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Part 2:  Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum

 

Met Judy Pike the next morning at the Desert Museum in Tucson, and it was the first time I had ever gone there when it wasn't mobbed with people!  (Getting there first thing in the morning during the week probably helped...)  We usually get together and "do" the Huachucas when I pass through, but Judy had quite innocently found (and photographed) a Great Purple Hairstreak the last time she was at the Desert Museum, so she readily agreed to depart with tradition and meet in Tucson!

Before getting to the museum I road-birded a little, and picked up some nice desert birds we didn't see later: Black-throated Sparrows were particularly aggressive, and also had Brewer's Sparrow, a lovely Black-headed Grosbeak, a Canyon Wren singing from the hillside, and an Ash-throated Flycatcher doing his "police whistle".  At the museum, the Cactus Wrens were nesting already and were quite tame, but as we were trying to spot this one wren on top of an ocotillo we realized our "wren" was all black with a red eye: a Bronzed Cowbird!  (The wren was hiding...)

          

L-R:  Black-throated Sparrow, Black-headed Grosbeak on ???, and Bronzed Cowbird

     

Cactus Wrens

We enjoyed the walk-thru aviaries (the Blue-winged Teal was still following the female Mallard around), although the place was overrun with House Mice (at least that's what I'm assuming they were).  We hiked the entire park, adding Hooded and Scott's Oriole (Judy called me on that one: it was a female that I initially thought was a Hooded), a cooperative Black-tailed Gnatcatcher, Abert's Towhees, and White-winged Doves, but the best sighting was a female MacGillivray's Warbler!  We enjoyed the docents telling us about Desert Tortoises and scorpions, but disappointingly, the butterfly action was almost nil (it was starting to get breezy, but there were still some sheltered areas); a little Texan Crescent was very cooperative, and a nice Pipevine Swallowtail finally settled down for a picture (as did a hyper Marine Blue), but that was about it.  When it was time for a break we went to the coffee shop where I ordered a Cappuccino Shake (Judy followed suit), and that was to die for! J We visited the gift shop after that, where I picked up some souvenirs.

Birds in the aviary...

             

L-R:  Black-bellied Whistling Duck, Broad-billed Hummingbird, and Inca Dove

       

Northern Cardinals (male left, female center), and Lilac-crowned Parrot

           

Gambel's Quail and Black-necked Stilts (the bird on the left has more white in the head than usual)

        

Left:  The Odd Couple (female Mallard with male Blue-winged Teal)  Right:  Hooded Oriole

                

Left:  Masked Bobwhite, an endangered race of the Northern Bobwhite.  Center:  Western Tanager  Right:  Unfortunately, the place is also overrun with House Mice...

"Real" birds on the grounds...

            

Black-tailed Gnatcatchers (with nesting material at left) and Mourning Dove

    

Territorial Cactus Wrens

More captive critters...

            

Left:  Gray Wolf.  Center and right:  Desert Tortoise—supposedly he was used as the model for ET!

            

L-R:  Hairy Scorpion, the largest in Arizona; lazing Bobcats, and Northern Caracara

More "wild" critters...

                        

L-R:  two Texan Crescents, Marine Blue, and Rock Squirrel

    

Pipevine Swallowtail

We were kinda shot after five hours of being on our feet, so we shuffled to our cars and headed to Benson for an early lunch/dinner.  Upon pulling into Denny’s however, I suddenly noticed that that big rock that hit the windshield earlier did indeed cause a major crack in the windshield (funny how you never actually witness those things form—they’re just suddenly "there")! Based on previous experience, I didn’t worry about it, and made plans to get it replaced upon return to San Diego (having it done in Oklahoma City while on the tour was an option, but I figured if Jip got caught in a major hailstorm while parked at the Holiday Inn, I didn’t want to replace two broken windshields!). But instead of eating (I was still full from the shake, anyway), Judy got the bright idea of checking out the Monastery along the San Pedro River (seeing as she had never been there before, and neither had I), so we headed over, and the nice lady showed us where the bird trail was, and we had a delightful time: even though the wind was still howling, the trail was pretty sheltered, and we had nice looks at Wilson's Warblers and a couple of Cabbage Whites that gave us fits.  There was a side trail to the river as well, and it was a beautiful view from there.  Judy had a Myiarchus flycatcher that she felt could have been Brown-crested (I never got on it), and on the way out we had a lovely Vermilion Flycatcher.  Chihuahuan Ravens were also fighting the wind as well, and a pair of Mexican Ducks flew over the trees in the distance.  The icing was hearing a Gray Hawk calling in the woods! 

Judy Pike along the birding trail at the San Pedro Monastery

       

Wilson's Warbler along the San Pedro River

After raiding the gift shop (I bought some raspberry honey and some monk bread; I ended up feeding the latter to the ducks in Kerrville) we headed back to Benson for dinner, where I had a steak that was less than ideal (just a reminder that Denny’s is primarily a breakfast and sandwich place…) and after kissing goodbye I headed on to Willcox where I made the requisite stop at Twin Lakes, and despite the hurricane, padded the list but good!  Scared up a Scaled Quail on the way in, and the lake was full of Shovelers, Ruddy Ducks, and Cinnamon Teal (a handful of Bluewings was by the shoreline).  There were swallows galore swooping low over the water; most were Barn, but I was able to pick out single Tree, Violet-green, and Bank Swallows.  At the far end a group of Wilson's Phalaropes in full breeding dress swam around, and in a smaller pond a handful of avocets joined the ducks.  The only other shorebirds were a few Least Sandpipers and a single Western.  A couple of Eared Grebes was hanging out with the coots at the end of the loop.

 

Some golfer must have been mighty frustrated (that’s a driver in the pond…)

                

Cinnamon Teal

   

Shovelers are still at the pond in numbers

              

L-R:  Western Kingbirds, Wilson's Phalaropes, and Blue-winged Teal 

Headed in to the Best Western after that with 56 species for the day; not bad for the desert!  It was too bad I wasn’t able to have dinner at the motel this time, as my room was right across from the restaurant! J

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