8 Days of Rarities in Arizona!
Ilya and I went down for eight days to Southeastern Arizona, it was one rarity and fun-filled trip.
Day 1, we went to Encanto Park and picked up the Rosy-faced Lovebirds and then went to Tonopah, where we found multiple nesting Black-tailed Gnatcatchers, some Brewer's Sparrows, Verdins, a Horned Lark and one very accommodating Bendire's Thrasher with 2 Crissal Thrashers. There was unfortunately no sign of a Le Conte's Thrasher. This is usually the best spot in the state for this species.
|Horned Lark in Tonopah - Photo: Melissa Hafting|
|Male Black-tailed Gnatcatcher in Tonopah - Photos: Melissa Hafting|
|Crissal Thrasher in Tonopah - Photo: Melissa Hafting|
On Day 2 we went to Mt Lemmon where we went to Rose Canyon Lake and had Virginia's, Olive, Grace's, Red-faced Warblers and Plumbeous Vireos... just to name a few!.
|Grace's Warbler at Rose Lake on Mt Lemmon (Tucson) - Photo: Melissa Hafting|
|Red-faced Warbler on Mt. Lemmon in Tucson - Photo: Melissa Hafting|
We finished the night at Madera Canyon where we stayed at Kubo B&B. I highly recommend the quaint cabins there which puts you direct into the bird action by both day and night.
We did some owling and nightjaring and got good views of an Elf Owl. We also had a Northern Pygmy-owl, Whiskered Screech and Grear Horned Owl. We also got quite a few Mexican Whip-poor-wills calling but no visual. Later we would hit the "visual jackpot" on them though.
On Day 3, we went back to the spot we heard the Pygmies and found two Northern Pygmy-Owls with our friend Thor Manson (originally from BC). Here we also saw an Ash-throated Flycatcher and some Dusky Flys.
|1 of 2 Northern Pygmy-Owls in Green Valley - Photo: Melissa Hafting|
Next Thor took us to Proctor Rd and showed us the spot where he had 2 Black-capped Gnatcatchers. After a few minutes we heard them but couldn't get a visual. 77mins later... we finally got a visual of the male with his full black cap showing. It was worth the time spent. Others had seen him and his mate carrying nesting material; so they probably will get easier to see shortly here. My photo is a poor record shot my friend Thor Manson got some stunners too bad I wasn't so quick on the draw. They moved like popping popcorn though in my defense!
|Black-capped Gnatcatcher in Madera Canyon - Photo: Melissa Hafting|
There was also many Bell's Vireos and Rufous-winged Sparrow and a Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet and a Say's Phoebe down there. Thor showed us a tiny Broad-billed Hummer nest as well which was so intricate and cool.
|Rufous-winged Sparrow on Proctor Rd in Madera Canyon - Photo: Melissa Hafting|
Next we went to the feeders at Madera Canyon and saw Rivoli's, Broad-billed and Black-chinned Hummers and Mexican Jays, an Arizona Woodpecker, Bridled Titmouse, Lesser Goldfinch, Acorn Woodpeckers, White-breasted Nuthatch, Yellow-eyed Junco and Wild Turkeys.
|Arizona Woodpecker at Madera Canyon - Photo: Melissa Hafting|
Next we headed up past Kubo where we were staying to look for Elegant Trogons. We parked near the Carrie Nation Trail and walked down the canyon. While walking we spotted a Coati! It was so cool and the first time I had ever seen one!
Further down the road we saw many Painted Redstarts, a Black-throated Gray Warbler and a female Hepatic Tanager.
Nearby to this we heard barking ...loud barking. We knew we had a Elegant Trogon but couldn't see the bird so decided to bush whack in and we quickly found a Dusky-capped Flycatcher and the barking male Elegant Trogon. He was stunning, definitely one of the most beautiful birds in the ABA. I got a decent photo and view of him. Truly a great day so far!
We said goodbye to Thor and drove to Tubac where we quickly picked up a beautiful male Rose-throated Becard that was calling. We saw the nest hanging from a tree but could not relocate the female. As we were watching the Becard, we had a nice Zone-tailed Hawk fly over us. Here we also saw a Plumbeous Vireo, Lucy's Warblers, Cassin's Kingbirds, Vermillion Flycatchers and Ladder-backed Woodpecker just to name a few.
|Male Rose-throated Becard in Tubac - Ilya Povalyaev|
After this we headed to California Gulch via the notorious Ruby Road to look for Five-striped Sparrows and Buff-collared Nightjar. We met up with our friend Joachim Bertrands and his Belgian birding friends who were all super cool. On Ruby Rd we saw a Loggerhead Shrike and a beautiful Bobcat and many Mexican Jays. We got there at 6:30pm which was too late but the Rose-throated becard took an hour, so we dipped on the Five-striped Sparrow. We did see a Canyon Wren, Canyon Towhee, Green-tailed Towhee, Lucy's warblers and Vermilion Flys though.
