Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Pine Flycatcher - First ABA Record

     On May 30th Dave Stejskal made a post on the Arizona/New Mexico listserv describing a bird that he noticed while camping with his family in a remote part of teh Santa Rita Mountains, south of Tucson. After taking some fellow experts out to the location they all agreed that Dave had found the first record of a Pine Flycatcher in the United States. There was quite a discussion about the bird in birding circles and people really wanted to see it, but it's location was at the end of a very rough and difficult road. Lucky for me, a local birder was offering people rides out to see it, for a fee. I took advantage of my parents visiting and scheduled a spot for an early-morning ride out to Aliso Springs.
Santa Rita Mountains - Pima County, Arizona
     I met Garrey the driver and a birder who traveled out from California and another from nearby Sierra Vista to see the bird. The road was really terrible and I am really glad that I didn't try taking any of my cars out there. But after 45 minutes we finally made it to the campground where the Pine Flycatcher had built it's nest and was continuing. The bird wasn't found until ten or fifteen minutes after arriving.
Aliso Springs - Pima County, Arizona
    We found what was probably the nest early on, and spread out to try and see the bird out foraging.
Pine Flycatcher
Pine Flycatcher Nest - Aliso Springs, Pima County, Arizona
     Finally the bird was spotted at the base of the nearby hillside. We watched it for a bit before agreeing that is was indeed the flycatcher that we were looking for. 

Pine Flycatcher
Pine Flycatcher - Aliso Springs, Pima County, Arizona
     We stood around watching it visit the nest and then fly off, then fly back over and over for close to an hour. At one point it flew in and landed on a branch just 5 feet away from me, I was able to get a good look at the bright yellow lower-mandible.

Pine Flycatcher
Pine Flycatcher - Aliso Springs, Pima County, Arizona
     What an amazing bird to see, and my second first ABA record bird. I got to see the Rufous-Necked Wood Rail in New Mexico a few years ago. After watching the bird come and go, a few of us walked back down the road a bit to try and see if an Aztec Thrush spotted a few days earlier was still around. It wasn't, but I did see a Sulphur-Bellied Flycather perched up in a tree, but flew off before I could get a shot off, my second lifer tick of the day. We loaded back up into our ride's truck and he took us back down to where we had parked.
    It was still fairly early, so I decided to do a bit more birding on my way back to the Phoenix area. Just across the road from where I had parked I spotted some Botteri's Sparrows in some shrubs.

Bonetti's Sparrow
Botteri's Sparrow - Pima County, Arizona
     There were some Cassin's Kingbirds flying around along with some House Finches and a Red-Tailed Hawk flew past. I had enough time to stop by Madera Canyon on my way, which was fairly close to the Pine Flycatcher spot on a map.  I took some back roads through Box Canyon where I saw some Eastern Meadolarks, a Swainson's Hawk and Turkey Vultures. Box Canyon and the grasslands leading to Madera Canyon wasn't very busy, so I drove right to the Santa Rita Lodge
     There had been some rare hummingbirds reported recently, but nothing recently. I did get to see a nice male Scott's Oriole visit the feeders. 

Scott's Oriole
Scott's Oriole - Santa Rita Lodge, Madera Canyon, Arizona
     The other usual birds were about: Lesser Goldfinches, Brown-Headed Cowbirds, White-Winged and Mouring Doves, Black-Headed Grosbeaks, Great-Tailed Grackles, Acorn Woodpeckers, House Finches, Broad-Billed, Black-Headed and a few Magnificent Hummingbirds and Blue Grosbeaks were all busily feeding. But then I saw a small Woodpecker towards the back. It was brown colored and could only be an Arizona Woodpecker! A surprise and a lifer for me.

Arizona Woodpecker
Arizona Woodpecker - Santa Rita Lodge, Madera Canyon, Arizona
     But that wasn't the only new bird for me. Some blue and red birds were foraging in dead trees below me. A fellow birder, a Frenchman visiting from Oregon, confirmed that they were Varied Buntings, at least 3 males where there.

Varied Bunting
Varied Bunting - Santa Rita Lodge, Madera Canyon, Arizona
     And I finally got some good shots of a Bridled Titmouse in good light.

Bridled Titmouse
Bridled Titmouse - Santa Rita Lodge, Madera Canyon, Arizona
     You are asked to only stay at the lodge feeders for 30 minutes, so I decided to head up canyon and see if I could find any Elegant Trogons, despite it being the wrong time of day for them. I've said before that these are my new nemesis birds and they continued by not making an appearance or a sound for me once again. But I met a couple hiking who pointed out a Northern Pygmy Owl nest in a sycamore tree. I waited for a full 30 minutes for one of the adults to either leave or arrive, but they were being homebodies this day. I had to settle for a shot of one peeking out and somehow seeing me standing on the other side of the canyon.

Northern Pygmy Owl
Northern Pygmy Owl - Upper Madera Canyon, Arizona. 
     Just seeing the Pine Flycatcher was the highlight of my day, but I got to add some other lifers to my list and see some old favorites too. It was another great day in Arizona, a true birders paradise. 

Thanks for making it this far,


Extras: Read more on the historical significance of the Pine Flycatcher here and here. The location of Aliso Springs can be found on eBird here. And once again, the lovely Santa Rita Lodge is one of the many great places to stop in Madera Canyon.