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Thankfully the deluge didn't close Ruby Road (as I had been deterred at least once before by a running wash), and it was a delightful drive! Started pre-dawn at the entrance to the national forest with tons of Blue Grosbeaks and Cassin's Sparrows, and the token Rufous-winged adding his bright bouncing ball song. Later on along the road (which starts out in mesquite bosque) added Vermilion Flycatcher, Cassin's Kingbird, Lucy's Warbler, and Ash-throated Flycatcher to the trip list. A couple of Border Patrol jeeps went tearing by me early on; I have to confess that I feel safer down there with them around!
Peña Blanca Lake is always the most productive spot on the route, and as usual, I had the whole place to myself. Besides the wondrous rocky formations, there's lots of good riparian habitat, so had several Black Phoebes, Yellow-billed Cuckoos, Summer Tanagers, and Yellow Warblers for the day. Driving in a "Western" Flycatcher called outside the car; it sounded slurred enough to me to call it a Pacific-slope, but was willing to rescind if someone who knew better said otherwise (I got to thinking later that a Cordilleran probably wouldn’t be that low yet, and a fellow Birdchatter confirmed that that was the case).
Spooked a Spotted Sandpiper along the stream on the way to the dock, and at the dock proper were two pairs of Moorhens (one on a nest, it looked like) and a couple of Coots along with some funny ducks. A Green Heron flew around scalping, and as I scanned I spotted a Gray Hawk, who promptly took off (their eyes must be really good if they can spot you looking at them from that far away!). There are several "dead ends" that overlook the lake, and they're all worth checking IMO; at the last overlook before continuing on to Arivaca had a Beardless Tyrannulet right over my head! A family of Dusky-capped Flycatchers came in as well and started chasing each other while Brown-cresteds called across the lake. Ground Doves were all over, as well as White-winged and Mourning, and disturbed the morning convention of Turkey Vultures all sunning themselves at one overlook! Sometimes I have a hard time telling the Blue Grosbeak from the Varied Bunting vocally, and at one stop I thought this one song kinda went on and on and on, and sure enough, it was a lovely Varied!
Left: Lake from the dock Right: Nesting
Left: Lake from the dock Right: Nesting Moorhens
Left: Morning Turkey Vulture meeting
Right: Dusky-capped Flycatcher
Left: Morning Turkey Vulture meeting Right: Dusky-capped Flycatcher
One of several overlooks
Headed on to Arivaca after that, enjoying the scenery and the birdlife! You shortly come to a lot of grassy area with scattered trees, and a Montezuma Quail dutifully trilled along here (and just as dutifully refused to show himself). Another Scott's Oriole sang a song that was worth transcribing it was so "on the money" musically! Rufous-crowned Sparrows were all over, plus a few Canyon Towhees. Flowers were in good form as well: what another Birdchatter (who knew his plants) ID’d as Velvet Pod Mimosa (these smallish thorny bushes) had beautiful pink and white "bristle" flowers!
Left: Scenes along Ruby Road. Right: the road itself
Left: Scenes along Ruby Road. Right: the road itself
Velvet Pod Mimosa
There are lots of good rocky outcroppings along this road with oodles of Rock and Canyon Wrens, and at one little "ledge" a Roadrunner perched on top! I confess that I love messin' with Roadrunners, so I cooed at him while trying to sneak up for a picture; he shortly jumped down and came closer through the vegetation, then finally out in the open! When he realized I wasn't another Roadrunner he crossed the road and hopped into the mesquites... Passed the turnoffs to the famous canyons (which I'll never go down alone); a small flock of Chipping Sparrows was feeding on the road near the turnoff to Sycamore Canyon. One of these days I'm hoping one of those rarities will make it to the good road (although a local guy told me the road to the parking area at Sycamore Canyon isn’t bad at all, and that’s where the Rufous-capped Warbler had been…)!
It’s fairly easy to draw a Roadrunner closer to you by imitating their song (this is all the same bird—and he came to me), but once they realize you’re not another Roadrunner they usually leave in a huff...
Once out of the national forest you pass through someone's ranch (where the grassland has been munched but good), and had a great view of a singing Botteri's Sparrow along here! (Cassin's were back in full force at this end as well...) A family of Gambel's Quail was much more cooperative than the Montys, and I had to laugh: you're out in the middle of noplace, with one building out there, and there was a House Sparrow! Passed through a little patch of wonderful riparian woodland where I had a real surprise: a couple of Thick-billed Kingbirds! (Cassin’s were there, too…) Took a quick swing down to Arivaca Lake where I picked up Western Kingbird and Chats for the day (was surprised I didn't have any at Peña Blanca) and enjoyed the butterfly feeding frenzy down at the lake. Nothing out of the ordinary there, but had the only Red-winged Blackbird of the day. The flowers along the entrance road were spectacular; at a distance they reminded me of our California Poppies, but these had a reddish central spot to them. Again, the plant guy said they were probably something called Caltrop.
Great habitat for Botteri's Sparrow (center) and Cassin's Kingbird (right)
Along the road to Arivaca Lake
Butterflies often gather at "mud parties" (Black Swallowtails left, Cloudless Sulphurs right)
I really should have quit then (it was getting close to noon), but I needed a walk, so after finally finding Arivaca Cienega (I always get turned around coming in from Ruby Road) took a nice exercise walk around the two mile loop. It was pretty hot but dumping water on myself helped that part; I was amazed that things were still singing up a storm in here, especially the chats! Picked up Song Sparrow for the day, and the Tropical Kingbirds were hanging out around that big field like they always seem to do! In the more enclosed woodland had a pair of Cardinals, and as I was trying to pish them closer this young Bewick's Wren practically landed on me! A Bell's Vireo came in to investigate as well, but he was too skittish for pictures. Had another pair of Vermy Flys in here as well, and lots of Yellowthroats, but no rails that I could get to respond. A nice male Lazuli Bunting gave a brief look, but for the first time the Gray Hawk wasn't in his regular tree! I had several along the route, however, including a young one sitting in the middle of the road in Arivaca, so he wasn't terribly missed. On the way out had a lovely Lark Sparrow in the bosque, so he's official now!
Along the Arivaca Cienega Trail...
Left: "Gray Hawk Tree" (not this time, though…) Right: "Tropical Kingbird Field"
Heading into the woods added Bewick's Wren (center) and Cardinal (right)
Barrel Cactus flower along the back side of the loop
I was hoping I could run through the wildlife drive before the monsoons hit, but I had forgotten how long it takes to get out there from the cienega, so I stopped at headquarters long enough to use the restroom and grab a coke, then tore back to Green Valley, narrowly missing the monsters already dumping their stuff (and that Arivaca Road looked like it was pretty beat up in spots; they had evidently even closed it at one point)! I neglected to tell the Border Patrol guy at the checkpoint how much I appreciated all they do; we had quite a conversation as he wanted to know what was under my blanket, which led to a description of the birding day!
Monsoon developing over Buenos Aires NWR