Thursday, March 22, 2018

Birding The Azure Gate

We are fortunate to have quite a lot of birds around. In terms of number of species, it's 75 -- certainly not as many as might be found where there is more water -- Sweetwater Wetlands, Santa Cruz and San Pedro Rivers, and the various mountain canyons.

But in terms of sheer numbers, you'll see as many birds here as in just about any place -- certainly the desert birds.

We have had our share of oddities -- Wild Turkeys, Band Tailed Pigeon, and Western Wood Pewee, Inca Dove, Scott's Oriole, Gilded Flicker, Rivoli's and Black Chinned Hummingbirds -- birds more associated with the surrounding mountains.

It's been difficult for me to get out to some of the birding sites the last couple of weeks. So I try to walk around our property every day. Yesterday I got the following photos that I particularly like:

Cooper's Hawk Adult


Cactus Wren

Gila Woodpecker

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Tubac Hawk Watch

Each March hundreds of Raptors migrate into Southern Arizona from Mexico along the Santa Cruz River. And hundreds of birders gather at Ron Morriss Park in Tubac to watch and count. Of particular interest are three rare hawks to the United States:  Common Black Hawk, Zone-Tailed Hawk, and Gray Hawk. The "official" count is important to understand whether the population of each species is stable or not.

Other raptors are seen as well: Cooper's Hawk, Red Tailed Hawk, Crested Caracara, and Turkey Vulture, (as well as lots of Ravens).

Most of the activity occurs between 8:00 am and 11:00 am. Unfortunately (for me) that is our busiest time of day and busiest time of year at the Bed and Breakfast and so I have been unable to get there in past years. But, yesterday Christine gave me the morning off and I headed down to Tubac.

Getting an early start, I was the second to arrive. At 8:35 the first Common Black Hawk arrived and gave me my best photo of the day. Ten minutes later two Zone Tailed Hawks put on a nice show. 

By 10:00 am there were  a hundred or so people but very little raptor activity. There was a group of 15 or so Ravens, and another group of 15 or so Turkey Vultures.

There were a couple groups of raptors far away on the east side of the Santa Cruz River but I couldn't really tell what they were.

A Cooper's Hawk circled nicely above us and a Red Tailed Hawk joined in with the Turkey Vultures, but by most accounts it was a slower day than the past couple of days. The "official" count from the day before was 59 Common Black Hawks. I haven't seen the official count for yesterday, but I only could identify 7 Black Hawks, 6 Zone Tails, and no Grays up until 11:00 when I headed off. 

Here are a few of my photos:

Common Black Hawk

Cooper's Hawk

Red Tailed Hawk, Turkey Vulture, Raven

Zone Tailed Hawk

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Birding Sweetwater Wetlands - Part VI

Raptors are often present at Sweetwater Wetlands, including Peregrine Falcon, Harris Hawk, Red Tailed Hawk, and the Occasional Swainson's Hawk. The most prevalent though are the Cooper's Hawks that nest there. Here we have a juvenile Cooper's Hawk, followed by an Adult Sharp Shinned Hawk in the same cottonwood tree.

Juvenile Cooper's Hawk near nest

Sharp Shinned Hawk that seemed to be harassing the Cooper's Hawk
 Often present, and sometimes seen are Green Herons (though neither are great photos). Here are a couple of them:
Green Heron

Green Heron
 Still hanging around for the winter are the White Crowned Sparrows. First a juvenile (1st winter) and then an adult:

1st Winter White Crowned Sparrow

Adult White Crowned Sparrow

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Birding Sweetwater Wetlands - Part V

Although not nearly as abundant as Mallards, Northern Shovelers, or American Wigeons, Cinnamon Teals are fairly common in the Western part of the United States. Yet, I can't help myself when I see one. They are so beautiful, deep rich "cinnamon" color with eyes that jump out at you. So, a photo is always in order:

Cinnamon Teal
In addition to birding Sweetwater Wetlands, there is always the possibility of seeing Bobcats or Raccoons. This day was no exception. In the photo below, two raccoons were crossing the Gazebo Pond: 


Monday, March 5, 2018

Birding Sweetwater Wetlands - Part IV

Nothing special here but, a nice Orange Crowned Warbler and Ruby Crowned Kinglet caught my attention:

Orange Crowned Warbler

Ruby Crowned Kinglet

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Birding Sweetwater Wetlands - Part III

It's not surprising to see a Great Egret at Sweetwater, But they are so beautiful how can you pass up a photo. Snowy Egrets are a little less common so also a treat.

I am particularly fond of the Snowy Egret in the tree; wonderful detail. You can clearly see the pupil and iris. And the legs look like extensions of the tree branches.

Great Egret

Snowy Egret

Snowy Egret

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Birding Sweetwater Wetlands - Part II

Another nice find at Sweetwater Wetlands was a Black Crowned Night Heron. The most reliable place for the BCNH is Lakeside Park on the Eastside of Tucson. Out of the 80 or so times I've been to Sweetwater I've seen a BCNH there less than 5 times, so it was a nice treat. It was very difficult to seen him so I'm guessing many birders missed it. 

Just beyond the BCNH was a Sora out in the open for 20 seconds. Soras are even more secretive so I was happy to see one -- especially at midday.

Black Crowned Night Heron