Thursday, May 29, 2014

May 28 (Day 148) - Short day to Tucson, 2 new birds, Gila monster, elevation complications....

WAIT! STOP! My hosts went for an evening walk and found this Gila monster as I was writing the blog. They called me, and I raced out to meet them about a mile from here. It was a small one, maybe 9", but it was a lifer Herp for me!

Today was going to be another scorcher, so I figured I would just make a short morning move north to Tucson. From Tucson, I would be able to search the Saguaro-dominated Sonoran desert scrub for two relatively common desert species, Gilded flicker and Costa's hummingbird. As I have previously seen both of these birds in the greater Tucson area, I figured it would not be too big a chore to add these in the next day or so. It turns out it was even easier that I thought it would be.

An easy 40 miles today

Looking at eBird last night, I noticed that there was a small but concentrated cluster of Gilded flicker sightings just a mile south from my Best Western in Green Valley. I was a bit baffled by this as I had not seen any of the Saguaros in Green Valley that the Gilded flicker normally calls home. I figured I would give it a shot anyway. I was pleasantly surprised to find the neighborhood filled Saguaros that had been put there for landscaping purposes. It took a bit of patience, but by slowly scouring each street in the area, I was able to turn up a pair of Gilded flickers among the dozens of Gila woodpeckers that were in the same area. They spent all their time far from the road on private property, but I did grab one distant shot. I was able to see the yellow underwings on this bird as it flew off. This neighborhood was very birdy as I found Harris's and Zone-tailed hawks, American kestrel, Roadrunner, Rufous-winged sparrow, Gambel's quail, Curve-billed thrasher, Verdin, Cactus wren and other desert birds.

Gilded flicker

My ride to Tucson was very uneventful. I arrived midday to discover that my hosts for the evening had several hummingbird feeders in the yard. Within 20 minutes the first of several Costa's hummingbirds appeared. I snuck out a bit later in the day to grab a shot of this nice male. The most exciting find of the afternoon though were the 4 huge javelinas that were riding out the heat of the day on the back porch. They were sleeping right against the glass porch door. I rousted them for a photo a bit later in the day!

Even in crappy light the Costa's is amazing!

Javelinas taken through the porch door!

I have now found every single bird I had hoped to find (and more!) in Southeastern Arizona. It has been a really amazing two weeks, and I hope to continue this streak through the center part of the state. There are 4 birds I would like to find in the next week. One of these is the introduced and now ABA-countable Rosy-faced lovebird in Phoenix. This should be a relatively easy endeavor. Much less straightforward will be nailing Gray Vireo. I am going to try around Globe as a first pass. These birds prefer Juniper-dominated mid-elevations. While I am searching for Gray Vireo, I will also be looking for two other birds that live in the exact same habitat, Juniper titmouse and Black-chinned sparrow. The biggest issue with Gray vireo is that the best areas for the bird are guarded by some vey challenging uphills stretches. I ultimately need to get from Phoenix, AZ to Gallup, NM (red pin, top right on map). If I am lucky enough to find the vireo in Globe, I have 3 riding options after that. First is just to backtrack to Phoenix and make a huge loop around the green and very mountainous region on the first map. Options 2 and 3 will required very hard, mountainous rides. This is not all bad though as I will likely get a head start on the mountain species for which I will look in Colorado.

Option 1: Globe back to Phoenix to Flagstaff to Gallup

Option 2:  Globe to Show Low then onto Gallup

Option 3 - Globe to Payson then onto Gallup

The problem I am having is the elevation change. I just do not think I can climb 7 to 10 thousand feet over 80-90 miles in heat with a fully loaded bike in a single day. Add camping equipment and food to split Options 2 or 3 into 2 days? That is going to add a fair amount of weight and make the climbs even harder. I am just not sure what I am going to do at the moment. The Show Low option is basically not an option as there is NOTHING along that route. The Payson option is the most attractive right now since there are at least some people and a few stores along that route. As long as I think I can reload on water throughout the day it could work. Option 1 is the "easiest" but will likely take 2 full extra days. 

I am still trying to sort out what is going to happen tomorrow. There is a chance I will shoot up into the Santa Catalina Mountains to try for Flammulated owl tomorrow night. I may take a tent and spent the night. In this case the tent won't add any weight since I would leave some of my stuff down at my hosts' house for the night. The 4000' climb up to the owl spot would also give me a good idea of what these longer climbing days are going to feel like. I have the feeling it won't be easy.


  1. I would avoid Phoenix because of the traffic and the even hotter temperatures. It looks like a difference of highs of 100 in Globe and 92 in Payson vs highs of about 108 in Phoenix. I would stick to the higher elevations -- even though they will be hard, they will be beautiful and cool(er).

    And didn't your concerns about elevation in Texas generally turn out unnecessary? I know there is even more elevation here, of course.

    Keep turning those cranks! I'll be biking in Durango in about a month, but it looks like you'll be there (and gone) much sooner.

  2. Today we drove from the north through Show Low through Globe and on towards Tuscon. This would be a VERY challenging ride with virtually no chance of refreshment along the way.

  3. I'm not sure which is more awesome: that gorgeous hummingbird, or Javelinas hanging out on the porch.