A common Summer visitor in the Southwest is the Swainson's Hawk. The Swainson's hunts in just about every way possible: perched, kiting, coursing (like the Harrier Hawk), and even walking. It eats small mammals and insects (especially grasshoppers and locusts). The Swainson's Hawk winters in Argentina giving it one of the longest migratory patterns. Its population declined much of the 20th Century due the use of pesticides in Argentina. However, working with the Argentinian farmers has helped the population to rebound.
Swainson's Hawk at Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge
Swainson's Hawk near the Florida Mountains in Southwest New Mexico
Juvenile on Right
Juvenile Swainson's Hawk also near the Florida Mountains
Another raptor found only in Arizona is the Common Black Hawk. I am not quite sure why the name "Common" Black Hawk. It certainly isn't very common with such limited distribution. This one I photographed at Turkey Creek in Araivipa Canyon (Galiuro Mountains). The Black Hawk perches in trees looking for amphibians to eat, so is never far from a creek or stream. It can be distinguished from the Zone Tail (next photo) by its relatively long yellow legs and much broader wings.
Common Black Hawk
The Zone Tail Hawk at rest looks very similar to the Black Hawk. However, since the Zone Tail Hawk hunts birds and small mammals from the air (and so is usually in the air) it is easier to distinguish by its longer tail and narrower wings. Also because its legs are shorter, and tail longer, the legs don't trail to the end of the tail as it does with the Black Hawk. This photo was taken as I was eating lunch in our oasis.
Back to "Raptors" now. I'll start with raptors found only in the Southwest then move on to the others. The first is the Harris Hawk. Found only in Southern Arizona and Southwest Texas, the Harris Hawk is a frequent visitor to The Azure Gate. The Harris Hawk is unique in that it often hunts in families; usually two or three, but I've seen as many as 12 together. They are easily trained as you can see if you visit the Sonoran Desert Museum (in Tucson) each afternoon at 1:30. They also have a loud rasping sound to let you know you are in their "territory." With rufous shoulders, this is one of the more beautiful raptors.
Before leaving Miller Canyon, here are a few more photos. First, Beatty's Orchard has a hundred or so Apple Trees. Some were full of apples - red and green. This one was by itself and begged for a photo:
They also have a few squash plants that were blooming like this blossom:
The waterlilies were in bloom:
And, still some wonderful wildflowers like this Ivyleaf Morningglory:
So, that's it from Miller Canyon --- this time. I'll probably go back in a couple of weeks. We'll see.
Christine and I headed out early this morning to go to Ramsey Canyon. When we got there the road had been washed out. We had drenching monsoon rains last night, so all the washes had water and creeks were overflowing. So, we decided to go to Miller Canyon. Not only more wonderful hummingbird photos but a wonderful surprise as well. Yesterday, I told you that the Ruby Throated Hummingbird was only found in the East. On the Sibley's Guide map, there aren't any dots for Ruby Throated in Arizona. But, take a look at this:
Usually, I don't take photos on feeders. But, this was a special occasion. He was the only one, and was not around long. There are four hummers with red throats: Plain Capped Starthroat (which has a long wide stripe between eye and throat); Anna's (which has a red crown as well); the Ruby Throated; and the Broad Tail (which has a white eye ring, white line from chin to eye to neck, and buffy flanks). I'll show you some other hummers from this trip tomorrow.
There are 18 Hummingbird species listed in The Sibley Guide to Birds. The Ruby Throated is the only Hummingbird found in the Eastern US. (There have been rare sightings of Rufus as well). Rufus, Broad Tailed, Caliope, and Black Chinned are found in the Western US. (Allen's, Anna's and Costa's are sometimes found along the West Coast). 14 of the 18 Hummingbirds can be found in the Southern Arizona Mountain Ranges. There have been accidental sightings of Allen's and Ruby Throated, as well as the Cinnamon and Bumblebee Hummers that aren't even listed in Sibley's Guide. I have photographed 12 of the species. On this particular day in Miller Canyon, I photographed the following:
Blue Throated Hummingbird
Broad Billed Hummingbird
Broad Tailed Hummingbird
There were also many Black Chinned, a few White Eared, a couple Violet Crowned, and one Rufus female that I didn't get good photos of. I was really focusing on the Blue Throated. They are the largest of the Hummers with 8 inch wingspan. They were chasing each other around quite a bit; buzzing right over your head at times. It reconfirms my belief that Miller Canyon (Beatty's Orchard) is the best spot in the US for hummingbirds. I still hope to photograph the Lucifer. I'll try Ash Canyon again next week.
