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Southeast Arizona 2015

Part 11:  Saguaro National Park

I had been really tempted to do Mount Lemmon for one last multi-life zone drive, but decided not to, as that would make it another really long day, and I didn’t feel like driving through Tucson, so I stuck with the plan and got to the starting point at the entrance to Tucson Mountain Park about a half hour before dawn.  No Elf Owls, but I did pick up a Great Horned for the day!  There was almost too much traffic to make this a viable route, even at that hour, but from that point into the National Park, around the dirt loop, and then out Golden Gate Pass was about 21 miles, and if anyone had to see a Cactus Wren or they were gonna die, this was the place to come, as I logged 79 along the whole route (and I wouldn’t be surprised if I undercounted)!  EBird usually "burps" when I do these “BBS Routes” as it flagged the numbers on that, along with Curve-billed Thrashers (46), Gilded Flickers (18), and “Cardipyrrs” (10)!  (It liked 48 Gila Woodpeckers, though… J)  Purple Martins and the flickers were new trip birds (the flicker was actually a target, and I was sweating actually seeing one until the turnaround point on the Esperanza Trail, where a pair were seeking shade on the side of a saguaro), but as I went over the list later, I was surprised by the lack of Brown-crested Flycatchers, and that usually was a target for the area as well!  Maybe doing it “backwards” makes a difference, and I’ve already decided that if I’m ever able to do this again, I’d drive all the way to Tucson, stay in the Best Western on Ina, and do Saguaro the way I’ve always done it; maybe the habitat actually in the National Park has a magic touch first thing in the morning that Tucson Mountain Park doesn’t have. 

Obligatory entrance sign...

Curve-billed Thrasher calling by the road

I hiked the Discovery Nature Trail, and enjoyed a pair of Rufous-winged Sparrows right there in the parking lot, and later on a real Pyrrhuloxia came sailing in.  A female Bullock’s Oriole was new for the day, and lots of Zebra-tailed Lizards were about, along with another one that I thought was a Striped Plateau Lizard, but a local named Peter saved my neck with a correct ID!   I was hoping the Lord would send by a Gila Monster for my birthday, but no go… ;-)  A family group of Gambel’s Quail along the road was really cute, and had singletons of Varied Bunting, Black-headed Grosbeak, Black-chinned Hummingbird, Cardinal (that I actually saw, anyway), Canyon Wren, and Kestrel.  The other expected desert birds were in more normal numbers…  On the final leg a young couple with their three little girls rolled by in a car that looked like it would bottom out on that road (there’s even a warning sign doing the other direction that says “High Clearance Only”), and they asked me what it was like further on; I wasn’t sure if they were talking about the road conditions or what (they actually meant the scenery), and I told them that it was indeed pretty, but it was already 100 degrees by then so the animal life was winding down.

The start of the Discovery Nature Trail

Rufous-winged Sparrow in the parking lot

   

Verdin (Not sure if it's a young bird just getting his yellow head feathers, or a beat-up adult whose yellow has worn off!)

Side-blotched Lizard (thanks, Peter!)

   

Cactus Wren living up to its name...

Purple Martin - here, they nest in saguaros instead of martin houses!

  

Zebra-tailed Lizard in normal mode (left) and in show-off mode!

Gila Woodpecker; listen carefully for his tapping near the end of the recording!

Mountain along the Hohokam Road Drive

Esperanza Trail

Lady Gilded Flicker hiding in the shade of a saguaro      (The chirping is made by a Verdin, which gets louder as the flicker moves away!

After finishing that, I had planned on meeting my friend Liz for lunch, but she got called in to work, but wanted me to try this Vietnamese place we were gonna go to even though she couldn’t make it.  So I went cruising up and down Ina looking for it, but never could (and didn’t wanna run into anyone while looking), so I gave up and wheeled into the JITB to use the restroom and get a burger, and what should I see as I’m walking back to my car!! L  Oh, well…at least now I know where it is (and it was not very visible from Ina, either)!

Headed east after that; the most interesting bird on the drive to Deming was a Swainson’s Hawk.  Found the La Quinta on the east side, got some very nice Happy Birthday messages from several friends, and got to enjoy the free breakfast this time, only three of us had a time of it trying to get the waffle iron to work!  When two of us finally got ours, I started working on the eggs and sausage first when the other gal said, “Does your waffle taste sour??”  I hadn’t tried it yet, so I took a bite, and sure enough, it had a tang!  We figured the batter went bad, so I told the guy behind the desk and he made a new batch (and in the meantime we warned other patrons)!

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