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Southeast Arizona 2006

Part 5: Madera Revisited & the Greaterville Road

Sure enough, part of me felt as though I should have gone to Mt Lemmon, but then again, I'm glad I wasn't up at three fighting the traffic!  The sunrise coming up behind the Santa Ritas was gorgeous, and of course the pre-dawn cacophony of sparrows was fun: lots of Rufous-wings in addition to the Black-throated and Cassin's, and Botteri's were further up the road, closer to the Proctor Trail.  Several Great Horned Owls hooted again, and Blue Grosbeaks started tuning up once the sun was up.  Had a funny-looking sparrow that I honestly couldn't ID; my best guess was a strange-looking Chippie, and thankfully a more normal-looking bird popped up later on the road!  Loggerhead Shrikes and a Red-tailed Hawk posed for pictures, and had another Crissal Thrasher doing his chewy-chewy along with the Curvebills (and that eventually led to a change of plans…).  A new trip bird, Eastern (Lilian's) Meadowlark (they really do sound a little different than the regular Easterns), sang in the distance, and a female Hooded Oriole first called then perched briefly on the wire.  One stop was a little unnerving as I heard Spanish-speaking male voices off in the bushes...

               

L-R:  Santa Rita sunrise, Red-tailed Hawk, Loggerhead Shrike, Hackberry Emperor

The Proctor Trail was very pleasant this early in the morning, but not real active; had the usual Bell's Vireos, Bewick's Wrens, and Canyon Wrens in the distance, plus a couple of Summer Tanagers closer to the end of the loop.  A distant Lazuli Bunting sat singing on the top of a tree, while a Varied sang unseen in the mesquite.  Ran into a couple of visiting birders from Minnesota who were very excited about everything, naturally; back in the parking lot a cooperative Botteri's Sparrow sat up and sang for them!

  At the next stop along the road some Eastern Bluebirds called from somewhere behind me, and up at the Madera Picnic Area picked up Painted Redstart and Western Wood Pewee for the day.  The feeders at the lodge were quite active, and the Magnificent Hummer gave a great show, flashing his green and purple head!  Several Blackchins and Broadbills fought and maneuvered around the bees, and House Finches and Lesser Goldfinches came in to the seed feeders, every once in awhile being usurped by a Mexican Jay.  The Gray Squirrels gathered acorns on the ground, and the Acorn Woodpeckers made a big fuss on the "storage pole" next to the parking lot.

 

Roadside stop

Critters at the feeders...

                     

L-R:  Acorn Woodpeckers, Mexican Jay, House Finch, Western Gray Squirrel

Checked out the B&B where the Flame-colored Tanager was supposed to hang out, and ran into a fellow from North Dakota who was doing the same thing!  The bird was a no-show (had another Mag at the hummer feeders, though), so we chatted a bit while watching the line of cars heading up to the Mt Baldy parking lot...

  That was actually my next destination, although I wasn't planning on hiking all the way up to the Thrush Spot again.  Barely found a parking spot, and started on up, chatting with a fellow from England who was after the thrush, among other things.  A White-breasted Nuthatch was being cute, a Plumbeous Vireo sang, and a Hepatic Tanager chupped from the trees, but it was really pretty dead; I sat at the bench for awhile hoping something would come in, but nada.

  I wanted to hit the Greaterville Road after that (especially since the monsoons had been forming early), so careened down the hill and made the turn, doing the drive-a-mile bit.  It was getting pretty warm, but the sparrows were still singing away, and another trip bird, a flock of Lark Buntings, bounced across the road!  At the wash was a wonderful Varied Bunting as well as another belligerent Bell's Vireo.  You could see where the rains had indeed done a job on this road; in fact, I should have taken a picture of the "lake" that took up most of the road at one point—there was barely enough room to squeeze by!

       

Fields full of Caltrop along the Greaterville Road

Up the canyon I dipped on the Black-chinned Sparrows I usually get in here (and remembered that when I do the week-long trip I usually do this road first thing in the morning), but got a magnificent Golden Eagle that had the ground squirrels chirping in alarm, plus a family of Rock Wrens.  Up into the oak savannah had a Scott's Oriole singing and a Monty Quail churring, and finally up into the wide open spaces had plenty of Western and Cassin's Kingbirds (mostly the former).  Barn Swallows were swooping around up here as well.

       

Canyon with Rock Wrens (center)

         

Oak savannah (and Monty Quail) habitat

            

Open pastures at the other end with Western Kingbirds

  I really wanted to do some more birding, but the storms were really brewing already, so decided to just go ahead and check in at Sierra Vista, picking up my trip Swainson's Hawk on the way.  Just made it, too; the Huachucas were getting clobbered!  (I felt sorry for anyone stuck up in the canyons...)

Continue to San Pedro and the Huachucas

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