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Southeast Arizona, August 2002

Part 3:  Saguaro National Park & Madera Canyon

Well, the next day was much better: started at dawn at the Tucson Mountain section of Saguaro NP, and quickly picked up the common desert species such as Cactus Wren and Black-throated Sparrow. My plan was to stop every mile on Golden Gate Road, but I first hiked a little of the Sendero Esperanza Trail. Hit pay dirt right away with a Rufous-winged Sparrow singing at the trailhead, and yet another at the resting spot! (I'm beginning to think this is a pretty reliable spot for them seeing as I've gotten them every time I've been here.) A knockout male Pyrrhuloxia came tearing in as well, and Purple Martins wheeled around overhead. On the back side of the loop I sat for a few minutes at the Sus Picnic Area where a very friendly female Pyrr sat next to me at the picnic table, along with a male Black-tailed Gnatcatcher. The paved nature trail near the visitor's center yielded a young Gila Woodpecker being fed saguaro fruit by dad, a nice male Gilded Flicker, and a great look at a Curve-billed Thrasher. Had another pair of Rufous-winged Sparrows right outside the car on the way to the center!


Left:  Sunrise at Saguaro.  Center and right:  Friendly lady Pyrrhuloxias


Scenes along the Sendero Esperanza Trail


Left:  Shy Gila Woodpecker.  Center:  Curious Cactus Wren.  Right:  Rufous-winged Sparrow, found nowhere else in the U.S.


Lizards can be very difficult to tell apart: the individual in the leftmost photo appears to be a typical Sonoran Spotted Whiptail, but the one in the middle shows characteristics of the Gila Spotted Whiptail, which apparently doesn’t occur at Saguaro.   Zebra-tailed Lizard on right.

Headed down to Madera Canyon after that, with a quick stop at San Xavier Mission, seeing as I had never been there. The area the bird guide said to look for Bendire's Thrashers was in the back of the building, but I remember a friend of mine getting yelled at by the locals for going back there, so I was on my toes as I snooped around. Nothing but a cute Round-tailed Ground Squirrel and a gorgeous Collared Lizard.

Headed on down to the canyon, where on the way in a couple of little bodies were making their way across the road; as I slowed, body # 2 scampered up the side just as I got even with him, and I couldn't believe it: a male Montezuma Quail! Finally!!! That made up for getting stuck in the mud yesterday...

The rest was gravy after that: hiked the Proctor Trail, where the Bell's Vireos were ubiquitous as always; a Brown-crested Flycatcher called unseen, but the biggest surprise was sitting out on a wire: a Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher! Mexican Jays made a lot of racket up near the oaks, and a Plumbeous Vireo gave a nice show at the end of the loop. On the way back the Varied Bunting that had been singing the whole time was actually sitting out and close enough to make out his colors!


Scenes along the paved "Proctor Road Trail"


Right:  Plumbeous Vireo

Hummers at the feeders...


L-R:  Broad-billed Hummer, Black-chinned Hummer, Acorn Woodpecker trying to fake it, and House Finch


Left:  Mexican Jay.  Right:  Upper end of the nature trail


Left:  Painted Redstart.  Center:  Acorn Woodpecker pair.  Right:  Black-throated Gray Warbler

My destination was Sierra Vista, so I thought this would be a good opportunity to explore that dirt road that connected "here" to "there" that I've always been curious about! And what a road: it starts out in desert grassland where the Black-throated Sparrows were all over the place, but also a Botteri's at one point. In the washes more Bell's Vireos sang, and once we got up out of the desert and into the narrow canyon (with more vegetation), heard a bona fide Black-chinned Sparrow! (The tail end of the Botteri's song sounds deceptively like a Black-chinned; thankfully the twain shall never meet...) Canyon Wrens called in here as well, and in one little riparian area a Summer Tanager and Spotted Towhee called. A Lesser Goldfinch sat and showed off his mimicking repertoire as he rolled off both Canyon and Green-tailed Towhees, Curve-billed Thrasher, and even Mexican Jay!

As you get higher, you get into Pinyons and grassland dotted with oak in the rolling hills; it was just gorgeous! Added Rufous-crowned and Lark Sparrows to the list in here, and once we hit the flat grasslands on the other side picked up Eastern Meadowlark and a nice pair of Blue Grosbeaks; the female was particularly pretty with her buffy wash! Where the pavement began again I checked out a side road that went to Fish Camp (I think it was called); would have been interesting to hike a little of that were a monsoon not bearing down on me...


Scenes along the Greaterville Road. with Tarantula crossing the road

Enjoyed the drive into Sierra Vista (especially the big tarantula crossing the road, which another car-load of grinning tourists had stopped to photograph), picking up more bouncing flocks of Lark Buntings on the way, plus Swainson's Hawk in town. Just made it into the hotel before the Big One hit...


Continue to the Huachucas

Go back to Buenos Aires

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