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ABA Convention 2005

Part 1: Mount Lemmon

First thing on the agenda the first day (after dumping the artwork off) was getting Jip to the shop: he was overheating horribly on the way over! (And driving through what the NWS called an Excessive Heat Warning without A/C was a lot of fun… L) But other than that, we made it without incident; birds were pretty sparse (naturally); I wasn’t even paying attention when I was packing the car! But once at the hotel grounds things were somewhat active, the first "specialty" bird (although if things keep going the way they are out in Anza Borrego even this may not be a specialty before long) being a Brown-crested Flycatcher! Well, that’s not true: a Cardinal was calling outside my room, but they’re pretty widespread (even if you count the feral population in Tijuana River Valley)…

Ran into Terry O’Nele the next morning on the way to breakfast, and after their wonderful buffet I went back to the room to clean up, then drove over to the loading area at ABA Sales. I beat Terry there, but another local artist named Charles Melton was also waiting; he’s a photographer (mostly hummers along the line of Tony Merceica’s, whom he knows), and this was his first ABA Convention. Once Terry showed up they couldn’t unlock the door, so someone went in the back way and let us in! J Most of the other artists were up already, including my old buddies Radeaux, Lydia Thompson, and John and Cathy Sill!  I was disappointed that I had missed them (Doug was here but in a different capacity, so he wasn’t displaying), but I set up next to Rad and hung around, and eventually they all filtered in; what a reunion! It was great! I sold a calendar and card set, and a couple of people were interested in a couple of the drawings, so I was hopeful! Met Ray Nelson who does wonderful work that is truly art, including a wonderful LeConte’s Thrasher that was so typical: scurrying away in a cloud of sandy dust! Also present (we had more artists this time than I think we’ve ever had) were Cynthia Lyman and Rupert Clark, a couple from British Columbia: they did exquisite wire work and carvings! Alex Cruz did wood block prints and drawings, which were wonderful as well.

The next day we headed up Mount Lemmon (we being Radeaux and his wife Barb, Lydia and her friend Frieda from Big Pockets, Doug, and John and Cathy in their own pickup), and ironically in looking for specific stops to bird on the Internet I found my own website J! So we followed that plan, and at the bottom we picked up typical desert stuff like Verdin, Cactus Wren, Costa’s Hummer (that the Sills missed to their chagrin), Black-tailed Gnatcatcher, and the real treat, a singing Rufous-winged Sparrow! Frieda found a Lark Sparrow, so that was neat (this was her first birding trip, so everything was a lifer!). We then stopped at what I thought was Molina Basin but was Molina Overlook (oh, we first stopped at another pullout for more Sonoran stuff, and picked up calling Gilded Flicker, Gila Woodpecker, Black-throated Sparrow, and Brown-crested Flycatcher), but that turned out to be a great stop as well, with lots of Canyon Wrens (Rock Wrens only called), a pair of Summer Tanagers, Black-headed Grosbeaks, more gnatcatchers and Cactus Wrens, and a Scott’s Oriole! Also had a male Broad-billed Hummer feeding on a Century Plant. Over at the real Molina Basin had a close Bell’s Vireo (that never came out, of course); we walked a little of the trail, but things were quieting down. What used to be Prisoner’s Camp is now named after a Japanese American named Gordon Hirabayashi (who was interned there during WWII), and while we didn’t get the Arizona Woodpecker I got last time, we did get what turned out to be a write-in bird: an Olive-sided Flycatcher! (Radeaux heard it, so that clinched it, as we were having some debate to ensure it wasn’t a heavily-vested Western Wood Pewee…) Lydia got excited over a Phainopepla that teed up, and both Scrubbies and Mexican Jays put on a show! A Rufous-crowned Sparrow was cooperative, and both Cassin’s and Western Kingbirds gave good comparisons. I asked Dick Walton (who caught up with us occasionally along with his other half Patsy) how he tells the Bridled from the Juniper Titmouse vocally, and he said he was about to ask me that! J But one titmouse that was singing we never did get to come out, but I’m assuming Bridled unless proven otherwise, as Juniper is by far the least common. But here the Rock Wrens gave cracking views! (An update: someone did find a Juniper Titmouse there, but it way up the trail…)


Left:  Radeaux and John Sill enjoy Sonoran species at a pullout along the road to Mount Lemmon.  Right:  Doug Pratt leads the gang at Molina Overlook


