Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Beware the Owls of March...

     It's the middle of March and I've not posted in awhile. I had an accident up on Mt. Ord in February where I slid on a muddy, ash-filled slope and landed on my camera lens and broke it. I sent it out and $500 later it was repaired and looks to be as good as new.
     I finally had a chance to get out with the repaired lens and do some birding. I actually did not know where I was going to go. According to my Birdseye App, all of the birds in my area are already on my list. I never meant to be a lister, but because I tend to move around often, I really like to build my life list. Most of the ones that I need in Arizona are outside of Phoenix and I need more than a morning to go after them. But, there were still some. I've been trying to see Mountain Plover in the Santa Cruz Flats all winter. It's just at the end of their snowbird season, but I thought that I would try one more time for them. There was also a chance of seeing a Ruddy Ground Dove in the area too, so it was worth a trip if I could get either one of those.
     I got a late start on the day, but one of the first birds that I saw was an Osprey just out of my hometown of Gilbert on the Gila River Native American lands enjoying a fish's head.

Osprey - Gilbert, Arizona
     After arriving in the north part of the Santa Cruz Flats I was greeted by a large flocks of Lark Buntings. These guys were gathering together to make their trip north in the coming weeks. One of them was even getting into it's breeding plumage.

Lark Buntings
Lark Buntings - Santa Cruz Flats, Arizona
Just before the turn-off East towards the Evergreen Sod Farms I noticed a speckled bird fly across the road and land on a fence post, so I pulled over and went to get a better look. It was a surprise Sage Thrasher, also on it's way north. 

Sage Thrasher
Sage Thrasher - Santa Cruz Flats, Arizona
It was shortly joined by a second one and together they did some foraging along the roadside. I noticed a large, tan building behind me that had some birds flying around. I recognized some House Sparrows and a Say's Phoebe.

Say's Phoebe
Say's Phoebe - Santa Cruz Flats, Arizona 
The building was clearly empty with no windows or doors and a large for-sale sign out front and no fence, so I decided to take a peek inside on a hunch. I looked up into the rafters and saw someone looking back at me.

Barn Owl
Barn Owl - Santa Cruz Flats, Arizona
It was a Barn Owl! I've been trying to see one for years. I had a glimpse of one near Bosque Del Apache in New Mexico 5 or 6 years ago, but just as it flew out of a nest box and off into some trees. I couldn't believe it. And just then, it got even better, a second one flew next to the first.

Barn Owls
Barn Owls - Santa Cruz Flats, Arizona

Barn Owls
Barn Owls - Santa Cruz Flats, Arizona
The owls ended up being the highlight of my day since I once again dipped on Mountain Plovers and Ruddy Ground Dove. But there is always next winter. 

The following day, Monday, I had a few minutes free and decided to check in on some other owls, there are Burrowing Owls which are year-round residents in a park near my house in Gilbert. They live in artificial burrows made from PVC pipes which are just along a concrete footpath and fairly used to people. I also wanted to ditch my teleconverter because I haven't been very happy with the quality of my photos and read that the aren't the greatest for shorter-focal length lenses (I just have a 300mm). I saw two Burrowing Owls in the few minutes that I had and along with some blooming wildflowers were very nice to see.

Burrowing Owl
Burrowing Owl - Zanjero Park, Gilbert Arizona

Burrowing Owl
Burrowing Owl - Zanjero Park, Gilbert Arizona
My kids have just started 2 weeks of spring break. We had a Monday afternoon free and I wanted to show them some Great Horned Owls. I knew of a nest in Scottsdale, but not the exact location. Plus it is already hot here in Arizona. It's mid-March and already over 90°F, too hot for a hike if we didn't need one. But I also knew of another nest of GHOW at a Lowe's Home Improvement store, also in Gilbert. So we made a quick stop there and were rewarded with seeing three of them in the lawn and garden section.
The single young bird there was looking older than I was expecting, with many adult feathers poking out of it's baby-down and getting it's wings ready to fly.

Great-Horned Owl
Great-Horned Owl - Gilbert, Arizona

Great-Horned Owl
Great-Horned Owl - Gilbert, Arizona
Both parents were nearby watching everyone too.

Great-Horned Owl
Great-Horned Owl (Male) - Gilbert, Arizona

Great-Horned Owl
Great-Horned Owl (Female) - Gilbert, Arizona
I my kids loved seeing them. I got to show them some pellets on the ground below them we got to see some tiny bones. My parents flew in to visit us and I took my mom by today to see them too (and to get some keys made). What a great urban birding experience.

Great-Horned Owl
Great-Horned Owl - Gilbert, Arizona
Hopefully my owl-luck continues and I get to see some Elf Owls this spring, they are just now arriving back to Arizona.

Thanks for making it this far,


Monday, January 30, 2017

De Anza Trail: Rose-Throated Becard

     After a few busy weekends, I was finally able to get out and do some serious birding. I decided to head down south to Santa Cruz County. There had been some noteable birds seen in the area, namely some Rose-Throated Becards. In addition there had been a very reliable, but rare for Arizona, Brown Thrasher in the area and also some Ruddy Ground Doves too, all would be lifers for me. After I had ticked all of those and had lunch (hahahahahah) I didn't know if I'd head to Paton's for a Violet-Crowned Hummingbird, trying for the Nutting'f Flycatcher or maybe cruise through the Santa Cruz Flats for Ruddy Ground Doves and Mountain Plovers... at least that was the plan.

     My focus was the Rose-Throated Becard since it was least common bird in the area. The listserv reports had dried up, but that didn't mean that the bird had moved on. Checking eBird I decided to start at the northern range of sightings in Tubac at Ron Morriss Park and the Tubac Bridge. An Accipiter that flew by me and into the woods was the first bird that I saw while looking for access to the trail. I could see the trail, but it was behind a fence and a locked gate.  A quick hike north to Tubac Bridge Road put me in the right place to access the trail and to see a Merlin perched in a tree.

Merlin - De Anza Trail, Tubac Arizona
I followed the trail down south along the river and past my car. There were some Bridled Titmice about and the always present Gila Woodpeckers, but nothing that I saw in the Flycatcher family. The Sun was in my face too, so my plan was to head south quickly, and then return north with the Sun to my back.
I did stop to see a low Plumbeous Vireo that was foraging near some nice-looking houses.

Plumbeous Vireo
Plumbeous Vireo - De Anza Trail, Tubac Arizona
I made it a habit of asking anyone with binoculars about the Becard with no news. One of the people that I met was a friend of a friend that I had talked to the day before.
While walking along I saw a hawk fly down along the water and land on a tree east of me. It was all dark with a uniform dark back and a dark tail with a white band across the end of the tail. The only bird that would fit with the area and that appearance is a Common Black-Hawk. I don't think that a Zone-Tailed Hawk would be in that habitat. It is rare for them to be there in the winter though. Before I had a chance to get a photo it was scared off by some passing dog-walkers. I did get to see a Harlan's Red-Tailed Hawk,which is uncommon for Arizona. 

Harlan's Red-Tailed Hawk
Harlan's Red-Tailed Hawk - De Anza Trail, Tubac Arizona
I finally reached the part of the trail that disappeared into the flooded river. I saw some Sparrows, but nothing close to being the Becard, so I turned around and walked back to my car. I decided to pass through Ron Morriss Park proper to save some time and was rewarded by a large, mixed-flock of Sparrows. Some White-Crowned, Chipping, Vesper and even some Lark Sparrows were all feeding under some pine trees. A Greater Roadrunner and hunting Say's Phoebe were also nearby.

