S.E. Arizona with Limosa Holidays, May 3 to 13, 2018

Day 1 – I met the group at the arrivals hall of Phoenix’s Sky Harbor International Airport shortly after 7 PM. The first bird noted of the tour was a Great-tailed Grackle flying alongside the road at dusk. We made the short transfer back to our hotel and then went for a little bite of dinner before heading to bed to get some sleep.

Day 2 – Just after 7 AM we gathered outside of our hotel. The group saw a few birds as I was loading the van, including Northern Mockingbird and Gila Woodpecker. We headed east to the Riparian Preserve at Gilbert where we spent about 2 hours at this fabulous location. Today was a gorgeous and sunny day with comfortable temperatures, which we

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Gila Woodpecker. Phoenix, AZ. May 2018. (C) Chris Charlesworth.

enjoyed very much. Upon arrival we visited a stand of Saguaro cactus where a couple of pairs of Gila Woodpeckers were busy entering nest holes inside the cactus. Curve-billed Thrasher and Gambel’s Quail were seen well near the cactus grove as well and a Mourning Dove fed two hungry youngsters on the ground not far from us. We saw our first of many Black-chinned Hummingbirds here this morning, and we had fair views of the tiny gray and yellow Verdin as they hopped about in the palo verde trees. We caught our first glimpse of the water, a scarce commodity in the desert, and racked up several species including lovely American Avocets, as well as Neotropic Cormorants, Snowy Egrets and an immature Black-crowned Night-Heron. Song Sparrows sang from the trees and eventually we had quite a good view of one of them. Abert’s Towhee also

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American Avocet. Partially leucistic. Phoenix, AZ. May 2018. (C) Chris Charlesworth

showed well, scratching about on the ground, while an obliging Olive-sided Flycatcher perched and gave us great scope views. One particular pond was covered in waders, mostly Long-billed Dowitcher, but also a few Least Sandpipers, Spotted Sandpipers and Black-necked Stilts. A few warblers were about as well, including Black-throated Gray, Wilson’s, Yellow and Common Yellowthroat, however the latter remained hidden in the reeds as it sang. Overhead our first Red-tailed Hawk, Harris’s Hawk, Turkey Vulture and a Peregrine Falcon appeared, the latter chasing Cliff Swallows.

It was time to move forward so we carried on from the outskirts of Phoenix towards the east and stopped in to have lunch in the town of Globe. As I was paying the bill, the group did some birding outside, spotting the first Cactus Wren of the tour. Our next port of call was Aravaipa Canyon, a stunning place with impressive towering cliffs and saguaro studded hillsides. I headed for an area where a Common Black-Hawk has nested for years and while we were looking from the road at the bird sitting on the nest, the

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Common Black-Hawk peering out of nest. Dudleyville, AZ. May 2018. (c) Chris Charlesworth.

property owner came out and invited us onto his property to have a look. From his yard we had very good scope views of the hawk perched in its nest high up in a sycamore tree along Aravaipa Creek. Other goodies here including eye-popping Vermilion Flycatchers, and comparatively drab Black Phoebes. On a patch of shady grass quite a nice assemblage of birds gathered; Lazuli Bunting, Common Yellowthroat, White-crowned Sparrow, Inca Dove and more. A Yellow-breasted Chat flew by, leaving us wanting more. We carried on farther along Aravaipa Road, picking up more birds as we went along such as Lucy’s Warbler, Bell’s Vireo, Summer Tanager and Broad-billed Hummingbird. Overhead, a

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Canyo Wren. Arizona. (C) Chris Charlesworth.

Zone-tailed Hawk soared next to a Red-tailed Hawk. Later, our first Gray Hawk was spotted by Andy, wrapping up a pretty good day for raptors indeed. The afternoon was quickly fading to early evening so we carried on into Tucson, checked into our hotel and went for dinner at Chili’s.

