Saturday, 23 April 2016

Arizona Day 1 - Mount Lemmon

So welcome to my Arizona blog report. I have to say that Arizona is a great birding destination with numerous exceedingly localised species of predominantly Mexican origin that just dip their toes over the border and into the USA here. Its not a particularly cheap destination and i've found prices are similar to those in the UK really as far as accommodation and food are concerned. I've got a great rental vehicle, some good friends with me and a yearning to nail a bunch of lifers to fill in some of those gaps in my Sibley Guide. So let's go birding.....

Gila Woodpecker - An Arizona speciality and lifer no. 1

The 6am breakfast in the motel was pretty good, although we were more impressed with seeing a few birds around the car park outside. The first lifer of the trip for me was Gila Woodpecker, and we also saw a Phainopepla here as well. The drive up to the base of Mount Lemmon took around 40 minutes and as the road began to rise quite steeply we made our first stop at a scenic overlook. The view looking down to a sprawling Tucson was very impressive and the surrounding habitat of arid, rocky hills dotted with cacti looked very interesting but all we saw here was a brief Lucy’s Warbler, an even briefer Townsend’s Warbler looking really out of its comfort zone and obviously on migration, a few Chipping Sparrows and a pair of Black-throated Sparrows attending a nest.

Black-throated Sparrow

The next stop higher up was more eventful as the steep cliffs above the road had a fine Canyon Wren singing away, whilst Rufous-crowned Sparrow, Zone-tailed Hawk, Cassin’s Vireo and a Verdin all put in an appearance. Further up at the Cypress Picnic Site we saw a number of goodies and in particular our first Grace’s Warbler showed exceedingly well as it sang from the surrounding pine trees. 

Loved this Grace's Warbler today.

The first of many Yellow-eyed Juncos was also much appreciated, and there was also our first cracking Painted Redstart singing its heart out. Other species seen here included Pygmy and White-breasted Nuthatches, Cordilleran Flycatcher, Broad-tailed Hummingbird, Acorn Woodpecker, Spotted Towhee, House Wren and Bridled Titmouse.

A confiding White-breasted Nuthatch

A particularly favourite trail of mine was along Incinerator Road where another much closer Painted Redstart was seen, although I totally messed up the very good photo opportunities presented. 

Painted Redstart

However, just around the corner our first Red-faced Warblers got our pulses racing a bit and what a stunning bird this was. I have to say this bird, the redstart and Grace’s Warbler were a fine trio of birds to have seen so quickly – I’m loving this Arizona birding already! 

Red-faced Warbler is a stunning bird

Anyway, one bird I was a little concerned about finding was Virginia’s Warbler as it seemed to be the one bird that was missing from many of the tour reports I had been reading. Well I needn’t have worried as I found a very confiding feeding amongst some low bushes that lingered long enough for me to fire off a few record shots. Can’t say I truly nailed the photos but they will have to do. 

Very pleased to see this Virginia's Warbler

Also along here were Hutton’s Vireo, Brown Creeper, more Pygmy Nuthatches, Western Bluebird, American Robin, Northern FlickerViolet-green Swallow, more juncos, and a very confiding Northern Flicker.

Pygmy Nuthatch

Yellow-eyed Junco was common
Northern Flicker

We had lunch at Rose Canyon and found this site to be rather quiet although a calling Coopers Hawk was nice, and there was also a Western Osprey, Audubon’s Warbler and some Pine Siskins

Cooper's Hawk

After our picnic we returned to the motel in the late afternoon and enjoyed good looks at a Cactus Wren, Northern Mockingbird, Bronzed Cowbird and the Phainopepla

A confiding Cactus Wren

After dinner I drove back up to Mount Lemmon for our first owling session of the trip, which turned out to be a dismal failure with heard only Mexican Whip-Poor-Will and Flammulated Owl – oh dear!

Great scenery is guaranteed in Arizona

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