Monday, August 13, 2018

Summer 2018 Update

     Howdy, it's been a busy year for me. I was in a coding bootcamp for the first half of the year and had class on almost every Saturday, so my chances to bird was really curtailed. I did get a chance now and then to get out, mainly to twitch some rarities or lifers. So I thought I'd take a chance and share some of the more exciting birds and better photos from the first 6 months of the year.

     In January Arizona was abuzz when a Sinaloa Wren was spotted along the De Anza Trail near Santa Gertrudis Lane in Santa Cruz County, Arizona. I made a few trips down to try and see the bird with no luck. On my third or fourth try I was rewarded with some good looks at the Wren as it foraged in the leaf-litter.
Sinaloa Wren
Sinaloa Wren - Santa Cruz County, AZ-USA

     At the same time another great bird was visiting a yard in the city of Tucson. This was a bird seen in a "what's this bird" post on Facebook. Turns out that it was a Streak-Backed Oriole. This bird was visiting orange feeders in a suburban neighborhood randomly. I again tried a few times staking out the yard, frequently with some fellow birders (nothing is sillier than a bunch of people dressed in tan wearing binoculars standing on a city street).

Streak-Backed Oriole
Streak-Backed Oriole - Tucson, AZ-USA
     I've have had to work really, really hard to get a lifer in the past (Like the first Rose-Throated Becard that I ever saw), other times it's as easy as walking into a restroom. In February a Common Poorwill was was roosting in one of the ladies' rooms at the nearby Gilbert Riparian Preserve, and it somehow stayed there for 2 days in a row.

Common Poorwill
Common Poorwill - Gilbert, AZ-USA
    In April a fabulous bird was found in someone's yard way down near Portal Arizona, a Fan-Tailed Warbler! The bird would stick around for almost a week and be visited by birders from all over the country. I was fortunate enough to be able to make it down there early in it's visit.

Fan-Tailed Warbler
Fan-Tailed Warbler - Cochise County, AZ-USA
     On the same trip I managed a few other lifers. My friend Max and I heard some Mexican Chickadees, but never saw or photographed them. And we also got to see a sleeping Whiskered Screech-Owl in a tree (lifers 691, 692 and 693).

Whiskered Screech Owl
Whiskered Screech Owl - Portal, AZ-USA
    Later in April I had a rare weekend to get away. So I drove out to California to try and see a few new birds. The first was White-Headed Woodpeckers in Idyllwild, where I also heard some Mountain Quail, but never saw them.

White-Headed Woodpecker
White-Headed Woodpecker - Idyllwild CA-USA
I was also able to get some photos of a California specialty that I only got to see a few years earlier in Monterrey Bay California, a Nuttall's Woodpecker.

Nuttall's Woodpecker
Nutall's Woodpecker - Idyllwild, CA-USA
     On the same trip I swung south around the Salton Sea where I got to tick Gull-Billed Terns(696) as well as some other great birds (a place I can't wait to revisit).

Gull-Billed Tern
Gull-Billed Tern - Salton Sea, CA-USA
     This was the same trip where I dipped on the Black Rails, but had my wonderful encounter with the Virginia Rail family, which I blogged about previously here.

     Back in Arizona I decided to spend a day trying to tackle two of my nemesis birds, which were both down near Sierra Vista. I had tried 2 or 3 times to see the Flame-Colored Tanager atop Ramsey Canyon Preserve. And I've been trying to see (and photograph) a Montezuma Quail for YEARS. I had probably seen them on two previous occasions being flushed from the roadside, but not good enough for an ID. Fortunately for me, a pair had been visiting Ash Canyon B&B in Hereford Arizona. Since Ramsey Canyon Preserve opens fairly late, I had time to stop and see if the birds would show up that morning. After waiting for over 90 minutes with no quail visits I was on my way out. I had stopped to chat with a friend about places to go when I saw movement over his shoulder. A female Montezuma Quail was creeping into the yard. I gasped and told him to turn around while we were treated to some great views of Mrs. Quail.

Montezuma Quail
Montezuma Quail - Hereford, AZ-USA
  With that bird finally ticked (697) I ventured to Ramsey Canyon Preserve for another climb to the top of the Hamburg Trail. I shortly heard a tanager song from the tree-tops. The song would move frequently without any good views. I had a false-alarm with a Black-Headed Grosbeak in a pine tree. But I finally saw something really orange, glowing even, fly past and into a tree. Finally, the Flame-Colored Tanager (698).

Flame-Colored Tanager
Flame-Colored Tanager - Sierra Vista, AZ-USA
     By this point I was so close to 700 that I was getting anxious. It's just a number, but it was a nice one. It was barely a week after my trip to Sierra Vista when another bird I had dipped on in the past was reported again at near-to-me Gilbert Water Ranch, Little Blue Heron. I was able to get out very early the next morning and twitch the bird before my class that morning. What a great bird to see (699).

Little Blue Heron
Little Blue Heron - Gilbert Water Ranch, Maricopa County, AZ-USA
     Just a few days later I saw a beautiful photograph of a Flammulated Owl at the Desert Botanical Gardens in Phoenix. It was another what-bird-is-this post on Facebook. There were no other details, but I figured out that the photographer had been at the DBG that day. I got the kids to school and headed up there for a really hot search. I had no idea where the owl was seen, there were no details, the photographer wouldn't respond to messages and none of the docents at DBG knew about it. I literally walked around and looked up every tree in the freaking botanical gardens. I found a family of Great Horned Owls and a well hidden Western Screech Owl. I somehow managed to find the same type of tree where the Flammulated Owl was photographed, but no owls were found. I walked around and looked up into more trees and hoped to maybe find some birds mobbing a sleeping owl. But no luck. I circled back to where the owl was just to note the type of tree and I did another quick look in the branches. I noticed a darker patch of leaves and did a double-take, there was an owl shape there. The breast pattern and small ear tufts were those of a Flammulated Owl, an owl not expected to be seen in an urban area, and number 700 on my life list.

Flammulated Owl
Flammulated Owl - DBG, Phoenix AZ-USA

Flammulated Owl
Flammulated Owl - DBG, Phoenix AZ-USA
That's a good enough place to stop. I've been fairly busy job searching (email me if you need a website made) and fitting in some birding. I recently attended the Tucson Bird Festival and will post about that great event later. I'm also going to flex my HTML and CSS powers on the blog and see if I can give it a facelift.


thanks for making it this far! 

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