Saturday, August 29, 2015

Yellow Billed Cuckoo!

I have wanted to photograph a Yellow Billed Cuckoo for all 13 years we've live here in Southern Arizona. 

The YBC is listed as endangered in the west with populations only of fraction of what they were a hundred years ago. The US Fish and Wildlife Service has designated areas of Southern Arizona as critical habitat for them. 

Over the past 13 years I've gone out looking for them many times; often after reading about a sighting. They are migratory birds that enter the US during our summer, then migrate as far south as Argentina (to enjoy their summer).

Yesterday, I went looking again. I arrived at Empire Gulch in the Las Cienegas National Conservation Area just after dawn. However, the gulch had been severely flooded and there was still mud up to my ankles. It was impossible to get into the gulch. Hugely disappointed, I decided to check out the area above the gulch, behind the old bunkhouses. Although the "Nature Trail" had all but disappeared under thick new growth I "bushwacked" my way though and got to some extremely large cottonwood trees. The area was quite birdie: yellow breasted chat, warbling vireo, black headed grosbeak, cardinals, hepatic and western tanagers to name a few I spotted and/or photographed.

I was standing (still) under one of those cottonwoods photographing a female Hepatic Tanager when to my surprise a Yellow Billed Cuckoo flew into a small tree directly in front of me. Although he was partially covered I was very close and was able to get some nice photos. I wanted to get a full frontal photo but was afraid to move for fear of causing the YBC to fly away. So after a few photos, I just stood and admired him.

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