Almost immediately at 700pm like clockwork a Buff-collared Nightjar started singing. We got the flashlight on him and he flew towards us which was amazing. Later on we found an Elf Owl nest in a cactus on the ride home and many Common Poorwills. Ruby Rd was in great shape and seemed perfect for a 2 wd. A great end to an intense day of birding.
We would all be back the next morning at dawn to retry the Five-striped Sparrow. Well that morning on Day 4 we left Madera at 4 Scaled Quail run across the road which was very cool. About 15 mins later on the road, 2 Montezuma Quail (male and female) were sitting on the side of the road giving us spectacular views. They really are such gorgeous birds and the best looking Quail in the ABA in my books. and on the drive there via S Arivaca Rd we had
After spending a few hours with everyone at the Gulch and listening to all the birds singing, including the similar sounding Black-throated Sparrows, we knew we had dipped (my friend Joachim and his friends would later get the bird 6 days later in a different canyon "Chino"). We got a flat tire on the bumpy rocky road as well (ya the road I thought was in great shape...); luckily the rental car had a spare and jack in the car allowing us to change the tire and get away quickly. There is no cell service in there and we had ran out of water we knew border control would come by sooner or later in their hot pursuit of illegal migrants.
Anyways, we got out and got the tire fixed for 15$ in Amado, while we looked at 2 beautiful Rufous-backed Robins and then had a delicious authentic Mexican lunch at "Soto's Outpost."
I will back up a bit. Searching for the Rufous-backed Robin and Sinaloa Wren down near Santa Gertrudis Lane was really unpleasant. It was about Sinaloa Wren was seen once during our stay on April 22 and then not again till after we left on April 29th when my friend Joachim got it where a man had finally found the nest!. Before heading to Paton's, I stopped first at the Amado Waste Treatment Plant to see if any Black-bellied Whistling Ducks were back there, as in previous years, but only found a Green Heron and Ruddy Ducks. and the hottest part of the day. It was baking and no one had seen the Wren since April 22 but I'm sure it was there but we were literally burning alive while looking for it. It is a notoriously skulky bird. Many people were there looking for the robin and couldn't find it, including my friend from BC, Chris Charlesworth. Eventually two birds flew into mulberry bushes in a small flock of Swainson's Thrushes. Due to the heat, we did not give our normal full effort looking for the Wren and we left en route for Patagonia. The
When we got to Paton's we were overwhelmed by the beautiful Violet-crowned Hummingbirds and the large amount of Black-headed Grosbeaks there. A Cassin's Finch was also present. There was an irruption year of Cassin's Finches down there this year.
|Violet-crowned Hummingbird in Patagonia - Photo: Melissa Hafting|
|Female Ladder-backed Woodpecker in Patagonia - Photo: Melissa Hafting|
|Broad-billed Hummingbird in Patagonia - Photo: Melissa Hafting|
After Patagonia, we headed up on my friend Blair Bernson's tip and went to El Camino Del Cerro Trailhead to see Gilded Flickers. En route near Sonoita, I kept my eye out for Pronghorn which I've seen on this road before but not this time. At the Trailhead we saw the Gilded Flickers, Cactus Wrens, Gambel's Quails, Curve-billed Thrashers and Lesser Nighthawks. It was a stunning landscape of cacti and rocks a beautiful place to bird thanks Blair.
|Gilded Flicker in Tucson - Photo: Melissa Hafting|
If you haven't stayed at the Ramsey Canyon Inn I highly recommend it along with Madera Kubo Lodge. Both give you breakfasts Ramsey is fancy and Kubo is more rustic so Kubo is my favourite. Nothing like waking up to hummers, Coati and Turkeys and Jays and going to bed to Elf Owls and Mexican Whip-poor-wills.
I digress, on Day 5 we started off at Hunter Canyon since I was silly and booked in at the Ramsey Inn on the two days the preserve was closed which are Tuesdays and Weds. Pretty dumb right? Anyways we hiked up Hunter Canyon looking for Rufous-capped Warblers thanks to a tip from my friend Brian Stech. The hike was moderate difficulty level in the hot heat and only about 1 mile all uphill. We found two Rufous-cappeds chasing around a poor Wilson's Warbler by the running creek and a big slingshot tree. These warblers are so pretty and adorable. So far in my eyes the top 3 pretty birds of the trip were: Elegant Trogon, Montezuma Quail and Rufous-capped Warblers. Followed closely in my opinion by Red-faced and Olive Warblers. Later the Flame-coloured Tanager would knock these birds off their pedestals.
