Wintering in Arizona 2014-2015
I left Pierre on December 6. Only got as far as Red Willow State Park near McCook NE the first day. On Sunday I drove to Ute Lake State Park in New Mexico, then onto Bosque del Apache NWR, where I stayed for two nights. In past years I've stayed at Bosque del Apache for a week, but I decided I've got enough photos of Sandhill Cranes and Snow Geese. My next stop was Karchtner Caverns State Park near Benson AZ and then on to Ajo, where I am now. The desert is very green this year. It rained last night, quite hard for a few minutes, I'm guessing maybe 1/4 to 1/2 inch of rain. This could be the wet winter I've been hoping for every year I've been down here. Birding highlight so far is a flock of Lawrence's Goldfinches at the Ajo golf course. I haven't got any really good photos yet, but it looks like I'll have lots of opportunities to work on these birds. I put a few photos at the LINK.
December 15. Went to Alamo Canyon today. It was about as dry as I've seen it, no pools of water at all except for some water in holes in the rocks from the last rain. No ground water was found, strange since the desert is so green from recent rains. There was still plenty of flowers and butterflies, so I photographed some butterflies today. I've never seen as many Queens as there were today, in fact, I don't remember seeing a Queen in Alamo Canyon before. Also a surprise was a Mormon Metalmark. I got my first photos of a Spring Azure and what I think is a Mallow Scrub-Hairstreak. Photos are at the LINK. Another surprise was a Townsend's Solitaire in a bosque, a strange bird to find in the desert.
December 16. Today I went back to the golf course to look for the Lawrence's Goldfinches. No luck with them, but I did get photos of a female Ladder-backed Woodpecker. All I had up till now is some photos of males. The Vermillion Flycatcher was posing again, who could pass that up? There are a couple of Great Horned Owls that roost in the trees, they are easy to see but not often out in the open like one was today. Here is a LINK to some photos.
December 19. Best bird today was a very cooperative Plumbeous Vireo. These are hard birds to get in the open and down low. I put a couple of my favorites at the LINK along with another Great Horned Owl that was roosting along a trail. I can never get close to GHO's in South Dakota, these are a real treat. I got signed up for the Ajo Christmas Bird Count which is tomorrow. Nights are kind of cold, this morning there was ice on the truck windshield again.
December 20-21. The Ajo CBC was yesterday. I covered the unit the includes my camping site. I managed to find two Gray Vireos and two Western Screech-Owls, along with a list of the more common desert birds. The Western Screech-Owl that was in the Saguaro cactus cavity last winter is still there this winter. One of the Gray Vireos was an unusually yellowish bird that at first made me wonder if it really was a Gray Vireo. See photos at the LINK for a discussion. After the count a group of counters met at the local Pizza Hut for supper, first time I've eaten out since leaving Pierre.
December 22. Followed up on an Ebird report of Rufous-backed Robin at the Ajo golf course. Went out there this morning and located it after an hour of searching. It was with a small group of robins. This is a ABA area life bird for me! Also got some more nice shots of a female Ladder-backed Woodpecker. I put photos at the LINK.
December 27. Hasn't been much to report the last few days. Found some water tanks in the desert, some have lots of birds but they stay hidden in the brush. At one, called the Cameron Tank, saw a Hermit Thrush, Lincoln's Sparrow, Vesper Sparrows, Green-tailed Towhee, Gray Flycatcher, Brewer's Sparrows, White-crowned Sparrows, plus most of the more usual desert birds. My truck is gettting scratched up from driving on these desert roads where the brush encroaches. Not much I can do about it. Today, at the Ajo golf course, I got some pretty good shots of a female Lawrence's Goldfinch and a Cassin's Finch. The Cassin's Finch is quite unusual for this area. I put some photos at the LINK.
December 30. It has been a few more cold nights, one morning my thermometer said 19 F. Rain in the forecast for tomorrow and possibly snow on the higher peaks. A couple more days of cold weather then it should warm up. I know you people up north aren't too impressed with what I'm calling cold. Photography has been kind of slow, best birding has been out at the golf course again. I'm looking for a Red-breasted Sapsucker that has been reported and photographed, but so far I haven't seen it. I put some recent photos at the LINK.
