01 June 2009

The Epic Saga of Southeastern Arizona, Part 1: The Santa Ritas

Friday was the start of one of my favorite activities at work: the break. I woke up bright and early, and conducted my final transect for this period near Pittman Valley Road east of Williams, and began to pack my bags. A few days earlier, Chris West (swallowtailedkite.blogspot.com) and I hatched the master plan for the weekend: we would meet in Tucson, and then go see the Mexican rarities currently in South East Arizona. ALL OF THEM.

After meeting at the Sonoran Desert Museum in Tucson and dropping off my truck, we loaded into his little red Ford Taurus and began doing the five main things we did all weekend: Bird, Drive, Drink Root Beer, Eat Nutter Butters, and listen to Taylor Swift.

We arrived in Florida Wash, and began hiking up to the Rufous-capped Warbler location.We began shuffling up the drainage, listening to Black-throated Sparrows and Scott's Orioles on the slopes, and a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher calling in the underbrush. Soon, we neared the dam, and Chris and I began our search vigorously. We scoured the canyon up above the dam towards the last reported location, when something hopped out from under my foot. The bird was none other
than the RUFOUS-CAPPED WARBLER! (I apologize for technical difficulties, but please click the picture to see the entire bird in a new window.) It sat in a bush inches away as I called to Chris, trying not to scare the bird. "I've got it!" Chris glanced up, asking "Where?!" and finally realized how close it actually was. We followed the bird into the drainage nearby, where he was getting drinks from the stream and soon began to sing in the rushes, revealing it was the male. Just then, in response to the singing, his little lady friend came to see what was up. So there we were, minutes after starting our search, sitting five to ten feet away from TWO Rufous-capped Warblers. Our cameras firing off like the paparazzi, we got incredible looks at these birds coming in.

Unforunately though, the sun was setting fast. Chris, having seen his first life bird of the trip was elated. We began to hike out, when I heard a familiar song and glanced up the slope.

"Chris, BLACK-CAPPED GNATCATCHER."

Soon, we had decent looks at this, the rarest of the North American Gnatcatchers, and lifer number two for Chris. We glanced up at the setting sun, and hurried onwards towards Madera Canyon.

When we finally arrived there, the canyon was disturbingly quiet. Hardly anything was out and about, and we stood at the Kubo, hoping for someting to come out. And we didn't have to wait long. After a short wait, I spotted the male White-eared Hummingbird coming to the feeder. This was the second White-eared either of us had ever seen. As we watched this hummer, Chris suddenly piped up. "Hey, is that another White-eared?" I looked where he was pointing and, sure enough, a female White-eared Hummer had joined the masses at the feeders. By now though, the sun was setting, and fast. I looked around Madera as we began to organize for the push south. Next stop: Patagonia, the land of the Sinaloa Wren. As we left the canyon, Chris and I began talking about the Flame-colored Tanager that we had missed in the canyon, the bird that had been present for years at the same spot. "We'll see it," Chris said. "We have to come back by this way anyhow." I smiled, and wondered what other birds the weekend had in store...

To be continued in Part 2: Patagonia, Land of the Wren.

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