Since I didn't have a lot of luck at Ash Canyon I went to Miller Canyon which is just three miles north of Ash Canyon. There were over a hundred hummingbirds in Miller Canyon: Anna's, Black Chin, Blue Throat, Broad Billed, Broad Tailed, Magnificent, Rufus, Violet Crowned, and White Eared. I talked to the owner of Beatty's Orchard who said the Beryline was nesting just above the feeders and if I waited long enough I would probably see one. I was there for three hours and but the Beryline never showed up. However, I am very pleased with the Blue Throat photos. The first two are male Blue Throats feeding on some of the wildflowers:
Here is the male Blue Throat sitting on a branch
And, now the female Blue Throat sitting on a branch
I'll come back to Raptors in a couple of days. Yesterday, I went to Ash Canyon in search of the Lucifer Hummingbird. Ash Canyon is another of the wonderful canyons on the southeast side of the Huachucas. It is about 3 miles south of Miller Canyon. But, no luck with Lucifers. I did get a few other photos from Ash Canyon that I thought I'd share with you. After Ash Canyon I went to Miller Canyon. I'll show you those tomorrow. There were a few hummingbirds at Ash Canyon, but nothing like Miller Canyon. I did manage to get this nice Black Chin Hummingbird:
There were a pair of Black Headed Grossbeaks though, that I was able to capture. First the female, then the male:
And, as with most of the Southern Arizona Mountain ranges, Acorn Woodpeckers:
Red Tail Hawks are the most common of all hawks. I remember reading somewhere -- can't quote the source though -- that 90% of the hawks you see (and maybe it was limited to the Northwest) were Red Tails. Here in Arizona, I suspect the percentage is quite different, since we also have the Black Hawk, Harris Hawk, Gray Hawk, and Zone Tailed Hawk which are not found outside the extreme Southwest. When sitting, the Red Tail is harder to distinguish because of the many subspecies (Western, Southwestern, Eastern, Krider's, Harlans's) and color variations (light adult and dark adult). However, in flight the tail is definitively reddish orange (except for the juveniles) making identification easier. The Red Tail Hawk usually perches on telephone poles searching for small animals. It will also fly like a "kite" in search of food. The first photo is a Red Tail Hawk taken at Mahleur National Wildlife Refuge in Central Oregon:
The next Red Tail photo is taken in the Galiuro Mountains of Arizona. He is sitting on a Century Plant that has just bloomed:
The next Red Tail Photo is taken at the Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge in Northcentral California, just along the Oregon border:
And, the last Red Tail Hawk photo was taken on a back road in Central Oregon:
Starting the hawks, we begin with the Cooper's and Sharp Shinned Hawks. Distinguishing between these two Accipters is a challenge. Even as I show them to you, I have to pull out the identification books to make sure I have them right. And, even then it is hard to tell from the photos themselves. The only reason I know, is because I saw them and one was much larger than the other. Both are long tailed and short winged so they can fly through trees and dense forests to capture small birds in flight. We have both species here year round. Whenever I look outside and don't see a goldfinch, sparrow, quail, or dove, I suspect one of these two is or has been around. To put their size in perspective, the Condor weighs about 23 pounds, a Bald Eagle 10 pounds, a Red Tail Hawk 3 pounds, the Cooper's Hawk 1 pound, and the Sharp Shinned Hawk about 5 ounces. Both photos were taken here at The Azure Gate.
The Osprey is a fish eating bird found on all continents except Antarctica. Its body is a little larger than a Red Tail Hawk, but its wingspan is nearly as large as a Turkey Vulture. I remember flyfishing once at Ernst Lake in Central British Columbia. I used to spend four or five days camping there -- never seeing another human being; moose, bear, wolves, deer, but no people. It was wonderful. Ernst is a "trophy lake." We're talking a minimum 3 pound trout, an occasional 5 pound trout, and once in a while an 8 pound trout. Here is one of my first photos, of an Osprey who had just caught what appears to be a 3 or 4 pound trout and was showing off as he took several victory laps around the lake:
Notice that the 23" body length of the Osprey is smaller than the trout.
Another time I was flyfishing Lake Chopaka right along the US-Canadian border in Northcentral Washington (once again by myself). Osprey dive into the water to catch their fish. It is quite a sight as is this Osprey feeding on his catch:
Osprey are migrating birds wintering in Canada (and northern parts of the US) and spending their summers in the US and Mexico. Here is a nest I found near Nicola, British Columbia:
And another Osprey nest, near the headwaters of the 1200 mile Columbia River (also British Columbia):
Rarely does an Osprey find Tucson a "feast" but, I did get this photo on a telephone pole near Agua Caliente, the small pond just a couple of miles from us: