Sierra Vista, Cochise County, AZ

Friday, Saturday & Sunday, March 17, 18 & 19 2017

DAY #1: Friday, March 17th
Approaching Sierra Vista, I noticed a lot of smoke rising high and blowing in the direction of the canyons where we expected to bird.

An early get-away from the Phoenix area with Glenda Jones driving, put us into Sierra Vista in good time. To avoid potential smoke in the canyons, we turned eastward to start birding at San Pedro House and Trails at 8:00 a.m.  And, what a start to our day!

Walking the trails beside the house, we immediately spied this WESTERN SCREECH-OWL sleeping in its box. Quietly, we inched closer and were able to get a more detailed photo.

Continuing on we kept our eyes close to the ground for the scratching action in the leaf litter. The "Towhee Shuffle" produced two species: GREEN-TAILED TOWHEE and ABERT’S TOWHEE.

When we came to a cross-trail, we turned left and spotted a GREATER ROAD RUNNER - running along the dirt road, of course. It quickly dodged into the brush beside the trail even though we had stopped in our tracks.

Next sighting was a pair of CASSIN’S KINGBIRDs in a snag tree but by the time our cameras were lifted the birds flew elsewhere and didn’t return. But a pair of CHIHUAHUAN RAVENs flew overhead!

Closer to the house, PYRRHULOXIA gave us some good looks. 

Turning our attention to the San Pedro River trail away from the house we had two sightings: first was a RED-TAILED HAWK flying overhead.

Delightfully, the second sighting was fellow-birders from the Phoenix area, Scott and Fonda Christopher returning from their walk at the river. We chatted briefly before continuing toward the San Pedro.

A bit late in the day for sparrows in the grasslands, we did find some out toward Kingfisher Pond. Another birding couple (from Miami, FL) came upon us so we birded a few of the trails and the pond together.

Best sighting at the pond were a SORA and a PIED-BILLED GREBE with a youngster tagging along waiting for, that the adult provided regularly.

SORA was distant but if you know the bird, you'll recognize the shape.
Young following the adult PIED-BILLED GREBE (note the {pied} dark ring around its bill)
Having lost the trail due to heavy debris deposited by the once-flooded San Pedro, we all found our way back to the House by way of the wash. Bill and Margaret, the couple from Florida, walked with us and Bill asked me about my keeping track of the numbers of birds in the species. When I launched into a conversation I had had with Dave Pearson about the lack of numbers in a statistical program, Bill smiled. It seems he and Dr. Pearson were graduate students together at University of Washington a good many years ago!

Back out on the highway, smoke had dissipated completely confirming our guess that it was a controlled burn.

Next stop, then, was Ramsey Canyon Preserve. Known for its hummingbird variety and rare Mexican bird species, we noted three good hummingbirds: ANNA'S, gorgeous BROAD-BILLED with its blue throat flashing in the sun, and the very magnificent, MAGNIFICENT HUMMINGBIRD.

One of many sycamore trees in Ramsey Canyon
[Photo: Glenda Jones]

Knowing that the rare Tufted Flycatcher (from Mexico) had returned to its nesting spot up the Hamburg Trail, we didn't plan on pursuing it.  With birders reporting the start of the trail as almost straight up for 3/4 mile and very grueling, there was little incentive.  

On the other hand, we had the PAINTED REDSTART delighting us as it flitted from limb to limb.
PAINTED REDSTART  [Photo: Glenda Jones]

Mexican Jays flew in and out of our area several times. Coues Deer were foraging in the grasses around Bledsoe Loop but we failed to catch sight of the Coatimundi that have been seen there again this year.

HERMIT THRUSH and AMERICAN ROBIN were uncommon sightings for me and as we pulled away from the Preserve we saw two EASTERN BLUEBIRDS on an overhead utility line.

Keenly aware that weather in Phoenix was generating one of its hottest days so far this year, we were happy to be birding where it was at least 10 degrees cooler, even if 87°F seemed very warm.

In the mood to sit for awhile, we turned toward Turkey Track Road and Mary Jo's Ash Canyon B&B with its front and side yards displaying multiple feeders of every kind. Approaching the chairs facing the back yard, we were able to greet Scott and Fonda again. And, as we tallied one bird after the other, who should walk in but Lindsay and Keith Story!
(East Phx Valley birders that we often run across in the field.)  

We were able to add a BROAD-TAILED and RUFOUS (female) HUMMINGBIRD to our growing list of nectar feeders.
Later, wouldn't you know that it would be Scott that called our attention to a SCOTT'S ORIOLE in the side yard -- a valued piece of info that got us out of our chairs in no time.
Not an adult, we concluded that it was a First-year Male with a bit of white leading into the base of the lower mandible; below its gray head a drab gray throat and chest, with yellow down the belly all the way to its UTC.

