Friday, September 25, 2015

The Start of Fall

Fall is the time of year when things really get exciting in birding beyond the already really exciting aspects of it throughout the rest of the year.  I guess every month really has it's amazing bonuses and as birders, we can "win" every month.  For me, the Septembers, Octobers, and Novembers of each calendar year are an exciting time to search for rare shorebirds, gulls, terns, hawks, warblers, and any other vagrant.  At work, my schedule has changed to afternoon to night shifts, which means I have the option of going birding any morning that I want.  Cool huh?  Yes and no.  I get to see a lot of birds, but I'm learning that I'm not in my early twenties anymore, I'm in my late twenties.  My body is sadly requiring more sleep.  Tommy D's Birding Expeditions recently saw seven straight days in the field, which doesn't happen outside of family vacations.  Cool huh?  Yes and no...

On these work days where I don't go in until 1 P.M., I have found some cool birds and have had some productive mornings for species totals.  Highlights during the first 1.5 weeks of this change have included two American Redstarts, a Northern Waterthrush, Vaux's Swifts, and more.  It's not everyday birders get to see a Northern Waterthrush perched on the top of a reed..

I've made two trips to the Lower Verde River and have covered both the Needle Rock and Box Bar Recreation Sites.  Box Bar is slowly becoming one of my favorite locations in Maricopa County, and it has great potential.  This is where I've had two American Redstarts lately.  One was a female-type bird and the other was my first ever look at an adult male.  Adult male American Redstarts are stunning birds, and after encountering plenty of female/young male type birds, I finally got to see the adult male.  My camera lense is still messed up and I hope to have that problem fixed very soon, so I haven't really had much of a chance for photography other than cooperative and larger birds such as this Great Horned Owl.

The most memorable day I've recently was a trip down to Southeastern Arizona with my friend Susan Fishburn.  It was a full day of birding with nearly 600 miles driven.  Susan is doing a Big Year in Arizona, and our full day resulted in her adding 4 species to her year list.  After beginning our day at Glendale Recharge Ponds to successfully locate Susan's wanted Sanderling, we headed straight for southeastern Arizona.  Our first stop was Willcox, where we had two more Sanderlings.  Scanning Lake Cochise I was stunned to discover this Red Knot, the first really good rarity that I have discovered myself in southeastern Arizona.  I was stoked at the sight of this bird, which is a juvenile Red Knot.  It was a great bird for Susan's year list, and I think she was a lot more pumped at the sight of the bird than I was!

Because Red Knot is a review species under the Arizona Bird Committee, I was careful in documenting it's presence.  I was too focused on the tame Red Knot 15 feet away from us that I passed off on a gull that flew by that I initially took as a Franklin's Gull only to realize later that it could have been the rare-in-Arizona Laughing Gull!  If my camera wasn't so screwed up, than I could have snapped a quick shot of the gull flying in.  The gull didn't stick around long.  

The trip to southeastern Arizona was mostly about birding in the Huachuca Mountains, where Susan and I climbed up into Hunter Canyon in pursuit of a Slate-throated Redstart.  Slate-throated Redstart is an epic warbler of Mexico mountains, and it rarely strays into Arizona.  However, Arizona has seen a drastic increase in Slate-throated Redstart over the last three years, where there have been reports every year.  After missing out on an amazing bird that showed up at Mt. Lemmon earlier this year, I was then lucky enough to celebrate looks at my first ever Slate-throated Redstart during this trip!  After an hour of waiting at the stake out spot in Hunter Canyon, I spied the Redstart and Susan quickly got on it after I found it.  The bird was distant for photos, and instead of attempting a photo with my challenging lense, I chose to enjoy live looks at this cool-looking warbler for the next forty seconds.  It was my life bird #475 and my Arizona #430.  There were Painted Redstarts there also, and a few days later, I found the American Redstart at Box Bar.  In other words, I had a three redstart week!  Hopefully in the future, I will snap a decent photo of the amazing Slate-throated Redstart.  Here is a link to the photo documentation page on Arizona Field Ornithologists.  This is the particular bird that I got to see!- Slate-throated Redstart in Hunter Canyon.