January 3. The recent cold weather has put a crimp in the birding, but today was a little better. I've been in town at the Belly Acres RV park, staying warm. It should warm up now so I can move back out onto the desert. There are Red-naped Sapsuckers at the golf course that seem odd, some may be hybrids and I'm putting photos of those at this LINK. Some other photos from the last few days are at this LINK. I haven't been getting any photos that are very good except for the American Kestrel, which came out pretty well. Discovered a new place just north of town that has some really nice habitat, I will be spending more time there in the next few days.
January 5. Today I drove up to Buckeye to get groceries at Walmart. First I went out west of Buckeye about 10 miles to "The Thrasher Spot" as it is known. It is widely publicized as a good place to get Le Conte's Thrasher plus Bendire's and Crissal Thrasher. I didn't see any Le Conte's but there were some Bendire's, which I was happy to see but didn't get very good photos. Also got a lifer butterfly, a Western Pygmy-Blue, again with pretty lousy photos. This species is the smallest butterfly in North America and one of the smallest in the world. About 1/2 inch across, it is hard to photograph at 720mm focal length handheld, and I had to back up quite a distance to get it into focus. I put some photos from the last few days at the LINK.
January 6. Today I felt like I needed to get some good photos. So I went after some birds that I don't need any more photos of and took some more. Ash-throated Flycatcher and Black-throated Sparrow are pretty easy. I put some photos at the LINK.
January 8. Today I made the long, slow drive into Cabeza
Prieta NWR via Bates Well Road and the El Camino Diablo. It is the only place
nearby where I can find Le Conte's Thrasher, although the amount of time it
takes to get there about equals driving time to other places north and west of
here. I only saw one Le Conte's Thrasher and didn't get any good photos. Some
Sagebrush Sparrows saved the day. See the photos at the
January 9. I checked on the Western Screech-Owl early this morning, finally got closer and no shadows, it really helps with image quality. And this time, the owl's eyes were open. At the golf course, a flock of Western Bluebirds has appeared, but are very skittish and hard to get close too. Maybe they will get used to people and become more approachable. I took some more photos of the possible hybrid sapsucker too. Photos from today at this LINK and the sapsucker photos are added to the sapsucker page at this LINK.
January 10. Today I went exploring out east of Ajo, drove Pipeline Road to Burro Gap. Lots of birds out there, a flock of Mountain Bluebirds, some more Sage Sparrows, but the best bird was a very cooperative Canyon Wren. At the camper, I have Anna's and Costa's hummingbirds. I put some photos at the LINK. Look like rain in the weather forecast for tonight.
January 13. Yesterday I photographed another hybrid sapsucker at the golf course. I was hoping this would be a pure Red-breasted Sapsucker, but it turns out to be hybrid. Still, the photos came out very nice, the bird let me get very close. I put photos of it on the sapsucker page, at this LINK. Today, while hiking on the slopes of Black Mountain, I found a large scorpion under a rock. This is the biggest scorpion I've ever seen in the wild. No idea what species it is. I added a photo of a tarantula hawk too. Photos are at this LINK. This evening, I went out to watch Venus and Mercury, they have converged in the low western sky. This makes Mercury easy to locate, one of the few times I've seen the planet. I tried photographing them and the results aren't too bad. Here's a LINK.
January 16. Yesterday I found another scorpion, this one is smaller. After doing searching on the web, I've come to the conclusion that the big one is the Giant or Desert Hairy Scorpion, Hadrurus arizonensis and this smaller one is most likely the Striped Tail or Devilís Scorpion, Vaejovis spinigerus. The Giant Hairy Scorpion is the largest scorpion in the United States. I added a photo of the Striped Tail Scorpion to the scorpion page at this LINK. Here's a LINK to more info about Arizona scorpions. Tonight I went out to look for Comet Lovejoy, and found it. So I had to try some photography. The results aren't great but I put some photos at the LINK.
January 23. Been awhile since I've posted anything. Spent one day in Alamo Canyon, otherwise I've been just been staying put out here on the BLM near Ajo. My most exciting bird has been a Hutton's Vireo in Alamo Canyon, but very poor photos. I have some new butterfly photos, one is a lifer butterfly for me, an Arizona Powdered-Skipper. Very windy and cool today, there is a good chance of more rain early next week. I put some new photos at the LINK.
