Saturday, April 11, 2015

A Well Needed Trip to SE AZ (Part 1)

On April 8th and 9th I took an fun trip down to Southeast Arizona with Mr. John, and Janet Kafel, as well as Mrs. Janet's daughter and grandson Mrs. Jennifer and Ren. I had only been to SE AZ once before, and that was also a two day trip and was very birdy. Mr. John arrived at my house at 6:00AM, we reached our first destination, the Sweetwater Wetlands, where we searched for a Baltimore Oriole that had spent the winter at this hotspot, but we had bad news when a local birder told us that the oriole had not been seen for a few days and had most likely moved on. We came up empty with the BAOR but we did see many Yellow Warblers and a couple of Soras chasing each other and even swimming out in the open!

Yellow Warbler


After doing a little birding at Sweetwater we drove over to the Gilbert Ray Campground near the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum where we were going to set up camp and stay overnight. While Mr. John was signing in at the desk I heard what sounded like a cardinal but it didn't sound right, and that was when I realized it was my lifer Pyrrhuloxia! I then got some okay views of the bird but it stayed back in the brush. We then found our camping site and I did a little birding in a nearby wash where I heard and then saw another lifer, a couple of Rufous-winged Sparrows!

Rufous-winged Sparrow (Bird #1)

(Bird #2)

If you look at the birds shoulder you will see a little rufous coloring on it. thus came the name "Rufous-winged Sparrow".

After I was done studying my lifer Mr. John and I started setting up camp when his family arrived. We then drove over to the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum where I saw some amazing (non-wild) mammals, birds, reptiles, and more! 


Bighorn Sheep

Mountain Lion

Mexican Gray Wolf

Yellow X Black-headed Grosbeak Hybrid

Pyrrhuloxia X Northern Cardinal Hybrid

After eating at a nice mexican restaurant in Tucson I had the privilege of leading Ren (who is 9 years old) on his first ever birding adventure. We hiked around in the nearby wash and I was able to show him some long named desert birds like Pyrrhuloxia and Phainopepla. While we were hiking through the wash keeping our eyes peeled for birds and other wildlife Ren spotted an awesome Long-nosed Snake slithering right by our feet!

Long-nosed Snake

Mr. John and I started the next morning early when we woke up at 12:30AM to the sound of Western Screech, and Great Horned Owls, as well as a Common Poorwill. We then went back to sleep and woke up to officially started the day at 5:30AM. However, I had to settle the score with one bird before leaving the campground and that was to get at least one decent photo of the Pyrrhuloxia! So after stripping down the tents, rolling up the sleeping bags, and saying farewell to Mrs. Janet, Mrs. Jennifer, and Ren I started my trek to crush the "Desert Cardinal". I started by searching in the very birdy wash. I could hear a Northern Cardinal calling but I couldn't hear any PYRRs, so I hiked further down to where I could hear one singing, and I walked up to the saguaro that it was singing on and had great views.


The bird then flew down low into the brush chasing what I believe was his mate. So I followed the call and eventually got an eye level photo!


Once I was done photographing this amazingly beautiful bird I walked back to camp when Mr. John and I decided it was about time to head to Florida Canyon to search for my main target bird for the trip, the Black-capped Gnatcatcher. Stay tuned to find out how my gnatcatcher quest goes!


  1. Congrats in the two lifers with some great photos of them too! I missed on those species when I was down there. A Pyrrhuloxia is one I really want to see! Looking forward to part 2!

    1. Thanks Mr. Josh! Don't worry PYRR isn't very hard for SE AZ and Rufous-winged shouldn't be too hard either, learning their calls make them a lot easier to find!

  2. Thank you for a great birding experience Caleb! Ren had so much fun with you! We can't wait to go birding with you again.
    Jennifer and Ren

    1. Hi Ms. Jennifer and Ren! Let me know next time you come out here and I will be more than happy to show you around! You should look up for any local Audubon groups for San Diego and they usually have great people that are very friendly to beginner birders. If you guys don't have binocs the Audubon might have them for their participates to use while on birdwalks.