Sunday, May 31, 2020

Arivaca Cienegas, Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge - Part III

More from Arivaca Cienegas, Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge:

Northern Cardinal

Blue Grosbeak Singing

Bullock's Oriole

Saturday, May 30, 2020

Arivaca Cienegas, Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge: Part II

Another rare bird to the United States is the Thick-billed Kingbird. It is more typically found from Mexico to Guatemala. It is the smallest of the North American Kingbirds but with a comparatively larger bill (as its name implies).

Friday, May 29, 2020

Pandemic, Closing, Reopening, Birds, and Blogs


The Azure Gate Bed and Breakfast temporarily closed in mid-March due to the Coronavirus and worldwide travel restrictions.

We have not posted to our blog out of respect for those who have become afflicted, those who died, those who lost loved ones, and those who have lost jobs.  

It has been a very difficult time for everyone. We ended up with 42 cancellations and no new reservations.

Now, after nearly three months of being closed we are reopening -- with some restrictions. 

As the pandemic has begun to slow, we have started to get requests again so have decided to "re-open" with certain restrictions. We are only taking reservations for our two guest houses and we are not doing breakfast -- at least until July 1st. We will reassess at that time. We thank all of you who sent best wishes over these difficult months. And we appreciate those who have rebooked for later dates.

For the most part we have "stayed at home" at the order of our state government. We have been working on the property, and talking walks in the park, and hikes in wilderness areas.

The result is many new photos -- including some rare birds.

I'll start today with Arivaca Cienegas which is part of the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge along the US/Mexico border.

Clay-colored Thrush:

This is the first reported Clay-colored Thrush in Arizona, so it was a prize find. It was first seen on May 15, 2020 and everyday since until May 28th. There was a Clay-colored Thrush suggested in Portal in 2015 though not confirmed by ABA.

It has been reported occasionally in the extreme southern tip of Texas. It's normal range is along the Gulf Coast from Mexico to northern Columbia. It is the national bird of Costa Rica.

It has a very loud and distinct call which immediately let you know it was in the area.

Monday, March 9, 2020

Hummingbirds of Arizona: White-eared Hummingbird

White-eared Hummingbird

Size: The White-eared Hummingbird is a small hummer of about 3 3/4 inches.The red bill is slighty shorter than the Broad-billed Hummingbird.

Identifying Characteristics: The white supercilium is always present in both male and female and sets it apart from the other hummers. Other than that it is very similar to the Broad-billed, with red bill, and dark body (although not quite as dark - more green than blue).

Habitat: Pine-oak woodlands and riparian canyons of higher elevation. Rarely found below the oak belt.

Range: Extreme southern tip of Arizona. Abundant in the Sierra Madre of Mexico.

Seasons: April through September.

Where To Find: Probably the most reliable spot is Miller Canyon. Secondary spots are Ramsey and Carr Canyon in the Huachuca's. You might also find it along the Santa Cruz River near Rio Rico Ponds. Further away, Portal is good possibility. 

Comments: This is another rare hummingbird that doesn't come to the US in big numbers. Maybe two or three pairs at the Miller Canyon feeders. 

Although, it is frequently seen it doesn't hang around the feeders all day. It might require a 20 to 30 minute wait to see one. They are strikingly beautiful so it is certainly worth the wait.

The White-eared is also a very assertive hummer with the males aggressively guarding nectar sources.

They will also hover near their food source providing wonderful mid-air photos.

Saturday, March 7, 2020

Hummingbirds of Arizona: Violet-crowned Hummingbird

Violet-crowned Hummingbird

Size: The Violet-crowned Hummingbird is a medium-large hummer at 4 1/2 inches with a fairly long one inch red and straight bill.

Identifying Characteristics: This one is easy! It is the only hummingbird with a pure white chin, throat, breast, and belly.  The red bill also makes this one stand out, especially since the other red-billed hummers like the Broad-billed and White-eared are much darker all over.

Habitat: Canyons and riparian woodlands with Sycamores, near water.