Greater Roadrunner
Greater Roadrunner - De Anza Trail, Tubac Arizona
At this point I decided to drive a bit further south to Santa Gertrudis Lane where a Brown Thrasher had been reliably seen for most of the winter. It's an odd private road that only allows foot traffic in. It was just a quick walk down  to the right spot, so I decided to leave my pack and water behind and just take my binoculars and camera. I noticed a birder already down there and it wasn't a far walk. Once I reached the area I realized that the birder was an English lady who I had met in October. She was on her way from Seattle to Green Valley for the winter and needed a place to stretch her legs. She randomly stopped at Hassayampa River Preserve after seeing the binoculars sign on the highway. We talked a bit then and nearly missed an American Bittern.
She mentioned that the Thrasher had yet to make an appearance and that she had dipped on it once before. It was a busy location with a bush full of red berries. A robin flew in at one point and we got excited that it may have been a Rufous-Backed Robin, but it was just an American Robin, still nice to see in Arizona. There was also male and female Northern Cardinals eating the berries in front of us.

Northern Cardinal
Northern Cardinal - Santa Gertrudis Lane, Santa Cruz County Arizona
We were waiting nearly 20 minutes before the Brown Thrasher made an appearance. It seemed to come out of nowhere and stuck to the thick bushes and shadows while it foraged. 

Brown Thrasher
Brown Thrasher - Santa Gertrudis Lane, Santa Cruz County, Arizona
Satisfied with my looks and a few blurry shots, I decided to walk a bit on the De Anza Trail which was very nearby. I said cheers to my friend from Seattle and went on my way. I ran into a birder who had just seen a female Rose-Throated Becard  a quarter mile back up the trail. I told her where to look for the thrasher and hurried on my way.  A short way later I noticed another hawk flying over, this was another dark one and fairly low. It was another Harlan's Hawk, but different than the first one. This one had a dark border on the end of the tail and wings which the other did not. 

Harlan's Red-Tailed Hawk
Harlan's Red-Tailed Hawk - De Anza Trail, Santa Cruz County Arizona
It was mad to see two uncommon hawks in the same area. But I continued on my quest. I knew from guides that the Becard preferred the tops of tall trees near water and there was plenty of that around. But the trail at this section was covered with some shorter trees and made looking at the tops of the taller trees difficult. So I made my way into a clearing and looked around for movement. There were loads of Ruby-Crowned Kinglets and sparrows lower down, but not what I was looking for. And then a shape went flying about me head-height to my left and I had to make a double-take. It was a Great Horned Owl cruising by in the middle of the afternoon, weird.
I continued scanning hoping to see something. I walked around a bit, but it all looked the same to me. I was on my way back north to the main trail when I did one last scan. That's when I noticed some activity in the top of a tree filled with forming buds. I noticed a Yellow-Rumped Warbler, and then a Black-Throated Gray Warbler.

Black-Throated Gray Warbler
Black-Throated Gray Warbler - Da Anza Trail, Santa Cruz County, Arizona
There were still more birds up there, some more Kinglets, and Orange-Crowned Warbler and then I saw it. A patch of pink among the yellow (flowers?) at the very top of the tree.

Rose-Throated Becard
Rose-Throated Becard - Da Anza Trail, Santa Cruz County, Arizona
Can you see it? That's a cropped photo from the top of a tall tree about 75 feet or so in front of me.

Rose Throated Becard tree
Tree the Becard was in.
 I'm still not sure how I spotted it, but I let out a "whoot!" when I did.

Rose-Throated Becard
Rose-Throated Becard - De Anza Trail, Santa Cruz County, Arizona
The bird never stood still for very long and never in a spot on the side of the tree near me. I watched it for a long while getting infrequent looks. By this point I was really thirsty, it had been a couple of hours since I left the car and water behind. I finally gave in and turned to go. I made it a few hundred yards down the trail when I recognized a familiar face scanning the treetops. I said hi and asked if he was looking for the Becard, he said "yeah" and I said "follow me". He was with a guide from the area and two clients. I took them back up the trail and found the side-path to the clearing. All this time I had my fingers crossed that it was still there, and it was. Everyone managed to get some good looks for another half an hour or so, even when it finally changed trees.

Rose-Throated Becard
Rose-Throated Becard - De Anza Trail, Santa Cruz County, Arizona
There's a feeling that you get when you work really hard to see a bird and I certainly had it, as tired and as thirsty as I was, and that's probably why do it. All in all, a great day.

