Monday, May 26, 2014

May 25 (Day 145) - Cleaning up in Patagonia!

First, I apologize for the excuse of a post that was put up last night. We normally try to keep Sonia restrained in a straight jacket during the NHL playoffs, but apparent she wiggled free and managed to temporarily take control of the blog. She is clearly delirious after the Kings' win two nights ago. If the Kings keep winning, I am going to have to devise some sort of management strategy to combat rouge blog posts! Anyway, back to business.....

Payback! Sonia in High school complete
with King's jacket!

Sonia's usual NHL playoff restraint system

I had 3 target birds today: Thick-billed kingbird, Northern beardless-tyrannulet, and Varied bunting. The first of these birds was certainly the most important since this is the only spot where I am likely to encounter this species. I could get the other two in the next few days, though both become essentially impossible once I leave Southern Arizona.Yes, I know I could get NBT in south Texas in the winter, but I want to approach it as though I must get it now. It would be nice to grab these 2 species today and avoid searching for them later.

The day started with an early morning walk along Blue Haven Road. This lightly trafficked road connects the Paton’s to the Nature Conservancy’s Patagonia-Sonoita Creek property. I have birded it with good success in the past, so I figured it was a good, central place to start. On one side of this road is Sonoita Creek and the associated huge cottonwoods. One the other is mesquite scrub. This meant I had a shot at all of my species in these two habitats. The first of the sought birds to be ticked today was Varied bunting (#446). I saw a small, dark bird land in a mesquite bush a long way off. I could clearly see the beautiful purples and blues on the bird, and I was able to grab a VERY distant shot of him. This is one of the prettiest birds around. I really wish I had seen him better, but maybe I’ll find another one in the next few days. The walk also produced lots of Yellow-breasted chats, Cassin’s kingbirds, and several Rufous-winged sparrows.

Very distant Varied bunting #446

Rufous-winged sparrow

After this walk, I headed down to the famous Patagonia roadside rest. This small pullout off of Route 82 has produced some incredible rarities over the years and has spawned what birders all know as the “Patagonia Picnic Table Effect”. The general idea is that once a rare bird is discovered in a given area, people come to see it and end up finding yet more rare birds. My best example of this effect happened in at Jamaica Bay NWR in New York City. Hundreds of people turned up to view a Red-necked stint that had been found the previous day. As they looked for the stint, these birders also turned up an equally rare Sharp-tailed sandpiper. On that day, I knocked off both of these beautiful and rare shorebirds in ten minutes! However, neither of these is my best Jamaica Bay bird. That title is firmly held by Broad-billed sandpiper! 

The Patagonia roadside rest is perhaps the single best spot in Patagonia (and the country) to see Thick-billed kingbird. Today was no exception. After missing this species here in the evening yesterday, I found 2 of them (#447) hanging around the picnic area this morning. It was almost too easy! These guys were very cooperative and they provided really nice views as they fly-caught for most of the time I spent at the rest stop. I also found Brown-crested flycatcher, Dusky-capped flycatcher, loads of Phainopeplas, Lucy’s warbler, and a nice Canyon wren. Two down, one to go!

Thick-billed kingbird #447

The tyrannulet proved to be the most difficult of the 3 with which to connect. I spent several hours this afternoon wandering around the Patagonia-Sonoita Creek Preserve without success. It was quite warm, and I was really dragging as I walked along the creek bed and through the mesquite looking for this small flycatcher.  After 3 hours without a whiff of the bird, I decided I was to beat to do anything but feeder watch at the Paton’s for the last bit of the day. The Violet-crowned hummingbird appeared late in the day, and the normal complement of feeder birds was present and accounted for.

Abert's towhee

Broad-billed hummingbird. Worst bird name ever. It
should be called Cobalt-throated firebill or something.
He would NEVER land on the foliage, so I'm stuck
with the hideous post.

Gila woodpecker

Just as I was leaving the Paton’s, Larry (the current caretaker of the property) heard a tyrannulet out in the street. It took us a few minutes to locate the bird, but he provided good views and serviceable photos once we had done this (#448). It felt really good to find this little guy and complete the hat trick for the day.

Tonight I am staying at the Circle Z Ranch in Patagonia. This is a working ranch with horseback riding and birding right on site! Once they heard about my adventure, the nice folks here gladly offered me a complimentary room for a night or two. Since I got all my target birds today, it will unfortunately be for only one night! This intimate guest ranch is located midday way between the two best birding areas in Patagonia: The Paton’s/Patagonia-Sonoita Preserve on one end and Patagonia Lake State Park on the other. While I will not be stopping at Patagonia Lake tomorrow, it is a great birding spot at any time of year. It was here that I saw my lifer Black-capped gnatcatcher several years ago, and there is currently an Elegant tern visiting the lake! There is actually really good birding right on the Circle Z property since it back rights up to Sonoita Creek. I found a 3 more tyrannulets right outside my cottage when I arrived! There were 2 fledglings being fed by an adult!
I also saw roadrunner, thrashers, and lots of swallows right in from of my cottage. 

Front gate as I arrived at sunset

Sunset view looking back east

 My cottage for the night (take the next morning)

OK, tomorrow the Red Sox will win, the Phillies will get at least one hit, and I will head north towards the Santa Ritas where I am hoping to collect Buff-collared nightjar, Common poorwill, and Black-capped gnatcatcher.  I will also make a stop en route for Tropical kingbird. There is the potential for lots of excitement tomorrow.

1 comment:

  1. Whence the revulsion at man-made perches in bird shots? The Broad-billed looks great!