Monday, February 27, 2012

Shoot Me Monday

Spring is here in the Sonoran Desert!  The cholla cactus are blooming and Cactus Wrens are singing in my neighborhood.  They don't have the prettiest song in the bird world, they sound like a car that won't start, but that's what makes them cool.  And check out that awesome goatee!

Cactus Wren

Monday, February 20, 2012

Southeast Arizona Tour

Saturday my blogger buddies Robert Mortensen and Laurence Butler from Birding is Fun joined Geniece and I on an all day outing of awesome birding in Southeast Arizona.  We started at sunrise in Florida (Flo-REE-da) Canyon in the Santa Rita Mountains.  For our appetizer we enjoyed an Olive Warbler.  Minutes later the main course arrived and it did not disappoint.  Three Rufous-Capped Warblers were not bothered by our presence as they foraged only feet away.  One was about five feet away from Robert at eye level!

Rufous-capped Warbler
It doesn't get any better than that!  Especially after Geniece and I missed them at the end of December.  They were first discovered at this location in December of 2008 by Troy Corman and Ramsey Koury.  I had glimpses of them the next winter.  It really is a gorgeous little bird.  The warblers moved upstream and satisfied with our close encounter, we headed out of the canyon.  Rock Wren and Canyon Wren gave us nice looks on our way down.  We also heard a Cactus Wren. 

On our drive out, we enjoyed Green-tailed Towhee, Lark Bunting, Rufous-winged, Rufous-crowned, Brewer's, Vesper, and Black-throated Sparrow.

Black-throated Sparrow
It was still early, so we decided to check out Rio Rico Pond on our way to Peña Blanca Lake.  We were treated to Mexican Mallards, a couple dozen Mountain Bluebirds in the fields, and Northern Rough-winged Swallows flying over the pond.

At Peña Blanca Lake we added Bewick's and House Wren, making it a five-wren day.  Our target bird, Least Grebe, showed well for us.

Least Grebe
The Black Phoebes were busy flycatching over the water.

Black Phoebe
On our way to Patagonia Lake State Park we spotted a kettle of Black and Turkey Vultures.

Black Vulture
Although we dipped on our target birds, Black-capped Gnatcatcher and Elegant Trogon, we enjoyed some nice birds.

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
White-throated Swift
Great Horned Owl
Ladder-backed Woodpecker
Hammond's Flycatcher
Hammond's Flycatcher
Our last stop was the famous Paton's house in Patagonia, the best place in the U.S. to see Violet-crowned Hummingbird.  After half an hour of enjoying the other birds at the feeders, it made an appearance.
Violet-crowned Hummingbird
Broad-billed Hummingbird
Northern Cardinal
White-breasted Nuthatch
We ended with 96 species for the day and many lifers for my friends.  I can't wait to do it again!     

Monday, February 13, 2012

Shoot Me Monday

I found this Western Bluebird in San Diego at the Scripps library pond.  I was looking for some Cackling Geese that had been reported there, but they were nowhere to be found.  Bluebirds are some of my favorite birds to watch and photograph... Check out my post over at Birding is Fun!

female Western Bluebird

Friday, February 10, 2012

Sibley Backyard Birding Flashcards

This week David Sibley released his Backyard Birding Flashcards: 100 Common Birds of Eastern and Western North America.   Included are 25 cards each of birds from Western and Eastern North America and 50 cards of birds found Across the Continent.  The cards come in this durable slide-out box and measure 2.75 inches by 4 inches.  The front of each card features David Sibley art work of the male and female bird and their field marks.  The back of each card includes the common and scientific names of the bird and its measurements.  There is also a great description of the bird's habitat and voice, along with a description of the bird itself.  A range map of each species is also included.  However, the map lacks a legend.  After inspecting a few maps I believe dark gray is the year round range, dark green is the breeding range, blue is the non-breeding range, light green is migration, and light gray the possible but rare range.

Western Bluebird card (front) and Western Kingbird card (back)

These are a great way for beginning birders to learn the different birds.  They're a nice change to studying a standard field guide.  I wish I would have had these when I was a kid or even when I was older and just starting out.  My first grade students love them!  This week I have begun each morning with a different set of cards at each table for them to explore.  I wish I could get them this excited about all the other subjects!

I highly recommend these flashcards to any beginning birder or anyone who may be interested in birds.  They are very inexpensive at around $10 and would make a great gift.  They are available on

Thank you to David Sibley and Random House Inc. for providing me with a review copy of the flashcards.