SCOTT'S ORIOLE (3 photos same bird: 1st-year male)

That evening at Battiste Bed & Breakfast, Tony announced that the annual ELF OWL had made an appearance but it hadn't really settled in as yet. We went out into the yard around 7 p.m. and for about ten minutes between 7:15 & 7:30, we got some good looks at the owl who appears to have chosen a different hole than last year in its favorite utility pole.

ELF OWL  [Photo: Glenda Jones]

DAY #2: Saturday, March 18, 2017
To walk out the bedroom door to start birding at 7:00 a.m. is certainly a plus at Tony & Julie's B&B. (Not to mention the food!)

Whether birding or photographing, their creative desert habitat setting is definitely bird friendly.

ACORN WOODPECKER close enough for me to photograph easily
RUFOUS HUMMINGBIRD  [Photo: Glenda Jones]
BRIDLED TITMOUSE  [Photo:  Glenda Jones]
MEXICAN JAY  [Photo: Glenda Jones]
Since we had arrived late yesterday at Ramsey Canyon, we decided to make that our first stop so we could do the Bledsoe Loop before the heat reached the canyon.

Glenda at this stand-alone fireplace that, perhaps, heated someone's cabin

That's me walking in Ramsey Canyon

Willcox Barberry
Again, we were treated to lots of good birds with this TOWNSEND'S WARBLER, below being a First-of-year bird for both of us.

TOWNSEND'S WARBLER  [Photo: Glenda Jones]

After two hours at Ramsey Canyon, we stopped by Brown Canyon Ranch on the way back to the highway just to see what might be inhabiting the grounds around the ranch house and pond.

This choice put us at the site of the morning burn project at Fort Huachuca. It was the most precisely cornered burn site I've ever seen: right-angled burn of a good swathe of grasslands.
Old windmill on the ranch
The photo I wish I had taken was the one that was too late. By the time I realized we were looking at a CASSIN'S FINCH (female), it was gone.

Carr Canyon Reef Townsite was our next destination. From 4900' at the base of the canyon,  we slowly followed the dirt-road turns until we reached the Reef Townsite at 7200'.  By now, we were ready for lunch so we carried food to a picnic table across from where the car was parked beyond the restrooms.

As we began eating, two birds visited us. They were our target birds but were not using the "chee-lick" vocalization I had heard last year but doing a zzzzzzeeeuu sound that I imitated any time I wanted them to come back. BUFF-BREASTED FLYCATCHERs!  Target birds do not usually work out all that easily!  We were thrilled and went about eating our lunch.

BUFF-BREASTED FLYCATCHER  [2 photos above: Glenda Jones]

Interestingly, on my first sighting of our target birds that landed very very high in the trees now leafing out, I commented on a tufted/crested bird that I wondered aloud if it might be a Juniper Titmouse.  

Good Grief! It was probably the bird seen the next day at that same place:  Tufted Flycatcher -- the one so tough to reach in Ramsey Canyon, not that far away. If so, I muffed that one badly but if it nests there, I'll surely return.

We finished out the afternoon at Mary Jo's Ash Canyon B&B again but saw nothing more exciting than on our previous visits. And, of course, as soon as we got home, she posted that the rare Lucifer Hummingbird had returned to her yard again this year.  Another invitation for a repeat visit to SV.

DAY #3: Sunday, March 19, 2017

Sierra Vista EOP  [Photo: Glenda Jones'
Joining the regularly scheduled Sunday morning Bird Walk at the Sierra Vista Environmental Operations Project (EOP), twenty of us, led by Bill Brown, covered both the near basins as well as the recharge ponds farther out. Erika Wilson was also present and offered lots of help with birds seen and heard.

NORTHERN SHOVELERS  [Photo: Glenda Jones]
Male and Female BUFFLEHEAD   [Photo: Glenda Jones]
Male RUDDY DUCK  [Photo: Glenda Jones]
In addition to the birds shown above, we heard two SORA and enjoyed seeing at least 150 YELLOW-HEADED BLACKBIRDS.


BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT HERON lifted from within the reeds  [Photo: Glenda Jones]

It never ceases to amaze me at how birds spot water in otherwise dry areas. As we rounded a corner out in the recharge-basin area, a small flock of RING-BILLED GULLS flew in, landed for a while; flew out, and returned.

The walk lasted for almost three hours and both Glenda and I felt very rewarded for the experience of birding with some very top notch birders.

The two coyotes in the EOP looked very healthy!  [Photo: Glenda Jones]
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1 comment:

  1. What a nice trek! I bet you saw that Tufted! I love the BBFL and TUFL.....nice mix of birds in your post here. Congrats! Sounds like an enjoyable time out.