Monday, 28 July 2014

Arizona - Madera and Miller Canyons

Two more bird filled days have gone by since the last update. I'm staying in Sierra Vista, a town in southeastern Arizona that sits east of the Huachucas and west of the Chiricahuas - both bird filled mountain ranges with specialities as well as good track records of bringing in Mexican vagrants.

So I started out yesterday morning going up Mount Lemmon at dawn and, in contrast to the day before, the place was in bright sunshine. Heading back up to Incinerator Ridge Road, within half an hour a nice Olive Warbler appeared in the top of the pines - much brighter than I'd thought too. Added to this were good numbers of Red-faced Warblers, Arizona Woodpecker and a Hepatic Tanager. And I was back down the mountain for breakfast before I headed south from Tucson to Madera Canyon.
Red-faced Warbler, Mount Lemmon July 2014
This place, Madera Canyon, is properly set up for birders - one road in, and loads of feeders all up the canyon. First stop was Santa Rita Lodge where for the last month or so, a Mexican vagrant hummingbird, Plain-capped Starthroat, has resided. I lucked out and on a couple of visits that I made throughout the day, it came in three times.
Plain-capped Starthroat, Madera Canyon July 2014
My hummingbird identification was a little bit rusty, but within an hour or two I'd got up to speed. Not the ideal way of doing things - seeing a vagrant before mastering common birds - but by the end of the day I was unsurprisingly outgunning some of the yanks. Broad-billed and Black-chinned were the commonest, and throw in the odd Rufous and Magnificent and that was the lot. Other birds around Santa Rita feeders included ten Wild Turkeys, Black-headed Grosbeaks, Western Tanager and copious amounts of Lesser Goldfinches and House Finches. Further up the canyon, opposite Madera Kubo, was this little chap poking its head out: -
Whiskered Screech-Owl, Madera Canyon July 2014
Higher up still, I took a walk about the canyon as I'd been tipped off about Elegant Trogons. With some perseverence, one shot through the canyon at point blank range but despite trying, I was unable to find it again. I hooked up with a sharp young birder from California, Tom, who'd driven overnight for the Starthroat and we both then headed into Florida Canyon. However, the two targets - Rufous-capped Warbler and Black-tailed Gnatcatcher weren't playing ball in the heat; a Montezuma Quail was heard, and there were more decent stuff like Varied and Lazuli Buntings, Blue Grosbeak, Summer and Western Tanagers. As dusk approached, and the Botteri's Sparrows stopped singing, I went to the Buff-collared Nightjar stakeout along Proctor Road - the bird started singing away and unsatisfactory shadows were seen. Mexican Whip-poor-will too proved tricky at the top of Madera Canyon late on, but perseverence did pay off.
Botteri's Sparrow, Madera Canyon July 2014
And so to today - and I'll make it quick as even writing this makes me feel shattered. To cut a long story short, I walked up Miller Canyon and got myself to the 'split rock' where the Mexican Spotted Owls hang about. It's pot luck whether they decide to roost by the path, and today wasn't one of those days. So, after scrambling about and going about things like a goat, I was absolutely elated to find one of the birds in their favoured area - partially obscured against the trunk of a conifer. The whole canyon was nice and birdy too, and having spent 6 hours in there I came out with a single Buff-breasted Flycatcher, a couple of Sulphur-bellied and lots of Dusky-capped and Cordilleran Flycatchers, Greater Pewee, Painted Redstart, Red-faced and Virginia's Warbler, Hutton's Vireos, Hermit Thrush and a flyby Goshawk.

And to end the day, I took a drive to St David where, by the monastery, I was able to locate a Mississippi Kite - a surprising bird to see this far west, in an isolated breeding area away from its main range.
Mississippi Kite, St David July 2014


  1. You're cleaning house Richard! Most excellent crushes as well, glad SE AZ is sharing its bounty with you (or, perhaps more accurately, that you're carpe-ing some diem over there)!

  2. Indeed Laurence. SE Arizona produced the goods including White-eared and Lucifer Hummers y'day. Just enjoying the wildly expensive Californian petrol here in Brawley before I head back into Arizona tomorrow and on to Flagstaff...