I also learned that Becard is pronounced like "Beck-hard" and not "Be-card".

I'm sorry, I have no idea what kind of tree that was or what those yellow things are called, if you know, please let me know in a comment.

Here's my eBird checklist. You can see where I saw the Becard, which was near the Tumacacori section of the De Anza Trail, and more information on that can be found here.


thanks for making it this far,


Sunday, January 1, 2017

2016: Year in Review

2016... what a year for good and for bad. It took my family from the Republic of Ireland to Arizona USA. I also upgraded my camera from a Canon SX50 to a 7Dmkii with 300mm f/4 and 1.4x TC. That also brought my photography game up a notch or two. Honestly, I'm not super happy with that lens and will try and upgrade in 2017, I just need to stop buying so much Lego.

I wanted to make a best of 2016 post to share what I think are my highlights. I ticked 81 lifers in the past year, and in the process hit 400 ABA birds and 600 world birds. But there's no way to show all of those. Instead, I'll try and find the dozen or so ones that were special to me.

Early in the year I made a trip to California and got to meet my friend Brent at Bolsa Chica Wetlands in Orange County. We got to watch a pair of threatened Ridgeways Rails below the boardwalk we were standing on.

Ridgeway's Rail
Ridgeways Rail - Bolsa Chica Wetlands, Orange County CA
And we got to watch a Reddish Egret dancing over the water.

Reddish Egret
Reddish Egret- Bolsa Chica Wetlands, Orange County CA
Back in Arizona I got to see many Hummingbirds throughout the year. We have Anna's in our back garden all year round, but further south in the state you can find some spectacular ones. My favorite may have to be the Blue-Throated Hummingbirds that I saw near Portal in June.

Blue-Throated Hummingbird
Blue-Throated Hummingbird - Portal Arizona
The rarest Hummingbird that I got to see was a Plain-Capped Starthroat in Madera Canyon. It was making daily visits and I just happened to be there at the right time with the family.

Plain-Capped Starthroat
Plain-Capped Starthroat - Madera Canyon Arizona
Arizona is home to an amazing variety of Flycatchers, a family of birds that I'm still trying to learn about. We have probably the best looking trash-bird anywhere, the Vermilion Flycatcher. They are seen everywhere south of Phoenix and at Patagonia State Park they are every other bird that you see. 

Vermillion Flycatcher
Vermilion Flycatcher - Pima County, Arizona
A less common Flycatcher that I got to see in the Santa Ritas were Sulphur-Bellied Flycatchers, which break the normal appearance of a small, thin-billed bird.

Sulphur-Bellied Flycatcher
Sulphur-Bellied Flycatcher - Santa Rita Mountains, Pima County AZ
But we also get some down-right rare ones too. I hiked up into Ramsey Canyon in June to see some nesting Tufted Flycatchers in Ramsey Canyon. This is their only nesting location in the USA. I got to see just the one of them while the other was presumably sitting on eggs. 

Tufted Flycatcher
Tufted Flycatcher - Ramsey Canyon, Cochise County AZ
But as awesome as it was to see the Tufted Flycatcher, the following week a Pine Flycatcher was reported nearby in the northern Santa Ritas. It was found by a birder camping with his family who thought that he heard an odd note. A few days later he returned with some expert birding friends and they all agreed that it was in fact a Pine Flycatcher, which would be the first USA record for that species. It continued long enough to me to catch a ride up a very torturous road to the location deep in the mountains.

Pine Flycatcher
Pine Flycatcher - Santa Rita Mountains, Pima Arizona
The same weekend that I was down seeing the Tufted Flycatcher (and dipping on Spotted Owls) I headed East to the Chiricahuas to see a Slate-Throated Redstart. Not an extremely rare bird, but uncommon none-the-less. I staked out it's nest-site at dawn and managed some good looks, but some lousy photos. It moved around like a warbler would. 

