The Azure Gate Bed & Breakfast

9351 E. Morrill Way, Tucson, Arizona 85749
Innkeeper(s): Dennis & Christine Widman

More from San Rafael Valley 28 Nov 2015, 9:41 am

On this same trip as the Harrier Hawks, I walked away with several other nice photos:

American Kestrel

Montezuma Quail

Montezuma Quail



Savannah Sparrow

Eastern Meadowlark

White Tailed Kite

Harrier Hawks of San Rafael Valley 26 Nov 2015, 9:37 am

The Harrier Hawk can be found throughout the United States flying low over fields and grasslands. They rest on the ground or fence posts. So they fly and perch much lower than other hawks. While solitary, San Rafael Valley provides such a good habitat that you might see several over the six to eight miles driving the valley.

Here are a few photos from my trip last Tuesday to this wonderful winter birding site:

A Great Day at Sweetwater Wetlands - Part III 24 Nov 2015, 6:08 am

A great day at Sweetwater Wetlands is seeing a Bobcat -- even if you don't see anything else. But seeing and getting great photos of a Black and White Warbler and Common Yellowthroat made it an especially great day.

We have Bobcats that come around our Bed and Breakfast frequently. Frequently meaning six or seven times this year. Guests have seen them other times when we haven't, and certainly Bobcats have come around at night when nobody sees them. So I'm guessing they stroll through several times a month.

Yet I never get tired of seeing a Bobcat and watching them do their thing. And, once again at Sweetwater I was treated to the presence of a Bobcat. They seem to be residents at Sweetwater making it the place with the most potential if you want to see one. 

Here are some photos from my November 19th visit:

A Great Day at Sweetwater Wetlands - Part II 22 Nov 2015, 5:55 am

While at Sweetwater Wetlands last Thursday, I did find some other nice photos, including the less often seen/photographed Common Yellowthroat.

Common Yellowthroat

Orange Crowned Warbler

Ruby Crowned Kinglet

Savannah Sparrow


Yellow Rumped Warbler

Great Day at Sweetwater Wetlands 20 Nov 2015, 5:48 am

Yesterday I headed over to Sweetwater Wetlands to see if I could find the Black and White Warbler that has been reported off and on for the past few weeks. 

I have been working on a book about the Warblers of Arizona. The Black and White Warbler is typically an eastern United States warbler. However it occasionally finds its way into Southern Arizona so I want it in my book. I've tried several times before both at Sweetwater and Tanque Verde Wash where it has also been reported, but each time without luck.

It is definitely helpful to know something about a particular bird's behavior before going in search for it. Does it typically forage only it the tops of pine trees, like the Olive Warbler for example, or near the ground in brush like MacGillivray's Warbler. Is it buried in leaves or pine needles like Grace's Warbler? Or is it often found on the trunk or branches like the Black and White or Painted Redstart.

So, knowing where to look isn't just about geography, it is about habitat behavior. And of equal importance are patience and persistence.

Yesterday I found this little guy gleaning bugs off the bark of several tall trees near one of the ponds at Sweetwater. It reminded me at first of the Brown Creeper. 

Here are a few of those photos:

Tanque Verde Wash: Cooper's Hawk 17 Nov 2015, 3:55 am

We have Cooper's Hawks seen daily at our B&B. So it is by no means rare. 

I should also admit, that there are certain birds I don't stop to photograph anymore: mourning doves, gambel's quail, house sparrows, house finches ..... 

Yet, as Christine and I were working our way back up Tanque Verde Wash we saw something in the water about 300 feet ahead of us. As I looked through my camera (400mm lens) I could see it was a Cooper's Hawk. The setting made this a unique photo. So I took one (from 300 feet) then started walking very slowly, calmly, toward the hawk. Every 30 feet or so I took another photo thinking it might be the last before the bird flew off. But, no. He let me get about 25 feet away where I got some nice photos. Still there I motioned for Christine to follow to get a better view. However, at some point the Cooper's Hawk flew up to an overhanging branch about ten feet from where it was drinking.

Here are a couple of those photos:

Cooper's Hawk from 300 feet (with 400mm lens)

Cooper's Hawk from 100 feet (with 400mm lens)

Cooper's Hawk Drinking in Tanque Verde Wash from 25 feet

Cooper's Hawk

Tanque Verde Wash Lawrence's Goldfinches 15 Nov 2015, 3:34 am

Growing up in Washington D.C. my idea of the desert was white sands and no vegetation as far as you could see. But the Sonoran Desert is not that at all. There is very little sand. It is mostly rock-hard dirt with a wide variety of cactus, mesquites, palo verdes, and creosote. Yet, tucked in the middle of the Sonoran Desert is Tanque Verde Wash. 

TVW is dry 80% or more of the year. But that 20% creates a year round riparian zone with large cottonwoods, cattails, bamboo ......  And many of the birds you can find there you would not find even 100 yards from the wash. And the rarities include Northern Parula, Magnolia Warbler, Black and White Warbler, Lawrence's Goldfinch, Red Shouldered Hawk, Gray Hawk ....

Living just minutes from the wash, I have been out several times of late. The wash isn't filled with water but there is a steady stream flowing side to side which creates 20-30 stream crossing within the two miles I hike/bird. It is a sandy bottom so you must actually walk through the water as you go. And what isn't water is also sandy so it's a good workout even though flat.

Yesterday, after breakfast, Christine and I set out to see if we could find the Lawrence's Goldfinch and the Black and White Warbler that have been reported there of late. And, as luck would have it, both a male and female Lawrence's Goldfinch were cooperative. We didn't find the rare Black and White Warbler, though got momentarily excited about a Black Throated Gray until I realized that's what it was. (It's still a pretty bird and I love photographing it).

Here are those photos:

Lawrence's Goldfinch Male

Lawrence's Goldfinch Female

Black Throated Gray Warbler

Santa Cruz Flats: Other Birding Finds 14 Nov 2015, 10:26 am

In addition to the raptors, there were other nice photos ops including a Black Bellied Plover. It is one of the most reliable places to find the Eurasian Collard Dove (if that's something you are interested in). Here are a few photos from my trip last week:

Black Bellied Plover

Burrowing Owl

Eurasian Collard Dove

Great Blue Heron


Lark Bunting

Common Raven

Rock Wren

Birding Santa Cruz Flats in Arizona: RaptorsAmerican 12 Nov 2015, 10:18 am

 I wanted to check out the action at Santa Cruz Flats, about 40 miles north of Tucson. It is a fabulous winter birding spot; lots of raptors, a reliable place for burrowing owls, and oddly enough shorebirds. Although not quite season yet I did find some nice photo ops:

American Kestrel

Crested Caracara

Prairie Falcon

Red Tailed Hawk

Turkey Vulture

Birding San Rafael Valley, Southeast Arizona 9 Nov 2015, 12:09 pm

Yesterday, after breakfast headed out to San Rafael Valley in search of the Short Eared Owl and the White Tailed Kites. I went realizing my chances weren't great for the owl because I wasn't going to get there until 11:00 am. 

And, as it turns out I was right. No Short Eared Owl to be found. However, did find -- not one, but eleven White Tailed Kites sitting in a tree. I stood around taking photos, but then waiting for them to fly away (knowing that could produce other nice photos). Right again. 

So here are a few of those photos: