Good Day of Birding in Pima and Santa Cruz Counties, Arizona

Friday, June 15, 2018
With an early start (5 a.m.) from my place in AJ, Lois Lorenz and I tackled a 7-hour birding day with gusto. Due to the forecast of Pacific Hurricane Bud bringing us some much-needed rain (and wind) on Friday evening into Saturday, I had canceled our plan for an overnight to bird more extensively along the I-19 Corridor and over to Patagonia.

A good 7:00 a.m. start at Sweetwater Wetlands in Tucson under a dark overcast sky provided us with 33 species in an hour even though we saw zero Kingbirds. (surprising to me) 

To be greeted by a GREATER ROADRUNNER gave us a good vibe for how our walk might go.

Under a very light drizzle that felt good on our summer shirts, we walked to the gazebo and around the ponds. Waterfowl was scarce but we spied one drake RUDDY DUCK, for which my photo doesn't do justice to its sharp blue bill and white cheek. Quite the dude!

At the same pond, Lois spotted a COMMON GALLINULE hanging close to the marsh grasses.

An abundance of RED-WINGED BLACKBIRDs made me abandon my field-notebook chit marks in favor of an estimation.

A bright red male SUMMER TANAGER, several VERMILION FLYCATCHERs (family of male, female, young), and the sound of a minimum of six (6) COMMON YELLOWTHROATS kept us feeling good about birding under the dark sky.

eBird checklist link for Sweetwater:
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Two hours later we began birding at the Tubac deAnza Trail with our target bird being the ROSE-THROATED BECARDs nesting there. While I thought I had researched its location thoroughly, after we crossed the road before the bridge and walked across a narrow waterway on the planks, we continued following the deAnza Trail signs - most likely in error. I need to study up on GPS coordinates and how to use them!  

Since we kept seeing nifty birds, I was disinclined to return to our starting point, although that might have proven helpful. When we had walked the trail next to the train tracks for way over 3/4 of a mile - to the GRAY HAWK, past the golf course to some wild horses, Lois convinced me that we might benefit from re-tracing with more attention to the detail of the trail! 

GRAY HAWK keeping us company during much of our amble
Unfortunately, some of our best sightings were too distant for photos or just didn't turn out with such dark sky. That would be two separate COMMON GROUND DOVE, TROPICAL and CASSIN'S KINGBIRD and the ever-present YELLOW-BREASTED CHAT and BELL'S VIREO. Is there a symbiosis between the Chat and the Bell's Vireo?  Almost each time we heard the Chat on one side of the trail, a Bell's Vireo would sound off on the other side. Found that interesting.

Two birds I did manage to photograph at the start of the trail were: GREATER ROADRUNNER AND VERMILION FLYCATCHER, below.

GREATER ROADRUNNER (above and below)


Assumed Wild Horses - unrestricted in any way and came into the forest where we were walking

eBird Link for Tubac deAnza Trail: View this checklist online at
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Next stop was Amado Waste Treatment Pond along I-19.  Easily accessible off the Access Road, we stayed only a short time to find a handful of birds, including two BLACK-BELLIED WHISTLING DUCKS that I had missed time and again this year at other spots in the West Valley of Phoenix.

Note its red/orange bill, white eyeing, gray face, black belly and long pink legs

Driving farther north on I-19, our next stop was Madera Canyon's Santa Rita Lodge bird-feeding station. After our 2.5 mile walk on the deAnza Trail, it felt good to sit for awhile!
Here, the gray-colored sky gave us great views of some very colorful birds that often get washed out in sunlight.
WILD TURKEYs that come to the feeding station like all the other birds


eBird link for Santa Rita Lodge:

Not yet finished with our target bird search, we then hiked up Carrie Nation Trail just to the first bench where we sat and listened . . . and listened . . . to the light breeze through the trees.  Not a single bird song reached our ears., I used playback (very infrequent user) for the squeaky toy bird. The SULPHUR-BELLIED FLYCATCHER makes its way up into southern Arizona from Mexico just about every year.