 

Day 3 – At 6 AM we emerged from the hotel and headed off to Agua Caliente Park for some pre-breakfast birding. It was sunny and beautiful this morning. Once we arrived at the park the birds started rolling in with the likes of Hooded Oriole, Vermilion Flycatcher, Broad-billed Hummingbird and Lucy’s Warbler appearing. Down at the little wetland, a ‘big-bottomed’ Mallard swam past, obviously possessing a few ‘barnyard

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Vermilion Flycatcher. Tucson, AZ. May 2018. (C) Chris Charlesworth.

quacker’ genes. A few Red-winged Blackbirds flashed their brilliant red epaulettes from the reeds on the far side of the pond. I heard the plaintive whistles of a Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet nearby so we scurried off in hopes of seeing this uncommon flycatcher. It didn’t take too long and we had the bird in our binoculars. A nest, which I suspect was the tyrannulets nest, hang from the lower branches of a eucalyptus tree. High in a pine tree I spotted a bulky stick nest with the head of a Cooper’s Hawk sticking up above it. This ‘head view’, plus a brief fly-by view were enough for most members of the group to warrant a tick on the list. In an area of Saguaro Cactus we had some nice birds such as a pair of tiny Black-tailed Gnatcatchers, a Cactus Wren, a Curve-billed Thrasher, a Ladder-backed Woodpecker and three distant Purple Martins! Not a bad start to the day.

After breakfast we headed out again, ascending the twisting Catalina Highway up the slopes of Mount Lemmon. We began at 3500 feet in Tucson and ended up just over 9000 feet on Mt. Lemmon, traveling through 9 different biogeoclimatic zones on the way up. The change in habitat due to the elevation gain is equivalent to driving from Mexico to the Canadian border. Our first stop was at the Cypress Picnic area. Here, we had some

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Arizona Woodpecker. Mt. Lemmon, AZ. May 2018 (c) Chris Charlesworth

fantastic birds, such as a very confiding Yellow-eyed Junco, several comical Acorn Woodpeckers, a White-breasted Nuthatch, a Mexican Jay and two Spotted Towhees. Two of the better birds seen here as well included a male Arizona Woodpecker and a Grace’s Warbler, the latter of which allowed scope views as it sang from high in a pine tree.

At Bear Wallow we parked the van and walked up the cool, shady draw through towering Ponderosa Pine and Douglas Fir trees. It didn’t take us long to get right into the thick of bird activity as several Red-faced Warblers appeared and showed off for us amongst the fresh green spring leaves. Other warblers about included ‘Audubon’s’ Yellow-rumped Warbler and Townsend’s Warbler. A pair of Black-headed Grosbeaks fed on the flowers in a freshly leafed tree, while a male Western Tanager popped with colors nearby. The trumpeting calls of both Red-breasted and White-breasted nuthatches were

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Red-faced Warbler. Mt. Lemmon, AZ. May 2018. (C) Chris Charlesworth.

followed by sightings of both species and farther up the draw we saw our third nuthatch of the day, a Pygmy Nuthatch. A Mountain Chickadee appeared, as did a Brown Creeper, and as we were eating lunch a Hermit Thrush hopped about on the ground. The mammalian highlight in Bear Wallow was the sighting of an Abert’s ‘Tassel-eared’ Squirrel, as well as a cute little Cliff Chipmunk.

At the Iron Door Restaurant near the ski hill, we watched the hummingbird feeders for a few minutes which were alive with Broad-tailed Hummingbirds. For a few brief moments a Rivoli’s Hummingbird appeared. Steller’s Jays were about, along then a noisy Common Raven and more cheeky Yellow-eyed Juncos. Right at the summit of Mt. Lemmon, a short walk produced three new species for our growing list, a Hairy Woodpecker, a pair of gorgeous Western Bluebirds and two unassuming Chipping Sparrows.

We had some refreshments in the ski village of Summerhaven at the Cookie Cabin, then

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Black-headed Grosbeak. Arizona. May 2018 (C) Chris Charlesworth

took a little stroll along a trickling creek and found three Virginia’s Warblers foraging in the trees. Another Red-faced Warbler appeared, and an American Robin sang incessantly, but would not show his face. On our way back down towards Tucson we stopped at the Windy Point Vista where we took in the stunning view. Down below us in the bushes was our first Blue-gray Gnatcatcher and a Black-throated Gray Warbler. On a ledge nearby and adult Peregrine Falcon sat quietly in the shade. Once back in Tucson we had a little rest and then had dinner at the Black Bear Diner, and that was an experience in American cuisine let me tell you. We did not leave hungry tonight.

