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 (, 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?).

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