Its voice sounds very strange in the middle of a quiet forest. After a 30-second play, I put my phone away and waited. Ha..ha. We heard them coming - two of them. One perched in the open distance. My photo is just plain lousy but I post to show I saw it. Its lemony belly contains fine dark-brown streaks; its tail is very rufous; its large head is streaked with white above and below its wide dark eye line. . .barely visible in photo below.

I took this photo below of a SULPHUR-BELLIED FLYCATCHER last year, also along Carrie Nation Trail in Madera Canyon.

As we drove back down the canyon, we continued to hear the ELEGANT TROGON calling near its usual location for being observed - the Madera Canyon Picnic Area. Am not sure Lois was onboard for more walking but she proved pivotal in our sighting. We had not walked terribly far down the trail when I commented that the bird was very close by. I, however, continued forward. She stopped to look. She found it!!  I went back and also viewed the bird that flew when I laid eyes on it!  So, she stayed put; I again went forward on the trail.  

Next thing I heard was Lois calling gently, "Babs, it's right in front of me!"  So back I went, slowly, quietly.  

With no birds left on our list to top the ELEGANT TROGON, we headed for home, arriving around 5 p.m. - twelve hours after our 5 a.m. departure.  Great day!!

eBird links for Madera Cyn:
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Bit of Birding on a non-birding visit to the White Mountains of Eastern Arizona

June 10-13, 2018 (Sunday-Wednesday)
Although we never lived near one another in Virginia, my friend Margie Reed and I just figured out that we have known each other for over thirty years by attending shared activities. She subsequently, also, moved to Arizona where I continue to see her from time to time. Very unfortunately, she suffered a brain aneurysm several years ago and can no longer drive but has recovered sufficiently to live on her own and take care of herself. To be without a vehicle after driving all one's life seemed catastrophic to me, so I asked if she'd like to take a road trip to escape the heat of the Valley. When I mentioned Reed's Lodge in Springerville, she couldn't resist. She wanted to find out if she was related to any of the Reeds in Arizona.

What a delightful visit! With Margie's need for much rest, I would then head out to bird nearby hot spots and was rewarded with having most places all to myself. June is not a "high" birding month as I soon found out but, at least, it was not as full of mosquitoes as one memorable summer trip up there about four or five years ago! No bugs; no extraordinary birds but much time in touch with fresh air and solitude.

Mostly, it was a time for Margie and I to reconnect.

Below are photos of some of the birds (and animals) I saw. Links to my eBird lists are posted at the end.
GREATER ROADRUNNER with food (frog?)
OSPRY with prey (above and below)

WHITE-FACED IBIS (above and below)

In addition to birds, I ran across some interesting mammals:


And, out at a very shrunken Lyman Lake, I found more cattle than birds:

Longhorn Cattle grazing on far end of lake bed

Margie woke up on Day #2 (Monday) wanting to go birding with me! She hung in for six hours as we visited South Fork area and Sunrise Campground. Sitting out in her walker, she loved being surrounded by trees, rivers and fresh air. Temperatures remained in the 70-80° range during our visit.  

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76 bird species from eight locations:
View this checklist online at

View this checklist online at
View this checklist online at
View this checklist online at

View this checklist online at

View this checklist online at
View this checklist online at

View this checklist online at

Birding 2 days in Anchorage and 3 days on St. Paul Island, Pribilof Islands-Bering Sea, Aleutians West, Alaska, USA

ANCHORAGE: Monday and Tuesday, May 21st & 22nd, 2018
Having signed up for the High Lonesome BirdTour to the Pribilof Islands last fall, I decided to check in with quiet easy-going birder, Lois Lorenz, to see if she was as adventurous as I suspected.  Yes!!  Since Lois had never been to Alaska, we agreed to go early to see what we could find in the Anchorage area. To that end, we followed up on a guide suggestion from Forrest Davis (High Lonesome) and arranged to meet Lynn Barber for that purpose.