Next we went to San Pedro House where we found a White-throated Sparrow (rare for southern AZ at the end of April) and a roosting Western Screech-Owl sunning himself. He is high up far from any possible disturbance.
|White-throated Sparrow in Sierra Vista - Photo: Melissa Hafting|
After this, we went to Mary Jo's in Ash Canyon where we picked up a Scott's Oriole and 3 Lucifer Hunmingbirds. They are one of my favourite hummers the males look so cool with their forked tails.
|Mexican Jay in Ash Canyon - Photo: Melissa Hafting|
|Cassin's Finch with bumblefoot at Ash Canyon - Photo: Melissa Hafting|
We then hiked at Beatty's and met Tom and his dogs and since no White-eared were there went for a nice hike up Miller Canyon where we found a rare for the area and stunning adult Northern Goshawk. The Goshawks were nesting in the canyon which was cool and surprising being so close to people. After this we headed for Portal where we planned to spend 2 nights.
The next morning in Portal we woke up and went straight to George Walker House where we hoped to snag a Juniper Titmouse. Well we did snag a Juniper Titmouse along with another Coati eating peanut butter but as soon as we pulled up the owner Jackie Lewis called over to us that she had an OVENBIRD! The Ovenbird was a first for her yard and rare bird for Arizona. He was so beautiful strutting his stuff with his cocked tail. We got nice photos and more Scott's Orioles flew in.
|White-nosed Coati in Portal - Photo: Melissa Hafting|
After this, we drove up to Rustler Park where we found a Greater Pewee, Hairy Woodpecker, Olive, Grace's and Red-faced Warblers. At nearby Barfoot Park we found some Mexican Brown Creepers, Hermit Thrushes, Pygmy and White-breasted Nuthatches and Western Bluebirds. We did not see or hear a Mexican Chickadee in either park which is the normally reported site for them.
|Olive Warbler at Rustler Park in Portal - Photo: Melissa Hafting|
After this we headed to Pinery Canyon for the Slate-Throated Redstart. We met 4 birders in the trail two had seen it and 2 others had not. They had been there since dawn. We followed advice from friends and sat and waited. After 90 mins we started hearing and seeing Painted Redstarts doing their cool displays and I got some decent photos. Broad-tailed Hummers, Red-faced and Townsend's Warblers were there, Yellow-eyed Juncos and Hairy Woodpeckers and a very accommodating MEXICAN CHICKADEE. 30 mins later we eventually spotted the Slate-throated Redstart and got great views and photos and listened to its pretty song. It might be mating with a Painted Redstart as it was seen consistently with a Painted and that seemed to be the general consensus of the locals but I can't confirm or deny. I'm not privy to the romantic escapades of Slate-throated Redstarts.
|Record shot of Mexican Chickadee at Pinery Canyon - Photo: Melissa Hafting|
|Painted Redstart at Pinery Canyon - Photo: Melissa Hafting|
Well with those two lifers on the road, we left VERY happy. The roads up there to Barfoot and Pinery Canyon were not in good condition and we got our second flat of the trip here but it was worth it. Never fun getting a flat in a no-cell service area though. Luckily again we quickly put on the "donut tire" and drove to Animas, NM (30 mins away)... I always wanted to visit New Mexico LOL. At Animas Ward (the mechanic) fixed everything promptly, including the next flat we got in his driveway... What luck eh? 3 flats on one trip!! What type of tires does Thrifty put on their car anyways? Are they made out of balloons?!! By the way CAA is only as good as the Cell service you get and no where we had a flat did we have cell service. Next time I'm renting 4WD only and insisting a full size spare is in the trunk. Thrifty refused to reimburse us for the tire too. Nice service...