Left:  Fuzzy Cactus Wren.  Center:  Black-tailed Gnatcatcher.  Right:  Fellow artist Lydia Thompson and her friend Frieda from Big Pockets


Cathy Sill checks out the winged creatures at Molina Basin, like this shy Canyon Towhee (left) and White-winged Dove (right)


Left:  Eastern Fence Lizard at the bathrooms...  Right:  Rock Wren

Since we were spending so much time at the lower elevations, we opted to skip some of the vistas and head straight for Rose Canyon (where we had to pay an additional fee, but it was worth it!). The Big Bus happened to be there as well, but the crowd was well ahead of us, and we didn’t even have to walk down the road to encounter Painted Redstarts, Yellow-eyed Juncos, Cordilleran Flycatchers, Hermit Thrushes, and Plumbeous Vireo, as well as old San Diego standbys like Pygmy Nuthatch, Western Bluebird, Hutton’s Vireo, Butterbutt, and Pine Siskin. At the 11th hour someone spotted a Grace’s Warbler, which was one of Radeaux’s target birds! We ate lunch there while some of the guys chased more Painted Redstarts, then headed up to Bear Wallow. We stopped along the road, and the crowd wanted to go down into the creekbed, so I followed them, but shortly Doug was shouting at us from the road that he had Red-faced Warblers! (He had gone down to shoot an Abert’s Squirrel, I think…) So we scrambled back up and found Doug, where he had found a family of these birds (actually, one of the convention leaders had said there was a family, so we were definitely on the lookout for them), and clued us in to a distinctive double-chip that may have been some kind of alarm note if they had babies there. But eventually we all got good looks, along with a very cooperative Hutton’s Vireo family. Also in the area were Mountain Chickadees, "Long-crested" Jays, House Wrens, Red-breasted Nuthatches, and a flock of Common Ravens. We had also seen a pair of Zone-tailed Hawks on the way up, and what was undoubtedly one of them soared overhead at that point! As it got warmer Radeaux educated us on the local butterflies, with several Blues, an American Lady, a beat-up Checkered White at the prison camp, and some other things he couldn’t identify (I think one we ID’d later as a Texan Crescent).


Looking for goodies at Rose Canyon: Barb (Radeaux’s wife), Patsy, and Dick Walton at left, and Barb and Cathy above


L-R:  Pygmy Nuthatch, Yellow-eyed Junco, and Zone-tailed Hawk

Butterflies at Bear Wallow:


Left two shots:  Marine Blues (female at left).  Right two shots:  Texan Crescents


Left:  Spring Azure.  Right:  Taxiles Skipper

After that it was on to Ski Valley and the anticipated ice cream and hummer feeders I had been telling everyone about, only to find they were closed on Tuesday and Wednesday!! We were so bummed, but we could at least observe the feeders and enjoyed mostly Broad-tailed Hummers with a few Blackchins thrown in, a single Rufous that went whizzing by, and finally a male Magnificent came in to the end feeder. About that time the Big Bus showed up, just as a beautiful Zone-tailed Hawk swooped by at eye level! Thankfully everyone got to see that one ("Let’s see how fast you can empty a bus!" someone quipped…), and just before we left a Sharp-shinned Hawk flew overhead, which is rare this time of year!

We wandered into the village of Mount Lemmon for the ice cream fix and ended up getting little ice cream bars at the local store, but we saw the extent of the fire damage (they had a big one about the same time we had ours) and all the new homes being built. Frieda bought one of their unique hummingbird feeders made out of test tubes!


Left:  Male Broad-tailed Hummer at a "test-tube" feeder.  Center:  female Broad-tailed Hummingbird at Ski Valley.  Right:  General store at the village of Mount Lemmon, rebuilt after the big fire of 2003 (note the metal roof!)

There were rumors that a Common Black Hawk had shown up at the lake, so we tootled back down there and hiked the paved trail down. No Black Hawk, but a family of Peregrines gave a great show! We also picked up standbys for the day like Violet-green Swallow, Acorn Woodpecker, Spotted Towhee, and Bushtits (I heard a Golden-crowned Kinglet somewhere). But the icing on the cake was an Arizona Woodpecker John spotted just as we were piling in the cars; lousy light, but a very cooperative bird; he looked like a big pine cone!


We trudge down the paved trail in hopes of a reported Common Black Hawk, but get a Longhorn Beetle instead...

We were pretty shot after that, and needed to head back, so we did...

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