So what constitutes a "Great Day Birding?" For me it is a wide
variety of birds, flocks that make it difficult to know what to
photograph first, some close ups, and last but certainly (not for
me) the least, very good detailed photos.
Where do you go to have a "Great Day Birding?" Well, of course
this is Southern Arizona so there are many places to go. I have
raved about Mount Lemmon so many times. But yesterday, one of my
favorite places in the Southern Mountains: Huachuca Canyon in the
There's been a Sinaloa Wren that frequents the stream bed near
the picnic areas just as you enter on the dirt road. But I usually
start 1.7 miles up the canyon and look for the Sinaloa Wren on my
return. But, yesterday the birding was so good up canyon that I
didn't have time to stop and look for the Wren.
Okay, so what did I find? Well, I'll make several posts of the
next couple of days with photos, but I'll start with, none other
than the Elegant Trogon. I got my first really good look and photo
of a Juvenile Elegant Trogon as well as an adult Male. Here are the
|Juvenile Elegant Trogon from behind
|Adult Elegant Trogon from behind
|Adult Elegant Trogon from the front
I have wanted to photograph a Yellow Billed Cuckoo for all 13
years we've live here in Southern Arizona.
The YBC is listed as endangered in the west with populations
only of fraction of what they were a hundred years ago. The US Fish
and Wildlife Service has designated areas of Southern Arizona as
critical habitat for them.
Over the past 13 years I've gone out looking for them many
times; often after reading about a sighting. They are migratory
birds that enter the US during our summer, then migrate as far
south as Argentina (to enjoy their summer).
Yesterday, I went looking again. I arrived at Empire Gulch in
the Las Cienegas National Conservation Area just after dawn.
However, the gulch had been severely flooded and there was still
mud up to my ankles. It was impossible to get into the gulch.
Hugely disappointed, I decided to check out the area above the
gulch, behind the old bunkhouses. Although the "Nature Trail" had
all but disappeared under thick new growth I "bushwacked" my way
though and got to some extremely large cottonwood trees. The area
was quite birdie: yellow breasted chat, warbling vireo, black
headed grosbeak, cardinals, hepatic and western tanagers to name a
few I spotted and/or photographed.
I was standing (still) under one of those cottonwoods
photographing a female Hepatic Tanager when to my surprise a Yellow
Billed Cuckoo flew into a small tree directly in front of me.
Although he was partially covered I was very close and was able to
get some nice photos. I wanted to get a full frontal photo but was
afraid to move for fear of causing the YBC to fly away. So after a
few photos, I just stood and admired him.
Verdin 27 Aug 2015, 7:55 am
Today's photo is not of a particularly rare bird. Although
only found in the southwest, the Verdin is fairly common. We see
them everyday here at our Bed and Breakfast. So I have lots of
photos. But sometimes whether it is the composition or the detail a
photo is memorable. Sometimes both. Yesterday I went over to
Sweetwater Wetlands and came home with one of those photos. Here it
is, the Verdin:
Since I had success (and fun) a couple weeks ago going into
the Tumacacori Mountains, I thought I'd do it again.
And, again lots of fun ... lots of birds.
Here's a sample:
|Blue Grosbeak Male singing away
|Lark Bunting Male who was being pursued by four Females
|Hooded Oriole Male gathering food for his Chick
|Hooded Oriole Chick waiting patiently for food from his
|Curved Bill Thrasher and Broad Bille Hummingbird wanting to
feed from the Century Plant.
|Very nicely detail Roadrunner
Other birds included: Gray Hawk, Lark Sparrow, Savannah
Sparrow, Black Throated Sparrow, Northern Cardinals -- male
and female, Lesser Goldfinches, Western and Cassin's Kingbirds to
name a few.
I have posted several times over the past month about my trips
up Mount Lemmon in Tucson, Arizona looking for Warblers in general
and a Male Olive Warbler in particular. I'm guessing 30-40 hours in
Olive Warblers are only found in parts of Southeast Arizona,
Southwest New Mexico, and the extreme Southwestern part of Texas.
And only at or above 7000 feet. On top of that they like the tops
of very tall pine trees. That means they are usually 60-80 feet off
Complicating matters more, female Hermit Warblers are often
mistaken for female Olive Warblers. As a general rule, I assume
Hermit Warbler unless it is a male. The male is unmistakeable with
its rich butterscotch head, face and throat. Then the dark mask
over the eyes is convincing.