January 24. More butterflies today. Still kind of breezy but warmer. I had a couple of new life species today, a Ceraunus Blue and what I think is a Leda Ministreak, but it is so worn out it is hard to be certain. Weather forecast is looking more and more like some significant rain on Monday. I put some photos at the LINK.
January 25. Today's
highlight had to a group of Harris's Hawks that I saw in the parking lot of the
Ajo Clinic, fighting over an Eurasian Collared Dove. These Harris's Hawks have
been hanging around town, but rarely provide any good photo opps. Today they
did, the parking lot was empty on a Sunday, but it was unfortunate for me that
there was a thick cloud cover and little light, otherwise I would have had a lot
of good action shots. A drive out on the Pipeline Road netted a couple of Sage
Thrashers, but I had my usual luck with photos on that species, they run, maybe
hop up on a cactus too far out and look around then run more. I put some photos
at the LINK.
January 27. More butterflies. There was a good rain yesterday, maybe 1/2 to 3/4 inch. More forecast on Friday. This is the wettest winter I've spent in AZ. I photographed a lifer butterfly today too, an Eufala Skipper. Also found the Arizona Powdered Skipper for more photos. I put some photos at the LINK.
January 28. A new butterfly appeared in the flower patch today. An orangetip, one of the Sara Orangetip complex, based on range I call it the Southwestern Orangetip. Photos are at this LINK. Looks like a wet few days coming up. Heavy snow in the mountains over to the east, but just rain here. I think I'll go to Buckeye tomorrow to stock up on groceries at Walmart.
January 29. Made the trip to Buckeye today. Left early and stopped at the Thrasher Spot, where I had great success with both Bendire's and Le Conte's thrashers. I was especially happy to get good shots of Bendire's, that has been a hard species to photograph. The Le Conte's Thrasher gave me some of my best of that species too. Got back to Ajo around 4 PM, just starting rain. I put a couple of photos at the LINK.
January 31. Rain, and more rain. It rained on and off all night. Today it is foggy and dreary. It should be back to more desert like weather tomorrow. I'm planning on going to Organ Pipe for a few days if the road dries out. I've been doing some studying on idendification of Bell's vs. Sagebrush sparrow. I now think that what I was calling a Sagebrush Sparrow (a couple of weeks ago in Cabeza Prieta NWR) was actually a Bell's Sparrow. More at this LINK.
I've been at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument for two days. Went to visit the
Quitobaquito Springs, the first time I've been there. That area of the park has
been closed for many years since a Park Service Ranger got killed by drug
smugglers. It is open again. Also visited Senita Basin where there are some
Senita Cactus, among other new things I've never seen before. Getting warm
today, around 80 F. I put some photos at the
February 4. Today I hiked up the Arches Trail, all the way to the top. It is quite a scramble. I lugged the big lens along too, and was beginning to wonder why when I found a couple of Black-chinned Sparrows that cooperated very nicely. I got the best photos I've ever taken of this species. Saw some Indian Paintbrush flowering too, the flower season should pick up rapidly now. I put some photos at the LINK.
February 8. The last few days feel like summer, warming up into the 80's. I left Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument on the 5th and have been back on the BLM land outside of Ajo. My last day at Organ Pipe I went down to Lukeville to get gas. A coyote was in the parking lot, scavenging and getting fed by the gas station customers, who were getting a big kick out of the coyote. I found another Sage Thrasher today and a typical chase followed, with me trying to get closer and the thrasher leading me deeper into the desert. I took some pretty good photos of a round-tailed ground squirrel, certainly better than the ones I got last winter. I put some photos at the LINK. Tonight, I just went out to try for the Western Screech-Owl that I've been hearing around the campsite. He was very cooperative. Photo at the LINK.
February 11. Yesterday I went
to Alamo Canyon. There is now a live creek there, after the recent rains.
Otherwise, I've been birding around the Ajo area. Today I had some good luck
with Sage Thrashers out on Pipeline Road. Weather forecast calls for a windy day
tomorrow. I put some photos from the last few days at the
February 12. Very windy today. The wind is out of the east and keeps blowing out the frig pilot light. I got some ice and put my food in the cooler for the day. It is supposed to die down tonight. The big excitement of the day is finding my first Mohave Desert Star of the spring. Last year they were first blooming on Jan. 29th. I guess the hard freezes have set the early flowers back a couple of weeks. I put a photo at the LINK.
February 14. Back out on Pipeline Road this morning for some more thrasher chasing. The round-tailed ground squirrel was out of its hole by the road too. This afternoon some high clouds rolled in and gave good light for photographing a Costa's Hummingbird at my feeder. I know have plenty of them already, but I can't resist. Photos are at the LINK.
February 16. Yesterday I went to the Barry Goldwater Range and hiked in the Hat Mountain area. It was cloudy and raining in the morning but later in the day it cleared up. Mostly photographed flowers and insects. Today I went back out to try the Sage Thrashers again. I think I got the best Sage Thrasher photos so far. I put some photos at the LINK.
February 18. Persistence pays off. This morning I went out to try for the Sage Thrasher again. I followed one around for an hour, and finally was rewarded with the close-up shots I've been hoping for. I didn't have to crop these very much. Photos are at the LINK.
February 20. Yesterday I went on a hike with the Cabeza Prieta Natural History Association. We hiked in Senita Basin. Today, hiking was closer to Ajo, west of town near the Valentine Well. Despite the rains, flowers don't seem to be responding very well, at least around Ajo. Will probably go over to the Yuma area on Sunday and try for Black Rail and Ridgeway's Rail at Imperial NWR. I put some photos at the LINK.
February 25. I've been at Mittry Lake north of Yuma since Sunday, trying to photograph a Black Rail. Although I was able to call a couple in to within a couple of feet, I couldn't see them in the dense vegetation, they won't come out. So no photos. I did get some photos of a Western Pygmy-Blue, finally. If you remember I had a photo of one take near Buckeye on January 5, but it wasn't very good. Now I have some really nice ones. Photos are at the LINK. Currently, I'm camped by the Kofa Mountains between Yuma and Quartzite. Free camping on BLM land. I had free camping at Mittry Lake too.
March 2. I'm back in Ajo now. Drove up to Las Vegas to visit Sally and Gracie on Saturday. We went out to see the Hoover Dam, I'd never been there before. On Sunday I drove back. Yesterday, I birded the golf course area at Ajo. Not much new for birds, but it is evident that migration is picking up, more swallows and Yellow-rumped Warblers. Two Franklin's Gulls were at the water treatment ponds. It rained quite a bit yesterday, probably around an inch. There was water running in the arroyos. I put some new photos at the LINK.
March 3. Today I just hiked
around the camp area. Flowering plants are still slowly coming out. It is kind
of chilly today too, so not much out in the way of butterflies. I saw the first
Rufous Hummingbird of the spring, it was nectaring at the hummingbird feeder
Sally gave me last Saturday. I put some photos at the
March 4. Went to Alamo Canyon today. Lots of butterflies, including a new one for me, a West Coast Lady. Unfortunately, it was in pretty bad shape so not very photogenic. Maybe I can find a better one. I was happy to get some really nice shots of Empress Leila too. I had some from last year but they weren't the best. There is a good amount of water in the canyon, pools with some flow between pools. I put some photos at the LINK.
March 6. Yesterday I went hiking in the Crater Range north of Ajo. Didn't see much that was new, so few photos taken. Today, I've been working on the Gila Woodpeckers that have discovered my hummingbird feeders and have been emptying them out. I don't really need more photos of Gila Woodpeckers but I figure I might as well get something back from them for all the sugar water they are taking. Some photos at the LINK.
March 7. Went back to the thickets off Golf Course Road. I haven't been there in a while, so thought I should see if anything new is around. I did find a Crissal Thrasher for the first time there. Otherwise, mostly the same birds that have been there all winter. I got a lifer butterfly too, a Fatal Metalmark. I saw several, most were really beat up but I finally found one that was in pretty good condition. I put some photos at the LINK.
March 8. After ID'ing the Fatal Metalmark yesterday with the "Kaufman Field Guide to Butterflies of North America", I knew I was going to have to try for some better photos. Here's what it says about Scintillant Metalmarks of the Southwest: "Scintillant metalmarks are small, exquisite butterflies..... All have narrow but stunning silver-blue metallic postmedian and submarginal bands, especially prominent on the undersides of the wings." This morning I found some of these butterflies that weren't as beat up but still not very fresh. I would sure like to see some fresh specimens someday. For now, I did get some photos showing the undersides of the wings. I put some new photos at this LINK. Also new today, Lucy's Warblers are back and singing in the same area where I saw the Crissal Thrasher yesterday.
March 11. Today I went out to
the Hat Mountain area and located the Thanksgiving Tank, the one I couldn't find
before. It is a big, deep hole in the bedrock, full of water from the last
rains. It is more like a cave than a hole. While there, I got a lifer butterfly,
an Erichson's White-Skipper. According to my field guide, this is an uncommon
skipper of the high deserts, food plant is mallows. I put some photos from today
at the LINK.
March 13. Yesterday I just stayed around the camp area, hiked a bit, took another photo of a robber fly with its prey. Today, went for a hike in a canyon on the NW side of the mountains by Ajo. Lots of butterflies, some new flowers. The only lifer butterfly, a golden-headed scallopwing, is the only one I didn't get good photos of. Otherwise, a pretty good day, although hot. I put some photos at the LINK.
March 18. Not much new. Temperatures are warming up, highs around 90, night time temps are now mostly in the 60's. Today it cooled down quite a bit though. The warmer temps are bringing out more herps. Yesterday I went on another hike with the Cabeza Prieta Natural History Association, a group of us explored a canyon in the Little Ajo Mountains. I put some recent photos at the LINK.
March 19. This morning I birded the golf course area, the most exciting birds were some Hooded Orioles that wouldn't let themselves be photographed, at least I didn't get any photos good enough to bother with. This afternoon, thunderstorms rolled through, they didn't bring much rain but the light towards evening was very nice, so I took some photos. I put a few at the LINK.
March 20. Went
out east of Ajo on Pipeline Road today. Had a great day, two lifer butterflies,
one lifer herp (a gecko), and my first photos of a Mohave Rattlesnake. After
finding the Western Banded Gecko under some old siding by an abandoned shed, it
seemed like I was finding good stuff for the rest of the day. I put some photos
at this LINK.
March 21. Today I went back on Pipeline Road, I wanted to try for better photos of the Tropical Buckeye and get some underwing shots of the Tiny Checkerspot. Never saw the buckeye but I did get shots of the underwing and also found a new species for me, an Elada Checkerspot. Very similar to the Tiny Checkerspot but without the pale cells on the forewing and darker marking, the underwing has a different pattern too. I stopped at Burro Pass to look for herps, and had just got out of the truck when this guy comes out of the wash, asking for agua. He was in pretty bad shape. I gave him some water, then more water (good thing I had a 5 gallon jug of water in the back of the truck, I think he drank about a gallon). Then he laid down on the ground in the shade. I thought he was going to sleep, but then got back up and asked for Border Patrol. I didn't know how to call them, so I just gave him a ride back to Ajo (we were maybe 8 miles from Ajo and out in the middle of nowhere) and flagged down a Border Patrol there. I put some photos at the LINK.
March 23. Yesterday I left Ajo and drove to Buenos Aires NWR. I camped here last year, it is free and there is some good birding in the area. It is cooler too, Ajo is getting too hot. I had heard about a male Williamson's Sapsucker that had been seen at the visitor center, so I went there this morning. Had some pretty good luck with it, best shots of a male Williamson's I have. There are lots of butterflies around the area too, I found a couple of lifers and got some good photos of other butterflies, mostly around my campsite. I put some photos at the LINK.
March 25. Spent three nights at Buenos Aires NWR. Buenos
Aires NWR was established to reestablish a population of Masked Bobwhite (a
subspecies of the Bobwhite Quail). They have a captive breeding program and have
300-400 birds living in the wild on the refuge. I've never seen one of the wild
birds, even the people who work there rarely see them, but did get some photos
of Masked Bobwhite in the captive breeding pens. Now I'm at Patagonia Lake State
Park. For $25.00 I get barking dogs, smoke from campfires, and noisy neighbors.
