Sunday, 3 August 2014

Borderland birding

A couple of days ago, I visited the Arizona border with Mexico. To the west of Nogales, this wilderness area is heavily patrolled by border agents and some of the stories Rich Fray gave me about his encounters with immigrants there make the whole Mexico/US migration very real. Given that several canyons span the border, inevitably there is some good birding to be had with some species just creeping into these man made boundaries.
Montezuma Quail
To start the day off, there  were some Mexican Cliff Swallows nesting under a bridge near Rio Rico, and more Montezuma Quail action with a male in particular chilling out by the roadside in the early morning light as we headed on down towards Sycamore Canyon. There were also lots of Cassin's Kingbirds, Rufous-crowned and Lark Sparrows as well as a nice juvenile Grey Hawk.
juvenile Grey Hawk
Sycamore Canyon held some nice birds, in particular an Elegant Trogon that perched briefly along with usual bits such as Summer Tanager, Black-headed Grosbeak, Ash-throated and Brown-crested Flycatchers. However, the Mexican mega wasn't to be found and so we headed further west a little way to California Gulch, home of the Five-striped Sparrow. In the midday heat, there were still sparrows singing with at least half a dozen of them. Really nice looking birds, and much darker overall and larger than what I'd expected. Another quality bird for this trip...
Five-striped Sparrow
We headed further down the canyon, and three Purple Martins above us were of the desert subspecies hesperia - these birds nest in cacti and the females in particular are slightly different to nominate birds. There was also a Black-capped Gnatcatcher too, that showed well alongside a couple of Black-taileds in the steaming heat. After eventually leaving California Gulch, the rest of the afternoon was spent doing the loop back north through Arivaca and back onto the I-19. I eventually got some good views of Rufous-winged Sparrow, a new bird for me, while a couple of Yellow-billed Cuckoos and Lazuli Buntings were also noted. On the small pond at Amado, there was a single Tropical Kingbird sallying from the wires whilst unseasonal Ring-necked Ducks and Black-necked Grebes were noted too.

Another decent day in Arizona, and rounded off with a quick walk across the border in the evening to get some food. Thanks again to Rich for the hospitality and the birding.

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