Friday, May 30, 2014

The Chiris

Short on words today, so this post will be quick and to the point.

If/when you do Southeast Arizona, you've got to hit the Chiricahua Mountains.  The Chiris are further east than the Huachucas, Santa Ritas, and Santa Catalinas. In short, they are badass and deserving of their own post. This is that post.

Hammond's Flycatcher - Many empids were seen in the Chiris, but this Hammond's was the only one that was calling.
Arizona Steller's Jays have white adornment on their foreheads and eyebrows.  It's impressive.
You will not find a bird more prevalent or vocal than House Wren.
Lazuli Buntings are like Vermilion Flycatchers in that you can't take a photo of them that doesn't look over saturated, even if you crank down the saturation.
Swainson's Thrush in a typical Swainson's Thrush setting.
Arizona Woodpecker.  You can find this bird in Arizona.  It looks like a woodpecker.
Green-tailed Towhee is a good towhee.
Gambel's Quail don't give a shit about anything.  I have never seen so many quail out in the open as in Arizona.
White-breasted Nutchatch is a bird I see everywhere except in Central Texas. This nest cavity was near the research station.
Western Wood-Pewee is another of the multiple ubiquitous flycatchers around.
Dusky-capped Flycatcher - it's funny how stoked I was to get this bird in Big Bend last year, and how it's fucking everywhere in SE AZ. A few hundred miles makes a huge difference.
Bridled Titmouse - Did you know they made titmice that looked like this?  I didn't believe it.  Snazzy looking bird.
And on the other end of the spectrum, we have drab Juniper Titmouse.  Both birds were seen in Paradise.
The obligatory Acorn Woodpecker shot.  You knew it was coming, right?
Band-tailed Pigeon - I was pretty sure I was going to miss this bird.  Saw it on my last day. 
And that's the Chiricahuas.  We've still got some Arizona shit to wrap up. Later, nerds!

Monday, May 26, 2014

On Karma and Cactus

I used to believe in karma, I really did. I don't really believe in karma now. Long story behind it, but suffice it to say I don't buy in to that shit anymore. I mean, I do believe that you're more likely to have a positive response if you put out positive vibes and vice versa, but I don't think there's some dude refereeing that shit. I think good shit happens and bad shit happens, and all that shit happens randomly. Disagree if you like; I don't mind. 

Hepatic Tanager is a badass Tanager. I don't see this bird enough.
So, my first night in Arizona was spent at a shady Red Roof Inn in east Tucson. I was to meet Laurence from Butler's Birds at 4am and after unintentionally breaking up a drug deal at 3:45am as I loaded my car, I picked up some shitty Denny's coffee and waited on Laurence. He had been kind enough to offer to join me for a couple days of SE AZ birding, and he had a pretty serious itinerary.

Plumbeous Vireo - contender for most ubiquitous bird in SE Arizona canyons, and loud as fuck.
We started the day by dipping on Sinaloa Wren; fair enough, don't think it's been seen since before we got there. After that we made a quick stop to knock Montezuma Quail off both of our heard only lists. That was cool. Things got pretty sick after that. Miller Canyon was nuts, giving me my first looks at Red-faced Warbler, as well as nesting Northern Goshawk and Spotted Owl. Then came the hummingbirds. So, after all that we booked it over to Proctor Road near Madera Canyon for Buff-collared Nightjar. That bird called, and it was awesome, despite the presence of four large, white vans, about 30 tour participants, and an incredibly obnoxious tour leader.

Montezuma Quail
This is my life look at Northern Goshawk. Invigorating and painful.
This is my life look at Spotted Owl.  Invigorating and painful.
Anyways, after nightjarring, we headed in to town for a quick dinner before our planned owling and camping up in Madera Canyon for the night. Thing is, after dinner, car trouble happened. Not mega car trouble, but something that we embarrassingly couldn't fix by ourselves, which meant that we had to leave the steed at a shop and hike a mile and a half or so to a hotel that specialized in "Pancake." Disheartening to say the least.

Phainopepla held true to its history of giving me good looks and suboptimal photos.
After 5 or 6 hours of sleep, we hiked our way back to the shop, missing the Lesser Nighthawks that had kept us entertained several hours previously. As the car was being repaired, Laurence and I pissed around looking at birds behind the shop. And then I got a cactus stuck in my leg. I'm not entirely sure how it happened, but it was fucking deep and I was less than enthused.