I will only stay here one night then on to the Empire Ranch, where camping is
free again and neighbors are few. This morning I got the best photos of Lucy's
Warbler I've ever taken. This has been a very difficult bird to get close to and
get a clear shot. I put some photos at the
March 29. I've moved to Las Cienagas-Empire Ranch now. Free camping here. Yesterday I went to Florida Canyon and Madera Canyon. Not much new, but did get photos of Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet at Patagonia Lake and a Black-capped Gnatcatcher on a nest at Florida Canyon. Today I sent for a drive up the Mount Lemmon Road near Tucson. Found some new flowers up there. Some recent photos are at the LINK.
April 2. I'm currently staying at Karchtner Caverns State Park. Have been at Ash Canyon, Miller Canyon and San Pedro Riprarian Area. The morning I left Empire Ranch I found a Zone-tailed Hawk nest and too some pretty good flight shots. Finally got some photos of a Lucifer Hummingbird but not what I wanted. This morning I had really good time in Miller Canyon. I posted some photos at the LINK.
April 5. I've had some good birding over the last few
days. A couple of life birds, Dusky-capped Flycatcher and Greater Pewee, and a
lifer butterfly, Tropical Leafwing. Photos of both. I'm camped in Miller Canyon,
very poor internet and cell phone reception. I'll probably stay here for a few
more days. I put some recent photos at the
April 8. It has been very windy the last couple of days. So windy that I haven't been doing much birding. Got my taxes done though. This morning I went back up Miller Canyon and had good succes with birds, not so much with photography. Finally got to see a Northern Pygmy-Owl, I've heard them before but have never seen one. Even got a few photos, though not very good. Later, as I was trying to take more photos of the Greater Pewee, a pair of Hepatic Tanagers showed up. They were in difficult light, but I took lots of photos and a few aren't too bad. I put some photos at the LINK.
April 10. I'm still in Miller Canyon. It is hard to beat this spot, free camping, good birding, shelter from the wind. It is only a few miles to town for groceries and gas. This morning I drove up the Carr Canyon road. If you've never been on it, it is a narrow, rough, rocky road, with lots of switchback, with impressive dropoffs and no guardrails. I got up to the top (this is the Huachuca Mountains) and started looking for the Buff-breasted Flycatchers that have been reported. It didn't take long to find some. They are actually pretty common up there, and so are Greater Pewee and Olive Warbler. I ended up with lifer Buff-breasted Flycatchers and the best photos I have taken of Greater Pewee and Olive Warbler. It was a pretty good day. Yesterday, I went back up Miller Canyon to look for the Northern Pygmy-Owl, but didn't see it. I put some photos at the LINK.
April 15. I've moved east to Cave Creek in the Chiricahua Mountains. When I got to Sunny Flats Campground there was only one spot left, and it was a good one, in the sun, so my solar panel can work. The flood that occurred last year really changed this place. Most of the forest understory is gone, especially in the South Fork. It doesn't look as bad up by John Hands Picnic Area. This morning I went to the Paradise Cemetery to look for Montezuma Quail like I have done many times before. This time I saw two, the first Montezuma Quail I've seen that weren't flying as I flushed them. All I got was some distant shots, but I'll go back and set up a blind, maybe I can get some better shots. Some photos from the last few days are at the LINK.
April 16. This morning I was in place at the Paradise Cemetery well before sunrise. I waited for a couple of hours and was finally rewarded with a male Montezuma Quail. The light wasn't great but the camera/lens was on a tripod, so it worked out pretty well. A couple of photos at the LINK.
April 17. Early this morning I went back to the cemetery to try for Montezuma Quail again. This time five of them came out but in a different direction. When I tried to move, they ran back into the tall grass. After that, I drove up East Turkey Creek and found several Grace's Warblers. I had no photos of this species before, but I do now. I put a few at the LINK.
