12-hour Birding Adventure to Florida (floor-ee-dah) & Madera Canyons, Pima & Santa Cruz Counties, AZ

Tuesday, May 26, 2015
Without much notice, I called Marsha Wiles, who had helped me with the Lost Dutchman State Park Migratory Bird Count on May 9th, to see if she had any interest in running down to the Green Valley area (south of Tucson) with me. Not an early riser, she hesitated before telling me "Yes!".  She's been staying in Arizona for three months and has already accumulated a respectable list for state sightings and figured she could add to it before returning to Colorado the end of this month. So, I had company for the trip -- something I prefer at my age and strength levels. In years past, my self-defense skills allowed me to bird as a "loner" without concern.

After picking her up at 4:30 a.m., we arrived at Florida Canyon to start birding by 7:15 a.m.
Because I had seen a report from the previous day listing Montezuma Quail at that location, we skipped all the singing sparrows along the drive in on the dirt road.  We did see several Black-throated Sparrows and we would see a few more in lower Florida Canyon but missed out on hearing or seeing any Montezuma Quail. 

We took our time and followed the stream trail to look specifically for Indigo Buntings (3) and a Varied Bunting reported seen there yesterday.

I found the place a little less "birdy" than my last visit with timing approximately the same. By the time we came down the hill over an hour later, however, birds were much more active and all of our flycatcher sightings came well below the gate. Our best sightings at this lower level also included one of our target birds, Varied Bunting. I spotted it on a thick tree limb - looking like a dark bird but its shape and size clicked for me: Varied Bunting. When Marsha got on it, we both lifted our cameras and - PING - the bird was gone.  No photo, but it flew to a distant tree in the sunshine where we were treated to its full variety of colors:  blue face, brick-red nape, purple back and wings (or so they appeared), blue rump and tail. It's conical bill had the curved culmen and appeared light in the sun. Photo below is from the internet

After walking the dirt/scree trails of Florida Canyon, we welcomed the next stop at Santa Rita Lodge where we sat in the shade waiting for birds to come to the many feeders stationed around a large flat area below tall trees. Two Blue Grosbeaks foraged for seeds on the ground in front of us.

They often fan their tails when foraging.

Marsha had missed the Arizona Woodpecker on her last visit to this spot, so she was hoping to see one on this trip. She lucked out with seeing both the male and female while we sat there observing the many birds flying in and out.

Male Arizona Woodpecker

In addition to the two Arizona Woodpeckers, we spotted a Ladder-backed and a fair number of Acorn Woodpeckers.

Comical-looking Acorn Woodpecker

Mexican Jays always enjoy free food:

We stopped briefly at the Kubo B & B birding area where we saw many of the same species as had visited Santa Rita Lodge feeders: Magnificent Hummingbird, Black-headed Grosbeak, White-breasted Nuthatch and Bridled Titmouse.  At least one new bird found here was the Rufous-crowned Sparrow, another Life Bird for Marsha, as I recall.

Kubo Bird Sanctuary

After enjoying our lunch at the picnic area at the end of Madera Canyon Road, we took Steve's advice (manager of Santa Rita Lodge) and explored one of the Amphitheater trails for Montezuma Quail that have been reported from the "grassy areas" up there. Apparently, adults have young and are out and about.  It was mid-day, so we worked up a sweat even though we were taking it easy. The MOQU must not have liked the heat, either. No sight of them!

View from our Amphitheater Trail of the Santa Rita Mountains

Marsha coming down Amphitheater trail

It was Marsha who spotted several nifty birds in one tree at the parking lot: Hutton's Vireo, Bridled Titmouse and a Cassin's Vireo, looking very much like a Plumbeous except for its darker head and back and yellowish wash on the flanks and lower belly.

In two and one-half hours, we were back home. Our day that began at 4:30 a.m., ended at 4:30 p.m.  With temperatures into the 90s, these long days get tougher, but the variety of birds at this location were quite different from our ordinary desert birds, making it a trip well worthwhile!

We tallied 42 species for the day, not counting birds seen while driving (i.e., Rock Pigeons, Red-tailed Hawks, etc.)

* * *

No comments:

Post a Comment