06 May 2008

Birding Vacation

Last weekend I took a break from birding in Cache County to do a little birding in Cochise County, Arizona. I was there to help my friends Sarah and Glenda with their field work on rodents, but managed to sneak in some great birding during the breaks. I saw many Arizona specialties and had a total of about nine lifers. Black-throated sparrows and Chihuahan Ravens were common in the valley. I also saw Canyon Towhees and my first Crissal Thrasher there, among others. The most exciting birds for me were up Cave Creek Canyon in the Chiricahua Mountains. Mexican Jays were common (photo above). My first lifer up the canyon was a Yellow-eyed Junco, a species I'd been hoping to see for a while. We also saw several Painted Redstarts and Bridled Titmice at our first stop, along with several species that also occur in Utah like Wilson's Warblers, Western Tanagers, Black-headed Grosbeaks, and Dark-eyed Juncos.

At the Southwest Research Station I saw my first Zone-tailed Hawk (photo below), a beauty that tricked Sarah into thinking it was just a Turkey Vulture, which were much more common there. Supposedly this species mimics Turkey Vultures to surprise its prey. While standing in the same spot I saw my lifer Cassin's Kingbird. At the hummingbird feeders here were at least four species. I saw my lifer Hepatic Tanager at the research station, which was exciting enough, but I topped that by finding my second Hepatic Tanager in the same dead tree as my lifer Lewis's Woodpecker within an hour! Lewis's Woodpecker had been a nemesis bird for me - it seems ironic to find it in Arizona at the extreme edge of its winter range when I've spent so much time in core breeding habitat without finding it.

The next day we were able to return up the valley again and I picked up a couple more lifers, including a Grace's Warbler and a Dusky-capped Flycatcher. There were Elegant Trogons around, but we weren't able to find any. After finding so many great birds, I don't mind leaving something to search for next time. . . .

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