After that debacle we went to the Southwestern Research Starion in Portal, where we quickly saw a very cute Botta's Pocket Gopher. Another lifer... Then we saw stunning male Blue-throated Hummingbirds, 4 in total. Man they are huge (the largest in The ABA) and many Broad-taileds, Black-Chinned and beautiful Rivoli's as well. We also saw the Mexican House Wren and many Deer. This place was a magical oasis a perfect place to sit and relax.
|Male Blue-throated Hummingbird in Portal - Photo: Melissa Hafting|
|Male Black-chinned Hummingbird in Portal - Photo: Melissa Hafting|
|Banded Male Blue-throated Hummingbird in Portal - Photos: Melissa Hafting|
|Female Rivoli's Hummingbird in Portal - Photo: Melissa Hafting|
|Male banded Rivoli's Hummingbird in Portal - Photos: Melissa Hafting|
|Botta's Pocket Gopher - Photo: Melissa Hafting|
After a delicious dinner at Portal Peak Lodge where we stayed (we stayed in a cabin there and it was really wonderful - I highly recommend it!) we went owling and whip-poor-will hunting. Here we saw our great views of Mexican Whip-poor-wills; one flew around us and sat and perched in front of us for 5 mins which is totally incredible! They are usually hard to see!. We heard Northern Pygmy-Owls calling again surprisingly at night and we had stunning views of 4 Whiskered Screech-Owls and 1 Elf Owl. A great night of owling and all done by It seemed like very efficient owling unlike in BC which can take hours to get one owl! LOL
|Whiskered Screech-Owl (note all pale bill) in Portal - Ilya Povalyaev|
|Mexican Whip-poor-will in Portal - Photo: Melissa Hafting|
Well a great end to a great day yet again.! Seeing the Slate-throated Redstart pose and fan his tail so nice in front of us for pics was definitely the highlight.
The next day we were off to Ramsey Canyon to hike the Hamburg Trail for the Tufted Flycatcher and Flame-colored Tanager. While driving through Douglas a flock of 40 Willet flew overhead. In Bisbee we saw one Crissal Thrasher sitting in an Ocotillo (I love these unique desert red-flowering plants).
We did the tough 4 mile hike up and easily saw the Flame-coloured Tanager. It was calling and sounds like a Western Tanager. Then he flew and sat in the open pine tree and burst into full song. His bright vivid orange colour just blew my mind, he was so gorgeous. The prettiest Tanager I've ever seen. One of the prettiest birds I've ever seen.
|Male Flame-colored Tanager on the Hamburg Trail at Ramsey Canyon - Photo: Melissa Hafting|
Then we continued another 1.3 km until we got to the Tufted Flycatcher spot. Thanks to my friend Ryan Andrews for the awesome directions. It was a long hike not for those with mobility issues as it's steep in parts but a beautiful one and I know why my friend Paul Prappas says it's one of his favourite hikes. It took about 30 mins for us to hear the bird. The bird was calling and flying up in the tree tops, we got good views and record marginal photos. An Elegant Trogon flew in and barked nearby. We also had a Cordillerean Flycatcher which was very cool since we mostly see Pacific-slope at home.
We then went up to Carr Canyon to the Reef Town Campsite and found one Buff-breasted Flycatcher at campsite #10. That road is really not for those who are scared of heights! lol
We finished the evening watching an active Swainson's Hawk Nest and Lesser Nighthawks fly overhead near the Hereford Bridge. The sunset from here was spectacular.
On Day 8, our last day we got up at and went to see the Streak-backed Oriole in Tucson. This bird is tough as you have to wake up early!! It's easy as long as you are there by as it mostly comes once or twice a day between We got the bird at She was chattering and beautiful she flew in and perched and then left never to be seen again that day. We were lucky to see her on April 28 as there was no sightings on ebird between April 23rd and 27th.
I won't disclose the location as they are endangered but during this trip we also saw a Mexican Spotted Owl and had crippling views. I've seen Northern Spotted Owls but since they are my favourite owl and the experience was so cool, it was the highlight of the trip even though we almost got bit by a rattlesnake while watching it. As we set the bag down the snake started to rattle its tail loudly. Luckily it didn't strike. I didn't even see it on the rock I almost stepped on it and it did nothing and I never saw it but then the bag made it rattle and a good thing to! I'm
grateful for its warning! These rattle snakes are also threatened and really don't want to do us any harm. It's an incredible creature and I'm glad that all ended good as we were 3 hours up a canyon at the time! Getting bit up there wouldn't have ended too well.
|Mexican Spotted Owl - Photo: Melissa Hafting|
The final bird we saw before boarding the plane was a nesting Common Black-Hawk. Thanks to my friend Thor we found her exactly where he described near Phoenix. That was the 165th bird species we saw on one spectacular trip.
As we stood looking at the Black Hawk, a Zone-tailed Hawk flew right over us screeching. A perfect end.. to a perfect trip.
Some of the birds SEEN in AZ
(Not all birds listed)
Spotted Owl (Mexican)
Black-throated Gray Warbler
Whiskered Screech Owl
Great Horned Owl
Common Ground Dove
Total species is 165
Sure didn't want to leave AZ as it was pouring rain in Vancouver when we got back. I can't wait to go back. Thanks for reading.