Wednesday, June 24, 2015

My First Young Birder's Camp (Part 2)

After our second day of birding, I again set my alarm for five in the morning so Walker and I could get an early start to our last day of the camp and bird hard! Before we began birding we were joined by another one of the young birders. As soon as we walked down into the creek behind the Research Station there was a flock of Mexican Jays mobbing us.

Mexican Jay--With some bling-bling in his wrists!

Even though we were birding hard we couldn't seem to find any Buff-breasted Flycatchers! Before long our hour was up and it was time for us to make a quick stop by Cave Creek Canyon--South Fork where we would once again try for Elegant Trogons. To no surprise we ended up unsuccessful, but bird numbers were a lot higher than the previous day due to it being in the morning. After returning back to camp and eating lunch we drove over to Stateline Road. Stateline Road it is right on the border of New Mexico and Arizona. Walker and I were exited to bring our NM state lists from 0 to over 12. This stop was fairly short and unproductive but we made the most of that ten minutes! Our next and last stop of  camp was in the town of  Portal where we basically walked up the road and checked out a few feeders. While most everyone took a bathroom break I birded around the area and picked up quite a few good birds.


Blue Grosbeak

Barn Swallow

 Bronzed Cowbird

As I write this post the brutal thought still goes through my head that we missed AZ's first record of Clay-colored Thrush by a mile, A MILE!!!!!!! No, I am not fooling with you birders, someone just reported a Clay-colored Thrush in their yard in Portal a few days ago! After a little while Mr. John Yerger spotted yet another owl, only this one was a Western Screech on its day roost.

Western Screech-Owl

Once we headed back to the Station we ate lunch and everyone said their goodbyes. However, Mr. Ford and I were not quite done birding yet! We had plans to go birding at Madera Canyon for a little while before heading back to Buckeye. On our way to Madera I was pretty tired (first time I've ever been tired on a birding trip!) but that all changed when we stopped by a gas station and I bought a forty-some ounce cup of soda and gulped it up! When we arrived at the lower elevations of Madera Canyon we stopped in hopes of finding Boteri's and/or Cassin's Sparrows. It didn't take me long to find my 4th lifer of the trip, a Boteri's Sparrow!

Boteri's Sparrow

We heard at least two or three other Boteri's calling or singing but they kept themselves hidden. We didn't hear or see any Cassin's Sparrows but an awesome surprise came when I was listening and I heard the "kit kerr, kit kerr, kit kerr" call of the Scaled Quail (lifer and target bird)! But the area where I heard them from was fenced off, so I didn't try much on attempting for a visual. We then made a short stop at the Santa Rita Lodge where I happened to look down and see a female Varied Bunting, but by the time it hit me that it was a Varied the bird had hopped into a thick bush.

Varied Bunting-- Lifer #7 of the Trip!!!

While we watched the hummingbird feeders in hopes of a Mexican Vagrant flying in we talked with a few people about an area where they have had good luck on Black-capped Gnatcatchers and after getting some directions we found ourselves along with another couple of birders who were from Ohio at the parking lot of our last birding destination of the trip! The couple said that the BCGN was one of their target birds for their AZ trip so the pressure was on to find this bird. In the past I have only seen this species once and it was a female that was pointed out to me as she sat on her nest, so I have never actually seen them doing much. The lady who told us about the birds said that the BCGNs are usually about a mile down the trail but we didn't exactly have enough time to hike a mile so we were pretty much winging it. As we were hiking along the trail I heard a Black-capped Gnatcatcher call, we waited to see if the bird would come out of the thick brush but it didn't. While we were waiting for the gnatcatcher we had amazing views of a couple of Dusky-capped Flycatchers.

Dusky-capped Flycatcher

Losing the gnatcatcher was pretty disappointing but we decided to hike further. Our group then started to break up but everything changed when I spied the bird low in a mesquite!

Black-capped Gnatcatcher

I yelled "Guys I have the bird!" and before long we all had great views and even a few okay photos of the adult male Black-capped Gnatcatcher as it actively fed in front of us.

Black-capped Gnatcatcher

The BCGN is a rare but increasing gnatcatcher that resides in Mexico and now, several areas in southeastern AZ. To identify the Black-capped from its more common Black-tailed and Blue-gray cousins it is best to use its all white undertail, long bill, and all black mask (with no white at all above and usually below eye). Seeing this bird was an awesome way to end the trip and before we reached the car I even had brief views of another!!  A huge thanks goes out to my Mom and Dad, Mr. Tom, Mr. Ford, Walker, and the trip leaders for making this happen and making it fun!!! A weekend I will remember always " My first Young Birders Camp".  I would encourage any, especially novice young birders to look it up and go next year.


  1. Sweet birds! Wish I could have joined you in Madera Canyon. Maybe in the next couple weeks!

    1. Thanks Walker! I wish you were there too! If you were there we would have found something like a Cinnamon Hummingbird, with our luck!