This is a cholla. They are normally very beautiful, when not firmly entrenched in ones leg. Many thanks to Laurence for extricating this fucker from my flesh, one horrific thorn at a time.
Rufous-winged Sparrow - Underrated? I think so.

So, here's where the question of karma comes in. I paid the blood price and I saw good birds. I had sick looks at many of those good birds. Are those things related? Are they random happenstance? I have no idea. All I can tell you is that I felt like those birds were earned, and that's a good feeling. And, while all the birds above are "good" birds and a treat to see, I think the catalyst to my ramblings is the next bird, the high prize of Arizona, Elegant Trogon. Despite hordes of poorly adorned nerds hiking the canyon, to my knowledge no one else saw this bird that day in Madera but myself and Laurence. Might other birders luck have been helped by car trouble and a cactus in the leg? One can only speculate.

I don't think birds get better than this. It's downhill from here.

Oh yeah, and some dickhead stole my bike while I was gone.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Arizona: The Warblers

It's not all going to be family groups I swear, but the warblers of Arizona are almost as badass as the hummingbirds. Almost. Honestly, this post is probably a bit Red-faced Warbler heavy, but I think that's how it should be. Red-faced Warbler is fucking awesome, and it's the go-to Arizona warbler.

If you don't see Red-faced Warbler in southeast Arizona, you're not trying.  Really, you need to hang up your bins and turn in your nerd card, because these birds are everywhere, and they sing their balls off.

They're easy to see most places, but the best looks I got were on Mt. Lemmon, just down from Summerhaven, at Marshall Gulch.

So, Mount Lemmon was the best warblering of the trip, plus the drive up is pretty fucking spectacular. At the top of the mountain, Summerhaven has some pretty sick birds (I'm pretty sure I had Short-tailed Hawk, but didn't get good enough looks and I'm not a stringer), and just down from Summerhaven is Marshall Gulch. There may be a trail there that I didn't see, but birding from the pullout was badass. I'm not the most observant of people.

Yellow-rumped Warbler is a bird many eastern nerders get sick of, but that's only because our Myrtle variety kind of sucks after a bit.  Audubon's subspecies is badass.

Townsend's Warbler is equally impressive.  It's better than Black-throated Green, but not as good as Golden-cheeked.  This is objective science.
This is the only Olive Warbler that was seen on the trip, which is a bit frustrating.  This individuals skill set included staying way fucking high up in trees and giving shitty looks overall.
I'm afraid that Painted Redstart is not as appreciated in Arizona as it is in Texas.  If this is the case, I blame Red-faced Warbler. 
Seriously, this bird is fucking sick, and I'm glad to get my eyes on them again this year.  Birders need to see Painted Redstart yearly; it's good for the soul.
Black-throated Gray Warbler is another undisputed "good" warbler, and though the photos may lead you to believe otherwise, this was the best look I've had of this bird.

So, that's the last of the family group posts, I think. I am going to milk this fucking trip for as much as I can.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Arizona: The Hummingbirds

Well nerds, I'm back from Arizona and my mind has been blown. There are stories to share, but I'm still recovering from the trip so that won't happen right now. We'll cut right to the heavy shit and dig in with hummingbirds.

So, as soon as you step out of your car in Arizona, a Broad-billed Hummingbird will buzz by you.  I got this bird within 27 seconds of birding Arizona.
This bird is just a fucking winner.  After years spent looking at archilocus and selasphorus hummingbirds, the sight of Broad-billeds made my brain melt a little bit. 
Broad-tailed Hummingbirds are no joke.  This confiding dude was at the Beatty's.

Magnificent Hummingbird is huge, like way bigger than you're prepared for. 
It also happens to be magnificently adorned.
And it can easily transition into battle mode.
White-eared Hummingbird is highly coveted among North American Nerders.

White-eared Hummingbird - Iridescent morph.
And last but not least, we have an Anna's Hummingbird.  There's a story that goes along with seeing this bird, but that's something we'll get to later.
So, it was a 7 hummingbird trip, with the only misses being Lucifer and Berylline.  Bear with me nerds, as I readily admit this post is light on narration. Obviously, much more to come.