After birding hard across Southcentral AZ (to be posted later on) and cleaning house on nearly every one of our targets we had a good feeling for this trip. We woke up fairly early in the morning and shot out to Madera Canyon, our first stop for our trip. Upon driving to the Santa Rita Lodge we spotted a White-tailed Kite and Eastern Meadowlark at the base of the mountains. Arriving at the Santa Rita Lodge, there were many birders watching the feeders. Among the many birders were awesome people such as Ms. Susan Fishburn, Ms. Barb Meding, Mr. Moe Bertrand, and Mr. Louis Hoeniger! They let us know that one of our targets, the Berylline Hummingbird, had just been seen a few minutes ago! I wasn't fazed though as many of the hummingbirds come back on a normal pace and sure enough after 10 minutes of waiting my first lifer of the trip, a female Berylline Hummingbird, came in to the hummingbird feeders for a few minutes!
I was surprised how much the Berylline's rufous-colored wings stood out even from a distance!
Observing this tropical hummer was awesome but we had to hit a few other spots in the day so after a good hour of waiting and watching we drove up towards the top of Madera Canyon to search for trogons. We were joined by Mr. Moe and Mr. Louis for this adventure too which was fun! Upon hiking shortly up the Carrie Nation Mine Trail we located a male trogon at its nest!
Elegant Trogon--Male in nesting cavity
After sitting and waiting for a couple minutes the trogon flew out of the cavity and gave everyone a great show!
The trogon family is Dalton's all-time favorite family of birds and he was very happy to be back in trogon country! After talking to Moe and Louis we decided to chase a nearby Red-headed Woodpecker together (an 8th state record). So we all jumped in our cars and zoomed off toward the woodpecker. After being stopped in traffic from a crash for nearly an hour we finally reached Garden Canyon Road where we would drive on for a few more miles. Finally, we arrived at the described campground and started our search. Unfortunately by the time we arrived at the campground the bird activity was terrible and there were no woodpeckers other than a couple of Acorn Woodpeckers and a Northern Flicker. After searching for nearly an hour we were becoming quite frustrated but continued looking anyways. While we were all off searching different areas in the campground Moe yelled "Guys I have the bird!" Here's Moe pointing out the bird to Louis, Dalton, and Walker (right-left).
Moe was good at giving directions and before I knew it I was looking at my second lifer of the day!
Throughout most of our observation the bird kept its distance and was quite skittish, however, we still had great looks of this awesome eastern woodpecker!
The woodpecker even came down low a couple times!
Observing such a beautiful species was great! However, we had to keep things moving as we had some more ground to cover. So we next went to Patagonia to search for what could be my third lifer of the day, the Thick-billed Kingbird! On our way to Patagonia we read that someone had just had a Plain-capped Starthroat at the Santa Rita Lodge in Madera Canyon! I almost wanted to skip the kingbirds and go strait back to Madera but we decided to give the kingbirds an effort.After I searched the area once I started to lose hope. However, I heard Walker distantly call my name from the other side of the Patagonia Roadside Rest stop and I immediately started running to him at full speed! I then saw Walker looking up into the canopy and there it was, my lifer Thick-billed Kingbird perched on a snag!
I was relieved to see this bird as it had almost become a nemesis for me! Thanks Walker for the great spotting! We then zoomed back over to Madera Canyon and hit the feeders at the Santa Rita Lodge. Minutes of watching the feeders turned into hours and before long it was dark and there was no sign of the Plain-capped Starthroat, agh! However, the Berylline Hummingbird continued to show off for the crowd.
Now, the fun part! Darkness had fallen, so we drove up towards the top of Madera Canyon for some owling (YAY!!!). As soon as I got out of the car I heard my fourth lifer of the day, a Mexican Whip-poor-will! Working our way up the mountain I found that Mexican Whips were very abundant along with Whiskered Screech-Owls (the first time I've seen one)! One of Walker's most wanted birds to photogaph on the trip was the Flammulated Owl, my favorite bird. So once he told me that Flams were in Madera we hiked up the trail and boom, there you go Walker, Flammulated Owl!!!
When the Flam flew in neither Walker or Dalton were prepared for the awesomeness of this bird! It stood on that branch singing for a good three or so minutes before it continued on with its night of feeding. Here's a photo I took while it was in the middle of giving its deep "poot" call.
Fredrick The Flam!
Usually when I see Flammulated Owls they are sitting up high in a tree where the branch meets the trunk. However, this was one of the more lucky observations where the bird stayed fairly low and out in the open! As many of you now know, the Flammulated Owl is my favorite bird and finding one in SEAZ was awesome! Before long Fredrick the Flam had left and we continued on with our owling. At one point in the night we were hearing Flammulated, Spotted, and Whiskered Screech-Owls along with Mexican Whip-poor-will all at once! Once the owls quieted down a bit we drove down to Bog Springs Campground to crush some Whiskered Screech-Owls! It didn't take much effort to get on a few!
Whiskered Screech-Owls give many different calls. There typical song is a mores-code style of hoots while their call is a descending pitch of "too"s. They also give some barks that sound kinda like a Spotted Owl's! Here are some vocalizations on xeno-canto.org
An Elf Owl was also present, the last owl we saw that night!
I ended the day with four lifers and six owls (Burrowing near my house, Whiskered Screech, Flammulated, Spotted, Elf, and Great Horned) Walker, Dalton, and I were shocked at how awesome our first day of birding was! Could it get any better? Stay tuned to find out...