Range: Mexico with occasional sightings in extreme Southern Arizona.

Seasons: April through September.

Where To Find: Paton House in Patagonia is the easiest and most reliable place to find the Violet Crowned Hummingbird. Some may stay year round.

Although it can be found occasionally at Kubo Cabins or the Santa Rita Lodge in Madera Canyon, Ramsey Canyon in the Huachuca's, or Cave Creek Ranch in Portal, with some patience it is a sure thing at Paton's in Patagonia.

Comments:  It is a fairly aggressive hummer and usually won't share a feeder with others. Others will typically stay out of its way.

It doesn't "hang out" at feeders. You may need to wait 30 minutes or so.

It hunts insects as a flycatcher would. It bathes by "slam-dunking" i.e. diving from a height and penetrating the water with force.

It has been observed mating in flight. Nests are typically very high and in Sycamore trees, so difficult to find.

Thursday, March 5, 2020

Hummingbirds of Arizona: Rufous Hummingbird

Rufous Hummingbird

Male Rufous defending his territory

Young Male Rufous

Female Rufous showing her central patch

Size: The Rufous is a small hummingbird about 3 1/2 inches with a small and straight bill.

Identifying Characteristics: It's orange. Okay, that is a bit of an exaggeration. The male has an orange crown, back and belly, with a bright orange gorget as seen in the first photo.  In the second photo the male's gorget actually looks purple. And at still other times it will appear black. These "changes" are the result of "structural colorations" of the feathers caused by light as it is refracted by the proteins in the iridescent feathers.  The female is more buff color but has a distinctive small orange central patch as seen in the third photo. The female also has a green back as seen in the fourth photo.

Habitat: Mountain meadows, forest edges; and during migration garden feeders.

Range: Southeastern Alaska to Oregon, migrating through the other western states to Mexico for the winter.

Seasons: Since Rufous migrates through Arizona, it is typically found in March and April, and then again August and September.

Where To Find: Ash Canyon, Madera Canyon,  and WOW Arizona are probably the most reliable spots. Portal, Miller Canyon, and Ramsey Canyon good second choices. They are more often found in mid-level mountainous areas.

Comments: These little guys (and gals) are ferocious. They will choose a feeder and "claim" it, chasing off any would be intruder even though satiated. Males will open their gorgets as a sign of strength or power, females will wave their tail at opponents. Being orange -- rufous in color makes them stand out, and are really quite beautiful to see and watch.

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Hummingbirds of Arizona: Plain-capped Starthroat

Plain-capped Starthroat

Plain-capped Starthroat at Paton's

Plain-capped Starthroat in Madera Canyon

Size: The Plain-capped Starthroat is a large hummingbird of about 5 inches, with the longest bill of any hummingbird in the US (up to 37 mm - 1.5 inches).

Identifying Characteristics: What sets it apart, other than its size is lightning bolt stripes on the side of the head and very pale, almost white breast and belly. The male has a red throat, the female has a purple central patch (as seen in the second photo). It is the only North American hummingbird with white on its back (see second photo above).

Habitat: Unlike the large Blue-throated and Magnificent it is found at lower elevations near century plants (as well as lower mountain elevations).

Range: Western Mexico with occasional sightings in Southern Arizona.

Seasons: June, July, August in Arizona.

Where to Find: No location is a sure thing.  It has been seen at Paton's in Patagonia, Montosa and Madera Canyons in the Santa Rita's, Ash Canyon in the Huachucas, French Joe Canyon in the Whetstone Mountains, Agua Caliente, (about four miles from us), Sabino Canyon in the Catalina Mountains, and Portal in the Chiricahua's. 

Comments: This is a very rare hummingbird to the US. (It's not listed in many of the US Field Guides). When it is spotted usually the "birding community" becomes aware and people head out with binoculars and cameras to that spot. You'll need to keep checking the Audubon's Rare Bird Alert and Birding News to know where to look -- provided one has been found. They are not abundant, and may only come to a feeder once every couple of hours.