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October 2013 – Chris Llewellyn's "Birds Eye Views"
Driving back from Los Barriles the other day, we see a large dark bird with a white rump speeding by. Stop the car, get the cameras ready. Cameras? Debbie was heads up enough to bring hers with us this afternoon but not me. I was out-of-luck for photography but as always, glad to drive. Off down a side road we go. Backing down the gravel so Debbie can shoot out of her window we see the bird perched on a cardon.
Yes, it’s a Harris’s Hawk. One of the most beautiful raptors around. Following is a series of photos Debbie took that speak for themselves.
And one more
Not many people ever have the opportunity to see this raptor. I provided a link above and if you click on it more information is there for you. One bit of info on this bird I find interesting is that Harris’s Hawks will hunt in packs. They’ll help each other chase a rabbit down and then actually share in the rewards.
One thing I noticed in the town of L.B. this year was the invasion of European Starlings has really taken hold. They’re everywhere. Sure, they are pretty but they also out-compete many native species for food and nesting sites.
Also, for the last couple years we’ve been seeing a few Eurasian Collard Doves around. Another invasive species, they have definitely found a niche to occupy in town. They seem to be taking over the place, a lot like they have in many U.S. cities. Too bad. Again, they are nice to see but they are just too aggressive and out compete the natives.
Debbie and I are seeing many more birds here this year. We’ll have more to show you soon as we just returned from a quad ride up an arroyo and the birds we saw, WOW!
Don’t forget, Christmas is coming and our book is a great gift. It’s also available for your Kindle. Click here to order from our website or visit Amazon.com where it is rated 5 stars. We support ovarian cancer research. Oh, the name of our book is Birds We See in Baja California Sur, Mexico.
Didn’t need to go far from home to witness some fantastic action this morning. I spotted this Zone-tailed Hawk perched on top of a Cardon cactus. When these birds are hunting from the air they like to blend in with the Turkey Vultures. This is an evolutionary tactic fine tuned over the years. If you were a lizard and not paying a lot of attention to safety, at a glance, Zoned tailed Hawks look similar to a Turkey Vulture when flying along with some buzzards. Everyone knows that Turkey Vultures don’t hunt lizards but watch out! This sneaky hawk will cruse along with their buddies and swoop down for the kill. When I spied this hawk I could tell he was carefully watching something on the ground.
I peal off for my camera inside the casa and by the time I was outside and ready for action here comes the bird with a juvie Spiny-tailed Iguana in his talons. Over my head he goes headed behind the house so I ran around to see if he was going to perch nearby. And there he was, about 50 feet away.
What a site! The bird had made a perfect score. If you’re not the lizard, that is. I watched and shot away. It was a little cloudy. The photos could be better, but what the heck.
I watched his expression change from intense lizard studying to satisfaction of the capture to yum-yum then to
a nice big Burp! Don’t forget, Christmas will be here before you know it and our book “Birds We See” in Baja California Sur, Mexico makes a great gift. This book is available from our web site, just click on books or AmazonBooks or if you are in Los Barriles Email me, I have a few copies at my casa.
Now….on with the photos and our Arizona birding report!
Day 23, Monday, 13TH of May, 2013
Off to the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area today. We got lost on the way and wound up at the dead end of some road that felt like the road to nowhere. It was a magical area, the kind of area I had in mind when I mentioned in Trip 3, where I could get in touch with my soul with the slight breeze in the tall Cottonwood trees and a meandering creek. There was no one else around but Chris, me and birds…yep…birds! I chased the Vermillion Flycatcher all over on the San Pedro riverbanks…..smiling.
Moving on to where we were supposed to be….the Conservation area….we were pleased to come upon a great find. The volunteers here do a wonderful job caring for this area. There are hiking trails throughout the dry fields and along the shaded San Pedro River. Very beautiful and scenic but no newbies for us here except some t-shirts! However, we do have a few shots for you. Chris zeroed in on this Yellow-breasted Chat.
I had the good fortune of shooting this Bewick’s Wren.
Day 24, 14TH
For the next three days, we birded in the canyons of the Huachuca Mountains. The first day we were off to Huachuca Canyon with our trusted guide and driver, Laurens Halsey. We wound slowly through the Fort Huachuca Army base to get there but when we arrived, there were birds everywhere!!!
