AZ: Day 3 (Aug 3) - Patagonia to Huachucas

Today's first stop was at the famous Patagonia Rest Area (AKA Patagonia Picnic Table), where we got our target bird right off the bat...THICK-BILLED KINGBIRDS. They were in trees right above the picnic table.

There are no Rose-throated Becards this year, but we poked around the area for a while. Yellow-breasted Chats were particularly abundant.

At Patagonia Lake State Park we were in search of Neotropic Cormorant and Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet. We quickly located 3 NEOTROPIC CORMS roosting on pilings, along with a surprise immature BROWN PELICAN. A short walk down the birding trail revealed our second target, the TYRANNULET. Two for two!

Brown Pelican and Neotropic Cormorants

From there we went to the Paton's famous backyard, known for its hummingbird feeders that attract VIOLET-CROWNED HUMMERS among others. The Violet-crowns were easy, and we got Glenn a few life looks: GAMBEL'S QUAIL, INCA DOVE, and ABERT'S TOWHEE.

Violet-crowned Hummingbird

Here we spoke with Michael Mardsen, who is currently the home's caretaker (the Paton's have passed away, and the family has been renting the house to Tucson Audubon). He gave us a tip on Las Ciegnas Grasslands and Empire Gulch to the north.

At the grasslands we saw and heard several "LILLIAN'S" EASTERN MEADOWLARKS singing in the heat of the late morning. Further along we had both CASSIN'S and BOTTERI'S SPARROWS singing as well.

Empire Gulch was incredibly birdy for midday (it was HOT). Flycatchers were seemingly sallying from every available perch. The passerines were all fairly common birds, but we enjoyed great looks. The highlight here came when we heard a ZONE-TAILED HAWK calling from a tall tree. James was able to spot the bird, and we all shared views of it. The raptor proceeded to fly from its perch and be harassed by a few Cassin's of which literally rode its back for at least 15 seconds as the hawk swooped and soared away! We had all read about that behavior, and I recall seeing photos of it, but none of us had experienced that before. It was one of the cooler moments of the trip.

Our next stop was the Huachuca Mountains, a range that lies to the east of the Santa Ritas. It is home to many famous birding locales, most notably Ramsey Canyon.

We arrived at Miller Canyon in the early afternoon. Tom Beatty, owner of Beatty's Ranch, informed us that one of the canyon's Spotted Owls was showing well right along the main trail. We couldn't resist that opportunity, so we climbed the trail to the spot described by Tom. Sure enough, there was one SPOTTED OWL roosting just off the trail. We spent several minutes watching and photographing this cooperative bird.

"Mexican" Spotted Owl

The Spotted Owl is in the top right of the frame.

Just up the trail, past the owl, were a few other birds of interest including CORDILLERAN FLYCATCHERS and another RED-FACED WARBLER.

We retraced our steps down the trail toward the Beatty's hummingbird feeders, which had been hosting multiple White-eared Hummingbirds for weeks. It didn't take long for the first WHITE-EARED to make an appearance. A bit later we were able to confirm the presence of two males simultaneously. This was probably my #1 target for the trip, so I was loving it.

White-eared Hummingbird

A BERYLLINE HUMMER also made a brief appearance to take dog hair for her nest. Here, we tallied 8 species of hummingbird: Broad-billed, White-eared, Berylline, Blue-throated, Magnificent, Black-chinned, Anna's, and Broad-tailed. Pretty sweet!

Black-chinned Hummingbird

Our final stop of the day was an evening visit to Ash Canyon and Mary Jo Ballator's hummingbird feeders. This was likely our only shot at LUCIFER HUMMINGBIRD, which had been coming nightly for several days. Unfortunately upon arrival we were notified that the Lucifer hadn't been seen in three days. While waiting for the Lucifer, we added two more hummer species to the day's tally: COSTA'S and RUFOUS. We also had an apparent hybrid hummingbird that was singing the song of a Costa's (more on that one later).

We stayed at the feeders until dark, but no Lucifer appeared. We had to head to our motel with our first *miss* of the trip.

- NB


  1. Actually, the Gambel's Quail and Abert's Towhee were some of the few western birds I had seen before this trip. The Inca Doves were a life bird, though.


  2. Oops. You had so many life birds it's hard to believe I got two of them wrong.


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