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Monday, February 24, 2014

Hilton Head and Beyond

          A recent stopover in Hilton Head, South Carolina proved to be an excellent birding adventure in the middle of January. With the weather in the Carolinas in the low to mid sixties we just missed the freezing conditions of the previous week. A friendly Hilton Head resident(who moved here from Levittown 15 years ago to escape the cold northern winters) shared with us some pictures of the frozen fountains looking like sculptures from a wedding buffet here on the island just one week earlier. There were  no crowds this time of year so we biked and hiked over the miles of trails scattered throughout the various communities that make up the island. Golf fairways followed the many streams covering the island and provided us with many birding opportunities.
          The first morning I walked to a fairway only a block from our town house. It was early enough that I avoided any golfers. Across the fairway was a large pond with trees on the distant shore. About 20 birds including white ibis, snowy egrets, tricolored herons, little blue herons, black-crowned night herons and a lone anhinga perched in the trees. 

          I did not get back to the spot until the following evening when I discovered this to be a roosting area for about 100 white ibis, 50 snowy egrets, 50 little blue heron, and 30 tricolored herons. 

          A number of the human residents in the community showed up to photograph the birds from our vantage point on the fairway, but a few people went to the far side of the pond right next to the trees with the roosting birds. Fortunately this did not seem to bother the birds. The next night when Susan and I returned  to the site there were 2 very large alligators on the distant side of the pond right where the birds congregated and close to where the adventuresome folks had visited the night before to get closer looks. 

         There were signs on some of the waterways alerting you to be on the lookout for the gators but mentioned they hibernate in winter in underground dens. Guess these two were illiterate!  
         As Susan and I walked back to our digs a wood stork landed in a small stream right behind our townhouse. He was actually so close I had to back up to photograph him as he filled the picture screen.

       His feeding style was interesting to observe. He would plant his bill in the mud and then swirl his legs around in the muck to scare up some of the critters. We ran out of daylight and as we turned to leave I was able to snap a picturesque sunset at the entrance to our community. 

          The beach was only a mile away and we explored it by foot and on bike. There were fair numbers of red-throated loons, brown pelicans, frigatebirds, royal terns, a small fly-by flock of 5 redheads, a flotilla of scaup(greater, I believe) and a single white-rumped sandpiper feeding with some willets. 

 A cooperative red-shouldered hawk on the dune side of the beach posed as we closed in on him. He changed locations several times but never flew away.

          We also checked out a  wildlife preserve 2 miles away that gave us some nice looks at woodland birds. There were many pine warblers trilling, yellow-bellied sapsuckers, ruby-crowned kinglets, phoebes, a Baltimore Oriole by the side of a stream and a pair of pileated woodpeckers feeding by the side of a busy road. 


         After a week at Hilton Head we headed south to Susan's son's house in Port St. Lucie, Florida. His residential community has many ponds one of which borders his backyard. He occasionally has a resident alligator living there but apparently it moved a while ago much to the relief of the folks in the community and their pets. It was late in the afternoon when we arrived and I did not at first glance see any wildlife in his backyard. After checking the pond out with the binoculars I did discover 3 Wilson's snipe and a little blue heron. The next morning proved much more productive when Susan and I went for a walk. There were numerous raptors including an osprey, red-shouldered hawk, bald eagle and northern harrier and a very distant buteo which I tried to make into a short-tailed hawk but believe was a Broad-winged hawk. There were anhinga, tricolored herons, a single limpkin, a flock of blue-winged teal, sandhill cranes, loggerhead shrike, killdeer, mottled duck, and lots of yellow-rumped warblers.

Mottled Duck

         Our visit was short as we had to leave mid morning for Fort Lauderdale to catch a cruise ship for a week long dermatology conference. Since I am retired the conference part of the trip was optional as far I was concerned.  If anything better came up in the way of fun I was on it!  

          On the second day at sea I was working out in the exercise room on a treadmill. The gym provided panoramic views of the ocean and interestingly some great birding. A Northern gannet showed up at eye level and caused some pleasant surprises among all us sweaty and aged folks and proved a diversion from our heart rates and calories burned. Within 10 minutes a greater surprise followed when two adult and a single immature masked booby flew by again at eye level. They proceeded to fly back and forth provoking "oohs" and "ahs" from all us athletes. I am not certain who was more startled: the birds trying to figure out what ritual all these sweaty humans were engaged in or the humans by the sight of these magnificent birds. Anyway I broke off the exercise routine and headed back to our stateroom to retrieve my camera, but by that time they had moved on. I skipped that mornings conferences and staked out the bow of the ship hoping for a second chance at a photo shoot but no luck. The following day as we approached Puerto Rico the more common brown boobies started showing up. 