I was really hoping that we would see Elegant Trogans again. They are such color rich birds and it’s always an awe inspiring experience for me to view them. Chris….he wanted new birds! However…when we saw them, he was shooting away and captured this Elegant Trogan looking back at him.
Laurens spotted a pair of Elegant Trogans further up the trail. We chased them through the woods for a while, a scary thought now as I’m sure there were rattlesnakes, scorpions and other creepy crawlers hiding in the foot deep fallen leaves. I see why people get bitten so easily. You are caught up in the moment of seeing beautiful birds, trying to get a shot of them and most certainly are not thinking about what’s under your feet! Guess I was pretty darn lucky. When we ended the chase in the hardwood forest, I said as much to Laurens and he agreed wholeheartedly but smiling, he said, “I had your back”. I bet he did too.
I decided to meander on down the canyon as I often do because I like to listen to nothing but the sounds of silence, only interrupted by birds calling. Or, perhaps my guide yelling….Debbie!!!!! The female (elegant trogan)….she’s coming your way! I see movement and look to my right deep into the forest. I see her! She landed on a tree limb, probably 150 feet from me.
Now…I knew this was a mating pair as they were hanging together. I thought to myself, the male’s going to be coming. I drew my camera up on my monopod, checked all my settings, switched to manual as autofocus was not an option through all
the tree limbs, found her and…froze. It’s not long before I hear Laurens…Debbie!!! The male’s coming your way!!! I held steady for what seemed like several minutes, not breathing, my anticipation high.
He came into my viewfinder, mounted her and was gone in the matter of seconds and………I caught them in the act!!!! Laurens said that was the first time he had ever seen them mating, period. Let alone capturing it in a photo! I was smiling real big time!
As you can see, the male and female elegant trogan are both just that, elegant and beautiful.
We also got three new birds in Huachuca Canyon.
The Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher. Bet you can see why they are called that….
The Warbling Vireo, and the
Plumbeous Vireo. This guy was starting a nest.
Here’s a better body shot.
Day 25, 15TH
Today, Ramsey Canyon and the Preserve were on the radar. We arrived at the preserve and low and behold! It was closed…on Tuesday and Wednesday. This being Wednesday, we were out of luck. Not to be cheated out of our birding day, we headed for Carr Canyon. In the photo to the left, you can see the three canyons of the Huachuca Mountains that we birded.
Carr Canyon goes up high over the Huachuca’s so it was very scenic to say the least and guess what…no starter problems this time!
We did not see many birds that we didn’t already have with the exception of one..this Greater Pewee that Chris captured.
Coming down the mountain, we kept getting glimpses of this blimp as we rounded the switchbacks. When we got down a little further, it had landed.
The government uses them to watch for illegals coming over the mountains.
Chris also got this Buff-breasted Flycatcher.
Day 26, 16TH
Chris and I went back to Ramsey Canyon, which was beautiful but we did not get any new birds. It was a very serene place but too many people for our taste. Was a great morning hike tho!
The Jeep is still in the shop getting a new starter so our friends Bob and Jodi graciously offered their truck so we could do what we like to do…yep….birding! We didn’t feel too bad about it because the weather was great and they wanted to ride their Harley anyway.
I find peace in my soul when we are out birding when it’s quiet with the exception of a slight breeze in the trees above or perhaps a small creek trickling by. Birds are all around me. To me, there is no greater peace. Yes….especially the “birds all around me” part.
Other birds I got to shoot at the Monastery were this Dusky-capped Flycatcher and the oh so beautiful Summer Tanager. After shooting at the Monastery, we jumped back in the truck, smiles on our faces, and headed on to Tombstone where we met up with our buds for lunch at Big Nose Kates. Just can’t beat that sarsaparilla and great music too! Back in the truck after lunch and off to Whitewater/Sulfur Springs. At this time of year, we found the Springs to be dry and not very much birdlife anywhere.
However! Upon our arrival, we did have a greeter, this Great Horned Owl and his lovely wife, Mrs. Great Horned Owl whom was sitting on the nest. Needless to say, we did not stay long…just long enough for a quick shot (thus the blurriness…well, I have to blame it on something!). We drove on through Bisbee and back to Benson, smiles on our faces from a great day of birding and a scenic tour to boot! I really enjoy seeing countryside not seen by my eyes before.
Day 17, 7TH
Usually after a full day of birding, with the exception of when we have a guide every day like when we were in San Blas, MX where we birded every day from 4:00 AM to 7:00 PM, we take a rest the next day, which we did this day. Well, a rest for us was cleaning up our friends’ truck from all that fine red dust found in the Arizona desert that infiltrates everything! And we got the Jeep back! So, we cleaned it up too since it was still dusty from our saunter over the Chiricahua mountains. Geesh, after that bill, seems like they could have cleaned it up for us! LOL
Day 18, 8TH
Today we are moving a little West to Green Valley RV Resort, taking the 10 to 83 to 19. This was a Mobile Home Park with an RV area in the center of it. We weren’t too thrilled with the sterility of the Park but, it was a great center location to…yep….go birding! This is also where we met up with our guide for the next several days, Laurens Halsey who proved himself to be a most worthy birding guide.
Day 19, 9TH of May
Birding location for today is Madera Canyon in the Santa Rita Mountains and part of the Coronado National Forest. This area is known as a premier birdwatching area. Yeah! We found this to be very true as we had numerous sightings. This is a beautiful area with lofty mountain peaks, forested slopes, seasonal streams, and an amazing variety of plants and wildlife. However, no new birds for us and lots of people.
Day 20, 10TH
This was our first day with our guide, Laurens Halsey. Our first birding excursion was to Mt. Lemmon. We left the flat sunny desert and climbed to over 9,000 feet, watching the clouds which were becoming quite ominous. A large group of cyclers were making the ascent as well, all in their cute little biker shorts and skimpy tight tops.
We make the crest, pull off on a side road and start hunting. Birds everywhere and…peace and quiet for the most part, with the exception of the other birder that we seemed to be bumping into throughout the day…maybe he knew Laurens and his abilities to find the birds! We were targeting the Olive Warbler today, a newbie for us. We walked the rough road for quite a while and then…there he was!! Chris and I both got several shots of him. We were smiling big time.
With a satisfied gate, I walked on up to the top of the mountain road where I spotted several Western Bluebirds. The side of the mountain had been logged off and they were a plenty, migrating over the mountain top. What??? You have GOT to be kidding me! I mean, we are at 9,000 feet and it is of course, VERY chilly but….OMG! Rain, sleet and SNOW!!! Remember, this is May! We continued to shoot for a while but it really started to come down so we hightailed it to Laurens Toyota FJ Cruiser and scampered in. We were all laughing and enjoying the sudden occurrence. I had to call Mom and tell her….hey Momma! We are at 9,000 feet on top of Mt. Lemmon in Arizona, it’s 40 degrees and it’s a blizzard out! We were all smiling.
Laurens took us down the mountain a little and sure enough…it was clear enough to hop out and start shooting again. I captured this little beauty, the Yellow-eyed Junco wading in the creek below. Notice he’s banded on his right leg.
Patience paid off and my next capture was this Hermit Thrush.
Weather started moving in on us again so we moved out on it, heading to a different area still.
That’s where I captured another Yellow-eyed Junco.
Day 21, 11TH
We moved to Huachuca City, leaving at a lazy 9:15. Actually, it takes us a good hour to pack up the Kittybago and get ready to go so I guess that isn’t too bad… We took 19 to 83 to 82, looked at several RV parks and settled on Mountain View RV Park. We found it to be a great location to explore the five mountain ranges nearby.
I’m inside unpacking and Chris is outside unpacking. He comes tearing into the Kittybago to get…yep…his trusty Canon EOS T2i and 100-400 lens. Within the first half hour of setting up camp, Chris came up with a new bird for us, this Scaled Quail. All this and we were only paying $22.50 pn with our Good Sam discount. We were smiling.
Day 22, 12TH
Ok. We are going to sleep in today..right? Nope….you see…kitty wanted me to get up as today is Mother’s Day! Actually, she wakes me up most every morning! Being the wonderful husband Chris is, he fixed me a Mother’s Day breakfast. Afterward, we went shopping to fill the empty cupboards and after exploring a little, we decided to go home and stayed in the rest of the day as it was very windy. Pretty normal at this time of year in this area. Of course, we had the feeders up and always
keep an eye on them. Sure enough…another new bird! We both got several shots of the Canyon Towhee. This nice shot was taken by my Honey Bunny.
We are well into our 45 day Arizona birding trip and having a great time. The weather was fantastic with the exception of the forceful winds, we had A/C and kitty was even having fun.