Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Switcheroo Curlew?

On Sunday a Long-billed Curlew was reported at a recharge basin six miles west of the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum.  I had one day left of summer vacation and I needed it for my county list.  So Monday morning I ventured out to the Central Arizona Project (CAP) recharge basin in Avra Valley.  After pulling off to the side of the road I stood in the back of my truck in order to peer over the fence and berm.  The bird was very distant even in my 10x binoculars, I wished I had a scope!  It was working the mud along the edge of the water.  As I watched it, I noticed it had a shorter bill than any other curlew I had seen.  However, I knew bill length varied a lot and this could have been a short billed, young curlew.  Plus a Whimbrel would be super rare.  But the head pattern looked bold and the overall impression was slimmer than a curlew with less buffy tones.  I hung around hoping to get a look at the underwing since a curlew's would be an obvious cinnamon color, but it never showed.  I snapped some photos and hoped they would tell me more.  Here are some very distant and heavily cropped shots:

This photo shows a hint of the pale center head stripe

I sent the photos to a couple people and told them what I had seen.  The experts weren't sure about the ID from the photos, so a group of them went out and took a look at it for themselves.  I wish I had been there to get a photo of all of them trying to figure out how to look through their scopes while sitting on the roof of their car and bracing themselves with the door open and one foot on the edge of the door-frame.  They all agreed it was indeed a Whimbrel!  They saw the pale median crown stripe and plain underwing, and even heard it give its alarm call.  State bird dance time...

This is a very rare bird for Southeast Arizona with most records occurring in the spring.  It's extremely rare in Pima County- the only other known record is a flyby sighting from eight years ago in Green Valley.

 Whimbrel Range Map 

Now off to find the much-more-common-but-still-rare-in-the-county Long-billed Curlew!

***UPDATE- Tuesday evening a Long-billed Curlew was spotted along side of the Whimbrel.  I wonder if the original observer really did see the Long-billed Curlew and the Whimbrel just took it's place for a day while it was hanging out nearby?

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Tricolored Heron

Yesterday a vagrant immature Tricolored Heron was discovered at a golf course pond not far from my home.  This afternoon it had moved to a different pond but was still there.  I saw these a few months ago in San Carlos, Mexico but they were always too far away to get a photo.

CERange Map for Tricolored Heron
I also found five immature Cooper's Hawks hanging out in the same tree, by far the most I've ever seen together.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Baby Whiskered Screech-Owls!

Today I took the family to Madera Canyon to enjoy the beautiful weather and hummingbirds.  We missed the rare Plain-capped Starthroat and White-eared Hummingbird (despite someone trying to turn a Magnificent and Broad-billed into them).  Ice cream treats from the Santa Rita Lodge can only keep four kids interested for so long.  But we were treated to an awesome sighting of two baby Whiskered Screech-Owls that had just shown themselves for the first time.  The kids loved them!

Are they cute or what?