For those of you who may have never heard of Lynn, she did a Texas Big Year in 2005 garnering a total of 522 species.Then, a friend gave her the book about “The Big Year” and a seed was planted. In 2008, she did an ABA Big Year, surpassing her expected number to end up with 723 species which gave her the title of First Woman to break the 700 mark. [Eight years later, In 2016, photographer Laura Keene broke Lynn’s record with a count of 816 species.]

Birding with Lynn [5/21&22/2018] was like birding with any one of you who are knowledgeable and know where the birds are located. She knew where to take us to see a BOREAL CHICKADEE [Campbell Tract of the Chugach Mountains] and took us to a special location at Lake Hood that Lois and I had already birded on our own. A RED-THROATED LOON seems to have chosen a certain canal area on the Lake the past couple years and, sure enough, it had arrived.

The RED-THROATED LOON was not a lifer but it was so tame that I was able to stand on a pier and photograph it from above. 

Lake Hood & Spenard Lake were connected and very close to the airport. From the Puffin Inn or from the tour hotel of Coast International, the Lake was within easy walking distance.
View of Lake Hood from different positions as we birded around it:

Note airplanes around Lake Hood. Water runway was close to Anchorage Airport; some took off right from lake.

Delighted to see breeding-plumaged birds out on the water, I focused on the RED-NECKED GREBE:


The BARROW'S GOLDENEYE were distant but diagnostic photos are posted below:

A particular joy of birding so far north was observing breeding behavior. In the evening when Lois I returned to Lake Hood, the RED-NECKED GREBEs were trying to assemble a floating nest.

Two PACIFIC LOON were on Lake Hood both days giving me a fair chance to get a reasonable (instead of very distant) photo.

Passerines were more active in the evening. 
On our visits to the two Hot Spots at Potter Marsh with Lynn, we had a great assortment of new birds, including many Life Birds for Lois.
Lynn Barber (left) & Lois Lorenz (right)
ARCTIC TERN nesting 
RED-NECKED PHALAROPE  (female above; male was deeper into reeds sitting on the nest)
And the best of the best--

(male came out from nest when female swam over that way)

Also at Potter Marsh, was a cow Moose in the distance:

From there, as I recall, we drove to Girdwood where we were able to see the pure strain (as opposed to the interbreeds in Washington State) of NORTHWESTERN CROW.
It was raining; I stayed in the car as this NORTHWESTERN CROW came closer and closer
At Westchester Lagoon, one of the rarities for locals was the presence of a BLUE-WINGED TEAL. The other rarity was an OLIVE-SIDED FLYCATCHER. 
Lots of BLACK-BILLED MAGPIEs kept us company.

BLACK-BILLED MAGPIES (two above photos)
Later, on Arctic Valley Road, I was as fascinated by the wildlife as by the birds!  An Arctic Hare with its feet still white was hopping around in the middle of the dirt road until we came along. The Arctic Ground Squirrel, looking much like a Prairie Dog was also running about.
Then, there was another Moose.

Arctic Ground Squirrel

A HERMIT THRUSH and GOLDEN-CROWNED SPARROW were the only two birds that cooperated for photos, so I'm posting the one most rare to us.

GOLDEN-CROWNED SPARROW; Arctic Valley Road, Anchorage

Checklists for all of the above are under Anchorage, AK for the specified dates. Hot Spots included: Campbell Tract; Lake Hood & Lake Spenard; Potter Marsh Boardwalk; Potter Marsh Seward Hwy; Girdwood Junction; and Westchester Lagoon.

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St. Paul is the largest of four volcanic islands in the Bering Sea and provides the best (yet simple) visitor condtions.

Distance from Anchorage is 750 miles.
Distance from west coast of Alaska is 300 miles.
Distance from Siberia is 500 miles northwest.

St. Paul lies low in the Bering Sea.  Average upland areas where we birded were less than 150 feet in elevation. It is a remote and beautifully rugged island.

