Having a SatNav really helps and we found our way to Patagonia Lake State Park via a series of ‘back roads’ early this morning. Oh we had another cracking breakfast in a diner close to the motel although having to choose between 4 different types of bread and which one of a million ways to have my eggs was a little taxing so early in the day..!! Anyway, upon arrival we paid of entrance fee and parked at the far end of the camping area right a the start of the well-signposted Birding Trail. Our main target was the rare Black-capped Gnatcatcher that had been reported here for several days, but the only directions we had was that the bird about halfway along the trail……… Mmmm….
|The rare Black-capped Gnatcatcher - note the white undertail.|
We did walk out onto the hillside to look for the warbler but failed relocate it, although the gnatcatcher gave further views, this time incredibly close and almost too close to focus our bins and cameras on. So what a result and with the day warming up we decided to return to the car.
Along the way we had a nice close Sora, some Mexican Ducks, Cinnamon and Blue-winged Teal, and a weird-looking Antelope Jackrabbit. Driving out of the park we spotted a Grey Hawk perched in a bare tree.
From here we headed the short distance to Patagonia and made the pilgrimage to the Paton Centre for Hummingbirds where we hoped to see the reported Violet-crowned Hummingbird, here at its only known stakeout in the U.S. Well we hadn’t sat down in the seating area for more than 5 minutes before a fine male appeared and began feeding at one of the red hummer feeders set out in a nearby tree. We saw him a couple more times during our stay and he sure was a stunner.
From the seating area you can watch a variety of feeders, bird tables, some brush piles and open grass where we were astounded by the sheer numbers of birds. The hummer feeders were also attracting Anna’s and Black-chinned Hummingbirds as well. Our first Abert’s Towhee was rather cool skulking around a pile of branches laid out on the floor, and there were also Inca Doves, Lark Sparrows and a bunch of Gambel’s Quails feeding on some seed on the floor .
On the other feeders flocks of Pine Siskins, House Finches, Black-headed Grosbeak and even a few Lazuli Buntings were present, with also Acorn Woodpecker and a Curve-billed Thrasher joining in the fun. Surrounding trees held Audubon’s Warbler, Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet, Western Kingbird and others but after an hour or so we needed food and retired to the nearby Gathering Grounds Restaurant. The sleepy hamlet of Patagonia has a lovely, quaint old town feel about it and the food was outstanding.
Afterwards we drove just a few minutes away to Sonoita Creek Preserve, checked in and walked along the trails, finding another male Violet-crowned Hummer on their feeders. Along the creek we hoped to find a reported Thick-billed Kingbird but the wind was picking up and I wasn’t that confident. A ‘needle in a haystack’ sprang to mind but fortunately I picked up the call and sure enough there it was, perched high up in a huge bare tree after only a 20 minute walk along the open trail. We had great views in the scope and I was mightily relieved, but as luck would have it the bird flew towards us and perched right overhead as we were sitting in the shade on a well positioned bench.
|Thick-billed Kingbird - another SE Arizona speciality.|
The only other birds of note were Green-tailed Towhee and Dark-eyed Junco so we headed out, calling back in at the Paton’s for one final look. With nothing new on offer our drive took us maybe an hour away across rolling grasslands to the modern town of Sierra Vista, which is nestled at the base of the Huachuca Mountains where we are booked in at the Hampton Inn for 3 nights.