east along I-40. A short distance east of there, we needed a place to stop and stretch, so went to Walnut Canyon National Monument, which had a few different birds than we'd been seeing in southeastern Arizona, and was an interesting area preserving cliff dwellings.
Walnut Canyon NM, Arizona

Walnut Canyon NM, Arizona
Walnut Canyon NM, Arizona
Walnut Canyon NM, Arizona
The next day, Wednesday, September 2, we drove through northern New Mestopped at the Quivira xico, driving through two excellent National Wildlife Refuges in the northeastern part of the state: Las Vegas NWR, and Maxwell NWR (click the names of these refuges to view our eBird checklists). There were lots of sparrows in both places, as well as lots of waterbirds. On Thursday, September 3, we did some birding in Colorado, at the John Martin Reservoir, then we headed east into Kansas. There, we stopped at the Quivira NWR. There were tons of shorebirds there, even though we found out at the headquarters that the bigger lake to the north had even more! Our  final day, Friday, September 4, was spent driving across Missouri, Illinois, and Indiana, with no specific birding stops.

So, now that Allen's ABA list is at 701 species (possibly to be 702 pending a Texas decision on the Striped Sparrow), what's next? Our birding adventures during 2015 have taken us to 27 states so far, all by car (we have not taken any flights anywhere). Allen's list for the Lower 48 states is now up to 685, so he needs "only" 15 more for 700 in the Lower 48...but that will surely take a few more years.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Continuing Quest for #700 - Part 3

Five-striped Sparrows have been breeding in southeastern Arizona for perhaps 50 years, and may now even be permanent residents according to some. Even now, most locations for them are difficult to access, being found in rugged canyons requiring long drives down four-wheel drive roads, and sometimes also long hikes. Montosa Canyon has had them, and is the only locale where we could get to in our own low-clearance car. But this year, there were no reliable or consistent reports there, so we decided to hire a local guide to take us to the best spot, California Gulch, on Saturday, August 29. We hired Richard Fray (http://www.arizonabirder.com/arizona-birding-blog/), who was an excellent guide and a lot of fun to spend a "half" day with. Some of the 4 miles in to the sparrows would surely have been passable in our car, but a lot of it clearly would not, though it was not as rough as we were expecting.
California Gulch, Arizona

We came to a fork in the road and walked a short distance, hoping to find a curious Five-striped Sparrow. The "usual" spot was not being too productive this year, and required a steep scramble down a hillside. This location was farther south, but the birds were being seen right along the road.
California Gulch, Arizona

They were not singing any more, but Richard played a tape and before too long, one came in, but not showing a lot of interest, and feeding most of the time. Then it flew into a small, dead-ish tree where it perched for several minutes. It was a bit far for photos, but I took a few shots anyway. A lifer! And ABA species #698.
Five-striped Sparrow. California Gulch, Arizona.

Another target bird, Buff-collared Nightjar, had been silent for the past month or so, and we did not luck into one on a day roost as some have recently. We did see other interesting species, including more than one male Varied Bunting, which was on my want list to photograph, but none posed for me. There was a lot of other interesting stuff in this canyon too, including this subadult Canyon Spotted Whiptail with a bright orange tail.
Canyon Spotted Whiptail (Cnemidophorus burti)

On our way back out, Richard pointed out four interesting cactus species, only one of which was in bloom. Three were small and relatively inconspicuous.
Mammillaria grahamii (Arizona Fishhook Pincushion
Cactus, or Graham's Nipple Cactus)

Mammillaria heyderi (Macdougal's Pincushion or
Nipple Cactus)

Echinicereus rigidissimus (Rainbow Hedgehog Cactus)

The fourth, the one in bloom, was a larger barrel cactus.
Ferocactus wislizenii (Candy Barrel Cactus)

Ferocactus wislizenii (Candy Barrel Cactus)

From California Gulch, we next went to Pena Blanca Canyon, where Rufous-capped Warblers had been reported. The drive in was much more like what we were expecting for California Gulch, quite rugged and difficult.
Pena Blanca Canyon, Arizona

It was a hot and dry walk, and the warblers (at least the one we were looking for) stayed quiet and out of sight. There were lots of butterflies, including some very small species, including the Elf (Microtia elva), Elada Checkerspot, Tiny Checkerspot, and Arizona Metalmark.
Elada Checkerspot (Texola elada).

