Wednesday, July 6, 2016

The Start To Cleaning Up My AZ Lifers

Recently, I have been running out of birds in Arizona. I now only have less than 10 birds that breed in AZ to get for my life list! Over the 4th of July I made plans to bird the next day with Ms. Susan Fishburn, Mr. Gordon Karre, and Joshua Smith in Southeastern Arizona to search for 4 potential lifers. Purple Gallinule, Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, Cassin's Sparrow (overdue), and Rufous-capped Warbler. The Purple Gallinule and Scissor-tailed Flycatcher are vagrants to AZ, the Cassin's Sparrow is a common breeder in in grasslands in Southern parts of the state, and the Rufous-capped Warbler is a rare and local breeder in only a few canyons in the Southeastern corner of AZ. Additionally, my life list has been stuck at 449 for the past couple of weeks so reaching 450 would be awesome!

We left the Phoenix area early in the morning to arrive at the Sweetwater Wetlands and search for the gallinule. When we arrived we found out that the wetlands were closed for a couple hours due to bug spraying. Instead of waiting for the wetlands to open we decided to hit Sierra Vista first and search for the gallinule on our way back to the valley. Approaching the stand of trees which the flycatcher had been staying in, I heard my first lifer of the trip, the Cassin's Sparrow! We stopped the car and started searching the area in hopes of getting a visual. Cassin's Sparrows actually turned out to be fairly abundant in the surrounding grasslands and it wasn't too long before I spied one perched on a short tree!

Cassin's Sparrow--#450!!!


While we were watching the CASPs a couple of Botteri's Sparrows popped up and started singing as well!

Botteri's Sparrow



A Chihuahuan Raven added to the list of awesome birds we were seeing!

Chihuahuan Raven

After enjoying the sparrows we walked a little ways down the road and all the sudden we spied the Scissor-tailed Flycatcher flyingout of the stand of trees!

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher 

Returning to its perch the flycatcher gave everyone outstanding views!

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher 


The Scissor-tailed Flycatcher was one amazing bird and it was actually more awesome than I expected it to be!

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher 


After an amazing experience with one of the most beautiful birds I have ever seen in my life we drove over to the San Pedro River to do some chill birding. The San Pedro River was perhaps one of the largest riparian areas I have ever birded and it was thick with birds! Six Yellow-billed Cuckoos, an Indigo Bunting, a couple of Gray Hawk, and more awesome birds added to our great morning of birding! After the San Pedro our next birding stop was Hunter Canyon where Ms. Susan and Mr. Gordon would drop Josh and I off so we could search for the Rufous-capped Warblers for a couple hours, a would-be lifer for both of us. The Rufous-capped Warbler was probably my most wanted lifer of the day as I have searched for them before in Florida Canyon and missed them by just a few minutes! Josh and I hiked a mile up Hunter Canyon and started scanning the area with both our eyes and ears. There was no sign of the warblers but while we searched a singing Greater Pewee made its way to Josh's life list! We had been searching the area for nearly an house and our hopes started fading, this Buff-breasted Flycatchers, however, started breaking the fall of a possible dip.

Buff-breasted Flycatcher 

Josh and I loved the higher elevations of Hunter Canyon but we had to keep searching for the RCWAs! We ran into some birders from NoCal and we joined forces. Hiking up the canyon a little ways I got about 20 yards in front of the group when all the sudden I spied a Rufous-capped Warbler foraging at eye level in a douglas fir!!! I quickly called the group over and BOOM RCWA lifer views!!!!!!!!!

Rufous-capped Warbler


Josh and I were pumped but due to having to meet Ms. Susan and Mr. Gordon Josh and I hiked back down canyon. We then headed over to the Sweetwater Wetlands to search for the Purple Gallinule. Unfortunately no one had seen the gallinule that day so we didn't stay around long, and thus missed it. However, I can't complain because three out of four is pretty good especially since the fourth bird wasn't really a miss! Thanks Ms. Suan, Mr. Gordon, and Josh for the awesome day of birding!

In the mean time, the only birds that breed in AZ that I still need are Five-striped Sparrow, Buff-collared Nightjar, Eastern Bluebird, Flame-colored Tanager, Dusky Grouse, Gray Jay, Nutting's Flycatcher, and Black Rail I believe!

6 comments:

  1. I had so much fun yesterday! We will have to work hard to get you those breeders!!!!

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    1. Cool birds+cool birders=fun! Yeah those breeders shall slowly disappear from my needs list.

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  2. I too am missing a couple of breeders in AZ: Black Rail and Dusky Grouse. Don't forget Chukar is also a breeder in AZ. While I have not seen it in AZ (very remote), I have seen it in Utah where it is much more common. Great post!

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    1. Thanks Mr. Gordon! I saw Chukars in Washington earlier this year, it was pretty awesome! What an awesome game-bird! Black Rail should be easy to hear but seeing one is a challenge that I want to take up!

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  3. 3 out of 4 is great Caleb! You'll find them all. It's just a matter of time. And it takes time. I have a few I still need as well. Gordon mentions the Dusky Grouse which I know believe is my new nemesis bird because I've chased it more than 3 times. Once I hit over 3, it becomes a nemesis bird:) Of your birds listed in this post, I think the Cassin's and Chihuahuan are great finds. They can be tricky for a lot of people.

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    1. Thanks Mr. Chris! Dusky Grouse don't seem to be easy in AZ but if you continue trying for them I'm sure you'll get them. It was awesome seeing and hearing Cassin's Sparrows all over the place, a good experience especially for not having one so long.

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