           They were also seen in the other islands of St. Marten and St Kits along with the ever present frigatebirds and royal terns. The masked booby was a life bird for me and  saved me the eventual trip to the Dry Tortugas. On our return to Florida I hoped to get a second chance at seeing them since we were retracing our steps but unfortunately no further luck in spotting them. When we returned to Florida we headed to Naples for a week. We traveled by way of Lake Okeechobee and were treated to two separate sightings of Crested Caracaras, another life bird for me. In Naples we ran into two rainy days but this was the only bad weather in the entire trip. We were thankful to have escaped some of the nastiness in the north and had some fun adventures in a more hospitable climate.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Glenolden (Delaware County, Pa) CBC December 14, 2013

           The 92nd Glenolden Christmas Bird Count, part of the 114th National Audubon Society CBC, was held Saturday, December 14, 2013.  Despite the threat of a snowstorm on count day we set an all-time record for number of participants with 81 field observers and 10 feeder watchers for a grand total of 91 participants.  For perspective the past 10 year average number of participants is 61.  The high total was helped by the addition of 18 participants new to our CBC, certainly an encouraging number.

This horde of eager CBC’ers blanketed the county in a maximum of 33 field parties and 8 feeders covering 107 miles in 144 hours by foot and 450 miles in 40 hours by car. Therefore it was not for lack of trying that we came up with the weird, for our count, statistic of having more participants than species.  We tallied 33,835 birds representing 90 species which is below the 10 and 20 year average of 96-97 species and below last year’s total of 99 species. We added no new members to our all-time list of 194 species.

                As mentioned a snowstorm threatened but never really materialized. There was some light snow and rain later in the day but nothing that significantly affected the count. The temperature ranged 31-33 degrees under overcast skies throughout the day. The winds were light. A little bit of snow covered the ground and the waters were partly frozen. 

                Uncommon birds of interest included a Redhead duck at Crozer Park in Chester, a Northern Shrike at JHNWR-Tinicum Phila Co, a Common Raven flying over the Penn State campus and a Vesper Sparrow singing at the entrance to the Bridle Path in RCSP. Redhead has been reported on 14 previous counts always in small numbers. This is the second CBC report of Northern Shrike (2008) and second CBC report of Common Raven (1999). Vesper Sparrow has been found on 11 previous counts with a maximum number of 2 individuals.

                High counts were tallied for Tundra Swan-172 (130 in 1976), Hooded Merganser-95 (80 in 2007), Wild Turkey-22 (13 in 2011) and Chipping Sparrow-19 (10 in 2004). We tied the high count of 13 set in 2008 for Bald Eagle. It should be noted that eagles are getting tough to count accurately due to probable duplication by neighboring parties. Nineteen individuals were actually reported to me but I reduced the number to 13 based on age and location reported by the observers. An encouraging note, a Bald Eagle was noted to be reinforcing the nest at Springton Reservoir by Al Guarente on count day. Eastern Towhees were again out in force with the count of 122 close to the record high of 136 set in 2011.

Northern irruption visitors were practically absent. We had zero Black-capped Chickadees. This is only the second time this species has been missed looking back to 1960 and most likely beyond. The species was first missed in 2011.  There were no crossbills and only 4 Red-breasted Nuthatches, one lonely Purple Finch and 3 Pine Siskins.

Species that could be counted as “misses” include Northern Shoveler, Ring-necked Duck, Horned Grebe, Northern Harrier, American Coot, Eastern Phoebe, Rusty Blackbird, and Brown-headed Cowbird.

