AZ: Day 1 (Aug 1) - Aravaipa, Catalinas

On our first morning we were anxious to get out birding despite being a bit sleep deprived already. Our first stop was Aravaipa Canyon, where the target bird was Common Black-Hawk. The road into the canyon from the west was several miles long and passed through fine desert habitat, so we slowly birded our way in.

We started with common birds such as White-winged Doves and Gambel's Quail. A couple adult male HOODED ORIOLES were strikingly bright. Soon we were into Black-tailed Gnatcatchers, Bell's Vireos, Rufous-winged Sparrows, and Black-throated Sparrows. The road was quite birdy. Glenn's personal highlight of the morning came in the form of a GREATER ROADRUNNER. He was pleased to see this bane bird so quickly and easily...we had a total of 3 along this road.

Hooded Oriole

White-winged Dove

As we got into some riparian habitat, GRAY HAWKS made themselves obvious with a total of 4 adults seen. After some scouring, we were able to pick up an adult COMMON BLACK-HAWK further into the canyon.

Gray Hawk

At this point we were running a bit late to pick up James in Tucson, so we turned around instead of finishing the canyon road. Once we got James at the airport, we headed back north to the Santa Catalina Mountains (Catalina Highway in particular).

The road to Mount Lemmon climbs from the lowland desert, through chaparral then oaks, to dense coniferous forest toward the summit. The birdlife changes with the habitat. Being midday, the lower elevations were very hot and quiet. As we climbed higher, the temp cooled to a comfortable level and we started to run into some birds.

too hot down low...

...nice and cool above!

We tallied several YELLOW-EYED JUNCOS including some fresh juveniles, Spotted Towhees, MEXICAN and Steller's Jays, and MOUNTAIN CHICKADEES. The hummingbird feeders below the summit were buzzing with BROAD-TAILED HUMMINGBIRDS, and a male MAGNIFICENT HUMMINGBIRD made frequent visits.

In the Ponderosa Pine, we found clumps of ladybugs everywhere. A local informed us that this is typical for this time of year; numbers vary from year to year.

Broad-tailed Hummingbird

As we walked around the summit itself, we came upon a small mixed flock that contained two stunning RED-FACED WARBLERS. We had stunning point-blank views at eye level and below.

After enjoying a dinner at which the food was much better than the service...we headed to mile marker 11 for dusk. Soon after dark we heard two MEXICAN WHIP-POOR-WILLs calling from the canyon walls, and one bird soon fluttered over our heads for an unexpected visual.

Just up the road we ran into a local guide with clients who were on a WHISKERED SCREECH-OWL. We shared incredible spot-lit views of this bird, a life bird for most of us. Day 1 ended on a very high note.

- NB


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