Sunday, March 29, 2015

Capped Birds in Florida Canyon

Greetings from Tucson, AZ

With a weekend off, and all of southeast Arizona at my finger tips, I figured I would make up for a couple birds that I have missed in past years.  So, with that in mind, I headed to the Santa Rita Mountains.  There were a few birds that I hadn't seen in the US, that were in the area; this included Rufous-capped Warber, Black-capped Gnatcatcher, and Sinaloa Wren.

I started out in Florida Canyon where I quickly came by a Black-capped Gnatcatcher but only got brief looks.  I was hoping for better, but figured I could put in more effort after searching for the Rufous-capped Warblers.  After about a mile of hiking up canyon, I heard a Rufous-capped Warbler singing from the hillside.  Eventually, I had decent looks, but again not great.  I decided to wait out the warblers, which worked to perfection.  A pair came down into the creekbed to forage and get a drink, all within about 20 feet of where I was waiting!

Rufous-capped Warbler in Florida Canyon
After this successful jaunt, I decided to go searching for a Sinaloa Wren along the De Anza Trail in Tubac.  While I didn't have any luck with the Sinaloa Wren, there were still many birds around, and I knew I would have more chances for Sinaloa Wren in the coming weeks.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

A Slate-throated Redstart in Arizona

Usually I think of my birding luck as being quite bad, but maybe things are turning around.  During my first week in Tucson, two great birds showed up.  The Heerman's Gull and this bird, a Slate-throated Redstart.  As far as I know, this was the first Pima County record of this species.  The few other records from the US, most of which have come in the past five years, have been confined to the Huachuca and Chiricahua Mountains.  

The beautiful Slate-throated Redstart that was found in the Santa Catalina Mountains just outside of Tucson, AZ.
Another shot of the Slate-throated Redstart.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

A Wonderful Day at Goose Pond FWA

This past Saturday, I traveled south for 2 hours to the incredible Goose Pond FWA in Greene County, Indiana. I had been asked by a small group to lead them around the property for a few hours so they could see all of the fantastic birds in the area.

Although I wasn't meeting my group until 10, I arrived early so I could see what was around in order to decide when to take my group. It didn't take long to see that we were going to have a great day at Goose Pond. I hadn't quite made it to the property when a Red-headed Woodpecker flew across the road and perched close enough for me to click off a couple quick shots. I scouted a few more areas and then headed to meet up with my group. Although they were all new birders, they were excited to get out and see new birds!

It's always a highlight to see Red-headed Woodpeckers.
For me, the best part of the day was the amazing number of waterfowl covering the area. Pretty much everywhere that we stopped, there were tons of ducks to check out!

There were many Green-winged Teal around and the species was one of the favorites my group got to see!

There weren't very many American Wigeon found during our trip.

We had great views of many Northern Pintail including some males in beautiful breeding plumage!
The 300+ American White Pelicans that are currently migrating through the area were all congregated in one unit which was quite a sight to see!

One of my favorite parts of the early spring at Goose Pond is the huge number of American White Pelicans that migrate through the area.
Our final stop was to check for shorebirds in Field C on the south end of Goose Pond. Although the birds weren't as close as when I checked the spot earlier in the day, there were still plenty of shorebirds to be seen. In addition to the usual early arrivals, I was happy to see that the two Long-billed Dowitchers that other birders had found earlier in the day were still there!

It was a wonderful day to be in the field with sunny skies, warm temperatures, and lots of birds!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

A Heerman's Gull in Arizona

Greetings from Tucson, AZ:

I was lucky enough to arrive in Tucson during a week that not only saw one, but two great birds.  The first being a bird that is seen regularly on the west coast but was my first for Arizona.  A post about the second bird will be coming soon.  While working on Tuesday the 17th a Heerman's Gull was reported from the opposite side of Tucson.  If you are familiar with Tucson, you will understand that a cross-city trip can take longer than an hour.  Luckily, I was able to make it across town in less time and quickly find the gull.  I hadn't seen this species in a few years so it was great to see!

