Thursday, March 21, 2013

Southeastern Arizona: Miller Canyon, Patagonia, Madera Canyon!

Hi everyone,

Yesterday on March 20th, 2013, Laurence Butler and I took a trip to Southeastern Arizona.  We covered Miller Canyon, some of the Patagonia area, and then closed out the day in Madera Canyon.  It was a good day of birding despite missing some targets.

We arrived at Miller Canyon just after 6 A.M. and spent close to four hours looking for Spotted Owls without success.  The tree where one has been reported over the last several days was Owlless, and we looked around Split Rock for some time also, without success.  And of course, today they were back in the tree.  This has happened to me 5 times now with this bird.  I'm a bad luck charm when it comes to seeing Spotted Owls, I'm pretty sure I officially have a nemisis now.  Consolations can come in great forms though, and a nice one came in the form of an adult NORTHERN GOSHAWK.  The Goshawk flew in when Laurence and I started birding and landed close to us, and then flew back up canyon quickly when it noticed our presence.  We then heard it calling up canyon a lot and tried to track it down, where it remained out of sight for the remainder of the time.  Other highlights at Miller Canyon were MAGNIFICENT and BROAD-TAILED HUMMINGBIRDS, ARIZONA WOODPECKERS, a RED-NAPED SAPUCKER, HAMMOND'S FLYCATCHER, a TOWNSEND'S WARBLER, and plenty of PAINTED REDSTARTS.

Miller Canyon-a Goshawk and Spotted Owl are in there somewhere...I swear!!!

Arizona Woodpecker

We then headed over to the Patagonia area from Miller Canyon where our first stop was at the Paton's Place.  It was fun visiting with Larry Morgan while we were there.  A single VIOLET-CROWNED HUMMINGBIRD came to the feeders a few times, while most of the hummingbirds there were BROAD-BILLED HUMMINGBIRDS and a single BLACK-CHINNED HUMMINGBIRD.  Two WHITE-THROATED SPARROWS also continued in the Paton's Yard.  LAZULI BUNTINGS where also coming to the feeders, as well as a few SCOTT'S ORIOLES that we missed.  Larry spied a nice GRAY HAWK soaring overhead.

Violet-crowned Hummingbird

White-throated Sparrow

On our way to Patagonia Lake State Park, we saw a GRAY HAWK soaring over the highway and pulled over to look at it.  We were rewarded as it was joined by another Gray Hawk, who gave us awesome looks.

Gray Hawks

A nice stop at Patagonia Lake State Park was full of active birdlife.  Our main highlight here was locating the male ELEGANT TROGON along Soniota Creek.  This Trogon was spectacular, and gave killer views to us and several other birders in the same pursuit.  Before the other birders came, we had the Trogon to ourselves for at least ten minutes.  It was awesome visiting with the bird and communicating back and fourth with him.  We also found a Gnatcatcher in poor lighting, but it appeared to be the female BLACK-CAPPED GNATCATCHER and a photo Laurence took pointed in that direction also.  I'm seeking the opinions of other birders by the picture.  Another good highlight we had was a soaring COMMON BLACK-HAWK right as we got out of the car.  Other highlights around the birdy park were numerous COMMON MERGANSERS on the lake, a male BUFFLEHEAD, numerous BROAD-BILLED HUMMINBBIRDS, VERMILION FLYCATCHERS, our first BELL'S VIREO of the year, CASSIN'S and HUTTON'S VIREOS, and a WHITE-THOATED SPARROW at the Visitor Center (where a few have been reported previously).

The amazing Elegant Trogon

This is me pointing to the Trogon in the background.  Thanks Laurence for taking this picture!

Here is Laurence celebrating the Trogon sighting..

And here is one more shot of the stud of the bird world!

Here are more birds around the Lake, starting with the Black-Hawk

White-breasted Nuthatch

Broad-billed Hummingbird

White-throated Sparrow

Patagonia Lake

We then headed up to Madera Canyon to close out the birding day.  In the Proctor Road area, we heard a NORTHERN BEARDLESS-TYRANNULET call.  Heading up to Madera Kubo and Santa Rita Lodge we had MAGNIFICENT HUMMINGBIRDS, ARIZONA WOODPECKERS, a female HEPATIC TANAGER, PAINTED REDSTARTS, and a singing RUFOUS-CROWNED SPARROW at the Kubo (rather odd place for this species).  

Magnificent Hummingbird

This where Mexican Jays and Acorn Woodpeckers unite..

The awesome Santa Ritas!

Despite missing the Spotted Owl, it was a great day of birding Southeastern Arizona (as always!)  We tallied 93 species for the day.

Good Birding,

Tommy DeBardeleben


  1. Tommy and Laurence. Congrats on all the birds! Chris and I were in the same area yesterday, only we drove through Box Canyon from Greaterville Road. We saw a lot of birds, but did not get any magnificent photos like these! The trogon pics are spectacular!

  2. Ah man...

    This is an awesome post Tommy. It's making me relive every moment of triumph and heartbreak in the most visceral and poignant of fashions. Great stuff. I hope the consensus is Black-capped on that Gnatcatcher, cause' otherwise we didn't get visuals on all three of our target birds!

    There are so many top drawer photos in this post. That Trogon gave crushing views and photos, simply outstanding. You crushed it with that Broad-bileed Hummingbird too...and the Gray Hawks...and the White-throated Sparrows...and the Violet-crowned...and the Nuthatch. I guess we paid for the general lack of lifers with really excellent looks at many other things. Needless to say, my favorite photo in your series here is the one of you with the Trogon. That sums up the feeling pretty well.


  3. Awesome trip and some killer photos of the Trogon. Still a nemesis bird for me. Looks like the two of you had a spectacular day of birding!

  4. This is fantastic! Even the Trogon seems to be smiling slightly. :-)

  5. Hey, that's the fun of birding! You win some and lose some. But I think you had a good day indeed:) I dipped on the Trogon. But not the Spotted Owl. Can we trade?:) Awesome post with beautiful birds. Congrats. Arizona is really an awesome state:)

  6. What an awesome trip, great birds and friends to share the experience with! Wonderful post!