Slate-Throated Redstart
Slate-Throated Redstart - Chiricahua Mountains, Cochise County, AZ
I knew that this would get too long. So I'm going to fire through the last few notable birds of the year.

Back in September a hurricane brought a load of seabirds to the southern half of Arizona. Tucson and places south got the most variety and most amazing birds, many American first birds. But the Phoenix area wasn't completely forgotten. A Wedge-Rumped Storm Petrel was located at a suburban park in Mesa. My son and I raced up after he was out of school and we were given great views of the birds preening and flying around the park.

Wedge-Rumped Storm-Petrel
Wedge-Rumped Storm Petrel - Mesa Arizona
My 400th ABA tick happened to be a nice visitor to Arizona, a Lesser Sand-Plover appeared at a muddy pond on the Navajo Nation near Flagstaff. We happened to be driving by while on a family trip.

Lesser Sand-Plover
Lesser-Sand Plover - Navajo Nation, Arizona
Another rare bird that I got to twitch appeared at my local patch, Veterans Oasis Park in nearby Chandler. A Groove-Billed Ani was observed there off and on the previous day and early the morning on the first day that I could go. It was nowhere to be seen when I showed up, but after nearly 2 hours of looking and pshing, it made a very brief appearance before flying off never to be seen again.

Groove-Billed Ani
Groove-Billed Ani - Chandler, Arizona
Warblers made up a lot of the birds that I got to see this year. Some noteable ones were a Chestnut-Sided Warbler and a Blackpoll Warbler both seen in different parts of Chandler during migration.

Chestnut-Sided Warbler
Chestnut-Sided Warbler - Chandler, Arizona

Blackpoll Warbler
Blackpoll Warbler - Chandler, Arizona
An Arizona specialty is the Red-Faced Warbler. It's not uncommon in the mountains and a really great bird to see. I got some great looks up in Ramsey Canyon while I was looking for the Tufted Flycatcher.

Red-Faced Warbler
Red-Faced Warbler - Ramsey Canyon Arizona
But the best looking, in my opinion, was a warbler that I just saw last week in Florida Canyon. Rufous-Capped Warblers are supposed to be hard to find, but I saw 4 in the same area, and in a location where they were not supposed to be.

Rufous-Capped Warbler
Rufous-Capped Warbler - Florida Canyon, Pima County Arizona
But if I had to pick my favorite bird that I saw in 2016, and I saw 81 new species and nearly 300 species in all, it was another one that I saw just last week. In my last blog post I talked about searching for a Green Kingfisher for hours in Patagonia Lake State Park. I was turned around to head back to my car and home without seeing it when I saw one flying up the creek. I managed to get soem ok photos and some really good looks until it flew off and out of sight. 

Green Kingfisher
Green Kingfisher - Patagonia Lake SP, Arizona

Green Kingfisher
Green Kingfisher - Patagonia Lake SP, Arizona
I really love kingfishers and would like to see more. There's a 4th species being seen in Texas, and maybe that's where I'll go this year for a trip. We'll see what 2017 has in store for me.

My birding new years resolutions are to keep a yard/patch list and try a Maricopa County Big Year, but that will wait until tomorrow when the rain moves off. I also want to get a new pair of binoculars, if there's a pair that you like, let me know.

Happy New Years everyone!

Thanks for making it this far,


Thursday, December 29, 2016

Southern Swing - Rufous-Capped Warblers and Green Kingfisher

Happy Holidays everyone! I must have been on the naughty list this year because I didn't get the Canon 1Dx Mk2, 200-400mm lens or new Binoculars that I asked for... Oh well. ; )

Yesterday I took advantage of my wife being off from work and the kids being on school holiday to take a trip down to the southern part of Arizona and do some birding in the Santa Rita mountains. I usually visit Madera Canyon, but I wanted to try some new areas. So right next door is Florida Canyon, which is one of the dependable locations for Rufous-Capped Warblers in the USA, along with some other species that would be lifers for me, and them depending on the time, I would try for some other birds in the area.

