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Southeast Arizona

5-11 August 2007

Part 4: Patagonia

Had another wonderful day the next day, and thankfully the Lord kept me from getting lost by sending a couple of nice Mexican girls my way! There turned out to be no exit to SR 83 from northbound I-19, so I thought I’d be adventurous and take the dirt road opposite Ruby Road to the highway. Only it wasn’t well-marked, and that’s when we ran into the ladies, who told me to turn around, make a couple of turns, and take the River Road! I ended up returning to the freeway and taking the SR 83 turnoff from southbound I-19 (I discovered later I could have taken the road the hotel was on to 83). Good thing I did that, because a) South (or North—I forget which) River Road turned out to be closed, and b) it would have come out past Kino Springs anyway, so it was a good thing I just returned to Nogales!

The Pro Shop at Kino Springs was open even at that early hour, and after the guy gave his okay to bird the pond I headed out. A Tropical Kingbird was singing right there in the parking lot, so that took care of that target bird! A young Gray Hawk was signaling back and forth with his sibling (I’m presuming) and among the gobs of baby Barn Swallows was a single Rough-winged! The pond itself was pretty quiet with only Coots and Cinnamon Teal. Kicked up an Inca Dove for the trip in the dickey department. When I went to thank the Pro Shop guy afterwards this huge toad was between me and his office; I assumed it was just a lost Bullfrog, but the pictures actually look more like a Sonoran Desert Toad!

   

Kino Springs

          

Possible Sonoran Desert Toad

From there went on to Patagonia Lake State Park, where I ran into a guy with a monster camera who was looking for the Black-capped Gnatcatchers (never found them).  The main trail was quite muddy, and only picked up a Tyrannulet, cuckoo, and Mexican Ducks. There was a cormorant at the overlook, but I couldn’t tell which.

The restroom had some interesting moths to shoot (probably mis-ID’d most of them, but we’ll see what the Bug Club guys say…)! I checked all the access points and only added Green Heron, but a pair of Black Vultures by the arching bridge was nice for the trip! More cooperative dragonflies posed, the best match being both male and female Blue Dashers. By the time I got back to the car the ranger had given me a "courtesy note" (they were at the kiosk early, I guess; the sign says to "return at 9:00" to pay your fee), so paid the guy on the way out, and he told me about a new park they just opened up (Sonoita Creek State Natural Area)! Didn’t have time to hike it, though…

Lake Patagonia

Strange moths hanging out in the ladies’ room have been tentatively ID'd by my friends at Bug Guide...

                                                                                         

L-R:  Gargamelle Moth (Gloveria gargamelle), Ponometia tripartita, Pyralid Moth sp., Mesquite Stinger

                                          

Blue Dashers (female far right); males in the west look very different than Eastern Blue Dashers.

Headed to the Roadside Rest after that, and was surprised to find several people there already! (In retrospect that meant that I could have safely parked and walked the whole thing, but of course I didn’t think of that till later…) One couple was from Ohio, and the other guy was a lepper who was visiting, so we exchanged pleasantries. A Peregrine called while we talked, and the couple pished out a Bridled Titmouse. Both rocky wrens called/sang from the cliffs.

Sonoita Creek was next, so after paying my five bucks I headed on the trail. Ran into a birding tour from Oregon who had seen the usual, but no Thick-billed Kingbird yet. Ran into another soft-spoken couple at the bench, who hadn’t seen the kingbirds either, but ironically I heard them shortly after the couple went on their way! They were doing the "alternate call" (which would be easy to overlook if one was only familiar with the pow-WEET! call), but later one of them gave the obligatory announcement! Stumbled onto a male Brown-headed Cowbird displaying madly close to the ground, then jumping down and doing something that I couldn’t make out; I assumed he was mating with a female until I took a closer look, and discovered he was attacking a dead cowbird! Had more Tiny Checkerspots along the trail, and what I assumed was another Hackberry Emperor at first turned out to be the small dark morph of the Tawny Emperor!

                                                   

Tiny Checkerspots can be very variable, but usually always show the pale forewing bar.  Buried in a good drink at right!

Tawny Emperor

Had the usual Yellow Warblers, chats, Blue Grosbeaks, Phains, etc., but before long the Creek Trail was blocked off, so I retraced my steps and took the cutoff to the Railroad Trail, kicking up a pair of Vermilion Flycatchers in the process. Gray Hawks were all over (but invisible), and another pair of Black Vultures made an appearance. On the Railroad Trail I heard what I would have called a Willow Flycatcher whitting if I was in San Diego, so I assumed that’s what it was (most of the other empid calls I listened to sounded a little harder).

