Sunday, June 19, 2011

California/Arizona, Feb 2011 - Day Seven

We started our longest day of the trip (and also the least bird-filled) shortly before sunrise up in Cave Creek Canyon, which we promptly left to head to the desert where the sun would warm the birds up faster! We got to the NM/AZ border a little after sunrise and in the beautiful morning light found Scaled Quail, 'Lillian's' Meadowlark, Vesper Sparrow, Lark Bunting and Ferruginous Hawk on the New Mexico side of the road, and Loggerhead Shrike, Horned Lark, Western Meadowlark, American Kestrel and Prairie Falcon in addition to the previous birds on the Arizona side. Our main target here near Willow Tank was the longspurs that had been seen on and off for the past month or so.

Lark Bunting

Western Meadowlark

Unfortunately they didn't show up for us and I couldn't convince a Scaled Quail to run across the road into Arizona so we headed up to Dave Jasper's feeders, where we picked up Cactus Wren, Green-tailed and Canyon Towhees, Curve-billed Thrasher, Pyrrhuloxia, Pine Siskin, Lincoln's Sparrow, Northern Cardinal, Gambel's Quail and Western Scrub-Jay. By this point in the morning it was starting to warm up so we decided we'd better head up to the mountains again. A quick drive down the road to Paradise scored us good looks at a Black-chinned Sparrow along with Rock Wren and Golden-crowned Kinglet. In Portal we made a quick stop at a feeder station which had Chipping Sparrow and Acorn Woodpecker. On our way up to the canyon a Northern Mockingbird flew across the road, and in the canyon itself we got Mexican Jay, Canyon Wren, Red-naped Sapsucker, Bridled Titmouse, Hermit Thrush, Spotted Towhee, Arizona Woodpecker and four subspecies of Dark-eyed Junco.

The entrance to Cave Creek Canyon

Composite of a cool plant near Paradise

Looking for bugs

We took a little break from birding to hike up to a cave which on my previous visit housed a Mountain Lion. It wasn't in residence this time so we got to explore the cave a bit, which was pretty awesome! I also made an attempt to climb to the top of the mountain but it was pretty difficult with camera gear and binoculars.

The cave!

Looking for cougars

Inside the cave - photo credit Josh Vandermeulen

Then it was back down to the canyon where we headed up to Barfoot Park at the very top. Along the way we had Yellow-eyed Junco, Brown Creeper, Juniper Titmouse, Hairy Woodpecker, and a flock of Mexican Chickadees! Once we got up to Barfoot it was a bit of a hike to the lookout, but well worth the view. Despite the wind at the top, some Pygmy Nuthatches kept us company, and a couple Steller's Jays were seen on the way back down.

 Hiking up to the lookout

Cactus at the top

Group shot! L-R Josh, Matt, Brett and myself

Panorama at the top

We then piled back in the van and headed on our way back to California! A quick stop at the Shannon-Broadway Desert in Tucson gave us a last shot at some desert birds, and I finally picked up a Costa's Hummingbird (after everyone else had seen at least two on the trip...). We also got Phainopepla, Anna's Hummingbird, Verdin and Gila Woodpecker. We then headed to Red Rock again for another shot at the rarities, which we promptly missed despite a thorough search which included spotlighting fields for Mountain Plovers! We did get Lark Sparrow, Abert's Towhee, and most of the birds we'd had on our last visit though. After supper back in Tucson we headed off on an overnight drive through patches of torrential rain to Ventura, California in the hopes of getting on the Santa Cruz Island trip the next day.

Sunset in Red Rock

No comments: