A Travellerspoint blog

March 2015

Day 3: A Bird Bonanza

all seasons in one day 85 °F

Today was arguably one of my favorite days of birding to date. Without further ado, let me narrate my day for you, because trust me, this will be a long post. Kudos to you if you make it all the way to the end!

My departure from the hacienda-house my family is renting was a bit delayed this morning because my uncle wanted to do a bit of birding on the property to start the day. I did not object to that idea, and we found some nice birds. BROAD-TAILED HUMMINGBIRD, male:

This rare BAIRD'S SPARROW was a nice surprise on the property:

We then left for our first birding stop if the day: Patagonia Lake State Park. The drive there was long, involving many stops for birds seen alongside the road, as well as getting lost a few times and having to call the police department (!) for directions due to faulty navigation by the rental car's GPS.

I found this bird, a PYRRHULOXIA, just as the car was pulling away from the house. It was a life bird for me, and you can see why this bird is also called the "desert cardinal:"

Here is the female:

After a bit more driving, we stopped for this RED-TAILED HAWK perched alongside the road:


Finally, we made it to Patagonia Lake State Park and hiked the appropriately named "Birding Trail" in search of waterfowl in Patagonia Lake and a rogue Elegant Trogon that has been spotted along the trail recently.

Waterfowl was abundant and beautiful, including this nice male GADWALL:

AMERICAN COOTS were the most common water bird present:

At one point, I got a quick glimpse of this female RUDDY DUCK before she dove underwater and out of sight:

Undoubtedly, the most beautiful species of waterfowl was this eye-candy CINNAMON TEAL:

Water birds were not the only avian friends present along the trail; there were other birds, as well. I only managed this crappy photo of a flyover PEREGRINE FALCON:

Mother and juvenile BEWICK'S WRENS:

This male VERMILLION FLYCATCHER flew to a perch just six feet away from me!

The birdsong quickly silenced when this juvenile COOPER'S HAWK appeared. At one point, I saw it make a low pass over some waterfowl; however, it was unsuccessful in gaining a meal.

Although I looked very thoroughly in the place it has been reported, I sadly never found the Elegant Trogon today.

The next stop was for a picnic lunch in the town of Patagonia. Of course, lunch was interrupted by a pair of GRAY HAWKS who performed aerial acrobatics for me: locking talons, diving, racing along in the wind, etc. It was very cool to watch these uncommon birds! I only managed one in-focus shot of this fast-moving raptor:

Then, we drove to the famous Paton's Feeders, owned by the Tucson Audubon Society, right in the town of Patagonia. This was quite possibly the most productive stop for birds of the entire trip so far. As well as the fantastic birds, I also met many very kind birders there.

Male YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLER, "Audubon" subspecies:

INCA DOVE, life bird:

INCA DOVE with a LARK SPARROW, another uncommon species:




Male BROAD-BILLED HUMMINGBIRD, the most common hummingbird species here in southeast Arizona:


ABERT'S TOWHEE, the alphabetically first bird species in the American Birding Area (lower 48 states, Canada, & Alaska):

CURVE-BILLED THRASHER. The last time I saw this species was a vagrant individual back at Montrose Point with Edward & Cristen Vincent in Chicago last June:

Male GAMBEL'S QUAIL, life bird!

Then, the rarest bird of the entire Arizona trip so far showed up - a beautiful VIOLET-CROWNED HUMMIGBIRD, a very uncommon species:

On the tip of a birder from the Paton's Feeders, my uncle and I then drove to a canyon south of Patagonia to look for the rarely-seen Montezuma Quail. We saw other species along the way, such as this CASSIN'S KINGBIRD:

And my life bird GILDED FLICKER, a female:




Although we searched very, very diligently for the Montezuma Quail, it simply refused to show up. So although we missed two important bird species today: Elegant Trogon and Monezuma Quail, those misses were pretty much made up for by the VIOLET-CROWNED HUMMINGBIRD at Paton's Feeders, which will be my bird-of-the-day. Runners-up go to the cooperative pair of PYRRHULOXIA early this morning and the fancy-flying pair of GRAY HAWKS at lunchtime.

The complete avian species list for the day, a whopping 67 species in total, is shown below.

All in all, a fantastic day of birding! A huge thank you to my uncle for driving and putting up with me all day...! Congrats if you made it all of the way through this long post!!

More birding adventures are in store for tomorrow, so stay tuned!

Happy birding,

World Life List: 743 Species (8 life birds today)

67 avian species today:

  • life bird

Cinnamon Teal
Northern Shoveler
Ruddy Duck

  • Gambel's Quail

Neotropic Cormorant
Black Vulture
Turkey Vulture
Cooper's Hawk
Gray Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
Peregrine Falcon
American Coot
Rock Pigeon
White-winged Dove
Mourning Dove

  • Inca Dove

Black-chinned Hummingbird

  • Costa's Hummingbird

Broad-tailed Hummingbird
Rufous Hummingbird
Broad-billed Hummingbird

  • Violet-crowned Hummingbird

Acorn Woodpecker
Gila Woodpecker

  • Ladder-backed Woodpecker
  • Gilded Flicker

Say's Phoebe
Vermillion Flycatcher
Cassin's Kingbird
Bell's Vireo
Plumbeous Vireo
Mexican Jay
Chihuahuan Raven
Common Raven
Barn Swallow
Bridled Titmouse
White-breasted Nuthatch
Bewick's Wren
Eastern Bluebird
Curve-billed Thrasher
Northern Mockingbird
European Starling
Lucy's Warbler
Common Yellowthroat
Yellow Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Black-throated Gray Warbler
Hepatic Tanager
Green-tailed Towhee
Abert's Towhee
Rufous-winged Sparrow
Cassin's Sparrow
Chipping Sparrow
Lark Sparrow

  • Black-throated Sparrow

Baird's Sparrow
Lincoln's Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrow
Northern Cardinal

  • Pyrrhuloxia

Brewer's Blackbird
House Sparrow
House Finch
Cassin's Finch
Pine Siskin
Lesser Goldfinch

Posted by skwclar 21:32 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Day 2: A Beautiful Day in the Desert

semi-overcast 85 °F

Today was my first full day in southeast Arizona! It was an awesome, bird-filled day with 40 avian species in total, including 14 life birds.

For starters, here are the promised non-bird photos to paint a picture of what southeast Arizona looks like this time of year. The desert is beautiful because this state has had a wet spring so far. Flowers are abundant, and the desert, although hot, is surprisingly green.

Here is the hacienda-house in which we are staying:

There are many cacti, and a good deal of them are blooming! This is one especially stunning plant on the property:

The regular plants with flowers are abundant and gorgeous, as well:

Another blooming cacti:

More flowers:

This is the stunning view outside our house:

It is a great place!

Now to the birds! Without even getting out of my bed, I photographed this WHITE-CROWNED SPARROW right outside of the bedroom window. Not a bad start to the day!

During breakfast, I spotted a large bird perched on a distant shack. I quickly grabbed my camera and snapped this crappy photo of my life bird GREATER ROADRUNNER just before it flew away:

My uncle and I departed fairly early in the morning to bird the Anza Trail in the town of Tubac in search of three target birds: Sinaloa Wren (mega-rare), Rufous-backed Robin (almost as rare), and Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet (fairly uncommon).

The drive to the trail involved quite a few stops, both planned and unplanned, but all because of birds. The first one was for my life bird GILA WOODPECKER, which turned out to be a common species throughout the day:

Another stop provided my life-bird LUCY'S WARBLER, which would also prove common throughout the morning:

We then arrived at the Tubac Hawk Watch. While waiting for Hawks to show up, I entertained myself with passerines (songbirds), such as this absolutely magnificent VERMILLION FLYCATCHER, an awesome life bird!

And this BELL'S VIREO, a threatened species which I was luckily able to see and hear throughout the morning:

Finally, some raptors started appearing. We had a COOPER'S HAWK and a far-off kettle of BLACK and TURKEY VULTURES. One of the other birders present at the hawk watch spotted these mating GRAY HAWKS very far in the distance:

After the hawk watch, my uncle and I drove to and walked the Anza Trail in search of the three aforementioned target birds. We soon came to the location where one of our target birds, the Rufous-backed Robin, has been sighted, but the bird was sadly not present despite looking thoroughly.

I soon found this female VERMILLION FLYCATCHER sitting on her nest:


Male VERDIN, life bird:


YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLER showing off its namesake fieldmark:

Then, we approached the spot where the super-rare Sinaloa Wren has been sighted recently, and I got excited for a moment over a wren moving through the underbrush. It, however, only turned out to be a BEWICK'S WREN, the wrong species (but a life bird nonetheless). Southeast Arizona must be one of those few places where the "wrong" species can turn out to be a life bird!

After a lot of fruitless searching at and near the spot where the SIWR has been sighted, we gave up and headed back in the direction from which we came. A consolation prize was seeing one of my other target birds for the day, a NORTHERN BEARDLESS-TYRANNULET! For "salt in the wound," however, it did not stay for photography. Annoyingly, this life-bird ASH-THROATED FLYCATCHER hid behind the branches and twigs when I snapped this photo:

I soon also gained my life-bird ABERT'S TOWHEE (the alphabetically-first bird species in the Amrican Birding Area), and at seeing yet another towhee in the underbrush, I was surprised by it being a GREEN-TAILED TOWHEE, another life bird! Here is the Green-tailed:

One out of three target birds for the day is not too shabby, I suppose, even though it didn't stay for photos. A big thanks to my uncle for driving and birding with me this morning under the 85-degree heat of the sun! I spent the afternoon relaxing at the hacienda-house, enjoying the warm weather after a cold Chicago winter, swimming in the pool, and birding the property a bit. While birding, I found this female SAY'S PHOEBE:

I also found my life-bird RUFOUS-WINGED SPARROW pair within a cacti plant:

Bird-of-the-day to my life bird VERMILLION FLYCATCHER, the most beautiful bird I photographed today. Under normal circumstances, the much more uncommon NORTHERN BEARDLESS-TYRANNULET seen would get top prize, but it only gets runner-up today for not allowing me to photograph it.

Full avian species list for the day is below my signature.

Stay tuned for more avian adventures to be posted tomorrow! Arizona is so awesome!

Happy birding,

World Life List: 736 Species (14 life birds today)

40 species today:

  • life bird

Black Vulture
Turkey Vulture
Cooper's Hawk
Gray Hawk
White-winged Dove
Mourning Dove

  • Greater Roadrunner

Broad-billed Hummingbird

  • Gila Woodpecker
  • Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet

Say's Phoebe

  • Vermillion Flycatcher
  • Ash-throated Flycatcher
  • Brown-crested Flycatcher
  • Cassin's Kingbird

Bell's Vireo
Plumbeous Vireo
Chihuahuan Raven
Barn Swallow

  • Verdin
  • Bewick's Wren

European Starling
Orange-crowned Warbler

  • Lucy's Warbler

Yellow Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Green-tailed Towhee
Spotted Towhee

  • Abert's Towhee
  • Rufous-winged Sparrow
  • Cassin's Sparrow

Chipping Sparrow
Grasshopper Sparrow

  • Baird's Sparrow

White-crowned Sparrow
Northern Cardinal
House Sparrow
House Finch
Pine Siskin
Lesser Goldfinch

Posted by skwclar 21:03 Archived in USA Comments (2)

Day 1: Arizona!

semi-overcast 91 °F

Today my mom, dad, sister, aunt, uncle and I all arose in the 5 o'clock hour for our flight from Chicago Midway to Tucson, Arizona. My mom, sister, aunt, uncle, and I all took an early morning flight and my dad, as I am writing this at 7:30pm local time, is currently flying here on an evening flight.

