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Arizona, Part II

March 30

Just returned from another awesome trip to Southeastern Arizona. Although I was just there two weeks ago how could I resist going back? I didn’t get to do everything I wanted to the last time so it called for another trip!

Madera Canyon
Ocotillo Bloom – Road to Madera Canyon [GPS]

Day 1 – Patagonia, AZ
Started the day at 6AM along the Patagonia Nature Preserve – searching and listening for the Sinaloa Wren (a species that is normally found in Sinaloa, Mexico – hundreds of miles south of the U.S.). It turned out to be a no-show – we gave up around 10 AM and decided to head into the San Rafael Grasslands SE of Patagonia by approx. 20 miles.

San Rafael Grasslands
San Rafael Grasslands [GPS]

Wasn’t much happening out there in the middle of the day. Temperatures were around 80F with a slight breeze to the north. A few Turkey Vultures circled above. We tried walking a few of the fields looking for Baird’s Sparrow and Longspurs which we never found. Lots of Horned Lark, Eastern Meadowlark and even spooked a Burrowing Owl – the first time I’ve seen one in the San Rafael grasslands. On the way back to Patagonia we spooked a Red-tailed Hawk sitting on the side of the road.

Red-tailed Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk – Piece of brush got caught on wings in take-off

Got back into Patagonia around 2PM and grabbed some lunch. I decided to try for the Sinaloa Wren again – unfortunately it never showed and I ended up with around 15 mosquito bites. I didn’t finish the day entirely empty-handed. A Javelina decided to run past me as I was looking for the Wren, a 1st year male Vermilion Flycatcher perched on a branch, Montezuma Quails fed along the hillside, a male Broad-billed Hummingbird lighted on a branch above my head and a Painted Redstart showed what he thought of me.

Javelina
Javelina

Vermilion Flycatcher
Vermilion Flycatcher – 1st year male

Montezuma Quail
Montezuma Quail

Broad-billed Hummingbird
Broad-billed Hummingbird

Painted Redstart
Painted Redstart

The sun was just setting as I left Patagonia. Had an hour drive up to Madera Canyon where I was going to turn in for the night. I was fortunate enough to get the last Casita at the Santa Rita Lodge. The moon was just a sliver so as I pulled into the parking lot it was practically pitch dark but we could hear Elf Owls calling in the distance. After following the sounds we found two nest cavities in a power pole near one of the cabins.

Elf Owl
Elf Owl – Mother on nest

Day 2 – Florida / Madera / Montosa Canyon
Got up around 6AM to hike up Florida Canyon for the Rufous-capped Warblers. Whilst driving out of Madera Canyon and over to Florida Canyon a group of 10 male Wild Turkeys were vying for the attention of 20+ female Turkeys. They put on quite a show in the middle of the road not allowing us to pass!

Wild Turkey
Wild Turkey – Male displaying

On the way up Florida Canyon we crossed paths with another pair of birders who informed us they had just seen the Rufous-capped Warbler pairs gathering nesting materials not 50 yards further down the trail. We thanked them for the info and hurried up the trail. Spent 20-30 min searching in the spot they had described. Nothing. We felt we better hike a bit further up the trail since they were apparently moving upstream. Moments later I heard the definite call of a Rufous-capped up the hill. We searched for 5 minutes before we found him in a patch of Prickly Pear Cactus 75 yards up the hill. We observed them flying in and out of the cactus – quite possibly the location of their nest! Since it was much too far to get any decent photos I exclaimed I was not leaving the canyon until I got photographs. Fortunately we only had to wait another 45 min before they came further down the stream to drink water. They were no farther than 15′ away from us at times – almost too close to even focus on them.

Rufous-capped Warbler
Rufous-capped Warbler [GPS]

After getting our fill of the Rufous-capped Warblers we trekked back down the canyon hoping to encounter the pair of Black-capped Gnatcatchers that were being seen within 200 yards of the parking lot. We thought we heard them at one point but weren’t able to confirm with a visual. While we stopped a Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet – a very small flycatcher – landed on an Ocotillo bush a few yards away.

Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet
Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet

Got back to the car around noon and decided to grab lunch in Tubac and watch migrating raptors over the Santa Cruz River bridge crossing. As soon as we opened our car door at the bridge we heard the distinctive calls of Gray Hawks in the cottonwoods. They soon flew out of the trees and circled over us a few times. They were clearly a pair and most likely searching for a nesting location.

Gray Hawk
Gray Hawk – Pair chasing

Gray Hawk
Gray Hawk

We didn’t see many other raptors save for a lone Turkey Vulture riding the thermals above us. Since Montosa Canyon was relatively close we figured we’d give it a shot and look for the Black-capped Gnatcatcher pair that had nested their last year.

Montosa Canyon
Montosa Canyon [GPS]

We hadn’t heard any recent reports so we weren’t sure they were even there still. Within moments of arriving we heard them calling to each other. The male was just starting to get his black cap and I even got a shot of him carrying nesting material – so it would appear they are nesting once again in Montosa Canyon!

Black-capped Gnatcatcher
Black-capped Gnatcatcher – Male w/nesting material

Black-capped Gnatcatcher
Black-capped Gnatcatcher – Female

Daylight was quickly fading and I had just enough time to drive back up Madera Canyon to get some late afternoon photographs. The wind was starting to blow pretty hard – 20-30 mph gusts to the north. I was just about to give up when I spotted a Say’s Phoebe nest in a building structure. The mother Phoebe clearly didn’t appreciate my presence so I snapped a couple of quick shots and let her get back to her nest. You’ll notice the patch of feathers missing on her belly. This is called a “brood patch” and indicates that she is currently incubating eggs.

Say's Phoebe
Say’s Phoebe

There wasn’t much “wildlife” to photograph other than a hiker here and there. I took the opportunity to take a few scenic shots with my 10-22mm.

Madera Canyon
Immigration/Smuggling Sign – Santa Rita Mountains beyond

Madera Canyon
Proctor Road – Santa Ritas beyond

Madera Canyon
Madera Canyon – Ocotillo Bloom

I shall conclude this blog entry with the route of my journey this past weekend (plotted in Google Earth). I’m already planning my next trip to SE Arizona. Possibly next month! Anyone care to join me? 🙂


GPS Track – Tucson, AZ -> Patagonia, AZ

 

Posted by on March 30, 2009 in Photography Adventures

3 Comments

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3 responses to “Arizona, Part II

  1. Joan

    March 30, 2009 at 2:15 pm

    Your pictures are are all so great it becomes impossible to find my favorite from what you posted for this trip.

     
  2. Nina

    March 30, 2009 at 2:15 pm

    Hi, Christopher,
    I met you at the Patton’s place in Patagonia the other day. I was taking my best friend and her granddaughter birding for their first time out.

    Thanks so much for posting these great pictures. I’ll send them the link.

    I also saw the little elf owl, perhaps the same night you took the photos — I seem to vaguely recall that you might have been there. And today I was able to go up to Florida Canyon with Laurens Halsey and see both the black-capped gnatcatchers and the rufous-capped warblers. What a blessing.

    All the best,
    Nina from Green Valley

     
  3. Paul

    April 5, 2009 at 11:14 pm

    Wonderful array of birds, love the first shot of the Red-tailed Hawk.

     

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