But back to my story. This last trip on Thursday I came home
not realizing that I had actually found and photographed a male
Olive. Now you might ask how that is possible, but again a five
inch bird 60-80 feet off the ground and buried in pine
needles. I remember the place, it was above the parking lot for
Mount Bigelow Trail -- not on the trail itself. This is the area
just above Incinerator Ridge. The bird was a mere silhouette to me
at the time, so I didn't know what it was.
It wasn't until I got home and sorted through 500 photos that
I came across the following Olive Warbler photos;
|would have been perfect if in focus
Success at last. And an exciting day.
Christine and I got away on Sunday for a quick trip up to
Flagstaff to see our Grandson Noah in a production of Les
Since we got there a bit ahead of time I took a short hike
into Buffalo Park. There I found 6 Mule Deer Bucks and got to spend
several minutes with them photographing. Here are a few of the
I continue to bird Mount Lemmon just outside Tucson in
Arizona. The first of the birding sites is just 8 miles from us.
And from there up to the top (30 miles from us) is outstanding
I've been on a "mission" to find a photograph a male Olive
Warbler. I'm also trying to get a better photo of a Grace's
As I've talked with other birders, I think many of the
"reported" Olive sightings have actually been Hermit Warblers --
which are plentiful. With almost every trip I find a Grace's but
they are extremely difficult to photograph. They are almost
exclusively in the top third of the tall pine trees above 7000
feet. That being the case it is difficult to get that full side
view in full detail.
Yesterday, at dawn, I started at the top and worked my way
down. The thought is that the top gets sun first which attracts the
Warblers. Six hours later, I came home after having taken 1350
photos. (Thank goodness for digital). And although I missed on the
male Olive again, I came back with some "bests".
Here are a few of the photos:
|Female Western Bluebird feeding its Chick
A forrest road from Exit 29 on Interstate 19 takes you into
the Tumacacori Mountains. This is a very primitive area: no
facilities and no signs of human existence other than the "road."
This is a 4x4 high clearance road only. I should add with an
experienced off road driver as well, i.e. it is not for beginners.
The road is mostly rocky. (I have a Jeep Rubicon with very good
off-road tires).There are times when going up a hill you will not
be able to see the road in front of you, and at the top not be able
to see the road below. There will be times you will have to get out
of your vehicle to check to see 1) which way the road goes, or 2)
if the road is passable. (It could be washed out, full of water, or
with a downed tree or boulder in the way.
As such, human traffic is significantly limited. And, as such
has a significant amount of wildlife is present. On my trip in I
saw black tailed jackrabbits, mountain cottontails, and deer.
Javelina are also present though I didn't see any. There were
thousands (or more) Butterflies. And, there is a report
(unconfirmed) of at least one Black Jaguar living in the
I went into this area looking for a Yellow Billed Cuckoo --
which I found but was unable to photograph. Also seen but not
photographed was a Golden Eagle I startled. I did photograph a
nesting Warbling Vireo, numerous male and female Northern
Cardinals, Black Throated Sparrows, Rufous Crowned Sparrows, Lark
Sparrows, Western Kingbirds, Brown Headed Cowbirds, and Varied
Here are a few photos:
|Warbling Vireo at her Nest
Many warblers are hard to find, let alone photograph. Some
like the Grace's and Olive's stay in the tree tops some 40 to 80
feet off the ground. They can be completely hidden by leaves or
pine needles. Your only hope is to see them fly from tree to
In other cases, such as the Painted Redstart, Lucy's,
Nashville, Wilson's, they like brush and can even be seen on the
ground at times.
As for identifying them, sometimes that too can be
challenging. Case in point, the Olive Warbler. For those people
with a fine ear (and memory) hearing becomes the best way to
distinguish a female Hermit Warbler from a female Olive
Warbler. That's if the birds are vocal. But trying to identify a
female Olive by sight in real time? Not very likely. Even with good
photographs of both an Olive and a Hermit it is difficult. I have
on several occasions come home thinking I have an Olive photograph
when after careful study concluded it was a Hermit.
Nonetheless, for a birder or photographer spending a few hours
in the wilderness of Mount Lemmon can be exciting when a mix flock
of Warblers rolls through a canyon. We are used to spending an hour
and not seeing anything -- then all of a sudden there are so many
birds you don't know what to try to photograph first.
As I mentioned in an earlier post, I've been trying to
concentrate on Warblers of Mount Lemmon. Here's a summary of what
I've photographed in the past three weeks:
|Black Throated Gray Warbler
And, finally a few more nice photos from the Desert Grasslands of