                   

Left:  Sonoita Creek, showing flood damage.  Right:  Shortcut to the Railroad Trail

Headed over to Paton’s, where I was the sole customer! Before I even got in the yard I could see that the butterflies were going nuts, and I actually ignored the hummer feeders until I got satisfactory looks at the Cloudless Sulphurs (that seemed awfully small to me, but the pictures confirmed that ID), and what I thought was a Cabbage White at first that would snap into a strange defensive position whenever another butter imposed on its "space"! It turned out to be a white morph female Cloudless Sulphur!  But the best butter was a striking Golden Banded Skipper! While I was shooting him a White-lined Sphinx horned in like an aggressive little hummer!

At Paton’s Place...

                             

Left:  White-lined Sphinx.  Right: Golden Banded Skipper

                             

Cloudless Sulphurs; white morph female on right saying, "Beat it, buddy!" to the males...

When I finally tore myself away the Broadbills were monopolizing the feeders, but it didn’t take long for the Violetcrown to show up! Blackchins also put in an appearance, and a female Gila Woodpecker took awhile to decide whether or not to try and raid some nectar! I didn’t realize that some seed had been placed close to the benches until the Inca Doves and House Finches swarmed in! A Cardinal was at the far feeder, along with a Blue Grosbeak and the usual feeder birds (including White-winged Doves trying desperately to hang onto the ledges…).

                   

Left:  Violet-crowned Hummer.  The rest are Broad-billed Hummers (male left, females center and right)

                                   

L-R:  House Finch, Gila Woodpecker horning in, Inca Dove

Found the Patagonia Butterfly Garden with no problem, and the Rest Stop lepper was right: it was pretty tiny! But there were some good things there: in addition to the ubiquitous sulphurs were several Pipevine Swallowtails, a couple of Arizona Skippers, what turned out to be a Large Roadside Skipper, a Dorantes Longtail, lots of Northern Cloudywings, a cooperative Red Admiral, a beat-up Lyside Sulphur, and another knockout Banded Skipper! Actually, the bush farther down the parking lot had more action! Once again the Lord saved the day by saying, "Check that blackbird flock!" as I was falling into the car, and indeed, there was a Bronzed Cowbird in amongst the grackles!

                   

We make a stop at the small but very productive Patagonia Butterfly Garden where there were many Northern Cloudywings

                                            

L-R:  Red Admiral, beat-up Lyside Sulphur, Gulf Fritillary

       

Pipevine Swallowtails

                     

Left two shots:  Arizona Skippers; right two shots:  Dorantes Longtails

             

Golden Banded Skippers

                                                            

L-R:  Leaf Beetle sp., Bee Fly sp., Large Roadside Skipper

Next I found "Nate’s Yard", which fellow lepper Jim Brock told me about. Nate wasn’t home, so I meandered around his marvelous yard that was hopping with stuff: Gulf Frits, what turned out to be a Desert Checkered Skipper, an Elissa Roadside Skipper, and the star, a Giant Swallowtail that I just barely managed to snap a shot of before he sailed off! Both here and at the Butterfly Garden had a couple of other interesting bugs as well, including two probable bee flies of some kind, and a small brightly marked beetle that was probably a leaf beetle of some kind.

Additional bugs at "Nate’s Yard":

                                                  

L-R:  Desert Checkered Skipper, Elissa Roadside Skipper, Giant Swallowtail, Fiery Skipper

                                      

L-R:  Gulf Fritillary, Bee Fly sp., possible Mournful Duskywings

             

Tiny Checkerspots

No one called the cops on me J, so since I had time, I decided to explore the Harshaw Road into Coronado National Forest, and that was wonderful (too bad it was late in the day—it was 24 miles from border to border and would have made a perfect "Easy Birder Route")! But the highlight was breaking the crest of the hill and seeing the San Rafael Grasslands spread out before me—what a sight! I could see where this would be a great wintertime road for the sparrows, but right now Grasshopper Sparrows owned the joint, along with "Lilian’s" Meadowlarks, Loggerhead Shrikes, and a couple of young Red-tailed Hawks. Crossed a couple of dicey flooded areas (according to the map the road actually crosses the Santa Cruz River), then ran ahead of a monsoon dumping rain and headed our way! The roads were dry at the moment, but you could tell that once wet, they’d be slick as snot, so I didn’t wanna stick around! We escaped fine, and the ride up to Canelo Pass was absolutely gorgeous—too bad I didn’t have time to stop!

     

Scenes along Harshaw Road

    

    

        

San Rafael Grasslands

   

                                    

A young Red-tailed Hawk overlooks the grassland where a monsoon is brewing!

   

Views along Canelo Pass Road

  

    

    

Headed in to Sierra Vista in plenty of time, picked up a Church’s Fried Chicken as a treat (that’s the only place I ever get it any more), and checked in at the Best Western. I was shocked to see the "No Vacancy" sign on the door already (I was thankful I had a reservation), and the gal said it was indeed birders filling up the place!

Continue to the Huachucas

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