Blood Moon, early; Birding at Boyce Thompson Arboretum, later in the morning

April 4, 2015
A lunar eclipse in the morning? How convenient! 
The total eclipse that happened this morning (at least in Arizona) was the shortest one of its kind to happen this century. The moon was already in the Earth's shadow when I first looked for it at 5:50 a.m. Quickly, I grabbed my binoculars and camera and by then, the full moon was passing through the shadow of the Earth so that no sunlight could reach the moon and it appeared as a dark, red ball. As it slid out of the shadow, the light began to reach it again.

That's the fastest eclipse I've ever seen! As an early riser, its effect stoked me up more than my morning cup of green tea.

With a bird walk scheduled at Boyce Thompson Arboretum (BTA) in Superior, Pinal County, AZ, at 8:30 this morning, Susan and I had made plans to leave earlier than that to also bird the desert road to Picket Post Mountain trailhead. 

It was light at 7:15 when we started birding there, but I haven't been getting good photos in early-morning light, so I left my camera in the car. That meant, of course, that we would see something special. Not one, but four Ash-throated Flycatchers were active in the desert scrub, flying from a mesquite to a jojoba bush to another mesquite, chasing after one another. It may have been two pair; they appeared to behave as such. The crest on the first one I saw was so thick and raised I wondered if it could be a Brown-Crested but then I remembered hearing its call which was definitely, Ash-throated.  Were they ever gorgeous in the rising sun's spotlight! With a pale gray chest and pale yellow belly, the rufous edge on the wings by the flank stood out, as did its long rufous tail. Susan's vision is better than mine so I asked her to tell me whether the dark rufous of the wing edges continued all the way across the bottom of the tail. I thought it did and she confirmed. Not all Ash-throated Flycatchers have the dark color running all the way across the bottom, but if it does have it, it is definitely one. What a delight! 

BTA opened at 8:00 a.m. so we began birding as soon as we arrived. The guided walk began at 8:30 with approximately 24 people and two leaders, Troy Corman (US Fish & Wildlife) and Mark Ochs (local resident and excellent birder). 

I felt like I had some kind of hangover from the Blood Moon; bird song was everywhere. And as we progressed through the morning, we had two spectacular sightings. My east-coast friends and family can laugh at me for this first one: White-throated Sparrow. That's a rare bird in Arizona! And, it gave me another bird for my Year List.

Just glancing at the bird, it would be easy for me to mistake it from a distance for a White-crowned Sparrow which is abundant here. But to catch the "different" one in the crowd is the name of the game. Note the yellow spots just behind its bill (lores) on both sides of the center dark crown stripe.That is a certain ID mark. Some White-crowned Sparrows have whitish throats but not such a big, bold and extensive one as the White-throated above.

The bird sightings kept getting better. We saw five out of the six possible wren species (Rock, Canyon, House, Bewick's and Cactus), missing only the Marsh Wren at Ayer Lake. But the lake offered up two Common Yellowthroats that flew out of the trees on the right of the ramada to the reeds in the middle of the lake. They are two hard-to-spot warblers, more often heard than seen.

Having six Cedar Waxwings fly into a tree at the picnic area was another exceptional sighting. But nothing can beat the warbler that Troy spotted in the tall wide Athel tree (a non-invasive type of tamarisk) in the picnic area. 
Hermit Warbler (top and below) 

The Hermit Warbler was foraging in the tree but paused every now and again, allowing a few decent photos. Wanting to enjoy watching it for several minutes before even lifting my camera, I waited, rather than scaring it off. The sun lit up its head and face making it fairly easy to follow in the dense tree. A year can easily pass by without me seeing one of these warblers, so to see one so early in the season was a very special treat.

* * *

No comments:

Post a Comment