Hunter Canyon was a very neat place, and it was teeming with birds.  Rufous-capped Warblers have nested here and Susan and I heard them up canyon from where we were standing.  Here is a photograph of Susan and Hunter Canyon.  

We closed the day by looking at Lucifer Hummingbirds and Susan's 2015 first Calliope Hummingbird at Ash Canyon.  Hummingbirds of eight species were impressive and filled the feeders at Ash Canyon.  Pretty cool that there are signs that read, Birder Parking!

I hope to keep getting out this fall and I especially hope to find those eastern warblers and vireos that I have been wanting for years in Maricopa County..

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Greater Than the Flattened Pewee

Hi Everyone,

I explored and enjoyed a good morning of birding at Mount Ord.  All of my birding was done along Forest Road 1688.  I was deciding between Mt. Ord and Slate Creek Divide, and I had the feeling to go to Mt. Ord.  As I got to the 1688 junction, I realized I had a hole in my tire.  I don't know if I got it by hitting something on the way up, but luckily I was on flat ground and it probably would have been a lot worse on the road up to Slate Creek.  It wasn't a good way to start out the morning, but the weather on this pine/oak mountain as well as the birds made up for it.  I changed the tire immediately and found out I had warranty on it for a free replacement later today, so it wasn't so bad after all.

The best bird I had this morning was a singing GREATER PEWEE in a drainage that I accessed near the ending stretch of FR 1688.  I located the bird quickly after hearing it and had decent looks.  This is the first time I have ever detected a Greater Pewee in Maricopa County's higher elevations, and it is seemingly a long overdue bird for me to find in the Mazatzal Mountains (Slate Creek, Mt. Ord, etc.).  I've been looking for a long time!  This bird was most likely a migrant, unless it has been overlooked this year.  It seems to me like Mount Ord and Slate Creek have appropriate habitat to harbor this bird (especially Slate Creek) as a breeder.

Other highlights I had in a 5 hour exploration of 2.5 miles among 37 species included ~25 ACORN WOODPECKERS, 7 HAIRY WOODPECKERS, 7 "WESTERN" FLYCATCHERS that were silent other than their generic calls, a calling PACIFIC-SLOPE FLYCATCHER, 7 PLUMBEOUS, 5 HUTTON'S, and 4 WARBLING VIREOS; abundant groups of BUSHTITS, 8 PYGMY NUTHATCHES scattered throughout the duration, 5 CANYON WRENS (one curiously approached me and hopped around right at my feet in the open as I was standing on a log and listening!), 1 ORANGE-CROWNED, 1 NASHVILLE, 2 MACGILLIVRAY'S, 13 BLACK-THROATED GRAY, 1 HERMIT, and 7 WILSON'S WARBLERS, 8 PAINTED REDSTARTS, 1 GREEN-TAILED TOWHEE, 8 HEPATIC TANAGER, 20+ WESTERN TANAGERS, and 6 BLACK-HEADED GROSBEAKS.

Other wildlife included a likely Gray Fox that I briefly saw running away from me, a Coues White-tailed Deer, and a Montezuma Squirrel.  I don't know the squirrel species, but I called it Montezuma a few years ago because it makes a sound that sounds eerily similar to that of a Montezuma Quail.  The pointless squirrel led me to belief that I had a MONQ on Mount Ord several years ago, but now it can't fool me anymore.  I hate the dumb thing.  I did record the squirrel calling along with some of the birds.  I'll include a YouTube video link for this recording.  It helps to have a good sound system or headphones to listen to this video, it's not the best recording.  The squirrel can be made out, and it really does sound like that quail!

YouTube Link:

Full eBird list:

Good Birding,

Tommy DeBardeleben (Glendale, Arizona)