April 19. Birding has been kind of slow. Everyone says it is too early. Still haven't seen a Red-faced Warbler. I drove up to Rustler Park and Barfoot Park but didn't see any new birds. I did get some lifer butterflies and a lifer lizard.I put some photos at the LINK.
April 20. This morning I finally found a Red-faced Warbler. I suppose in a few days they will be everywhere. The one I found was in a place I looked just two days ago, East Turkey Creek at the junction of the Paradise Road and the road to Onion Saddle. I put some photos at the LINK. I'm undecided about when I'll leave for Big Bend National Park. I might stay here a few more days or I might leave in the morning.
April 22. I decided to stay here a few more days and I'm
glad I did. The migration is finally picking up. This morning I saw quite a few
migrants. I also found more Montezuma Quail, this time next to the road to Herb
Martyr CG. I couldn't get any good shots of the male, but did get some good ones
of the female. Also got Cassin's Vireo and Brown-crested Flycatcher photos,
though they aren't as good as I'd like. I posted some photos at the
LINK. My current plan is to
leave here on Monday and take two days to drive to Big Bend NP.
April 23. Very windy today, with some rain showers. I haven't seen anything new, but did get some better photos of Brown-crested Flycatcher and some other birds. I posted a few at the LINK.
April 24. Yesterday, as I was leaving the campground to go to the library to check email, the campground host stopped me and said that a Northern Pygmy-Owl had been spotted in a tree at one of the campsites. He showed me where it had been seen and it was still there. As usual, not in the best situation for photography but the best photos I have of this species. Last night it rained and today it is cooler and windy. Not much new for birds and too cold for butterflies, although I did get a few photos. The flowering shrub I posted on April 22 is identified now, Yellow Bird-of-Paradise. It doesn't look much like a bird to me. It is an ornamental shrub that has escaped to the wild. I put some new photos at the LINK.
April 25. Walked up the South Fork. Saw one Elegant
Trogon fly by and later heard it calling but got no photos. I found a Brown
Creeper nest and tried to photograph the adults carrying food to the nest. Light
was terrible but I got a couple that aren't too bad. I need to go back with the
tripod and flash. It is a mile hike back in there, that is where I'll probably
be in the morning. I put some photos at the
LINK. A new bird for the spring, a Hermit
Warbler, high in the pines with a flock of Townsend's, Wilson's, and
April 26. Started raining last night, probably around 3 AM. At sunrise, there was some thunder and it rained hard for awhile. It has rained off and on all day. There is snow on the peaks. Not good weather for a hike. I spent the day birding around the Portal town area, there is a pair of Rufous-backed Robins there. I have seen them a couple of times but no photos. I did get some photos of Summer Tanagers, which I needed. All I had before was a photo of a first year male. I put some photos at the LINK.
April 27. Went up the South Fork again this morning. This time I saw two Elegant Trogons. I heard another. I went to the Brown Creeper nest with the tripod and flash equipment. The results were pretty good. I paid for another night here, I want to check the South Fork out again tomorrow. I put some photos at the LINK.
April 28. I left the Chiricahua Mountains this morning, now I'm at Rock Hound State Park near Deming NM. I would have liked to stay there, but it will be getting hot in the Big Bend country, so I better go get my birds. I might make it all the way to Big Bend NP tomorrow. This morning I took one last hike up the South Fork, didn't see any trogons but took some other photos. I put some at the LINK.
April 29. Left Rock Hound State Park early this morning
and drove all day. Got to Big Bend National Park late afternoon. There are
plenty of campsites available too. If the campgrounds are full there aren't many
options. I'm in Chisos Basin CG and I paid for five days. While at Rock Hound
State Park I saw Scaled Quail several times and in various locations. This looks
like a good place to get this sometimes difficult species. Maybe I should have
stayed another day. Anyway, I put some photos at the
LINK. Tomorrow I'll check out the area and
make my plans for the long hike up to the Colima Warbler habitat.
April 30. Drove down to Rio Grande Village this morning. I had heard that there was a Common Black Hawk nest there. And there was. The female was on the nest and there wasn't any activity for hours. I spent some time with a Painted Bunting and some Summer Tanagers. Finally, around noon the male came in with some food. Light was terrible by then, especially for photographing black birds. Anyway, I got some shots, Common Black Hawk was a life bird for me. The area was very birdy, I need to go back. Maybe I'll move the Scamp down there in a few days, although it will be much hotter there than here. Tomorrow, I go up the mountain for the Colima Warbler. I put some photos at the LINK.