Species (number)  *high count:
Snow Goose (222), Canada Goose (8659), Tundra Swan (172*), Gadwall (3), American Wigeon (3), American Black Duck (174), Mallard (435), Northern Pintail (8), Green-winged Teal (11), Redhead (1), Lesser Scaup (16), Bufflehead (3), Hooded Merganser (95*), Common Merganser (83), Ruddy Duck (5), Wild Turkey (22*), Pied Billed Grebe (1), Double-crested Cormorant (61), Great Cormorant (2), Great Blue Heron (26), Black Vulture (54), Turkey Vulture (139), Bald Eagle (13- 9 adult, 3 juv, 1 unk), Sharp-shinned Hawk (14), Cooper’s Hawk (22), Red-shouldered Hawk (7), Red-tailed Hawk (83), Killdeer (4), Wilson’s Snipe (5), Ring-billed Gull (1425), Herring Gull (29), Great Black-backed Gull (26), Rock Pigeon (602), Mourning Dove (665), Eastern Screech-owl (28), Great Horned Owl (7), Belted Kingfisher (18), Red-bellied Woodpecker (171), Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (19), Downy Woodpecker (178), Hairy Woodpecker (41), Northern Flicker (92), Pileated Woodpecker (9), American Kestrel (2), Merlin (2), Peregrine Falcon (1), Northern Shrike (1), Blue Jay (405), American Crow (624), Fish Crow (20), crow sp.(17), Common Raven (1), Carolina Chickadee (438), Tufted Titmouse (328), Red-breasted Nuthatch (4), White-breasted Nuthatch (177), Brown Creeper (20), Carolina Wren (217), Winter Wren (23), Golden-crowned Kinglet (70), Ruby-crowned Kinglet (6), Eastern Bluebird (65), Hermit Thrush (13), American Robin (9014), Gray Catbird (2), Northern Mockingbird (61),  Brown Thrasher (2), European Starling (2249),  American Pipit (10), Cedar Waxwing (11), Yellow-rumped Warbler (12), Eastern Towhee (122), American Tree Sparrow (23), Chipping Sparrow (19*), Field Sparrow (12), Vesper Sparrow (1), Savannah Sparrow (3), Fox Sparrow (23), Song Sparrow (922), Swamp Sparrow (35), White-throated Sparrow (2109), White-crowned Sparrow (1), Dark-eyed Junco (1519), Northern Cardinal (501), Red-winged Blackbird (308), Common Grackle (4), Purple Finch (1), House Finch (215), Pine Siskin (3), American Goldfinch (348), House Sparrow (218).
Total Species: 90.  20 year average species count: 97. All-time species count: 194.

Here is a list of Participants with their years of service. New participants, 5 year anniversaries and those with over 25 years participation are in bold lettering for special recognition. I suspect some of the years of service are inaccurate. Please let me know if yours needs to be corrected:

                Ellis Akers (42), Marcus Baldwin (1), Alex Baugh (1), Gary Becker (10), Debbie Beer (3), Sarah Besadny (6), Rob Bierregaard (2), Adrian Binns (1), Jim Bodine (23), Isadora Boucas-Neto (2), Sarah Boucas-Neto (7), Tom Bush (1), Ben Bussman (1), Brian Byrnes (5),  Jamal Carter (1), Donna Chadderton (5), Skip Conant (30), Bill Cranny (3),  Alan Crawford III (5), Alvera Crocetto (39), Nick Crocetto (39), Anna Crocker (1), Dan Crocker (3), Cynthia Curry (12),  John D’Amico (16),  Susan D’Amico (15), Martin Dellwo (2), Don DiPietro (4),  David Eberly (23), Phyllis Fingerhood (19), Kevin Fryberger (6), Diana Funchion (1), Stephanie Gaboriault (3), Gregg Gorton (1), Al Guarente (39), Aaron Henry (1), Micah Henry (1), Rich Horwitz (25), Bill Howard (2), Lois Hunn (15), Hiroshi Iizuka (2), Letitia Jeavons (3), Kristen Johnson (3), Sheryl Johnson (18), Steve Kapski (19), Virginia Kapski (2), Bob Kelly (5), Dan Kobza (2), Mary Ellen Krober (27),  Danielle LaLonde (2), Chris Langman (5), Amy Langman (3), Chelsea Lucas (5), Sue Lucas (6), Dave Luning (1), Laura Matika (1), Dave McDonald (2), Doris McGovern (30), Pat McGovern (2), Tom McKeeman (6), Art McMorris (3), Kathy Meermans (7), Rob Megraw (21), Alison Mostrom (22), Damon Orsetti (1), Carl Perretta (24), Mariana Pesthy (1), Chris Pugliese (5), Nick Pulcinella (44), Jim Purtill (4), Brian Quindlen (7), Tom Reeves (39), Lynn Roman (2), Vail Ryan (1), Alice Sevareid (6), Win Shafer (9), Bob Sharp (1), Nathaniel Sharp (1), Charles Smith (6), Marilyn Smith (1), Gary Stolz (7), Carol Storey (8), Marcia Tate (3), Gloria Todor (8), Pat Trevelino (9), Scott Tuttle (7), Kris Wade (4), Peter Wade (4), Chris Walters (36), Bonnie Witmer (2), Alex Zorach (1).

