Monday, November 3, 2014

Nov 3 (Day 307) - The return of actual birding!

The ride to the Sinaloa wren location from Eloy (where I spent last night) is well over 100 miles. I decided to split this distance into 2 equal days of riding. Today was the first of these days. For the first half of the day, I decided to take some back roads instead of using the main arteries. This would permit at least some relaxed birding on a day when I had the time for it. I could dawdle on the dirt roads in the morning and then move a bit faster on the paved through-roads in the afternoon. Maybe I'd get lucky and find Ruddy ground-dove this morning.

59 + 2 of screwing around for 61 miles total

I was also hopeful that I could find a Bendire's thrasher today. I have seen them on the Santa Cruz flats on previous trips to the area. I saw a single Bendire's thrasher near Rodeo, NM on May 15, but I did not get a terribly good look at it. It was enough to count it, but I was hoping to do a bit of study on this species today. It did not take long for me to find some thrashers along the roadside today. The first one I saw only briefly. It looked on the larger side, with a relatively curved beak. I chalked it up as a probable Curve-billed, but I am unwilling to label it definitively. Shortly after this bird, I located a smaller thrasher with a much shorter, straighter beak. This looked really good for Bendire's. Creeping up on it, I was able to see the nice arrow marks on the chest. It also helped that the bird did a bit of singing to nail it for sure. I chase this bird around a bit to obtain these photos. He really wouldn't let me get very close, but I think these are serviceable. The third bird I found was also suggestive of Bendire's, but again, I am not going to definitely label this individual. It was nice to do some study on a day when I had a bit of extra time.

Bendire's thrasher

Same Bendire's

Roadside mesquite and thrasher habitat

Sparrows were also cause for great excitement today. I found White-crowned, Savannah, Song, Vesper, Lark, Brewer's, and Lincoln's. I also found dozens of Lark Buntings and 2 Abert's towhees. This makes 9 species for the day, and with the Black-throated and Sagebrush sparrow from yesterday, that makes 11 species in 2 days in the Santa Crus flats. Not bad! Raptors today included Red-tailed hawk, American kestrel, Northern Harrier, Crested Caracara, and a very late Swainson's hawk. Roadrunner, Gambel's quail, Verdin, Ruby-crowned kinglet, Vermillion flycatcher, and Cactus wren also made appearances. It was a nice day out when it was all over.

I am actually staying about a mile from Saguaro National Park. This region of Sonoran desert is some of my absolute favorite landscape in the entire country. I deliberately stayed west of Tucson so that I could bike through this area tomorrow morning en route to Tubac. I am not sure what it is about the saguaros that I like so much. Sometimes I picture them as people with arms held high, cheering me on as I bike along. Who knows...I guess I don't have to explain it. 

Interestingly, this is the first time this year that I am riding over the same ground as I did earlier in the year. I came right through Tucson and Phoenix on my first Arizona visit in May/June. I am now riding along the same roads in the opposite direction. What this means is that there aren't many new birds or new scenes along this stretch. The upside is that I know what to expect from a terrain and road quality standpoint. It's also MUCH cooler now than the first run-through; It was 45F when I got onto the bike this morning! I will bypass the the Chiricahuas this time around, and I will instead follow I-10 out of Arizona, across NM, and into West Texas. I rode the NM and TX portions of I-10 on the spring leg. I-10 is boring, but it is direct, it has enough traffic that if something goes wrong I can flag someone down, and it is generally well-maintained and very safe. There are also Best Westerns dotted all along it!

In preparation for tomorrow, I have to study up on Sinaloa wren calls and songs. I have gathered that this bird can be very frustrating to locate, but I have enough time that I should have a very good shot at it despite its secretive habits. I have a 64-mile ride to reach Tubac and the wren. I hope to get a nice early start (after it warms up a bit) and reach the area in time to take a crack at the bird tomorrow afternoon. Hopefully I will have some good news for you tomorrow!

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