Sunday, September 29, 2013

Cooler Birding

Cooler birding has finally arrived here in the desert!  It was a gorgeous 58 degrees yesterday morning when I set out to check a few local parks.  I started at Lakeside Park hoping for a Blue-footed Booby or some other wayward treat.  I was disappointed when the only birds on the water were mallards and coots.  I heard and briefly saw a distant kingfisher, but never located it.  There were some active flycatchers out and about.

Vermilion Flycatcher

 A few Killdeer were on the ballfields as well as my first of the season lone White-crowned Sparrow.

Next I was off to Reid Park to check out what ducks had arrived.  There were a couple Ring-necked Ducks and wigeon, but no Redheads or Lesser Scaup yet.

These two were at their usual hangout out near the pond.

Great Egret
Double-crested Cormorant
Not near the water was this Black Phoebe...

who was harassing this cute Vermilion Flycatcher.

A beautiful kestrel wasn't having any luck with breakfast...

 and the goldfinches and Verdin were taking turns at the drinking fountain.

Lesser Goldfinch
It was a great way to start off the weekend.  Did I mention I'm loving the cooler temps?

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Birding with Bria

I took a quick birding trip yesterday morning with my 8-year old (and no longer the baby) Bria to look for a Barn Owl.  My first and only (wild) one I've ever seen was over 6 years ago, so I was pretty pumped about the possibility of seeing one.  We had no trouble finding the tell-tale owl pellets and poop.  The next thing I know Bria was wide-eyed and pointing up, "I see it."  She was very excited about seeing her first owl, what a beauty!

Barn Owl
A nice Western Tanager posed for us too.

The sun was beating down on us as we walked back to the truck, but it was a successful trip.  I can't wait for the forecasted 65 degree weather tomorrow morning.  Happy (official) fall birding to all!

Monday, September 2, 2013

Patagonia Booby

Patagonia Mountains
The drive from Tucson to Patagonia is gorgeous right now.  It's amazing how lush and green everything looks from the recent rain.  But rain isn't the only thing that's blown in recently.  A few weeks ago an immature Blue-footed Booby was discovered at Patagonia Lake, becoming the first documented species of booby for Southeast Arizona.  I finally got a chance to make the trip and it didn't disappoint.

After running into fellow Arizona blogger Laurence Butler, the booby did a fly-by.  For the next half hour I enjoyed watching it fly around the lake, dive for fish, and even scratch an itch in mid-air!  I wonder how long it will stick around, there's plenty of fish to eat.


Later I was joined by Will Russell of WINGS Birding Tours.  It was a pleasure talking with him.  He amazed me when he identified a Yellow-billed Cuckoo flying 100 feet away in the sun, a bird I wouldn't have even tried to ID.  We watched the booby make passes with a backdrop of cactus, pretty cool!

CERange Map for Blue-footed Booby 
Will and I also enjoyed close views of an Osprey.

We watched one have a face-off with a Turkey Vulture, but not much happened.

My next stop was the Patagonia Roadside Rest Area to try to photograph a Thick-billed Kingbird.  They were very cooperative and even seemed to be wearing their brighter fall feathers.  Check out that massive bill!

CERange Map for Thick-billed Kingbird

A Blue Grosbeak shared a nearby perch.  

There were also a few beautiful Varied and Lazuli Bunting, but they weren't cooperative for photos.

No trip to Patagonia would be complete without a stop at the Paton's yard, the most reliable spot to find the Violet-crowned Hummingbird.


The Paton's property is now up for sale.  The American Bird Conservancy, Victor Emanuel Nature Tours, and the Tucson Audubon Society are trying to acquire it to preserve it as a sanctuary for birds and birders.  For more details and a way to contribute, visit here.  

Here are a few other birds that were in the yard.

a young Abert's Towhee
Inca Dove
Western Tanager
Western Tanager
White-breasted Nuthatch
On my way back to Tucson I visited the grasslands north of Sonoita in hopes of finding a Grasshopper Sparrow.  The first birds I heard were Botteri's Sparrow, but then the grasshoppers chimed in and a few even posed for me.

CERange Map for Grasshopper Sparrow

A few Eastern Meadowlark also made an appearance.

I tried to find a Grasshopper Sparrow a little further north for my Pima County list without any luck.  But I did enjoy the views of the mountains.

Patagonia Mountains
Whetstone Mountains
 All in all it was a much needed soul-satisfying day.