The Heerman's Gull with a Pied-billed Grebe

Friday, March 20, 2015

Baseline and Salome-The Famous Thrasher Spot

Greetings from Tucson, AZ

On my way to Tucson, I stopped for a day of birding in the Phoenix area.  When you're in the Phoenix area, at the right time of year, you have no other option other than spending a morning at the "Famous Thrasher Spot".  The spot is rather unimpressive; you just pull off the road and go walking, any which way, into the desert habitat.  The habitat is much more nuanced than it first appears and most of the species stick to their specific niche.

One of the Sage Thrashers
I arrived a little after sunrise, when the desert is still relatively cool.  After going through large flocks of sparrows, I figured it was time to get serious and start looking for the targets.  I quickly found a pair of Bendire's Thrashers and with a bit more searching the "star" of the site, a Le Conte's Thrasher.  The Le Conte's gave great views as it ran between the vegetation and eventually stood in plain view, while preening.

I was also able to get great views of multiple, small flocks of Sage Thrashers.  These thrashers are only winter visitors while the other four species seen at this location are fairly regular breeders.  After heading into some better Crissal Thrasher habitat, it only took a few minutes to locate one.  Luckily, it gave great views while it perched in the open, for a couple of minutes.

One of the main reasons I wanted to bird this site was to study Sagebrush and Bell's Sparrows.  Unfortunately, I only came across one individual, a Bell's.  Hopefully, next time I'm back the sparrows will be in.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Spotlight on a Hotspot: San Elijo Lagoon

Rob writes: I was recently working on making a list of birding hotspots around the country for an article that I will be part of in Birds & Blooms Magazine later this year, and I got to thinking...there are some incredible birding sites around the US, and the world for that matter, so we need to get back to talking about some of the best ones here on the blog!

This week's featured hotspot is San Elijo Lagoon in Encinitas, California. I've visited San Elijo on each of the several occasions that I've taken a birding trip to Southern California and always find that it has awesome birds!

San Elijo has several access points, but my favorite is off of North Rios Avenue where you can park along the street. The trails are well maintained and give you access to much of the property, allowing you the opportunity to find numerous bird species.
I've always found San Elijo Lagoon to be a great place to see and photograph California Gnatcatchers.
The lagoon portion of the property is a great place to find waterfowl and shorebirds in the proper season and has hosted some great rarities including Curlew Sandpiper. Along the trials, be on the look out California Gnatcatchers, Bushtits, Wrentits, and many other songbirds.

Hummingbirds, like this Anna's are common around San Elijo Lagoon.
You can learn more about San Elijo Lagoon on their website and you can find the full list of birds that have been reported to eBird here.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Birding Through Texas

Eric writes: While driving from Indiana to Arizona, I had a few days to spend in Texas.  Besides all of the great birds there are in Texas, I had three main targets: a Ruff in east Texas, a Striped Sparrow in central Texas, and a Common Crane in west Texas.  

I started out by picking up some pine species in east Texas, such as Red-cockaded Woodpecker and Bachman's Sparrow before heading for the Ruff. The Ruff had been found a few days before at Anahuac NWR but there hadn't been many positive or negative reports since then. After a few hours of searching on the first afternoon, my hopes weren't too high.  I headed back to the same spot the next morning and again had no luck. The third time was the charm, after scanning for about 20 minutes I finally spotted the bird and had some great looks.  

My next target, the Striped Sparrow, didn't take quite as long. After about 20 minutes the bird popped out of the brush. It was also great to see many Harris's Sparrows that were visiting the same seed pile as the Striped Sparrow.

My last target, the Common Crane, didn't go as well. I spent an entire day searching without even finding many Sandhill Cranes and assumed they had departed on their migration north. I later learned that was exactly what had happened. The same Common Crane was found in Nebraska while I was looking for it in Texas. After Texas, it was off to New Mexico for a couple days of birding before arriving in Arizona to start my field work.