One bird I was sort of concerned about seeing was Gilded Flicker as you have to get to the Sonoran Desert to find the Saguaro cactus that this bird inhabits. I think that there wasn’t much info as it is generally common in the correct habitat and you’d have to be a dummy to miss it….? Well, just after first light I tried to find Tucson Mountain Park and stupidly relied on my satnav that took me to an address out in the middle of nowhere, fortunately in perfect habitat next to some desert museum thingy.
|Sonoran Desert and Saguaro cactus habitat|
A singing Curve-billed Thrasher got the ball rolling, and we followed that with scope views of Cactus Wren and Gila Woodpecker, watched a flew Bullock’s Orioles fly past and saw a Canyon Towhee.
|Gilded Flicker - note the yellow underwing|
All of a sudden I heard a sharp ”keek keek” call and frantically scanned the surrounding saguaros and sure enough it was a Gilded Flicker. Oh boy. It was a little distant to begin with but after walking closer another bird appeared and promptly flew towards us and landed in a nearby dead tree. Needless to say I was very pleased to nail this bird. Delighted with this and with rumbling stomachs we returned to the hire car, seeing Black-tailed Gnatcatcher and a Verdin along the way, and drove some 40 minutes back to the motel for breakfast.
We left the wonderful Hampton Inn and hit the freeway for what turned out to be an hours drive south to the fabled Madera Canyon. The drive from the freeway took us across an open range of grassland and bushes with the towering Santa Rita Mountains forming a stunning backdrop. Once at the mouth of the canyon the road wound uphill through lovely forest a few miles to Santa Rita Lodge. We parked in the Madera Picnic Area and walked a few hundred metres, trying to ignore numerous Bridled Titmouse, Ruby-crowned Kinglet and a Painted Redstart as we wanted to get to the feeding station quickly. There’s a shop here and a viewing area overlooking bird tables, hummer feeders and a pond where numerous birds were on show. I ticked off the common Broad-billed, as well as Magnificent and Blue-throated Hummingbirds in rapid succession and must admit my former indifference to this family now seems a little silly. So yes, my name is Nick and I love hummers!!!
There were also crowds of Pine Siskins, House Finches, Black-headed Grosbeaks, Mexican Jays and even a gang of Wild Turkeys present.
Leaving here we drove to the top car park and set off up the Carrie Nation Trail in search of the recently arrived Elegant Trogon (now split as Coppery-tailed Trogon from the Mexican birds) but after several hours hiking up into the hills we drew a blank. Yet we did get Townsend’s Warbler, Plumbeous and Hutton’s Vireos, Hepatic Tanager, Ash-throated and Dusky-capped Flycatchers, Hermit Thrush, Cassin’s Finch and more Painted Redstarts. But the best bird was our first Arizona Woodpecker feeding next to the path - nice!
Driving towards our next motel at Rio Rico I stopped the car when an American Kestrel flew over and landed on a telegraph pole. This turned out to be very fortunate as we found a pair of Rufous-winged Sparrows, a bird I was very keen to see. Little did I know how common this bird is in the right habitat as well! We eventually ended up at the not-so-splendid Esplendor Resort an hour later and ate a poor meal at a restaurant recommended to us by the receptionist. Oh well!