It was a cramped 3 hour, 45 minute flight on Southwest Airlines, but we made it safe and sound, and now we are in southeast Arizona: THE best for birding in the entire country!

We landed at about 10:40am local time into Tucson, and we then purchased a single rental car and packed ourselves in like sardines: 5 people with so much luggage it didn't all fit in the trunk! Next, we drove around in circles on the outskirts of Tucson before we finally found the Bagin's restaurant for which we were looking. Lunch consisted of delicious southwestern-style sandwiches, and we were soon on our way again!

I think it is very strange that a place so desert-like is the birding hotspot of the country. Today, however, I learned that the canyons in the arid mountain ranges form micro-climates for tropical-like forests, thus attracting bird species that are more common in Mexico to these specific canyons of southeast Arizona. The country here is also beautiful - it is truly desert with hot temperatures and wild cacti. I promise to post some nature scenery photos, as well as photos of the house in which we are staying for the week, tomorrow.

Because it was only 12:45 and we had hours to kill until we were expected at our hacienda-house (3:00pm which got delayed to 4:30pm), we decided to visit a famous birding location on the way from downtown Tucson to the town in which our house is located; Tubac. That birding location is called Madera Canyon, and it was moderately good birding. Most of the birds seen were new to me since I have never been to the southwestern USA before, but it was a bit slower than expected because we were birding during the heat of mid-day (91 degrees at 2:00pm).

On our drive to Madera Canyon, I spotted my life bird CHIHUAHUAN RAVEN beside the road:

Our first stop was the expansive bird feeding setup at Santa Rita Lodge in Madera Canyon. There are simply so many feeders, and there were so many birds attracted to them! For starters, I was quickly introduced to the bullies of the feeding station: obnoxious MEXICAN JAYS, which were otherwise an awesome, agreeable life bird! They would fly in all the sudden in large groups and scare all of the smaller passerines away for a short while.

RED-NAPED SAPSUCKERS were present on the trees behind the feeders the whole time I was there. These are the western cousins of Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers, which occur in the eastern USA and migrate through my backyard in Chicago.

As well as comedic ACORN WOODPECKERS, like the one pictured below, which I last saw at Yosemite National Park in the spring of 2013.

The most abundant hummingbird species at the many hummingbird feeders was the gorgeous BROAD-BILLED HUMMINGBIRD, and here is a photo of a male. Life bird!

Sometime this week I will visit Ash Creek Canyon to see the rare Lucifer Hummingbirds which have shown up there recently.

Along with PINE SISKINS, LESSER GOLDFINCHES such as this male pictured below, availed themselves of the seed feeders. The goldfinches were a life bird for me.

A quick drive up the canyon didn't yield much in the way of birds due to the afternoon heat, but we did find another good place for hummingbirds.




Back at the Santa Rita Lodge, I grabbed a quick photo of these two ACORN WOODPECKERS at their nesting tree:


HEPATIC TANAGER, awesome life bird!

To my annoyance, a beautiful life bird PAINTED REDSTART appeared at the feeding station for a short while but departed prematurely, not allowing for any pictures. I would have loved to photograph that beauty, so hopefully I will see it elsewhere!

Then, the rarest bird of the day showed up. An ARIZONA WOODPECKER, life bird! Madera Canyon is one of the few reliable places in the country to find this species.

Head of my life-bird BRIDLED TITMOUSE on the left, with a WHITE-BREASTED NUTHATCH at right:

A beautiful male RUFOUS HUMMINGBIRD briefly joined the feeding party, but departed quickly, leaving me only with this sub-par photograph:

As it neared time to head to the grocery store, we left the canyon. I spotted this RED-TAILED HAWK (which I hoped would have been a rarer species) alongside the road.

