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Posts Tagged ‘Mexican Chickadee’

My second trip to Arizona was a few weeks ago.  I find that I can’t think about that trip without also recalling memories from my trip in April 2010.  The first trip was short – just four days – but I got 67 life birds!  My recent trip was a little longer – six days – but with more experience now, I was pleased to add just nine birds to my life list (plus one new ABA area bird).  Perhaps it’s the contrast that makes me acutely aware of the stages we go through as birders and the joys of it all.  In 2010, I remember my head spinning at Patton’s as I got three life birds in about three minutes.  “Oh, a Lincoln’s Sparrow.”  “Quick, over there – Lazuli Bunting!”  “Stop looking at those birds.  There’s a Violet-crowned Hummingbird at the feeder!”  My friend Susan and I birded from dawn to dusk with time for only one real meal.  It was wonderful fun, but sadly I have no photos at all from that trip.  The trip in November 2018 was with another friend, Diane.  Instead of mad dashes from one lifer to another, we had time to savor and study.  It was a different trip entirely, but just as enjoyable.

No Violet-crowned Hummingbirds on my recent trip, but Blue-throated Hummer was a lifer and one of my favorites.

No Violet-crowned Hummingbirds on my recent trip, but Blue-throated Hummer was a lifer and one of my favorites.

On our first day, Diane and I found life bird number one of the trip – adorable Rosy-faced Lovebirds.  We have no explanation for the “beads.”  Suggestions on Facebook included marking by a researcher or perhaps a pet escaped and joined the wild flock.  These colorful little parrots are popular cage birds.  Escaped pets became established in the wild and for over 30 years they have been breeding in residential neighborhoods in the Phoenix area.

Rosy-faced Lovebirds nest in the palm trees.

Rosy-faced Lovebirds nest in the palm trees.

Because I was such a new birder in 2010, life birds on that trip included quite a few common species.  I clearly remember being excited to see Brewer’s Blackbirds.  Susan could not understand my joy.  “Shelley, they aren’t classy birds.  They’re eating horse shit.”  But, she then conceded that every birder got their life Brewer’s Blackbird at some point.

This year, none of my desired lifers were widespread common birds.  Some of our targets would be challenging to find, so Diane and I hired local expert Melody Kehl for three days.  Melody delivered the first morning with Gilded Flicker, a bird that is found almost exclusively in Arizona.  I have now seen all 22 North American species in the woodpecker family.

My life Gilded Flicker

My life Gilded Flicker

Next, Melody found Rufous-winged Sparrows for us and then Black-capped Gnatcatchers, a primarily Mexican species that reaches its northernmost range in Southeast Arizona.  We had good looks, but the gnatcatchers did not cooperate for photos.

Diane had missed Elegant Trogon on her first trip to Arizona in 2010 and it was one of her most-wanted birds.  I told her to forget it, it was the wrong time of year and would be extremely unlikely.  But, guess what Melody found at the Madera Canyon picnic area?  Yep, an Elegant Trogon!  Madera lived up to its reputation for good birds that day with Olive Warblers, a Blue-throated Hummingbird, Hepatic Tanagers and many others.  One of my favorites was this Red-naped Sapsucker eating berries.  I had seen my lifer just a few months earlier in Montana, but this was my first good close look.

Red-naped Sapsucker

Red-naped Sapsucker

On our second day with Melody, we went to Santa Cruz flats to look for sparrows and raptors.  We struck out on Sagebrush Sparrow; apparently they had not arrived yet for the winter.  But, I was thrilled with the Prairie Falcon that we did find.  I had wanted this falcon as a life bird for a long time.  Now I was looking at a gorgeous cooperative bird.  I think that I can see hearts in the spots on its thighs.  Look at that face!  I am in love with this bird!

Prairie Falcon

Prairie Falcon

I have seen very few Barn Owls, any place, ever, so it was a thrill to also see these beautiful birds that day.  Doesn’t everyone, birder or not, love owls?  Barn Owls are one of the most widespread of all birds, found on every continent except Antarctica.  But widespread does not mean common and most owls are very sensitive to disturbance, so we just took a quick look, used no flash for photos, and did not disclose the exact location of these birds.

We were privileged to see these beautiful Barn Owls.

We were privileged to see these beautiful Barn Owls.

We got back early enough that afternoon that Diane and I had time to visit Reid Park, not far from our hotel.  We were amazed to see dozens of American Wigeons competing with Mallards for bread that kids were throwing.  Even an immature Black-crowned Nigh-Heron joined in the feeding frenzy!  While feeding bread to ducks is a common practice, it is not a good idea.  See this for 3 reasons you shouldn’t feed bread to ducks.

An immature Black-crowned Night-Heron joined the ducks snapping up bread thrown by the kids.

An immature Black-crowned Night-Heron joined the ducks snapping up bread thrown by the kids.

We headed to the Chiricahua Mountains on our third and last day with Melody.  Another much-wanted life bird, Crissal Thrasher, started the day.  We got a good look, but it was too quick for photos.  We then searched for Juniper Titmouse which Melody found and Diane saw well.  But, with my poor vision, I did not see the birds well enough to count them.  Next time.

An Acorn Woodpecker at the George Walker House in the Chiricahua Mountains. A common western species, but always fun to see.

An Acorn Woodpecker at the George Walker House in the Chiricahua Mountains. A common western species, but always fun to see.

After a morning of exploring the mountains and visiting several yards with feeders, we had a wonderful picnic lunch at Barfoot Park.  Just as we finished our meal, Melody heard Mexican Chickadees.  Mexican Chickadees, as their name implies, are primarily a Mexican species which occur in the US only in the Chihuahua and a small mountain range in New Mexico.  These birds were our main reason for the long drive from Tucson that day.  With some effort, we saw about a dozen birds and I even got so-so photos.  The timing could not have been better if Melody had trained those chickadees!

Mexican Chickadee

Mexican Chickadee

Diane and I then had two more days before we had to be back in Phoenix for our flights home.  We decided to spend our last night near Tucson at WOW Arizona so that we could bird there in the afternoon and again the following morning.  This wildlife sanctuary/B&B with numerous feeding stations was the perfect place for close-up study of many species we had seen during the previous days.  A bonus was watching a gorgeous Harris’s Hawk, a new species for the trip, come for its chicken leg supper.

Harris's Hawk waiting to come down for its supper.

Harris’s Hawk waiting to come down for its supper.

WOW Arizona was very relaxing.  We just walked around a bit and sat in front of the feeders watching beautiful birds.

The many hummingbirds at WOW Arizona provided a good opportunity to study a few species up close. I especially liked this immature male Broad-billed Hummingbird.

The many hummingbirds at WOW Arizona provided a good opportunity to study a few species up close. I especially liked this immature male Broad-billed Hummingbird.

CJ, co-owner of WOW Arizona, helped me get good looks at Black-tailed Gnatcatchers.

CJ, co-owner of WOW Arizona, helped me get good looks at Black-tailed Gnatcatchers.

I loved watching this Cactus Wren in a cactus in front of the house!

I loved watching this Cactus Wren in a cactus in front of the house!

This adult male Costa's Hummingbird gave me my best looks ever for this species.

This adult male Costa’s Hummingbird gave me my best looks ever for this species.

Diane and I had a great week in southeastern Arizona, but, as always, it was over too quickly. There were quite a few places that we wanted to go, but our limited time did not allow. I think that I see another trip to Arizona in our future!

The view from one of the trails at WOW Arizona. The tree in the foreground is overflowing with Mourning Doves.

The view from one of the trails at WOW Arizona. The tree in the foreground is overflowing with Mourning Doves.

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