A quick trip to AZ!

Berylline Hummingbird in Portal - Photo: Melissa Hafting

I have been following some of the rarities being seen in Southeastern Arizona lately and there were 3 that had my mouth watering. I love hummingbirds and have ALWAYS wanted to see a Berylline and White-eared and when I knew there was some long staying individuals I was intrigued. When I noticed the Common Crane which I dipped on in June was still present I thought it would be worth a trip. I looked for a seat sale but it was a fortune from Vancouver due to the long weekend but there was a cheap flight for only 200$ Cad out of Bellingham so I grabbed that and flew to Mesa.  Ilya had wanted to join me but due to work conflicts he couldn't.

It was my first time flying into this airport and won't be my last. It couldn't have been easier a tiny airport and you walk right out to your rental car. No big shuttle buses and long waits like at the large PHX terminal. Plus this airport is way closer to the birds in southeastern AZ!.
I went straight to Ash Canyon B&B to look for the male White-eared Hummingbird that was been seen there sporadically but dipped. I did see some great hummers though including a few gorgeous and semi rare Lucifers!.

Adult and Juv Male Lucifer Hummingbirds in Hereford, AZ - Photos: Melissa Hafting

I drove to Portal that night through a heavy rain storm (it is monsoon season there) and slept in my car in Portal near the campground. I brought my blankets and pillows and loved looking at the starry sky. I awoke at 5 20 am to singing Blue Grosbeaks and washed up and went to look for the Berylline. 

I met a British man looking for Montezuma Quail. I was wearing a red shirt since I had heard that attracted the Berylline. The young man gave me directions on how to access the trail and we parted ways. I walked to the feeder about 400 m in from the road and I turned around and the British young man said he decided to come too to see it again and it was hovering near my shirt within 10 mins of arrival!. It was a lifer and a beautiful hummingbird and it kept hovering so close to my face. This is probably the rarest hummingbird that comes to AZ and the USA. It was a real thrill. The British man told me that he waited 3 hours the day before for only a tiny glimpse so he was glad I wore my red shirt so he could get some good photos. It kept perching right near my face which was cool. 

Berylline Hummingbird in Portal - Photos: Melissa Hafting

There was a Blue-throated Mountain-Gem that apparently had been chasing the Berylline. I saw the Blue-throated Mountain-Gem but it was behaving very nicely. Apparently there was 2 Beryllines (in different plumages) photographed but I only saw the one bird. On the way out I found the British man's quail! There was a male and female Montezuma Quail with 6 chicks. I got some shots and looked for him but never did see the nice man again :(. The male is just stunning truly always a special moment for me to catch these rare birds.

Male Montezuma Quail with chicks in Portal - Photos: Melissa Hafting

Nearby there was nesting White-eared Hummingbirds. There are very few nesting records for the USA but I dipped sadly. The birds are still there though so it is extremely frustrating but you can't win them all and hopefully get them next visit!.

While I was looking at the Berryline there was people looking at a gorgeous male White-eared Hummingbird!. Talk about frustrating! So I drove 1 hour and 45 mins back to Ash Canyon and sat by the feeders all day. Sadly he never returned nor did he return the next morning but I did have an amazing time. I saw so many beautiful hummers : Violet-crowned, Broad-billed, Broad-tailed, Calliope, Rufous, Anna's, Black-chinned, Lucifer and Rivoli's not to mention the cool birds too like Gray Hawk etc.

Male and Female Broad-tailed Hummingbird in Hereford - Photos: Melissa Hafting

Rivoli's Hummingbird in Hereford - Photo: Melissa Hafting

Gray Hawk in Hereford - Photo: Melissa Hafting

However, what was so great was the people I met there. I met a man named Tim Blount who volunteers there who is a book author. He had photographed the White-eared that morning. He also used to manage Malheur NWR but after the hostage takeover sadly had a stroke. He was so kind. The kind of person impossible to hate and you just clicked with. We talked the whole time while I waited and he gave me a signed copy of his new book : "Birds of the Pacific Northwest". It is a beautiful book so pick it up if you have a chance!.

I also met a lovely man named Tony Battiste. I have heard of him for years as he manages a bed and breakfast that is well known and that has had its share of rarities and an elf owl. He was so kind. I will definitely try and stay at his place next visit. Another person I clicked with and could talk with for hours. No matter that he lives right near to Ash Canyon he was as eager as me to see the White-eared and just as disappointed after hours of waiting when it didn't show. You gotta love people who never tire of seeing the birds in their own patch that they have seen countless times before!.

Well  I had officially dipped while I was looking for the male White-eared Hummingbird. The nesting female was seen in Portal but I had no time to go back. White-eareds are annual in Arizona so I knew I would get more chances so I decided to go for the rarer Common Crane. It was a 5.5 hour drive to Mormon Lake. I was looking forward to getting up there because it is much cooler there. Down in southeastern the hottest temp I had was 112F but up there it was 84F. I was happy to get to cooler pastures.

When I got there it was packed with people due to the labour day weekend. I pulled over and immediately saw a car pull over and 2 young birders get out and start running to me. They had no scope and they told me they had been driving around for over an hour and weren't able to see the crane. Without a scope you would not have a hope in hell of seeing the Common Crane. He stays miles out in the middle of the lake and marsh wetland. I read that he was sticking close to an elk herd. So I found one of 3 herds and began scanning. Within 30 mins I found the crane and the 2 university students Bobby and his girlfriend Camilla from U of A were so overjoyed that they had run into me. I let them look as long as they wanted through my scope before they made the long drive back to Tucson.  After they left I studied him in my scope. He was a stunning bird. A nice red crown, white face stripe, black face and neck, pale bill all gray body and big bush black and gray tail. Prettier than our Sandhills and very out of place walking with the elk. Here is a photo of the crane if you don't know what they look like.. I won't post my rubbish one!.

I came home and had plans to bird with young birder Bridget. I am trying to spend as much time as possible with her before she leaves.

We had a fantastic shorebird day!. We saw 16 species of shorebirds and some notable ones were Wandering Tattler (we biked out to the end of the jetty), a Buff-breasted Sandpiper, Willet and American Golden-Plover.

A few shots:

American Golden-Plover at Boundary Bay - Photos: Melissa Hafting

Buff-breasted Sandpiper at Boundary Bay - Photo: Melissa Hafting

Juv. Semipalmated Plover at Boundary Bay - Photo: Melissa Hafting

Wandering Tattler at Iona - Photo: Melissa Hafting

A nice way to end a whirlwind trip to AZ. I sure was happy though to be back in beautiful BC and away from the heat. I even got to watch a pod of Orcas (J-Pod) with calf breaching and feeding off Point Roberts, WA in close proximity for an hour from land. I couldn't have asked for a better long weekend.

See the video of the Orcas below:

Next weekend, I will be filming with CBC network for a new birding documentary. Apparently it will air next summer. It is a huge honour and I'm very grateful and it will include some young birders in there as well. More to come on that later!.

Exciting times ahead.


  1. So much news and excitement packed into one post! Congrats!

  2. Congratulations on finding and getting awesome photos of the Berylline Hummingbird and some other great birds. Wow, talk about getting a good deal on a holiday weekend flight. As I was reading I was thinking that the heat must have been unbearable. I checked the currant temperature at Mesa and am happy to be here in eastern Washington.

    1. thank you so much and yes the heat was unbearable!! i need to get back to beautiful easter wa actually....

  3. Amazing work and what a wonderful Labour day weekend

  4. Beautiful hummingbird shots and overall sounds like a great weekend with orcas and everything. Look forward to seeing the documentary!

    1. thank you so much. the doc airs next summer on cbc :)


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