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Southeast Arizona

5-11 August 2007

Part 3:  Ruby Road & Buenos Aires NWR


Boy, what an adventure the next day! It was a lovely day out: pre-dawn had tons of Rufous-winged, Botteri’s, Black-throated, and Rufous-crowned Sparrows along with Canyon Towhees, and at Peña Blanca had both Western and Summer Tanagers, Dusky-capped Flycatchers, Bell’s Vireos, a tailless Lucy’s Warbler, and the Turkey Vulture Convention at the usual spot! The boat ramp was flooded, so I checked the lake from the overlook and picked up Moorhen, Coot, and Green Heron. A Yellow-billed Cuckoo sang from the trees as well.

Heading out on Ruby Road was gorgeous as usual; wound up with a Myiarchus sweep for the day, and there were good numbers of Montezuma Quail out (just not visible). Blue Grosbeaks and Varied Buntings were all over, and Bewick’s Wrens quickly went over the top as well. A falcon powered by that turned out to be a Peregrine, and later on another raptor sat on a rock that I truly thought was a Zonetail because he looked absolutely black with some white in the tail, but just as I was putting the scope away he started chirping like an eagle! So I took a second look, and he still looked black, but as he preened the whole upper half of the tail was clearly white, so that settled that.


Heading out on adventurous Ruby Road!


Left:  Those with an even higher sense of adventure (and a high-clearance 4WD) can attempt the side roads...   Right:  Golden Eagle

With all the rocky cliffs there were a lot of Canyon and Rock Wrens, but the butterflies were a hit, too: there were a lot of dicey creek crossings (I kept saying, "I don’t remember it being this bad last year!") and the butters tended to congregate there: lots of Cloudless Sulphurs, what turned out to be both Northern and Drusius Cloudywings (being forced to edit the pictures after I got home was kind of like an exciting treasure hunt: I discovered lots of new butters I didn’t even know I had!), and more Tiny Checkerspots. After scrutinizing the pictures I thought I might have had Acacia Skipper as well, which was confirmed by Jim Brock. But the highlight was a Golden-headed Scallopwing who was very cooperative (in fact, I had given up on trying to shoot it when it virtually attacked me while I was getting back into the car, then landed on a leaf in great light, as if to say, "Don’t go yet! Lookit me!!")! At one curve a Two-tailed Swallowtail batted by, but floated beyond reach, so resuming the road-birding I was trying to spot a calling Crissal Thrasher when again the Lord seemed to say, "Careful!" and the swallowtail was suddenly at my feet! Another spot with some trees had some singing Eastern Bluebirds, and after sighting another Roadrunner (they went over the top, too) I again heard that funny barking coming from where one had just rattled at me, so I concluded that it must be some kind of previously unrecorded (to my knowledge) alarm call. What surprised me was the number of vehicles I ran into (not literally, of course) along the road: besides numerous Border Patrol vehicles (which I was very happy to have) there were several tourists coming through, including one with an older couple and their son(?) that looked as though they were preparing to go down California Gulch (which I heard was in pretty bad shape)! One pair of guys met me closer to the west end and asked me where Arivaca Lake was (they had passed it), then decided to go all the way to I-19 after I told them it was about 25 miles ahead (they had an SUV, so I figured they could handle it…).


Scenes along the road, including Montezuma Quail territory!


A "Jip was there" shot...


One of many dicey creek crossings...

Butters and other critters along the road...


L-R:  Cloudless Sulphur (abundant, but wouldn’t sit still…), Golden-headed Scallopwing, and two shots of a female Marine Blue


Northern Cloudywings (note the checkered fringes)


Drusius Cloudywing (look hard for the white fringe on the hindwing).  The bug on the right is possibly a strongly-marked Drusius (or maybe even an Acacia?)


 Acacia Skippers; unfortunately the hindwing fringe that would give it away has been worn off...


L-R:  Two shots of a Two-tailed Swallowtail (Arizona’s state butterfly), hiding Painted Lady, and colorful grasshopper

Needless to say my knuckles were white by the time I got to Arivaca Lake, which was full to the brim this time! More Tiny Checkerspots showed up, along with a Queen trying to be distracting, and a Hackberry Emperor was at the creek crossing on the way in. There were some striking dragonflies, including a Roseate Skimmer, something with pied wings (there are several species, and I couldn’t get a shot of them to compare the picture with the book), and an Amberwing of some kind (I'm assuming Mexican unless told otherwise). The area had some chats and Yellow Warblers for the day, but that was about it. On the way out I had to slam on the brakes to avoid running over a Gopher Snake!


Another creek crossing (this one dry) going into Arivaca Lake


Said lake...


Shy Queen (left); and Hackberry Emperor (right)


L-R:  Three shots of a Tiny Checkerspots (yes, that’s their real name…), Dung Beetle, and Mexican Amberwing


Gopher Snake that narrowly avoided being road kill...

I really didn’t have time, but I wanted to try and get as much of Buenos Aires NWR done as I could, so headed that direction and took the Arivaca Creek Trail just to get some exercise! Had wall-to-wall chats the whole way, and some Phainopeplas at the bench. What I assumed was just another Sonoran Spotted Whiptail actually turned out to be a Desert Grassland Whiptail (best guess, anyway)! Back at the parking lot some visiting birders were gawking at yet another chat when a Vermilion Flycatcher posed at the trailhead!


Desert Grassland Whiptail (left), and Arivaca Creek Trail (right)

The main part of the refuge was Cassin’s/Botteri’s Sparrow heaven, and found a marsh on the entrance road that I didn’t even know existed! (Maybe it doesn’t usually…) The biggest surprise was flushing a Sora, then having another one chase him after he landed! Bunches of Common Sootywings were fluttering around, and a Sleepy Orange got caught in the wire mesh (long enough to take some convenient pictures) but eventually freed himself. A blue turned out to be Ceranus, and some Yellow-headed Blackbirds were in with the Redwings and cowbirds as well. I took a swing around the visitor’s center but it was pretty dead.


L-R:  Seasonal marsh at Buenos Aires NWR, Ceraunus Blue, and Sleepy Orange trapped in a fence


Bee Fly sp. (left), and Common Sootywings, like miniature versions of the cloudywings!

Grebe Pond actually had water in it!!! It also had two ibis, a Great Egret, and a bunch of Wilson’s Phalaropes for the trip, and a fellow with a scope thought he had a Nutting’s Flycatcher back down the trail (although he didn’t hear it vocalize)! So I left him to pursue that while I hiked a little of the Grasslands Trail going the other direction, adding Pyrrhuloxia and Snowy Egret (the other birder had had Solitary and Spotted Sands as well, but I dipped on those). Dragonflies were all over but wouldn’t allow photography.

Blasted through the Pronghorn Drive, picking up lots of Lark Buntings and a Swainson’s Hawk for the trip. The Collared Dove was still in Amaro, too! J

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