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!     


  1. Jeremy, I feel like I went on the tour with you all because of your images and narration!

  2. Excellent recounting and photos Jeremy. It's all still so vivid and crisp days later.

  3. Love the shot of the Great Horned Owl. You are one lucky birder!

  4. Oh awesome! Great variety and nice photos too- definitely getting psyched for my own Southeast Arizona tour!

  5. Fabulous birds! That rufous-capped warbler is just gorgeous. Your photos are wonderful. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Jeremy, an outstanding post with outstanding birds! How I miss that place!

  7. Jeremy, what an awesome blog you have. All these birds are awesome. But the Rufous-capped Warbler was a special treat. I've never seen or even heard about this bird. One day, I will book a trip to AZ!

  8. Spectacular images. The area you visited has a unique fauna and birdlife, with many rarities and vagrants from Mexico.

    Warblers in N. America can disperse far from their established respective distributions. Further south in Mexico and the tropics, they are much more sedentary. Of all those observed in the U.S., only 6 (Gray-crowned Yellowthroat, Colima, Golden-cheeked, Golden-crowned, Kirtland's, Bachman's) have not been sighted in Arizona.

    The Rufous-capped Warbler is by comparison less of a straggler in this sense, but nonetheless is rare, and it is interesting that you may already be familiar with it. It is also found in Texas.

    The Olive Warbler is also unique to s.e. AZ, but I believe its distribution extends further north. I place it with the family Parulidae merely out of convenience, but it has become generally accepted that it represents its own family.

    The two books which are the most helpful in becoming more enlightened on warblers, as they most certainly have for myself, are the Curson guide, 'Warblers of the Americas' (with emphasis on "Movements" in each of the accounts) and the Sibley/Western field guide. 5 which have occurred in AZ are omitted in Sibley (Swainson's, Tropical Parula, Crescent-chested, Fan-tailed, Slate-throated Redstart).