 

Day 4 – With blue skies once again, we made our way back to the foot of the towering Santa Catalina Mountains and we spent our morning at Sabino Canyon. We took a short stroll around before catching the tram, and were engaged by a naturalist who took us to see a ‘Crested Saguaro’ which is a deformed saguaro that grows in an odd shape. She

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Broad-billed Hummingbird. Arizona, May 2018 (C) Chris Charlesworth.

pointed out quite a few other plants for us and told us not to drink the water out a saguaro unless we were interested in a psychedelic experience! We took her advice. At 9 AM, the ‘tram’ headed up the canyon and we enjoyed the narrated ride up and halfway back down at which point we disembarked and walked a couple of kilometers. It was already pretty hot by the time we arrived, but that didn’t stop us from seeing some nice birds. The common species in Sabino Canyon were White-winged Doves, Lucy’s Warblers, Bell’s Vireos, Broad-billed Hummingbirds and Brown-crested Flycatcher. The star attraction was a Canyon Wren that sat on a ledge for quite some time as we watched him sing through the scope, while White-throated Swifts zipped overhead. A male Costa’s Hummingbird sat briefly atop a dead tree, and Andy and I glimpsed a Green-tailed Towhee in the undergrowth. Yet another Virginia’s Warbler foraged in the palo verde trees.

We had lunch in Tucson, the checked a spot along Ajo Rd where Burrowing Owls can be found. Just as we pulled up to the location, I spotted the owl sitting on a pipe, but he

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Burrowing Owl. Arizona, 2018 (C) Chris Charlesworth.

promptly flew down into the ditch and disappeared into his burrow. After a while we gave up and headed west to the Sonoran Desert Museum. It was hot by now, and the van temperature gage briefly read 108 degrees F. As we arrived, our first Pyrrhuloxia sat nicely for good views. We wandered around the museum spotting some nice birds such as Cactus Wren, Western Tanager, Rufous-winged Sparrow, Black Vulture, Abert’s Towhee and Costa’s Hummingbirds. An adult Cooper’s Hawk came in to drink in a fountain quite close to us, offering incredible views! We gathered back at the café and had some cold drinks before beginning the short drive to Green Valley where we had dinner in the pub at the hotel and then got some sleep.

 

Day 5 – We left our hotel after breakfast under the normal weather conditions for S.E. Arizona; Sun, blue sky and warm temperatures. We headed for an area of residential Green Valley that has nicely landscaped gardens and quite a few birds. Our main target here was the Gilded Flicker. It didn’t take us too long to find the Gilded Flicker as he sat

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Curve-billed Thrasher. Arizona. May 2018. (C) Chris Charlesworth.

atop a large yucca and called in the morning sunlight. This neighborhood provided quite a few other sightings as well such as Gambel’s Quail, Costa’s Hummingbird, Brown-crested Flycatcher and Bullock’s Orioles. A male Bronzed Cowbird was a nice catch here, as was a nesting Curve-billed Thrasher that had built its nest in the safety of a cholla cactus. Our first Black-tailed Jackrabbit of the tour hopped along the roadside, while the smaller Desert Cottontail was also noted.

We picked up our lunch and then headed to Madera Canyon in the Santa Rita Mountains. We headed to the upper parking lot where embarked on a hike into the pine / oak forest, with a couple of target birds in mind, most notably the Painted Redstart and the highly sought-after Elegant Trogon. The first species we encountered were Mexican Jays, Yellow-eyed Junco and a couple of Bridled Titmice. A Hutton’s Vireo sang incessantly and was seen by some in the party. Higher up in the canyon we heard the warbling song of a

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Painted Redstart. Madera Canyon. AZ. May 2018. (C) Chris Charlesworth.

Painted Redstart and after some searching we finally had the lovely warbler in our sights. Then, a barking sound came from within the trees along the dry creek bed. It was an Elegant Trogon. After a little searching we finally saw the bird, a male, calling within the depths of an Alligator Juniper. Scopes were set up and cameras clicked as the trogon called away and we descended back down the trail with big smiles on our faces.

We had lunch amongst the oak trees while Mexican Jays waited for us to clear out so they could descend upon the campsite and clean up any scraps. It was already getting quite warm and bird activity was waning, so we headed down the canyon to visit the feeders at the Kubo Cabin. It was nice and shady here and the birds were actively coming in to feed. Acorn Woodpeckers were very evident here, as were Black-headed Grosbeaks, Pine Siskins, House Finches and Mexican Jays. Hummingbirds included

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Yellow-eyed Junco. Madera Canyon, AZ. May 2018 (C) Chris Charlesworth.

Broad-billed, Black-chinned and Rivoli’s. Along the dry creek bed, a Lincoln’s Sparrow hopped about and other treasures included our first American Robin, a Hermit Thrush and our first Western Gray Squirrels of the tour. Down at the feeders at Santa Rita Lodge we again sat for a while enjoying the action as Pine Siskins, Lesser Goldfinches, Mexican Jays, Acorn Woodpeckers, a variety of hummingbirds and White-breasted Nuthatch all came in. We heard rumors that another trogon and a pygmy-owl were present down at the Madera Picnic Area so that’s where we headed next. Upon arrival we could hear the trogon barking so we headed in the direction that the bird was calling. We had great views of this trogon as he flew from perch to perch and even investigated a possible nest cavity. Geoff then spotted a Brown-crested Flycatcher nest

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Elegant Trogon. Madera Canyon, AZ. May 2018. (C) Chris Charlesworth.

next to the creek and as we were looking at the nest a Northern Pygmy-Owl appeared. The owl sat up nicely in a juniper with a tiny lizard in its talons. What a great day it had been in Madera Canyon!

 

We returned to Green Valley, had an early dinner and then headed back for Madera Canyon for some nocturnal exploring. Us, along with several other birders, waited patiently for an Elf Owl to pop its head out of a cavity in a telephone pole and the owl kept his date with us, appearing promptly at 7 PM. Higher up in the canyon as darkness fell we heard the calls of Mexican Whip-poor-wills, and we had a great view of a Whiskered Screech-Owl to top it all off.

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Northern Pygmy-Owl. Madera Canyon, AZ. May 2018. (C) Chris Charlesworth.

 

Day 6 – This morning we headed back towards the Santa Rita Mountains, stopping in at Florida Wash. One of the first birds to greet us here was a smashing Black-throated Sparrow that sat right up on top of the mesquite in front of us. After that, a Pyrruloxia popped into view, and a Green-tailed Towhee flitted through the undergrowth. Yellow-breasted Chat sang loudly but remained hidden in the bush. It had been made known to me several times on the trip that Greater Roadrunner was one of the top most wanted birds to be seen. In fact it would be a lifer for all 7 tour participants! I was excited then, when I spotted a roadrunner slinking through the mesquite so I shouted to the group, ‘roadrunner’, and they all came quickly. Not quickly enough, however as the roadrunner gave us the slip and disappeared into the desert, being seen by just myself and briefly by Andy. We had our first nice views of Swainson’s Hawks this morning as they sailed overhead against the cobalt blue sky. In a bit of grassland near Florida Wash we had great views of a Botteri’s Sparrow that sat on a fence.

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Wild Turkey. Arizona. May 2018 (C) Chris Charlesworth

Our next stop was at Proctor Road in the lowest section of Madera Canyon. Upon arrival, I heard a Crissal Thrasher singing, so we tracked it down, eventually getting good scope views of this ‘scythe-billed’ denizen of the desert. We then staked out an area along the dry creek bed where a pair of rare Black-capped Gnatcatchers had been seen recently. Several times I could hear the soft whining calls of the gnatcatcher so I knew they were in the area, but it took us quite a while to finally catch a glimpse of the female. Several good target birds ‘in the bag’, we began the drive back to Green Valley where we picked up lunch at Safeway.

