Thursday, May 5, 2016

Grace's Warbler: Right Time, Right Place, and Lots of Luck

Little is known about Grace's Warbler other than it was first reported by Elliott Coues' in 1864. Elliott Coues was a well known naturalist and ornithologist who the small subspecies of White Tailed Deer, the Coues Deer is named after. Coues asked that the bird be named after his sister, Grace.

The summer breeding range of Grace's Warbler is mainly Arizona and Central Mexico, although it doesn't pay much attention to state borders so can sometimes be found in the extreme southern parts of Nevada, Utah, southwest Colorado, and western New Mexico where the elevation is 7000 feet and there are pine trees. It winters in Central America.

Even though its territorial requirements are very precise, little is known of the Grace's Warbler due to the fact that it stays atop 130 foot Ponderosa Pine trees. It's diet is presumed to be insects like other warblers, gleaning from branches and pine clusters.

Since it stays above 7000 feet it is restricted to the Catalina, Huachuca, Chiricahua, and Santa Rita Mountains in southern Arizona. I have found Grace's along the Carrie Nation Trail in the Santa Ritas, Huachuca Canyon in the Huachucas, and Incinerator Ridge on Mount Lemmon in the Catalinas. I have also seen it in the picnic areas at Middle Bear and Hitchcock in the Catalinas.

That brings me to yesterday's birding trip up Mount Lemmon. My photographs of Grace's at Middle Bear picnic area have never been great because I'm always standing 100 feet below them. Those photos are mostly "belly shots." But at Incinerator Ridge, you can be eye level to mid or top portions of the Ponderosa Pines. And such was the case. Right time, right place, and as luck would have it, a Grace's Warbler landed and perched no more than 15 feet from me (for about 5 seconds) before flying away. But those 5 seconds gave me an opportunity for a photo. And I was pleased with the result (you can see the Ponderosa Pine needles in the background of the photo):

Grace's Warbler

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