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Southeast Arizona

5-11 August 2007

Part 2:  Saguaro NP & Madera Canyon


The next day was certainly an adventure, although none of the rarities showed up. It started out with a downpour at 5:00 AM!! And it stayed overcast and drizzly (for the most part) all day! That was a first! But the upside was that it was pleasant all day, and not sweltering like it usually is!

Got to road-bird most of the west side of Saguaro ("the dump" didn’t happen till the Visitor’s Center) and picked up all the specialties of that habitat (Gilded Flicker, Pyrrhuloxia, Rufous-winged Sparrow, Brown-crested Flycatcher, and Purple Martin), plus the usual southeast Arizona fare. Black-throated Sparrows were the first to go over the top (meaning more than ten), along with Cactus Wren, Curve-billed Thrasher, the flicker, Gila Woodpecker, the doves, Brown-crested Flycatchers, Verdins, and Gambel’s Quail (including some adorable babies!). They also blew my theory about the Gambel’s song being four-noted…

Since I got there pre-dawn I kicked up three Lesser (I’m presuming) Nighthawks, and found I could get most everything (including the sparrow) right from the road, so I skipped the hikes and just birded it like a BBS all the way through Tucson Mountain Park (although it rained for most of that portion). Other additions included Common Ground Dove, Black-headed Grosbeak, Black-tailed Gnatcatcher, Canyon Wren, Kestrel, Brown-headed Cowbird, and the biggest surprise of all: three Western Tanagers! A young Red-tailed Hawk squealed at one of the picnic areas.


Migrant Western Tanager, left; Curve-billed Thrasher right

Headed straight to Continental after that, where it looked pretty ominous in the Santa Ritas! I could tell I must have been nervous because I felt kinda icky in the stomach (and it wasn’t that decadent bundt cake I had for breakfast J), but I finally decided I wasn’t going to be afraid of what might happen (I was on pavement, for one thing), but just enjoy the road!

And it was really rather pleasant! I started right at the border of the Santa Rita Experimental Range, and decided that if anyone had to see a Rufous-winged Sparrow or they were gonna die, this was the place to send them! They went over the top in short order, and gave great looks to boot! Black-throateds were also in there, and as I gained elevation the Botteri’s started showing up, and then finally a couple of Cassin’s in the grasslands. A Scaled Quail called, and at one stop a good-sized flock of Lark Buntings (the males still in breeding plumage) bounced over! At another stop I heard this strange bark-like call that totally had me stumped (kind of had the timbre of a falsetto raven), and when I looked at the source tree, there was a Roadrunner in the middle! (I’m assuming that’s what was making the noise, anyway…) Another one crossed the road, pausing to stretch one leg and both wings, looking for all the world like a posing dancer! Lots of Blue Grosbeaks were around as well, and at the wash crossings Bell’s Vireos started showing up.


Rufous-winged Sparrows were abundant along the misty entrance road to Madera!


Florida Wash actually had water in it!

Ed had warned me that there had been a big fire at Proctor Road, and he wasn’t kidding—you could still smell it! But greenery was popping up everywhere, and the drizzle stopped long enough to hike the trail. Varied Buntings were singing, and picked up Rufous-crowned Sparrows in here, but the highlight was a pair of squeaking Sulphur-bellied Flycatchers! Several Bordered Patches bounced around (looking very different from the ones I saw in Texas), and what turned out to be a Tiny Checkerspot (first of many) posed for pictures. The best one, though, was a torpid Arizona Skipper sitting on a bench that almost let me touch him! On the way down I once again almost wrote off another Turkey Vulture when the Lord encouraged me to take that "second look", and sure enough, it morphed into a Zonetail!


Fire damage and regrowth at the Proctor Trailhead (left); Socked-in Elephant Head (right)

Birds and butters on the trail...


Arizona Skipper (left); Tiny Checkerspot (right)


Bordered Patch (left and center); Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher (right)

The mountaintops were socked in, but the most it did was a gentle rain, and even from the car was able to add Mexican Jay and Band-tailed Pigeon. The rain stopped long enough to step out at the Madera Picnic Area where I added Acorn Woodpecker, but it started again at the feeders. It didn’t deter the Lesser Goldfinches, House Finches, and doves, though, and even a Magnificent came in to the hummer feeder!

The rain kept me from checking out the Kubo Cabins (two guys I waylaid said they spent an hour there with no tanagers), so I tootled up to the parking areas and sat at the trailhead for 15, adding a chattering Broad-billed Hummer, Bridled Titmouse, and a White-breasted Nuthatch. A Painted Redstart "cheered", and on the way back down one flitted near the road in the vicinity of the Kubo Cabins.

Upper parking area

Headed down to Nogales, where I concluded that the Super 8 would be a good place to stay in the future (provided I come back at all), as they have a restaurant right on the premises, although it was being remodeled at the time, so I ended up having dinner in the bar and having a nice chat with Sandy, the country lady who runs it (I had told her I was there birding)! Not being able to use the computer had forced me to relax as well, and just read and play some cards!

Continue to Ruby Road & Buenos Aires NWR

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