 

We took our lunch to a Roy Morriss County Park in Tubac where we ate at some shady picnic tables. It was hot today, with temperatures of 100 degrees F, or slightly above.

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Tropical Kingbird. Tubac, AZ. May 2018 (C) Chris Charlesworth

After we finished our lunch, a few birds appeared, including our first Cassin’s Kingbird and a nice surprise pair of uncommon Tropical Kingbirds! We had at this point become a little blasé about the Vermilion Flycatchers that seemed to be present at most stops, though it is hard to get tired of seeing such a cracking little bird. After lunch we walked up the Santa Cruz River, hoping to catch a glimpse of another local rarity, the Rose-throated Becard. A pair of becards, normally found in Mexico, have been nesting along the river near Tubac for the last couple of years. We were instructed by a passing birder to look for the orange bucket, which would mean we were in the area of the becard’s nest. After a little searching we found the orange bucket and then we spotted the nest, a large bulky nest, hanging from a cottonwood. We hung around for quite some time, spying other species such as Dusky-capped Flycatcher, Bridled

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Rose-throated Becard. Tubac, AZ. May 2018. (C) Chris Charlesworth.

Titmouse, Song Sparrow and Gila Woodpeckers. Jane, who had wandered off a little suddenly asked, ‘Does the becard have a pink throat patch?’ We hurried over to her, but the bird was no longer in the spot she had seen it. It called several times, so I was aware the bird was still in the area. After a while I said we would give the bird ten more minutes to show up and then we’d have to go. Within a few minutes, there was motion near the nest and it was the male Rose-throated Becard. He sat near his nest for 5 minutes or so while we all enjoyed scope views. On our way back to the van we paused to look at several American Bullfrogs that were loafing around in a scummy looking puddle.

 

We were doing very well today with our target birds, knocking them off one by one. At our next stop, also along the Santa Cruz River, but at Santa Gertrudis Lane, our luck ran out. There had been sightings fairly recently of two Mexican vagrants here, Sinaloa Wren and Rufous-backed Robin. I knew our chances of seeing either of them were slim, so I

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Ladder-backed Woodpecker. Tubac, AZ. May 2018 (C) Chris Charlesworth

wasn’t too disappointed we couldn’t find them. As a consolation prize, a pair of Thick-billed Kingbirds put on a nice show for us and this is a species we normally only see closer to Patagonia. As luck would have it, we couldn’t find them at Patagonia so these Santa Cruz River birds were the only ones we saw on the tour. Of course there were other birds to enjoy along the cottonwood lined stream, such as Yellow-breasted Chat, Common Yellowthroat, Ladder-backed Woodpecker, and overhead a Zone-tailed Hawk. We carried on to Nogales, our home base for the next two nights, and were greeted by a male Hooded Oriole having a drink in the water fountain outside the hotel, which was not a bad welcoming party.

 

Day 7 – At 6 AM we met outside of our hotel and we took a short stroll in some scrubby habitat near our hotel, in search of the elusive Greater Roadrunner. Last year’s group had a roadrunner right at this spot on both mornings. It was not meant to be this morning however. We had a quick look at the bustling Cliff Swallow colony under the eaves of our hotel before boarding the van and making our way to lovely Pena Blanca Lake. The morning light on the desert made for an idyllic setting. We spent about an hour and a half at Pena Blanca Lake, exploring a little trail that took us alongside the calm lake, and then up into a little bit of desert scrub. One

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Lark Sparrow. Arizona. May 2018 (C) Chris Charlesworth.

of the first birds we found was a new species for us, a pair of Rufouc-crowned Sparrows. In an open area near the lake we encountered quite a lot of bird activity. There were Say’s Phoebes, Vermilion Flycatchers, Ash-throated Flycatcher, Lark Sparrows, Costa’s Hummingbird and more. On the lake, waterfowl were few and far between, but we did see a pair of ‘Mexican’ Mallards, Ruddy Ducks and American Coots. We climbed up a short stairway away from the lake and saw some migrants there including Wilson’s Warbler, Bullock’s Oriole, Western Tanager and Warbling Vireo. Lucy’s Warblers, the ghostly pale warbler of the desert, sang loudly and a small flock of Bushtits entertained us. As the clock neared 8 AM we began feeling the urge to have breakfast, and even more importantly, some coffee, so we headed back to our hotel.