May 1. Back from the hike up to the top of the Chisos Mountains. I left very early, used my headlamp to climb most of the way up, I was at the pass over the mountain by sunrise. Got my first Colima Warbler shortly after that, then saw 4 more. I hiked down to Boot Spring then headed back. At the pass, I saw two distant hawks that I suspected were the recently reported Short-tailed Hawks, so I waited for them come close enough for some photos. They were still a long way out, but good enough photos for ID purposes. Two life birds in one day. I would have liked better photos, but this is what I got. I won't be going back up there for better photos for at least a couple of days, if at all. Round trip about 10 miles, going up wasn't too bad, but coming down starts to hurt. I put some photos at the LINK.
May 2. This morning I stopped at a place called Sam Nail
Ranch. It is an old ranch yard in a grove of cottonwoods. There is a well but no
water now. Seems like most of the wells and springs have dried up. I was having
good luck with birds, including Varied Bunting, when a guy comes down the trail
with binos and a camera. He asked me if I was a birder. We talked awhile and I
found out that he was Sandy Komito, of "The Big Year" fame. He is over 80 but
can hear better than me. He is a really nice guy, unlike the impression one gets
from the book. He also has an encyclopedic knowledge of birds. We took some
photos of chats and other birds then he left to go try for some flight shots of
White-throated Swifts. It was quite amazing to meet him there. I put some new
photos at the LINK.
May 3. This morning I went back down to the Rio Grande River and tried for the Black Hawks again. I did have better success this time, it would have been even better if some clouds hadn't been in the early morning sky. Later in the morning I found a cooperative male and 1st year male Painted Bunting. I put some photos at the LINK. I haven't decided if I'm leaving tomorrow or staying a couple more days. I suspect it will be the latter.
May 4. 60 years old today, officially an old man. Paid
for three more nights here. There is a tornado watch out for this area now.
Looks kind kind of stormy. It has been windy all day, but I did manage to get
some butterfly photos, of a lifer butterfly, the Mexican Metalmark. I'll
probably go back up the Pinnacles Trail in the morning, trying for some better
Colima Warbler photos, or Short-tailed Hawk. I put some new photos at the
May 5. I postponed the trip up the mountain until tomorrow. The wind blew hard all night and it was still blowing when I got up. No point in going clear up there if the tree branches are whipping around. It has finally calmed down, should be good for tomorrow. Today I explored some new areas. One, the Burro Mesa Pouroff, was a great stop for Greater Earless Lizard. They were in full breeding colors. I put some photos at the LINK.
May 6. Made the hike to the top of the Chisos Mountains
again. Started up the trail at 5 AM, there was good moonlight but I still
needed my headlamp to see where I was putting my feet. It is always something
though. By the time I got to the top, clouds started rolling in. I would have
had some really nice Colima Warbler photos if I had the light, but they came out
pretty good anyway. I also got another life bird, a Flame-colored Tanager. I had
heard about these birds after I made my last hike up there. There are hybrids
and some that are pure Flame-colored. I ran into a group of birders who were
looking for them too, they were experienced with Flame-colored Tanagers and
called one of them a pure Flame-colored, 1st year male. I guess I won't disagree just yet, but
I will be doing some research on this. I put some photos at the
May 9. I left Big Bend NP on the 7th, I've been in Junction, Texas birding at the South Llano River State Park. My two target birds, Black-capped Vireo and Golden-cheeked Warbler, can be found there. As it turns out, the park has some really nice bird blinds set up, with running water and some bird seed. The water attracts lots of birds that don't eat bird seed, including Black-capped Vireo. The Golden Cheeked-warbler was harder, it stays well hidden most of the time and I have a hard time even hearing it. I finally got an OK photo this morning, it will have to do. Weather has been hot and extremely humid. I'll probably be leaving tomorrow, if the weather forecast hasn't change. Rain and storms are due to move in on Monday. I put a lot of new photos at the LINK.