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Southeast Arizona 2006

Part 7: Patagonia Area

What a blessed day the next day!  Headed out to Patagonia Lake first thing (to grab a parking spot), picking up the first raven I felt half-way comfortable calling a Chihuahuan this trip (although looking back on it, it was probably a Common after all because the bill was awfully long).  Coming in had what appears to be the regular mix of sparrows these days: Rufous-winged, Cassin's, Botteri's, Rufous-crowned, and Black-throated!  Along the top of the trail where you could view the lake, I thought for sure I had the target Neotropic Cormorant, as it was so strangely patterned (it almost looked like one of those African white-breasted cormorants), but consulting the book later, evidently Neotropics are never that white below.  It was indeed wetter down at the bottom than I had ever seen it, but there were several makeshift trails around the muddy stuff; the only water birds in evidence were coots, Pied-billed Grebes, and a pair of Mexican Ducks.  Hiked the now well-marked trail into the mesquite and up the hill a little, and had a nice Lucy's Warbler come in as well as a curious female Broad-billed Hummer and a nice Varied Bunting, but no gnatcatchers.  On the way out heard some funny noises and caught sight of a Black-bellied Whistling Duck flying low over the lake!  Checked the other lake accesses to try and find another cormorant, but it was pretty quiet except for a Green Heron; had a Gila Woodpecker and White-winged Dove posing in the same tree for pictures, and a Turkey Vulture was sunning himself on the Boulder Beach sign. 


Small raven I thought was a Chihuahuan but now I’m not sure...


Patagonia Lake‘s "Marsh Trail" had a lot of water this year!


Left:  Trail through the mesquite to the "gnatcatcher spot".  Center:  Strange plant.  Right:  Lucy's Warbler


Left:  Pied-billed Grebe.  Center:  Coot.   Right:  Patagonia Lake


Left:  Boulder Beach.   Right:  Turkey Vulture guards the beach sign


Left:  Verdin.   Center:  White-winged Dove.  Right:  Gila Woodpecker

I actually made it out of there before the kiosk opened, so I got a free ride this time!  Headed over to the Roadside Rest where I decided to bird the area by car; I always feel a little creepy walking that stretch by myself, and sure enough, while I was there a suspicious-looking white van loaded with people (and driven by a Hispanic with a big hat) pulled in, but he apparently kept going at the other end.  Bird-wise had a Yellow-billed Cuckoo quietly calling, and as I crawled down towards the picnic table, that distinctive clipped song of the lost White-eyed Vireo hit the air!  He was very cooperative and even allowed some pictures (and never stopped singing the whole time)!  The competing Canyon Wren was anticlimactic...


The famous Roadside Rest


Lost White-eyed Vireo

Parked at the far end and decided to brave the Becard Trail, but there wasn't anything down there except a Black Phoebe (that I could see, anyway).  I knew Sonoita Creek Preserve was closed, but was curious to see how road-birding would work out, so made it through the muddy wash crossing just before the Patons and stopped every half mile to listen.  At the first stop I heard a distinctive tee—tee—tee and had the first Violet-crowned Hummingbird I've ever seen in its "natural habitat" (in the US, anyway—oh, not counting the one that showed up here in San Diego…)!  I tried to pish out every bunting I heard to check for Indigo, but they just weren't being cooperative (the Blue Grosbeaks were very curious, naturally...)  At one of the spots where you can actually look into the preserve, a beautiful Gray Hawk sat right in the open, and at another stop I kept hearing what sounded like part of the high-pitched dawn song of the becard, but there were also several Lesser Goldfinches around who were probably the culprits.  Other roadside birds included Abert's Towhees and Yellow-breasted Chats, but my exploration was curtailed at the next creek crossing which was really running high! 


Right:  Sonoita Creek Preserve from the main road.   Center:  Violet-crowned Hummingbird.   Right:  Gray Hawk

It was after nine by that point so I felt I could visit the Paton's place without disturbing anybody, so back I went, and had the whole place to myself, so I felt I could safely do some photography.  Violetcrowns were there right away, of course, along with Broadbills (one with a band, I discovered after editing the photos) and Blackchins.  There had been reports of a Bronzed Cowbird and even the elusive Lucifer Hummer, so I kept a close eye on the seed feeders as well, but the main customers there were White-winged Doves (it was amusing watching them try to land on and then stay on those feeders) and House Finches.  But about 25 minutes into my stay I just happened to check one of the hummer feeders, and there was the Lucifer!!  I couldn't believe it; he was gorgeous, and even stuck around for pictures!

Birds at the Patons’...


Broad-billed Hummers: adult male (left), young male (center), and both (right)


With Black-chinned Hummingbird (male Blackchin at right)


Violet-crowned Hummingbirds


Lucifer Hummer, a rare visitor from Mexico (also with Broad-billed Hummer).  Right:  White-breasted Nuthatch


I "changed watch" with a fellow who had just arrived with a video camera; I showed him which feeder the Lucifer had come into (and got his life Violetcrown while we were at it), then took off for Patagonia Lake again to try for another shot at the cormorant (and properly pay my dues).  No cormorant, but did pick up another trip bird: a Forster's Tern batting around the day use area!  A Beardless Tyrannulet was plaintively calling there as well.  The only birds at the beach now were tons of Great-tailed Grackles (and a guy wearing not much more than a G-strap...)



Back at Patagonia Lake, a female Great-tailed Grackle dismantles a dragonfly

Took off for Kino Springs after that, and actually missed the turn due to the construction (I remember a big sign being there in years past)!  Checked in at the pro shop (and got my doggie fix with their friendly Golden Retriever), where one of the guys told me they had a "white egret" at the first pond and where to find it (since I didn't remember seeing another pond coming in).  Made the circle around the pond that was right there, with the first interesting set of birds being a lineup of swallows that included Rough-winged, Barn, Tree, and Cliff!  A pair of Tropical Kingbirds was giving a Gray Hawk fits, and before long the Cassin's were in on it, too!  Had a pair of Lazuli Buntings pop up, as well as a Lark Sparrow, but no Painteds.  Kept flushing all sorts of doves; mostly Mourning but also several Grounds and at least one Inca (discovered later that someone—probably the group I had run into—found some Ruddy Ground Doves there, so I should have been more vigilant…).  At the far end had a couple of Lucy's Warblers along with a nice Wilson's (migration has started, I guess).  Ran into that other group of birders after I had circled the pond, led by a fellow who was evidently a local and told me where to find the buntings (I wasn't even at the right pond), so I thanked him and went on my way. 


Kino Springs



Left:  Unfortunately the camera didn’t focus correctly, but there are four species of swallows represented here: Rough-winged, Barn, Tree, and Cliff!    Right:  Barn (left) and Tree Swallows



Tropical Kingbirds

Found the "first pond" at the big pulloff on the way out, and walked up the old path alongside the pond, where there was indeed a Great Egret!  Also flushed a Great Blue and Black-crowned Night Heron in the process, and down at the end of the trail (at least as far as I wanted to go before it got overgrown) heard another buzz, pished, and this time the guy (or gal) was cooperative: just happened to be a nice olive-green bunting who gave great views as she fed and buzzed!  Painted Bunting for the state!


Wilson's Warbler at the "first pond"


Left:  Great Egret.   Right:  Great Blue Heron

  I was shot after that so decided to call it a day and head into the hotel in Nogales.

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