 

After breakfast we headed back out into the field, stopping at Patagonia Lake State Park. It was again, already heating up, and today’s temperatures again neared 100 degrees F. We spent an hour and half or so walking the trails of Patagonia Lake Park’s ‘Birding Trail’. Waterbirds were very much of interest to us and we found a nice Green Heron foraging by the first bit of water we encountered. In the scope we compared Neotropic Cormorants with a single Double-crested Cormorant out on a log. White-faced Ibis probed into the mud with their long, decurved bills. Spotted Sandpipers were rather

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American Coot. Arizona. May 2018. (C) Chris Charlesworth.

numerous along the muddy shores of the lake, and we saw a Killdeer as well. A Gadwall was our first for the tour, as was a small flock of Northern Shovelers that flew past, spotted by Andy. In the reeds we enticed a lovely male Common Yellowthroat into view. This warbler species, with its striking black mask, is known as the ‘bandit of the marsh’. Other species noted at Patagonia Lake included Summer Tanager, Cooper’s Hawk, Yellow-breasted Chat, Ladder-backed Woodpecker, and Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet to name a few species.

 

We headed into the town of Patagonia and went for lunch at the Gathering Grounds Café. After lunch we took a short stroll around the town checking out some local galleries and the historic Stage Stop Inn. At the Paton’s Center for Hummingbirds we sat in the shade and watched feeders for much of the rest of the afternoon. It was quite enjoyable to relax here and enjoy the birds, which including the local celebrity, Violet-crowned

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Phainopepla. Arizona. May 2018. (C) Chris Charlesworth

Hummingbird. Other hummers included our first Anna’s Hummingbird of the tour, as well as Broad-billed, Broad-tailed and Black-chinned hummingbirds. At the oranges, a Yellow-breasted Chat came in to feed several times and at seed feeders were Pine Siskins, Lesser Goldfinches, Black-headed Grosbeak, Northern Cardinal and Song Sparrows. In the brush piles scattered around the yard were Curve-billed Thrasher, Canyon Towhee, Green-tailed Towhee, White-crowned Sparrow and Gambel’s Quail. It had been yet another enjoyable day of birding in S.E. Arizona and we headed back to Nogales for a

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Canyon Towhee. Arizona. May 2018. (C) Chris Charlesworth.

little rest before heading out for dinner.

 

Day 8 – From Nogales we headed north a short distance to Rio Rico, where I’d hoped we might get lucky and find the much anticipated Greater Roadrunner. We got up to the spot, a resort that we use to stay at and where I had several encounters with roadrunners of the years. Upon arrival we were greeted by a giant, ‘Closed for renovations’ sign. Darn, I thought, but at just that moment Jane piped up, ‘Right there on the road’, and there it was, a Greater Roadrunner. The bird snuck behind a tree and then came trotting right towards the van. The usual snickering comments that there was no coyote chasing it, ensued. Somebody went ‘beep beep’. The roadrunner climbed up a tree and then walked along a wall, posing for photographs, before trotting off into the mesquite woodland. Finally, a roadrunner in the bag.

At the Patagonia Roadside Rest Stop, I explained the importance of the site to North American birders. At the little concrete picnic table tucked away into the trees, a rare bird had been found back in the 1970s, a first for North America, I believe. Other birders

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Summer Tanager. Arizona. May 2018 (C) Chris Charlesworth.

began showing up to look for said rare bird, and in turn they began finding other rarities. ‘The Patagonia Picnic Table Effect’ was born. Now, unfortunately the effect didn’t bring us any rarities today, but it was nice to see Canyon Wren, White-throated Swifts, Gray Hawk, Canyon Towhee and others here this morning.

 

We then popped into Patagonia and at the Gathering Grounds we ordered our lunches to go. We had a coffee while we waited and the staff didn’t make us wait long as they were terribly efficient. We were on the road again, stopping at Sonoita to fill up with fuel. I turned around after filling up the tank and realized the entire group had disappeared. They were soon spotted photographing and looking at some old west wagons and buildings.