Due to the canyon walls and it being winter, I was told that the floor of the canyon would be in shadow until 9am and it wouldn't be worth getting there any earlier than that. So I slept in a little later than I would have other-wise, and got down there just about then. The approach to the Florida Trail carpark follows the drive to Madera Canyon (which was closed due to recent snowfall). There's a turn-off of the pavement just before the long drive up to Madera. The dirt roads were fine and easily drive-able in my wife's VW Passat.

I was driving along when I saw a dark shape on the road in front of me. I was expecting a raven, but instead it was a Golden Eagle. The bird was huge. I jumped out of the car to get a few photos before it flew off down the road. The white patch on the tail is indicative of a juvenile bird.

Golden Eagle
Golden Eagle - Pima County, Arizona

Golden Eagle
Golden Eagle - Pima County, Arizona
After some confusion on my part, the location of Florida Canyon on Google Maps is not where the trail-head actually is. You really want to search for the Santa Rita Experimental Range to get to the right place. There is a parking area just before the gate and a marked trail leading off left (northeast) which quickly crossed a stream that you follow up the canyon. A short ways up the trail is a large metal gate that you pass through. I followed the trail up with the creek on my right and entered an area of steep walls with some long buffalo grass growing. Not much further up some Prickly Pears were growing right up to the trail. I noticed some birds in this area and saw some gnatcatchers and a Cactus Wren nearby.

Cactus Wren
Cactus Wren - Florida Canyon, Pima County Arizona
And then I saw some small birds hopping from grass clump to grass clump a bit up the canyon wall. Once I got a clear view I saw bright yellow breast with red and white striped head, a Rufous-Capped Warbler for sure! I managed some blurry photos, but nothing great. I stood watching the other birds when I heard some activity from behind me, across the stream and on the opposite wall of canyon. A Canyon Wren was out in plain view calling away and some sparrows were also nearby.

Canyon Wren
Canyon Wren - Florida Canyon, Pima County Arizona
There were also House Wrens and Bewick's Wrens along the trail, which meant a 4 wren day.

Another bird that I was hoping to see was a Black-Chinned Sparrow. I had seen and photographed these in Albuquerque, but were not on my eBird lifelist for some reason. But here was one just in front of me that popped up after a bit of pshing.

Black-Throated Sparrow
Black-Chinned Sparrow - Florida Canyon, Pima County Arizona
But sparrows and wrens weren't the only birds on that side of the stream. I saw another pair of Rufous-Capped Warblers moving there too, which made 4 in just this one spot.

Rufous-Capped Warbler
Rufous-Capped Warbler - Florida Canyon, Pima County Arizona
Look at those colors! These may be the best looking warbler that I've seen yet. And here's an example of how they looked, deep in the grass trying to hide.

Rufous-Capped Warbler
Rufous-Capped Warbler - Florida Canyon, Pima County Arizona
I was so excited to get these good looks. I ran into some other birders along the trail, including a guide and her client, and pointed out where I saw the warblers and they were able to get some quick looks. And then the guide did me a favor and heard a Black-Capped Gnatcatcher in the same area. We manged to see it on an ocotillo and I got a lousy photo of it, but it's a rare bird for the USA and another tick for me.

Black-Capped Gnatcatcher
Black-Capped Gnatcatcher - Florida Canyon, Pima County Arizona
I explored further up the trail, but didn't see or hear anything else so I turned around and headed back down the trail to try somewhere else. I did make a note of where I saw the warbles and gnatcatcher, which you can find HERE

I had a few options of where to go next. I was close to Madera Canyon, but there were signs saying that it was closed on the approach, so I didn't want to go up there and find it snowed in still. There was also a Brown Thrasher a bit south in Tubac. But what I really wanted to try and see the Green Kingfisher at Patagonia Lake State Park. It was another 90 minutes south of me, but I was as close as I was going to get in a while, so I decided to go for it. 

