A Cardinal Day at Boyce Thompson Arboretum, Pinal County, Arizona

Friday, May 29, 2015
With the summer hours in effect at BTA, Julie Clark and I were able to start birding at 6:00 a.m.  

On the entrance terrace, we were surrounded by bird song. Close by was a Black-chinned Hummingbird. A Bell’s Vireo was calling and two Yellow-breasted Chats were loudly voicing a wide range of sounds including knocks, trills, and imitations of other bird songs. A beautiful bird that hides deep in a tree or shrub, the Chat is like the cut-up in the classroom. You can’t see me!  But we all know it’s in there going through its long repertoire of sounds.  The Chats (warbler family) were all through the Arboretum this morning, but did they follow for attention?  Were there way more than I counted?  I have no idea; some days, I just guess.  Can three birds fly around to give us a much higher count? Probably, but I’m not the one to know.

The early-morning hour was cool and slightly breezy so we headed first to Ayer Lake to see what birds or waterfowl we might find there.  On our slow birding walk toward the lake, a Great Blue Heron flew over our trail.  The first bird we saw when we reached the water was a Black Phoebe hawking insects from its perch on the “blue barrel”.  I heard and saw just one Northern Rough-winged Swallow before five Violet-green Swallows showed up to skim the water and fly off. I caught sight of a Spotted Sandpiper flying off from the edge of the reeds and we were delighted to hear two Common Yellowthroat singing from within the thick reed blades.

Returning toward the Smith Building, a workman told us where to look for a hummingbird nest in the Palm forest. The nest was in a Sandpaper tree, he said.  We located several Sandpaper trees near the bench he described and saw an Anna’s Hummingbird but didn’t close in on it in case it was nesting. Never did find the nest.

Walking the shady path toward the Herb Garden is always pleasant and full of Northern Cardinals.  One male just wouldn’t stop showing off for us!

Impressive beak!
How do you like this angle?
This is what I do!

From the bridge over Queen Creek, we heard Canyon Wrens and spotted a Brown-crested Flycatcher.  Julie spotted a female Hooded Oriole and had earlier spotted a female Summer Tanager. She was on a roll!

Also from the bridge, a Rock Squirrel was nibbling grass from the dry creek bed.  

When we reached the Demonstration Garden, I spotted the male Hooded Oriole in one of its favorite hang outs — the flowering Desert Willow.  

Lesser Goldfinch were enjoying the corner water feature and a single Lucy’s Warbler flew in twice for a sip.  

Although we had counted two Curve-billed Thrashers from its “Wheet wheet” call, we finally saw one in that area.

It’s been awhile since I’ve birded with Julie (her daughter got married this spring) so it was really pleasant to catch up and bird with her again.

37 species in a little over three hours breaks no record, that’s for sure!  But we enjoyed the fresh aroma of the Arboretum’s blooms and greenness as we strolled the trails in search of birds.

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