Friday, May 23, 2014

May 22 (Day 142) - INCREDIBLE day in the Huachucas - Code 3 rarities back-to-back!

There have been a number of really good birds hanging around the southern end of the Huachucas recently. My local bike-birding buddy and host, Ron Beck, has been monitoring the status of these birds in the last few weeks, and today he devised a strategy for us to collect as many of them as possible with a minimum of biking. Our hit list for the day was Rufous-capped warbler, White-eared hummingbird, Spotted owl, and Northern goshawk. As you will see, we did quite well by days end.

I actually got the first year bird of the day from my bed as I heard Botteri's sparrow (#436) outside my window at sunrise. I saw several of these birds in my subsequent loop of the property once the sun had crept a bit higher.

The first stop on our Huachuca tour-de-force was going to be Hunter Canyon. There has been a very cooperative pair of Rufous-capped warblers hanging around this area for months. Although the birds were probably less than 4 linear miles from Ron's house, we had to ascend an incredibly steep approach road that would have challenged even some 4-wheel drive cars. Once we made it to the parking area it was another mile or so of very steep hiking to reach the area where the birds have apparently taken up residence. While we were hunting around for the birds, we were able to tease out a single Virginia's warbler for the second year bird of the day (#437). It took about 40 minutes, but the Rufous-capped warblers eventually showed themselves (#438). This is certainly one of the coolest birds I will see this year. Not only are they very rare in the ABA area, but they have an incredibly striking and beautiful rufous streaked head pattern for which they are named. The photo I obtained should give you at least on idea of this. They often cock their tails up like a wren or a gnatcatcher. This extra bit of unique behavior is also visible in the photo below. They moved pretty fast, so I am just glad I caught one of them at all.

Up, up, and more up

Hunter Canyon. The area we birded is the strip
of trees just left of center up on the moutons.

Rufous-capped warbler

After our warbler triumph, we descended Hunter Canyon, moved a few miles north, and this time ascended into Miller Canyon where our next 3 target birds would be sought. First up was White-eared hummingbird. This very small and very beautiful hummingbird is an annual visitor to the Huachucas in very small numbers. We headed several miles up the canyon to reach Beatty's Guest Ranch where a pair of these birds is apparently breeding. The female was seen picking up dog hair which will presumably be used to line her nest. I have seen this bird at this spot several times before. Each time it took a minimum of effort and today was no different. Within 15-20 minutes of arrival, a beautiful male White-eared hummingbird (#439) appeared for my second code 3 rarity in the last 2 hours! He briefly perched in a tree and afforded my the chance to grab a decent photo of him.

White-eared hummingbird

We had very easily knocked out what we though could be the two more problematic of the 4 sought species. We figured that the remaining two birds, Spotted owl and Northern goshawk would be even easier. Actually, the two remaining species were on nests, so we knew exactly where we needed to go. It was a short but very steep hike up into the upper reaches of Miller Canyon, but we easily found both nesting sites and the attending parental bird. We got great looks at the owl (#440), but the goshawk (#441) was unfortunately a bit hunkered in her nest. We stuck around hoping the male goshawk would fly in at some point, but after an hour without an appearance we decided to head back down the canyon to reach our bikes and start the ride home. We cycled a total of 14 miles today - not bad to get these birds!

Snoozing Spotted owl

Foot stretching 

Northern goshawk - Not ideal, but count it!

Miller Canyon provided some really nice birding while we were searching for these nesting raptors. We had 4-5 Red-faced warblers, several Buff-breasted flycatchers, Grace's warbler, Yellow-eyed junco, Brown creepers, Arizona woodpecker, and Canyon wren. I have heard this last bird several times in the last few weeks, but today was the first time I got a good look at this very cool southwestern bird. Ron and I also met some other folks at the goshawk site today. 

(L to R) Bruce and Kris from Michigan, their guide 
Laurens Halsey,Kylie and Vince from 
Massachusetts/New Hampshire, Ron

We will be doing a bit more birding around the Huachucas tomorrow, so I will let everyone know how that goes. Looking ahead, I will be going next to Patagonia, then to the Santa Ritas, and finally to the Tucson area to tick a few more birds. I am just amazed at how well the bird finding is going. If this keeps up, there is a good chance I will be done in Southeastern Arizona by June! This put me 2-3 weeks ahead of schedule - woo hoo!

1 comment:

  1. When are you getting to Tucson and where are you planning on birding there?