We birded the accessible portion of the island where the brown heaps of weather-worn lava reminded me of Hole-in-the-Rock in Papago Park, but were neither that high nor that red. (Elevation of Papago itself is 1100’)

St. Paul Island is measured at 40 square miles total; its longest road is 14 miles.
Population of St. Paul is just under 500, mostly Aleut communities.
There is one store, one post office, one school, and one Russsian Orthodox Church.

Ground cover consisted of tussocks of grass, dried celery plants (others in that family) from last season, small blooming areas of tiny white flowers as well as larger circles of lupine rising from the ground with brilliant blue color. It appears that flowers will cover the landscape shortly.

Ground was relatively flat with fresh water ponds filling the scrapes and holes in the earth. These ponds and lakes with adjacent marshes proved to attract some very nice birds for us.

Basalt sea cliffs, of course, were filled with the alcids and other sea birds I wanted to see for the first time.

This High Lonesome BirdTour was guided by David Kreuper. Local guides accompanying us were:  Claudia Cavazos, Sullivan (Sulli) Gibson and Philip (Phil) Chaon.  3 guides + 13 birders from around the USA, and we were set to go from the moment PenAir dropped us off at the airport.

When our plane arrived, an ABA group of birders was waiting to board to continue their trip on up to Nome and Gambel.  (Stephan Lorenz, who had guided the TX trip I took the end of April was assigned to help lead this ABA tour; not mine as promoted.) 
Me - on sea cliff
From the short airport lobby, we were ushered right around the corner to the desk where we picked up our room key. Our rooms were in the airport building in a long hallway of rooms like any motel. This piece of paper was taped to the entrance door to let us know we were entering the:

Rooms were small, clean and efficiently covered our needs. I had my own room with two single beds - one for clothes; one for sleeping. We had been told to wear everything we would need on St. John since Pen Air ("When Air" to some locals) didn't always get baggage delivered. Shared bathrooms were at my end of the hallway. The only WiFi hotspot available to us on the island was at the far end of the hallway, but I usually just crashed when we returned from our long birding days.Typically, we birded 4 hours after breakfast; 4 hours after lunch; 4 hours after dinner, with an hour for each meal = 15-hour days. Our meals were provided at the Trident fish factory cafeteria at a time separate from the workers.

No gorgeous Arizona sunsets; I was asleep if the sun ever did get around to setting. And, a marine layer hung over us each day but sometimes we could see to the horizon below it. Temperatures probably ranged from 30s to high 40s. I wore enough layers that I was never cold. From exertion I was wet from inside out at some locations!

Wednesday, 5/23/18 (Happy Birthday to Ethan, my grandson)
Immediately after checking into our rooms, we got into the two vans and began birding!!
First stop (4:15 p.m.) was at Weather Bureau Lake to see if the rare COMMON POCHARD was still hanging out there. Ummmm. Yes. I spotted it easily -- looking like a Redhead/Canvasback out in the distance. Photos are documentary.

Distant COMMON POCHARD - note slope from forehead to end of bill
COMMON POCHARD - right-most duck above center foreground
After getting acquainted with ROCK SANDPIPERs (prevalent sandpiper on the island), 

we moved on to Reef Point in search of a Brambling that we hoped was still present. We fanned out to cover the tussock-covered ground so the rarity couldn't hide from us. I really wanted the Brambling!  Around me I heard LAPLAND LONGSPURs; saw lots of PRIBILOF GRAY-CROWNED ROSY-FINCH and ROCK SANDPIPERs.
Arctic Fox on sea wall of rocks as I walked with others to scare up the Brambling

The rarity was a no show, so Phil hiked up higher into the rocky area. 

Down closer to the sea, Claudia spotted a whimbrel on top of the rocky shoreline wall. Since I was close to her when she called it, I was able to catch some photos before the big cameras arrived and scared the bird that needed to be relocated. Kristine lives in Alaska and had immediately identified it as a BRISTLE-THIGHED CURLEW that, as it turned out, was the proper ID, not the hoped-for Far-Eastern Curlew some of the group were wishing for. (We all know that feeling!) The BRISTLE-THIGHED CURLEW was one of 16 Life Birds I would see on the island.