I arrived in the afternoon and found a parking place at the start of the birding trail at Patagonia Lake SP. I knew that kingfisher was being seen along Sonoita Creek at the northeast corner of the lake. I made my way to the creek as fast as possible without taking too much time looking at the birds along the way. But I did see a nice Orange-Crowned Warbler appearing to feed from a cattail.

Orange-Crowned Warbler
Orange-Crowned Warbler - Patagonia Lake SP, Santa Cruz County Arizona
And I finally got an okay photo of a Ladder-Backed Woodpecker.

Ladder-Backed Woodpecker
Ladder-Backed Woodpecker - Patagonia Lake SP, Santa Cruz County Arizona
I'm learning that it's typical in winter here that Ruby Crowned Kinglets are going to be everywhere. Here's one with a hot of it's ruby crown.
Ruby-Crowned Kinglet
Ruby-Crowned Kinglet - Patagonia Lake SP, Santa Cruz County Arizona
One of the surprises was an Eastern Phoebe that landed high up above me in a tree. This is a continuing bird here and a nice surprise.

Eastern Phoebe
Eastern Phoebe - Patagonia Lake SP, Santa Cruz County Arizona
I finally made it to the stream near to where it empties into the lake. I wasn't sure where the kingfisher was being seen, but I thought that it was further upstream. I was there just once before in the springtime while looking for Elegant Trogons. I followed the stream as well as I could sometimes using the trail, sometimes bushwacking. I didn't know much about Green Kingfishers, but I figured that they were similar to the Common Kingfishers of Ireland and not the Belted Kingfishers of the USA. Belted Kingfishers tend to stake-out a pond or lake and dive into the water from a high perch. Common Kingfishers travel up and down waterways perching on low branches above the water. So I took my time and scanned likely spots while walking up the creek. I also planned on picking a spot and waiting for the bird to fly by.

I ran into some a group of birders who had seen the bird up aways, so I got excited and was determined to see it. I found a spot where I could see a fair bit of the creek and waited for 30 minutes without seeing anything but more kinglets. It was getting late and would have to turn back soon, but I wanted to walk just a ways further before quitting. But still no kingfisher, so I turned around and walked maybe 30 feet when a I spotted a white and green streak flying by me! I turned around and located the bird sitting on a branch over the water.

Green Kingfisher
Green Kingfisher - Patagonia Lake SP, Santa Cruz County Arizona
I watched and followed the bird as it continued to hunt over the water, right back to where I had just turned around to give up.

Green Kingfisher
Green Kingfisher - Patagonia Lake SP, Santa Cruz County Arizona
Green Kingfisher
Green Kingfisher - Patagonia Lake SP, Santa Cruz County Arizona
Green Kingfisher
Green Kingfisher - Patagonia Lake SP, Santa Cruz County Arizona
I got to watch it dive off of a perch and hit the water, and then fly off and out of site. I was so happy with getting to see this great bird and walked back to my car with a smile on my face. The three hour drive back to Gilbert was so worth it.

Trip details:

Florida Canyon - Easy drive up to the parking area via paved and then dirt, but well maintained, roads. Trail clearly marked. Quick stream crossing and then some elevation gain along mountain stream. Mobile data reception was good at the parking lot and continued up the path (I use T-Mobile and Sprint Towers via Google Fi). No restrooms and no fees associated.

Patagonia Lake State Park - Well maintained state park. Developed camp sites on the approach to the birding trail parking area. There is a $15 entrance fee per carload to visit the park. Modern restrooms are located on the approach to the birding trail and at the beach area. There's also a small convenience store at the park. The birding trail itself is mainly flat with a steep area with stairs near the beginning. Expect muddy conditions and loads of cow manure. The park offers guided walking birding tours on Monday and Friday mornings at 9am and avian boat tours on Saturday and Sunday mornings. Details can be found HERE.

Something silly to toss in here at the end. I've decided to start wearing camouflage. I don't know if I'm making things up or not, but I think that I got closer to some of the birds than than I normally would have. I'm going to keep going and see if there's truth there or not. If anyone knows of a way to test this idea, let me know.


Thanks for making it this far and Happy Holidays again.