                Special thanks to Chris Walters who after 36 years of participation will be handing over the reins of our Area 7-Elwyn to the capable hands of Brian Quindlen. Chris and his teams have worked hard over the years providing thorough coverage and very complete species counts. Chris has also added some nice rarities to our count list. Here are his favorites: “Greatest Glenolden CBC birds for me were Blue-headed Vireo in 2001 (1st ever for the count), Black th'd Green Warbler in 1994(another 1st), 7 Red Crossbills in 1987, and Lincoln's Sparrow in 1990”.  Chris is not retiring as a CBC’er. He will continue to participate in the Cape May CBC which is typically held on the day after ours. Thanks again Chris!

                Also Tom McParland and Bill Roache are turning over leadership of the Ridley Creek State Park-South Area in order to devote their time and energy to the Cape May CBC. Alison Mostrom and Tom Bush will be taking over leadership of that vital area so the transition will be seamless. We thank Tom and Bill for their participation over the years and expect them back to help out as their time allows in the future.

                For a detailed exploration of historical data for our count and all CBCs I recommend you check out On the right hand column click “Results, Data, Research” and then again on the right click “Results: Current & Historical” Here you can find a detailed report of our count that provides high counts for all species. You can also explore ours and other counts by species & make nifty graphs of their frequency through the years. 

                Our CBC is held on the first Saturday of the count period announced by Audubon.  So far I cannot find that date. Based on our historical dates it will probably be 12/19/14. I will let everyone know officially as soon as I find out. If you are interested you can keep an eye on the website.

                Thank you all once again for your participation, especially my team captains who make my job so much easier.  I’m looking forward to next year’s CBC so stay healthy, stay in shape and stay psyched to get back out there again!

David Eberly

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Delco Winter Raptor Survey 2014

The Winter Raptor Survey (WRS) is a state-wide event sponsored by the Pennsylvania Society for Ornithology where teams run preplanned routes through their counties by car and census raptors and vultures along the way. The rules require an automobile route with brief stops where the observers do not venture far from the car.  I believe the Pennsylvania Society of Ornithology started the WRS in 2000. The Delco routes were planned and first run by Jim Lockyer with the help of Dave Washabaugh. I'm not sure when the Delaware County routes started. I know I joined them in 2007. Jim devised two routes, an East & West route which are run on separate days within the predetermined survey period

The Delco East route was run this year on Saturday January 18. The team of Chris Pugliese, Bob Kelly and Al Guarente covered 84 miles in 4 hours and 45 minutes. The East route starts at Rose Tree Park and meanders past Hildacy, through Paxon Hollow, Broomall,  DCCC, Springton Reservoir, north to Radnor Twp then a nice long ride down the Blue Route & 95 to the airport counting red-tails & vultures along the way. After the airport the Commodore Barry Bridge Park is checked and the route then turns into the Aston/Chichester area and finally ends up back at Rose Tree Park by way of Middletown.

Highlights for the East team were 7  Bald Eagles including one on nest at Springton Reservoir and the usually reliable Peregrine Falcon on the Commodore Barry Bridge. A stop not to be missed is Bruce Childs' back yard which produced a Red-shouldered Hawk and Bald Eagle almost immediately upon the team's arrival.

The Delco West route was run on Saturday February 2nd. On this day Chris Pugliese and Bob Kelly were joined by Dave Eberly & WRS rookie Tom Bush. This route wanders roughly westward covering areas such as Episcopal Academy, Ridley Creek State Park, Glen Mills, Thornbury and Chadds Ford then works its way back to Rose Tree Park. Seventy-nine miles were covered in 5 hours and 45 minutes.

The sharp-eyed Bob Kelly spotted the first highlight of the day for the West team, a Red-Shouldered Hawk tucked into the woods near the covered bridge at Goshen Rd & Boot Rd in Newtown Square.

