Wednesday, April 15, 2015

A Well Needed Trip to SE AZ (Part 2)

Florida Canyon! The first two things that come to mind when an experienced birder hears that name is Black-capped Gnatcatchers and Rufous-capped Warblers. Both the BCGN and the RCWA are Mexican vagrants that have been known to breed in Florida Canyon in very small numbers. As I said in the last post, the Black-capped Gnatcatcher was my target bird for the trip, so you might ask "Why not the Rufous-capped Warbler?" Well at the time I didn't know where the RCWA was and I hadn't been to Florida Canyon before. But once Mr. John and I pulled into the parking area I was very exited to explore yet another new birdy area. I quickly jumped out of the car and started calling out birds "Gray Hawk, Broad-billed hummingbird, Plumbeous Vireo, Black-headed Grosbeak" before long I was up to thirty species, and I was still around the parking area! But there was one set back, Mr. John was tired by our previous day of hiking around the Museum. So we agreed that he would stay back at the parking lot and bird around the small but active area while I hiked up the canyon a ways. However, I came prepared and brought my walkie-talkies that I use back at home when I go birding by bike. As I literally ran up the canyon I came across a fellow bird-guide Mr. Richard Fray, who kindly gave me directions to where he had seen a few birds like Rufous-capped Wabler, Elegant Trogon, Montezuma Quail, and a possible Golden-crowned Sparrow. So becoming even more pumped (almost to the point where my brain could've exploded!) I started running even faster only in a "Bird Hard" fashion. Before long I started slowing down as the trails started splitting more and more. As I was hiking at a fast pace I had a couple of birds explode into flight from what felt like the tip of my nose, Montezuma Quail (Lifer #3 for the trip)!!! The two birds took flight in two different directions and trying to keep track of either one of them proved very hard. I then spotted a pair of Golden Eagles in the distance as they used the ridge line for transportation, but the birds were way to far for a photo. Soon after, I found myself about a mile up the trail where the habitat along the creek started disappearing so I started working my way back when I spotted a plain gray-faced Zonotrichia fly into the creeks thick brush. All it took was that very brief glimpse to identify the sparrow as a Golden-crowned (Lifer #4 for the trip and 350 for my life)! I then patiently waited and after a bit of pishing the bird came out!

Golden-crowned Sparrow 

Honestly, this has got to be the drabbest bird I've seen in my life!

The sparrow then flew down into the brush again, and as I was waiting for the bird to make another move when I got a call from Mr. John that he was staring at the Black-capped Gnatcatcher with Mr. Richard, and it was sitting on its nest!!! I then told him that I was on my way, but as I started running I spotted a Golden Eagle soaring overhead and a Gray Hawk was attacking it!

Golden Eagle

Golden Eagle--And babam, Gray Hawk!

Once the Gray Hawk retreated I then continued running down the canyon for a half mile before I reached the parking area. I then found Mr. John and after scanning the tree branches we found our suspect (Lifer #5 for the trip)!

Black-capped Gnatcatcher--Female
Note the long bill and white undertail that separate this unique gnatcatcher from the others.

We then pointed out the gnatcatcher to some other birders and we continued snapping pictures.

Black-capped Gnatcatcher

After watching the gnatcatcher for a while we decided it was time to hit Madera Canyon, but on our way we stopped by a cow corral to see what we could find. I didn't find the male Black-capped Gnatcatcher that had been staying here but I did, however, hear and get a couple looks of my lifer (#6 for the trip!) Northern Beardless-Tyrranulet. I tried hard to get more looks and possibly a photo but that bird was just so darn small! We then continued towards Madera Canyon where we made our first stop by the Super Trail near the top of the canyon. I hiked about three quarters of a mile before I decided I probably wasn't going to crush any trogons on the trip. We then made our last stop of the day at the Santa Rita Lodge where we saw some cool birds.

Mexican Jay

Wild Turkey

I ended the two day trip with an awesome 6 lifers to talk about and 25 year birds bringing my year list to 250! I am looking forward to my next trip to SE AZ and who knows what lifers I might get on that trip. Thanks Mr. John, Mrs. Janet, Mrs. Jennifer, and last but not least Ren for an awesome trip!


  1. Wow Caleb you had an amazing second day! I'm so happy we were able to be apart of your birding weekend! Thank you for such an amazing intro to birding!
    Jennifer and Ren

    1. Thanks! Keep up the interest for birding Ren, there is no limit to how good of a birder you can be, especially since you have had an early start!

  2. Having now been to these places, this was a fun read as I could picture it all. That parking lot at Florida is birdy, isn't it? You sure got some good birds that I missed! Congrats on the lifers and a great trip!

    1. Thanks Mr. Josh! Yes, that parking lot is very birdy! Don't worry, next time you come out you will have a more narrowed down list then this last and thus, will get rarer birds.