BRISTLE-THIGHED CURLEW at edge of Bering Sea [Reef Point]
Meanwhile, Phil had found and photographed a Brambling so we all gave chase to the higher rockier elevation. 

This terrain was easier for me to walk than the tall tussocks
Again, we swept for the Brambling that eluded us so I returned to the pond at the bottom of the hill (sea level) to take pics of the birds there.

What do I mean by "tussocks"?  It's just a clump of grass with its own root structure. But its a spongy surface and we don't step on the top of the clump but get our feet between root structures. My sorrel boots were perfect to protect me from the wet, but I wasn't accustomed to walking with wider rubber soles than my hiking shoes. Slowly I navigated through this kind of terrain but my hips and low back spoke up afterwards.

Birds can navigate the tussocks easier than me!  
WANDERING TATTLER (had seen this bird in Oregon one summer)

ROCK SANDPIPERS were also present.
With black on the high belly and de-curved bill, this might be mistaken for a Dunlin, but this is the
ROCK SANDPIPER photo bombing my pic of the Tattler.
SNOW BUNTINGs were frequent but not numerous (to my eye). Note the black on its back.
RED PHALAROPE - had to wait for it to wake up. Such a gorgeous bird!
It was noisy at Reef Point. Fur Seals were coming in and sounding off with grunts, growls and honking. Our guides called them the Beach Masters and warned to keep our distance. 

Fur Seals are the main attraction to the Pribilof Islands 
The Pribilof Islands are protected from hunting by its inclusion in the Bering Sea Unit of the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge with special protection for the Fur Seals under the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

Next stop: Salt Lagoon
Birds were far out in the distance here but good scope views of a Drake King Eider and both  Kittiwakes (BLACK-LEGGED and RED-LEGGED) was exciting. Our guides had the right idea, though. Let's walk closer.

Sulli leading us closer to the rare birds

The KING EIDER was definitely on my target list for this trip. Wow!
Drake KING EIDER (still distant after walking out but close enough)

Among the GREEN-WINGED TEAL swimming in these waters and walking around was at least this one intergrade:

Intergrade GREEN-WINGED TEAL with very contrasting head pattern
A SEMI-PALMATED SANDPIPER, a rarity passing through, got our guides all excited.

This DUNLIN, below, provided good contrast with the markings of ROCK SANDPIPER.

Arctic Fox were seen just about every day.

ARCTIC FOX (above & below)

After wrapping up here, it was over to the Trident cafeteria for dinner - with fish always on the menu. Great food every meal! And, a good night's sleep in a new bed.

Thursday, 5/24/18
Today was to be our first full day of birding here. We started at the sea cliffs that were crawling with sea birds and took hundreds of pictures in mostly poor light.

So let me digress because many of the photos I post for this date were actually taken on Friday, 5/25/18 when we were supposed to be flying back to Anchorage.

What? Yes. We were packed and ready to go on Friday, 5/25, but PenAir couldn't fly.  Communications on the island are slim to none and the airport is the first, and maybe only, place the information reaches. We had been told it would be an early flight instead of an afternoon flight (bummer as it knocked out birding in the a.m.) so we waited for the plane to arrive. No one seemed to know if it was in the air bringing the next group of VENT tour birders into St. Paul. Eventually, word dribbled in. No. The FAA won't allow it to fly because one of the radar units on St. Paul needed to be adjusted. (Wind out in the sea can play havoc with things like that.) Being Memorial Day Weekend, the locals couldn't fix it until Tuesday of the following week. 

Crunch time for the Tour Owners/Operators. Long story short, our group and the VENT group switched rooms where we were stuck (they took our Coast International rooms for Friday night and we took their Hotel Eider rooms). Beyond that, looking at cascading problems for additional tours, the owners managed to get a waiver from the FAA to "rescue" us from St. Paul as they carried the incoming birders to the island on Saturday, the 26th.