After shopping, we drove to our hacienda-house and were pleased to be greeted by a beautiful, expansive house complete with a pool! I took a quick swim, and then snapped a photo of this female SAY'S PHOEBE sitting on her nest on the house we are renting:

Again, I promise to post photos of the house tomorrow!

Bird-of-the-day certainly goes to the ARIZONA WOODPECKER, the rarest species seen today. Runners-up to the common but beautiful BROAD-TAILED HUMMINGBIRDS and the one nice HEPATIC TANAGER.

As well as more awesome birding, stay tuned for scenery and hacienda-house photos for tomorrow! The full bird species list for the day, highlighting my twelve life birds gained, is found below.

Good birding!

World Life List: 722 Species (12 life birds today)

  • life bird

38 species today:

Canada Goose
Turkey Vulture
Sharp-shinned Hawk
Cooper's Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
American Kestrel
Ring-billed Gull
Rock Pigeon

  • White-winged Dove

Mourning Dove
Black-chinned Hummingbird
Anna's Hummingbird

  • Broad-tailed Hummingbird

Rufous Hummingbird

  • Broad-billed Hummingbird

Acorn Woodpecker
Red-naped Sapsucker

  • Arizona Woodpecker

Say's Phoebe

  • Plumbeous Vireo
  • Mexican Jay
  • Chihuahuan Raven

Common Raven

  • Bridled Titmouse

White-breasted Nuthatch
House Wren
American Robin

  • Northern Mockingbird

European Starling

  • Phainopepla
  • Painted Redstart
  • Hepatic Tanager

Chipping Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
House Sparrow
House Finch
Pine Siskin

  • Lesser Goldfinch

Posted by skwclar 19:37 Archived in USA Comments (3)

Life Bird #710: White-winged Scoter!

sunny 32 °F

Last night, Friday March 27, my birding aunt and uncle drove to Oak Park and stayed overnight with my family. Tomorrow my family and my aunt and uncle will all fly to southeast Arizona for my spring break, so stay tuned for that! I am SO excited because SE Arizona is THE best place in the entire country for birding!

Today after my choir rehearsal, my uncle and I went birding at Montrose Point Bird Sanctuary north of Chicago in search of White-winged Scoters (an uncommon type of duck), which would be a life bird for both of us.

As soon as we arrived, I spotted this HORNED GREBE in breeding plumage in the harbor:

After a bit of walking on "Fishook Pier," which juts out into Lake Michigan from the bird sanctuary, in the frigid conditions (32-degree temps with blustery winds), we found a beautiful male WHITE-WINGED SCOTER bobbing up and down in the choppy waters of Lake Michigan! Life bird 710!

We soon found another Scoter, a female this time:

Two more White-winged Scoters made a grand total of four of them for the day. The full list of bird species seen can be found below my signature.

Stay tuned, because tomorrow I will fly out to SE Arizona (AKA birder's paradise), and I will be posting in the evening for probably the next 7 days or so!

Good birding,

World Life List: 710 Species (1 life bird today: White-winged Scoter)

27 species today:

Canada Goose 8
Mallard 3
Redhead 3
Ring-necked Duck 15
Lesser Scaup 1
White-winged Scoter 4
Common Goldeneye 2
Red-breasted Merganser 20
Horned Grebe 1
Ring-billed Gull 20
Herring Gull 2
Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon) 3
Downy Woodpecker 1
American Crow 3
Black-capped Chickadee 1
Brown Creeper 1
American Robin 10
European Starling 5
Song Sparrow 1
Dark-eyed Junco 1
Northern Cardinal 1
Red-winged Blackbird 2
Common Grackle 2
Brown-headed Cowbird 2
House Finch 1
American Goldfinch 1
House Sparrow 10

Posted by skwclar 15:16 Archived in USA Comments (2)

Brown Creeper!

semi-overcast 34 °F

Nothing like a Brown Creeper on an annoying Tuesday to cheer up some boring studying...

Spring break & Arizona in only a few days, stay tuned!


Posted by skwclar 13:22 Archived in USA Comments (1)

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