Monday, July 30, 2007

Escaping the Heat- in Arizona!

Sierra Vista, AZ - I had to go to Arizona, where it is going to be at least 20 degrees cooler than Montana this week, to escape the scorching temperatures at home. I am attending a Bureau of Land Management bird monitoring workshop as an instructor in training and hopefully I can continue to do this in the coming years as an instructor. I came down a couple of days early to visit my good friend Tom and meet his partner Maria in Tucson. I haven't seen Tom for many years and it was really nice to visit with him and Maria. Tom and I first met more than a few years ago while doing bird surveys in the Hill Country of Texas where we spent most of 3 months birding every single day and getting paid for most of it. What a job!

We also did a bit of birding on Friday, Saturday and Sunday (well, probably more accurately called being Southeast Arizona naturalists because between the three of them I think they had every plant, flower and butterfly covered too!) . I arrived Friday afternoon and Tom took me to an area called the Sweetwater Wetlands. As you might imagine from the name, it is Tucson's version of a usual birding hotspot - the wastewater treatment area. Despite the mid-afternoon start we managed to see quite a few birds including a brief but diagnostic look at a Gilded Flicker, which was a life bird for me (not sure how I missed that one before other than they were still lumped with all the other flickers under the Northern Flicker moniker twenty one years ago when I last birded Arizona well). Saturday we visited the Madera Canyon area with Tom and Maria's friend Jerry and had a great day in between the torrential monsoonal downpours in the morning and again in the afternoon. The highlight was a Flame-colored Tanager singing loudly. We also ran into a large mixed flock of Sulphur-bellied Flycatchers, Bridled Titmice, a Black-throated Gray Warbler, Ash-throated Flycatchers, and a Summer Tanager (seems like there were a few more species in that area that I can't recall right now) moving along the road below the area where the tanager was singing. In all, we saw four species of tanagers that day- Western, Hepatic, Summer, and Flame-colored. Sunday we headed to the Sierra Vista area. Along the way we stopped to listened to Cassin's, Grasshopper and Botteri's Sparrows singing in one spot with a Scaled Quail calling in the background. Later we visited Beatty's B&B in Miller Canyon to see the hummingbirds there. It was great. We were able to sit at the feeders and watch I-don't-know-how-many individuals of 9 species of hummingbirds feeding just feet away from us. Two species of note were the male White-eared Hummingbird and a number of Magnificent Hummingbirds, the most memorable species from my previous trip to Arizona. A short stop in Ramsey Canyon provided brief but diagnostic views of a Berylline Hummingbird. Maria, Jerry, and Tom needed to head back to Tucson so they dropped me off at my hotel for the rest of the day.

Here are a few photos from the trip so far. I will post some more soon.

Flame-colored Tanager

Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher

Botteri's Sparrow

Band-tailed Pigeon
Bishop's Cap Cactus flower
Lesser Goldfinch (in Tom and Maria's backyard)
Agave flower and guests.
Devils Claw
Hepatic Tanager

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