From this interesting turn of events, we were able to bird most of the day on Friday (having only waited for a non-existing flight). On that day, our group returned to Reef Point to search for the Brambling yet again and any other good birds that may have landed there. I had promised my lower back I wouldn't go through the tussocks again so three of us (one had knee problems from there) and Kristine (Alaska) chose to be dropped off at the sea cliffs at Reef Point prior to the lower sea-level searching area. 

Not only did I have even closer views of sea birds at this location, the light was right! On our visit to the Ridge Wall on Thursday the birds had been in shadow and although I got really good close ups of all the alcids, they appeared "foggy".  Now, I have better photos to post.

So, we continue now with Thursday, 5/24/18.
On our way to Ridge Wall, Dave (High Lonesome guide) spotted a SHORT-EARED OWL perched out in a field.

Through van window that could not be opened
HORNED PUFFIN (above & below) with clown markings on its face (Ridge Wall)

TUFTED PUFFIN (Reef Point Sea Wall)  above & below

TUFTED PUFFIN about to go into the water (above & below)

RED-FACED CORMORANT (above & below) Ridge Wall
Red feathers cross from one side of face to the other, giving it a red face

Although I saw my first NORTHERN FULMAR yesterday (to reach my 700th Life Bird), it wasn't until today that I was able to photograph it.

NORTHERN FULMAR - a rather boxy-looking gull
700th Life Bird (ABA)
Most numerous of the auklets was the PARAKEET AUKLET. Note how they hang onto almost vertical rocks with their nails.

LEAST AUKLET was the hardest to find and photograph (for me). It's the smallest alcid; tiny and compact with small bill. Speckled with white throat in breeding plumage, shown below:

CRESTED AUKLET was almost as difficult to find. Only slightly larger than the LEAST AUKLET, its defining feature, in addition to two white facial plumes, is its crest that resembles the topknot of our Gambel's Quail. Look closely at the two in the sea below.

Before leaving home, I wondered how difficult if would be in the field to distinguish a THICK-BILLED MURRE from a COMMON MURRE. Good luck; the THICK-BILLED was most numerous and I ignored the COMMON MURRE (seen often off the western USA coast).

THICK-BILLED MURRE above and below

Additional sightings included:

The GRAY-CROWNED ROSY-FINCH we saw with great frequency was the PRIBILOF subspecies of the bird; see below:

On the drive to our final birding spot of the day, a birder in the car caught sight of a very nifty bird on the ground. In the past, I had seen the LONG-TAILED JAEGER only in flight.

I think we were in the quarry area when the group decided we needed a photo of all of us.
You will know who you are. I'm the shortest in front row, second from left.
Friday, 5/25/18
Immediately after breakfast, we were told our flight would leave in the morning. So, we tossed in the few things not yet zipped up and walked to the waiting area for our plane. As explained earlier (hindsight), the plane never arrived so we went out birding to a few spots not yet visited.

Lacking trees for passerines, the guides had discovered the king crab pots served that purpose - even if most of the birds hidden in them were PRIBILOF'S GRAY-CROWNED ROSY FINCH.

"Forest" of King Crab Pots where song birds could nest or find shelter

Claudia, local guide, walking up and down the rows banging the crab pots making birds fly out .

Today, they were all the same species -- PRIBILOF'S GRAY-CROWNED ROSY FINCH.

Photo of Lois and me from yesterday's quarry area visit.
Babs (Left); Lois (Right)
Old Town, including the Russian Orthodox Church
Lupine on its way
From hillside, looking down. Post Office is across from the ships.

With Sixteen (16) Life Birds and mega memories of our birding experiences at St. Paul, I'm thrilled that we went on this trip. Lois' final Life Bird (she had 30+) was an EYE-BROWED THRUSH. Mine was a McKAY'S BUNTING.

My eBird lists for the Pribilofs can be found at:

St. Paul Island (Pribilof Islands-Bering Sea), Aleutians West, Alaska, US

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