Shortly afterward we were entertained by a Red-tailed Hawk swooping across the road in front of the car and coming up with a squirrel which it then carried to a nearby sycamore tree. Fortunately we were able to pull off the road at that spot & get great views of the bird enjoying its mid-morning meal. It was almost immediately joined by another adult, presumably a mate, who perched on the limb above and called out repeatedly, red-tail style. It was unclear whether we or the greedy mate were the objects of the scolding.

A red-tail hawk munches on a squirrel while a mate scolds or guards from above (Tom Bush)
We ticked more red-tails and vultures until we found ourselves near the Glen Mills Quarry. Of course we had to check for the non-raptor ravens & were not disappointed. From our vantage point we quickly found two Common Ravens perched on different structures inside the quarry. As we were watching one flew off and disappeared but we almost immediately found a raven perched on another roof top in the same general vicinity. We felt there was a good chance this was a third raven but kept our count conservative at two.  We did pick up some vultures and another red-tail at the quarry so the stop was justified under WRS rules.

By this time we were feeling desperate for an accipiter.  Fortunately at the next stop, Barrett's Meadow at Creek & Tanguy Rd, our secret weapon, Bob Kelly, found us a Cooper's Hawk perched in the meadow. Just down the road over a parking lot at Cheyney University we spotted a mixed flock of circling raptors and vultures. In this "kettle" we picked out two circling Ravens right in there with the vultures and a couple red-tails. We also spotted a Cooper's Hawk near this group and decided to count it as a 2nd Coop for the day. The Cheyney parking lot is only 2.3 miles as the raven flies from the quarry so we decided we had to assume we were looking at the same two ravens we had seen at the quarry earlier but we entertained the possibility that although we only counted two we may have seen as many as 5 ravens in the area.

After a nice view of a Pileated Woodpecker flying across the parking lot at the Brandywine Museum we started heading back east. As we approached the more congested areas around 202 I suspect our expectations were flagging along with a little fatigue.  However we perked up when as we approached the intersection of 202 on Ridge Rd in Chadds Ford we spotted a pair of raptors on a utility wire right along the side of the road just yards from the busy intersection. They turned out to be a pair of beautiful adult  Red-shouldered Hawks. There is a large empty commercial lot for sale at this corner which was obviously the attraction.  We were able to pull into a parking lot and get excellent views and photos of both birds. One spent its time perched on the large For Lease sign at the corner. I wondered if it was eyeing the Starbucks across the street but couldn't figure out how to get through the traffic. After satisfying ourselves with excellent looks at the red-shoulders and taking zillions of photos we moved on.
                                                           (Tom Bush)
Red-shouldered Hawk enjoys the traffic on 202 (Dave Eberly)

While its mate watches from a utility line (Dave Eberly)

I can't help but quote from Crossley's intro to his Red-shouldered Hawk write-up in his new Raptor ID Guide:
"Along a damp trail draped in cathedral oaks and maples, streaks of light break through the canopy, dappling sun across hanging Spanish moss. The surrounding woods are alive with singing birds. Suddenly, a piercing scream - a repetitive, descending keeyar-keeyar-keeyar  echos through the swamp."
Well maybe not in Delco but this will do.

We picked up our last species of the day, thankfully another accipiter, a Sharp-shinned Hawk, at the Rachel Kohl Library Walking Trail near Garnet Valley Middle School. All in all a great way to spend a mid-winter's day!

Here are the totals for the east & west routes:

East (1/18) West (2/1) Delco Total
Turkey Vulture 10 47 57
Black Vulture 1 31 32
Red-tailed Hawk 20 (6 a, 6 i, 8 ND) 22 (10 a, 3 i, 9 ND) 42
Red-shouldered Hawk 2 (a) 3 (a) 5
Bald Eagle 7 (5 a, 2 i ) 7
Sharp-shinned Hawk 1 1
Cooper's Hawk 2 2
Peregrine Falcon 1 1

