Wednesday, 24 May 2017

South-east Arizona

An Avian Adventures tour in Arizona has become a regular feature of late April and early May and this year has been no exception.  Each year the itinerary tends to be similar, concentrating on the south-east corner of the state and the Santa Catalina, Chiricahua, Huachuca and Santa Rita mountain ranges.  There have been quite a number of blogs about previous tours, e.g. here, here, here and here.

Not for the first time, an important target species this year was Olive Warbler (Peucedramus taeniatus).  Although superficially this species seems like a typical New World wood warbler, evidence from anatomical and DNA studies has placed it into a family of its own, the Peucedramidae.

From time to time we have clients whose aim it is to see at least one representative of each of the world’s 200-odd bird families.  As Olive Warbler is the only member of the Peucedramidae, it therefore has particular significance.

It isn’t what you would describe as a difficult species to see but they do tend to forage high among clumps of pine needles and they never seem to be particularly vocal.  Finding the first one is always something of a relief!  Maybe one day I will manage to photograph one…

Here are some of the birds I did manage to photograph, although photography is never the main aim of these tours and that applies especially to the tour leader – me!

Vermilion Flycatcher – mostly found near water but a fairly common bird.  We saw them along the San Pedro River, at Whitewater Draw, at Patagonia Lake and Sweetwater Wetlands.

Elegant Trogon – another ‘must see’ species in Arizona.  Like so many species it’s not too difficult to find if it calls but can otherwise be elusive.

Northern Tufted Flycatcher – the first record in the USA was in 1991 and only a handful have been seen since then.  This bird was in Carr Canyon in the Huachucas.

Acorn Woodpecker – a very common bird and easy to see but always popular.

Eastern Meadowlark – this is the lilianae subspecies, earmarked as a potential future split, Lilian’s Meadowlark. 

Great Horned Owl – we saw seven owl species during the tour.  This one was at Whitewater Draw but a pair of Great Horned Owls also had young in a tree right next to Portal Peak Lodge.

Violet-crowned Hummingbird – the former home of Wally & Marion Paton in Patagonia, now taken over by Tucson Audubon, has long been the best place for this species.  We also saw one in the nearby state park.

Rufous-capped Warbler – a very scarce resident in SE Arizona but regularly seen in Florida Canyon.

Northern Beardless Tyrannulet – the curious name refers to the species’ lack of the rictal bristles that are a feature of most other tyrannulets.  This bird lacks almost any features!

White-throated Sparrow – a scarce wintering bird in Arizona, this was the only one we saw.

Ladder-backed Woodpecker – a bird of the desert and other arid areas where it nests in cavities in trees and cacti.

Cooper's Hawk - this accipiter is a surprisingly common bird around Tucson.

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