Elada Checkerspot (Texola elada)

Tiny Checkerspot (Dymasia dymas)

Tiny Checkerspot (Dymasia dymas)

Arizona Metalmark (Calephelis arizonensis)

Another, slightly larger species, the Empress Leilia, was also fairly numerous there.
Empress Leilia (Asterocampa leilia)

On the way back to Green Valley, along Ruby Road, a worn (and very gray) adult female Varied Bunting allowed itself to be photographed, but not particularly well.
Female Varied Bunting

On Sunday, August 30, Allen made a solo attempt to see a Rufous-capped Warbler. There were a couple of options. Those at Hunter Canyon were being seen with a Slate-throated Redstart, which would also be a new ABA species (but neither a lifer). But the road in was perhaps 2 miles, and not passable in a low-clearance Prius, with another mile walk up the canyon. The other option was Florida Canyon, which was easily driven to, but with a fairly indistinct and steep trail about a mile up to those birds. I chose the latter, and got there just about sunrise to avoid having to hike in the heat.
Road to Florida Canyon trailhead

Florida Canyon; the widest part of the trail

After a lot of walking, and searching, a small group of warblers in a tree across the creek from the trail contained a Rufous-capped Warbler...ABA species #699! It eluded having its photo taken, but gave good, albeit not particularly close and somewhat brief looks. There were lots of butterflies in this canyon as well, including Common Buckeye and the ever present Bordered Patch.
Common Buckeye (Junonia coenia)

Bordered Patch (Chlosyne lacinia)

Once again, Tiny Checkerspots and Elada Checkerspots were quite common, and there were a few Summer Azures, a more familiar species for an easterner.
Tiny Checkerspot. Florida Canyon, Arizona.

Tiny Checkerspot. Florida Canyon, Arizona.

Summer Azure (Celastrina neglecta)

An interesting day-flying moth was seen, with an iridescent blue abdomen and boldly patterned wings, which was in the same genus as the Virginia Ctenucha found in the East.
Ctenucha cressonana

From Florida Canyon, we headed into the Santa Rita Mountains.
Grassland north of the Santa Rita Mountains, Arizona

On the way there, a wonderful grassland had lots of Botteri's Sparrows; one landed very briefly in the road right in front of the car with many more singing, and several singing Rufous-winged Sparrows, one of which posed nicely for many photos.
Rufous-winged Sparrow

From there, we drove farther into Madera Canyon and spent some time watching hummingbirds at the Santa Rita Lodge.
Santa Rita Mountains, Arizona

A Plain-capped Starthroat was being reported daily at the Santa Rita Lodge, but only once or twice each day. It did not appear during our stay, but it was still fun watching the other species at the feeders.
Adult male Anna's Hummingbird

Immature, probably female, Black-chinned Hummingbird

Female Broad-tailed Hummingbird

Adult male Broad-billed Hummingbird

Adult male Broad-billed Hummingbird

Adult male Broad-billed Hummingbird

Later in the afternoon, we headed over to the Patagonia area, first stopping at the famous roadside rest area, where we picked up Thick-billed Kingbird for the trip list.

Patagonia Rest Area, Arizona

It was also starting to rain, and we headed into Patagonia to spend some time a the Paton's feeders. The last time we'd been here, it was still a private residence, but now that both of the Patons have passed away, conservation groups and others have stepped up to preserve the place. We were the only ones there, and as we stood under the canopy in the light rain, we enjoyed good views of a bunch of Gambel's Quail running around tamely, and lots of hummingbirds at the feeders including at least one Violet-crowned Hummingbird.

On the way back to Green Valley, we stopped in Tubac where there had been a Sinaloa Wren in May through early July, but it had not been heard in quite a while. Needless to say, this attempt for #700 failed. The next installment will cover two more days of birding in Arizona, and my reaching that milestone (or not?).