Arizona Trip Day 5, 6 and 7

     Day 5 was originally scheduled to hunt for the Sinaloa Wren at Fort Huachuca in Sierra Vista, but since we lucked out yesterday and found the wren skulking around the leaf litter, it was our plan today to head east to the White Water Draw refuge near McNeal, Arizona. We were hoping to get to the refuge early in the morning. Several people we met in AZ told us that if you arrive after the photographers show up then your chances of finding our target bird  would be slim.  The photographers tend to get too close and flush the birds into the grasses where they are extremely difficult to find. So we arrived around 8AM and outside the refuge we found a large flock of about 30 Sandhill Cranes. They appeared to be the lesser sandhills based on their size. Inside the refuge were another 2000+ cranes.
       Once we arrived at the parking area for the refuge we noticed that many people were actually camping at the refuge, which I found strange.  The refuge is similar to Bombay Hook. The refuge is made up of man made pools surrounded by dikes. However, no cars are allowed, so you have to walk around the area.  We walked in and the first birds that we saw were our target birds eating right on the first dike. I set up the scope and we watched life bird number five, a male and female Ruddy Ground-Dove.
Ruddy Ground-Doves
       Although the picture is not great, the male showed no scaling on the throat as a Common Ground-Dove would show. Also there was more spotting on the wings and the wings were a lot redder then the common. 
          After sharing the scope with a couple from Georgia, who also came to see the birds, we turned around and there was a Vermilion Flycatcher right behind us.
Vermilion Flycatcher
       After walking around for a little we found two Great Horned Owls, Long-billed Dowitchers, Bushtits, and a Barn Owl sitting in the rafters of a very large picnic pavilion.
Sleeping Barn Owl
        Continuing the tour we found Northern Harrier, Black and Say's Phoebe, Green-tailed Towhee, Eastern Meadowlark and Greater Roadrunner. Returning to the parking lot there was a Loggerhead Shrike posing for us at the top of a tree.

            After visiting the refuge we headed to San Pedro Riparian Preserve back in Sierra Vista. This place was just hopping with more sparrows then I have ever seen. We found hundreds of White-crowned Sparrows, a few Brewer's Sparrows, a couple hundred Vesper Sparrows, Savannahs, Chipping, Song, Lincoln's and lots of Lark Sparrows, plus Lesser Goldfinch. The feeder at the HQ was taken over with Yellow-headed Blackbirds.
Yellow-headed Blackbirds
             After this preserve we traveled south to the Coronado National Monument. The only new bird species that we added was Canyon Wren at the top of the mountain in the park. Also at the top were two border patrol trucks with a radar system attached to an antenna. Apparently the radar picks up body heat of people, and thus they can track down illegal aliens coming across the border.
                But the interesting part of the trip was the outfit that I got to wear at the HQ. We went in the visitor center and found a helmet and a very heavy chain vest that you were allowed to try on to get the feel of how much they weighed. Well I needed help getting the vest on because of weight but once I got it over my head it wasn't too bad. Below is my imitation of a Conquistador.
Al the Conquistador
Border Patrol
Border Fence in the Distance
Day 6
            We started out today looking for Baird's Sparrow in the San Rafael Grasslands. This would be lifer number six but we drove around for three hours and could not find this little bugger. We did find a White-tailed Kite that was hovering over the grasslands hunting for a meal.
White-tailed Kite

San Rafael Grasslands
          Moving on after the disappointment of not finding the sparrow we drove a short distance to Patagonia and stopped at the Paton's Backyard.

 This is the property that I asked the club members for donations to help purchase. They needed to save the property from being sold to an individual who might not allow birders on their property. We were told that the Tucson Audubon will be managing the property starting in mid February. The Paton's property is world famous for having the first Violet-crowned Hummingbird recorded in the US. They also have had other great birds like Plain-capped Starthroat.
            When we arrived we were able to see Ladder-backed Woodpecker, Green-tailed Towhee and Anna's and Broad-billed Hummingbirds.
Anna's Hummingbird

Ladder-backed Woodpecker
           While we were sitting at the Paton's, a tour group came into the yard and the guide started calling out birds at the feeder. Since he was blocking the view of the other folks there,  I stood up and started looking around elsewhere. I spotted a lady who looked familiar and approached her and asked if she was from Pennsylvania. She turned around and looked at me and yelled "It's Al. What are you doing here?" It was Marcia Martin from Swarthmore. Nice to see some familiar faces.
            Leaving the Paton's we headed for  Saguaro National Monument. No new birds were added here but the park was enjoyable to see again.

