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Southeast Arizona, August 2002

Part 1:    Patagonia Area

Had a great drive into Tucson, listening to a lot of good preaching (and a little of Rambling Rush)!  Didn't plan on birding that day, but I got into Tucson early, so I decided to swing by the Sweetwater Wetlands and check on the Purple Gallinule and Least Grebe. I was the only one there (not surprisingly at two in the afternoon and [probably] 100+ temps); doused myself with water and headed around the loop trail. Couldn't find either rarity but I did find the reported Wood Duck (or at least a Wood Duck: the one I saw looked more like an eclipsed-plumaged male than a youngster), along with plenty of Moorhens (including a juvenile) and Coots, a handful of Cinnamon Teal and Ruddy Ducks, and a single Green Heron. Scared up a rather dilapidated-looking Gila Woodpecker (no neck feathers) as well as other Salton Sea-type birds (Abert's Towhee; Gambel's Quail). Riparian stuff included phallax Song Sparrows, Black-chinned Hummers, a Bell's Vireo, Yellow Warbler, and Yellowthroat. Was pleased to add two Arizona specialties along the way: Curve-billed Thrasher and a Harris' Hawk in a big euc across the way! Got out of there before the monsoon hit...

           

Left:  Scum-covered Sweetwater Wetlands, a wastewater facility turned wildlife sanctuary!  Center:  Young Common Moorhen (left) and adult Coot.  Right:  Mob of Mourning Doves escaping the heat

The next day poked around the Patagonia area, starting at the Elgin Research Ranch and picking up some Common Nighthawks on the way in. Stopping along the road going in had four singing sparrows (Botteri's, Cassin's, Grasshopper, and Lark), plus Scaled Quail calling. In the ranch itself, they apparently had a fire awhile back, as the oak trees have been scorched and it looks as though the grass is just beginning to come back; needless to say I didn't kick up any Montezuma Quail in here! But walking along the road up the hill was able to add a flock of Mexican Jays to the list, and at the headquarters enjoyed the feeders (which were new since I was there last) and had a very nice chat about Subarus with Rick (I believe it was), one of the "rangers" there! Had mostly Black-chinned Hummers at the feeders with one token Anna's, while House Finches monopolized the seed feeder and Lesser Goldfinches hung onto some other kind of bag-like feeder (probably had thistle in it). A female Bronzed Cowbird strutted around on the ground as well. When I got up to leave a Canyon Towhee, Curve-billed Thrasher, and Acorn Woodpecker decided to come in! Had some ravens that I'm tentatively calling Commons, only because the bills looked awfully long on these birds (and I guess voice is not a reliable gauge; what vocalizations they did perform sounded just like our ravens back in San Diego). On the way out of Elgin I stopped to check out some ducks that turned out to be Mexicans (also had a Yellow-headed Blackbird in there), where a biker going the other way challenged me to a race as I backed up!

       

Left:  Road into Elgin Research Ranch.  Center:  Mexican Jay.  Right:  View of the oak savannah habitat

   

This used to be great Montezuma Quail habitat before a fire evidently blew through...

Huachuca Mountains (I think...)

Moochers at headquarters...

          

Left:  Female Anna's Hummer.  Center:  Mourning Dove.  Right:  Bunny...

Road heading out of the ranch

Headed over to the Sonoita Creek Preserve after that, where one of the naturalists had a Gray Hawk nest (complete with youngster) in his scope! I never would have found that on my own! While he showed the birds to a group of excited kids I made my getaway and did the big loop trail, leap-frogging the whole way with a couple from Ohio and their private guide (never did find out if he was from Ohio himself, but he had lived here in SE Arizona for several years). Made me glad I wasn't guiding people myself, because the birds were frustratingly elusive; they were singing up a storm (Yellow-breasted Chats being the most ubiquitous), but things were very hard to spot in there. I did manage some nice looks at Vermilion and Dusky-capped Flycatchers (the latter was feeding a youngster), Bridled Titmice, Bewick's Wrens wanting to be stepped on, and a tree-top Thick-billed Kingbird. Phainopeplas were the only things begging to be looked at! Other no-see-ums included both Western and Summer Tanagers, Bell's Vireos, Brown-crested Flycatcher, and Northern Beardless Tyrannulet.

       

Left:  Sonoita Creek Preserve.  Center and right:  Vermilion Flycatchers (male left, female right)

           

Left two shots:  Curious young Bewick's Wrens.  Center:  Desert Grassland Whiptail.  Right:  Bridled Titmouse

Up at the Railroad Trail I caught up with the Ohio trio again, where the guide had whistled in a female Broad-billed Hummer! A Lucy's Warbler also came in, but I don't think the couple got on him, unfortunately. Continuing along the trail what I'm assuming was a Cordilleran Flycatcher sat overhead and gave good looks, and when I ran into another couple with one of the local naturalists, a Yellow-billed Cuckoo flew in and gave nice looks! Abert's Towhees flopped agitatedly around as well. A monsoon was bearing down, so I headed for the car.

                                               

Left:  Rear-end view of a Yellow-billed Cuckoo.  Right:  Arizona White-tailed Deer moseys off...

Headed over to Patton's after that and was surprised to run into Oz Osborn and Joe Worley from San Diego! Oz was taking a local tour with Rick Taylor, and Joe was taking a bigger tour with Chris Benesh (along with a mob of other people); I had met Chris in Belize, so between him, my other buddies and all the other birders, it was a great social time! It didn't seem to bother the hummers at all, as tons of Broad-billed hogged the feeders, with several Blackchins and a few Rufous-types, and the occasional Anna's. I caught sight of a Costa's, and at least one Broad-tailed came in, but the star of the place, the Violet-crowned Hummer, came in several times, and at one point really showed off his iridescent purple crown! Behind us, Inca Doves were singing along with White-winged, and the seed feeders had colorful visitors as well, including Cardinal, Blue Grosbeak, and Lazuli Bunting! A Cooper's Hawk scattered the crowd, though...

           

Left two shots:  Broad-billed Hummers, male left, female right.  Center:  Violet-crowned Hummingbird.  Right: Black-chinned Hummingbird

We broke up the party about then (Chris gave me great directions to the Short-tailed Hawk hanging out at Barfoot Park) and I headed on down to the Roadside Rest. More of the same (scared up a Great Blue Heron in the creek) and heard a Canyon Wren singing from the rocks, but the best bird was up on the hillside: a singing Varied Bunting!

       

Left:  The famous Patagonia Roadside Rest.  Center:  Black Vultures on the way to Nogales.  Right:  Yet another Desert Grassland Whiptail

Headed to Lake Patagonia after that, where I had forgotten that it was Saturday and the place was packed! Miraculously the trailhead parking was empty, however, so I headed down the trail, taking a peek at the lake to see if I could turn any of the DC Corms into Neotropics. One did indeed look smaller, but I just couldn't be sure. Down in the "hollow" just had a Summer Tanager and some Gambel's Quail, plus a singing Rufous-crowned Sparrow up on the hillside. Heading back up I ran into Mrs. Ohio and the Guide yet again (her husband stayed in the car), and thankfully he had a scope! We were able to positively ID a Neotropic for her (and when he got out of the water right next to the DC there was no mistaking it), so that was worth the seven bucks to get in! Had yet another Varied Bunting on the way out, plus singing Black-throated Sparrows.

Tried to find a shortcut to I-19, and picked up some Black Vultures while getting lost. The first Cliff Swallows of the trip were nesting at the Super 8 in Nogales!

Continue to Buenos Aires

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