Gila Woodpecker nest hole from a Saguaro Cactus
Day 7
          Our final day was just a long drive to Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. New birds for the trip were Black Vulture and Crested Caracara. From here we drove to Ontario Airport in California to return our car. On the way we drove through Temucula wine country (Hello Jim Lockyer) and then to Lake Skinner to see if we could get a better view of a Blue-footed Booby. Well we did. Actually saw two boobies sitting on the dock.
Neat Sign Along Route

Blue-footed Booby

Blue-footed Booby
             So I would call this a very successful road trip. We put 2,346 miles on the car in seven days. Car rental firms love people like us. We added five new life birds. They were Blue-footed Booby, Nutting's Flycatcher, Rufous-capped Warbler, Sinaloa Wren and Ruddy Ground-Dove. Other lifers we could have gotten but missed were Western and Whiskered Screech-Owls, Baird's Sparrow, California Condors and Rufous-backed Robin. We found 142 species in Arizona and are still adding more year birds here in California.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Arizona Trip Day 4

Red-naped Sapsucker in Madera Canyon
      On our fourth day in Arizona we arose to the raucous again of the Wild Turkeys across the street from our cabin. The turkeys flew down from their roost and started across the street to the feeders right outside of our cabin.

Wild Turkey
 Also at the feeders were Yellow-eyed Junco, Bridled Titmouse, Magnificent Hummingbirds and Mexican Jays.
Yellow-eyed Junco

Magnificent Hummingbird

Mexican Jay
      After viewing the feeders for half an hour we drove down the road a little to Santa Rita Lodge and found more Mecixan Jays, a male Hepatic Tanager, Lesser Goldfinches, Acorn Woodpeckers and a nice Arizona Woodpecker.
Acorn Woodpecker

Arizona Woodpecker
Hepatic Tanager
      These were obviously great birds to see again, but our target bird was still waiting for us in Florida Canyon. So we left the easy birding at the feeders to head for the climb up the canyon. It took us about 20 minutes to arrive at the canyon and as we expected there were already a few other cars in the parking lot. We started our walk up and tried to find one of the three Elegant Trogans in the canyon but were not lucky enough to find one. We would actually come back three times that day looking for the trogans with the same negative results. 
         As we got higher in the canyon we started finding Black-chinned Sparrows, Rufous-crowned and Rufous-winged Sparrows
Black-chinned Sparrow
As we followed the trail we had to climb over a dam and under an few trees because the trail is not clearly marked.
Rufous-capped Warbler- photo by Nick Athanas

       We arrived in the area and met some folks and asked if they had seen the warblers, which they had not as of this time. But they did tell us about a Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet they had seen earlier. So we continued our climb further into the canyon and ran into a guy on his way out who said the bird was a little further uphill. So we kept going and met up with a small crowd so we knew this had to be the spot. We got to the group of birders and they quickly pointed out our lifer Rufous-capped Warbler. As we watched them I noticed a second one flitting around and then a third one. There appeared to be a territorial dispute going on between two of the warblers which was neat to watch. Eventually, the birds climbed uphill and out of sight. We all gave each other high fives and a group photo was taken of the gang. This was life bird number three for the trip. We've having fun now!

          After walking back to the parking lot and finding out that we missed a Black-throated Gray Warbler and a Black-capped Gnatcatcher we headed to Sierra Vista where we would make our headquarters for the next two nights. Our plan was to meet up with two birders from the area tomorrow and go look for the Sinaloa Wren in Fort Huachuca. 

Sinaloa Wren (internet photo)
Since there was still daylight we decided to familiarize ourselves with the fort and the area where the wren was hanging out. We figured that we could get a heads up and plan the strategy for tomorrow since this wren is such a skulker. So we got thru security at the gate of the fort and headed to the playground area in Huachuca Canyon. We arrived and I told Sharon to cover one side of the road and I would take the other side. After a quick check on my side I decided it wasn't the correct habitat so I walked over to where Sharon was searching. As I stood there talking to Sharon, I heard the leaves shuffling about five feet in front of me so I called Sharon over to wait and see what was making the noise. Suddenly, a small brown head popped up and I could see it was the Sinaloa Wren staring right at us but not too concerned about our presence. I could clearly see the white striping on the throat and side of face on a grayish brown wren with lots of striping on the tail. Later it popped out of the brush within two feet of Sharon.  Life bird number four was in the bag. 
        Time for a dinner celebration at the Texas Roadhouse.