Back to birding, at Las Cienegas Grasslands, it was quite calm and the birds were active. We had great views of Grasshopper and Brewer’s sparrows here. Kath spotted a Loggerhead Shrike, though it was a fair distance off, we had views through the scope. Andy spotted another distant creature, a Pronghorn Antelope. Again, through the heat haze, we could just make out what it was. Several Chihuahuan Ravens lazily flew by, and Eastern Meadowlarks, of the ‘Lilian’s’ race were singing and perching for good scope views. Swainson’s Hawks soared lazily overhead in the afternoon thermals. Andy, the king of Lark Buntings, spotted a Lark Bunting as it flew off. This would happen twice on the tour!

I turned off the main highway on a road marked to Elgin. In the prairie along this stretch we saw three more Pronghorn Antelope, with one of the males being quite curious about us. We bumped down a long dirt road to the Audubon’s Appleton-Whittell Research

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Scaled Quail. Elgin, AZ. May 2018. (C) Chris Charlesworth.

Ranch where we were greeted by friendly attendant Suzanne. Even before we left the parking lot we’d added the species we’d come here for, Scaled Quail. There were half a dozen or so of them huddled in the shade beneath one of the work trucks. We were surprised to see one lone white quail egg on the ground under the truck where the birds had been. We had our lunch inside ‘the party barn’ which made a nice shelter for us to eat inside. Scaled Quail called loudly from just outside the barn and Say’s Phoebes fluttered around the eaves, possibly nesting. Several of us entered in a raffle to win a wooden carved Montezuma Quail, which if won, would be the only of its kind encountered on this particular trip. As we were leaving the research ranch we saw a couple of Botteri’s Sparrows in the grasses along the road as we entered an area covered by native grassland vegetation. An Olive-sided Flycatcher perched on an agave was an unusual sight, in my opinion, as I’m familiar seeing this species in its northern forest and bog breeding habitats. Eastern Meadowlarks again perched nicely for us as we drove on by. We carried on into Sierra Vista where we went out for dinner at Applebee’s before getting some rest.

 

Day 9 – We were now accustomed to waking up to blue sky and warm temperatures. Today was no different as we picked up our lunches before heading up into the Huachuca Mountains and Carr Canyon. A stop in lower Carr Canyon did not produce a

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Eastern Bluebird. Sierra Vista, AZ. May 2018 (C) Chris Charlesworth.

Scott’s Oriole, unfortunately, though we did catch a glimpse of an Eastern Bluebird here. Overhead, our only Golden Eagle for the tour was seen, being chased by a seemingly diminutive Common Raven. ‘Well try again for the bluebird later, I said, as we carried on up the bumpy road. I explained that I didn’t like stopping on the way up into Carr Canyon, since I like to keep my momentum going. The road really wasn’t as bad as I had made it out to be however, and the views going up and coming down were incredible. Once up at Reef Townsite Campground we got out of the van and strolled around for over an hour. Almost immediately we found one of the target species for the Huachuca Mountains, a Buff-breasted Flycatcher. This, tiniest of the empidonax flycatchers species, is fairly common in the mixed pine / fir forests of the upper elevations of the Huachucas. Our next target was Greater Pewee and one was singing close by so we tracked it down and enjoyed lovely scope views as it sang ‘Jose Maria’. We had great views of Plumbeous Vireos here today, new for the trip list, and we finally caught up with Olive Warblers, as both male and female performed in the pines above us. Other warblers seen included Virginia’s,

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Buff-breasted Flycatcher. Sierra Vista, AZ. May 2018 (C) Chris Charlesworth.

Grace’s, Townsend’s, Hermit, Wilson’s, Black-throated Gray and Yellow-rumped. All in all it was a very pleasant trip to the 7400 elevation. We had lunch and began bumping our way back down the road, pausing to look at a Woodhouse’s Scrub-Jay along the way. Back down near the bottom of the road we did try again for the Eastern Bluebird and this time we had great views of a male of the locally rare ‘fulva’ race.

 

We then made a return visit to Ash Canyon where we had hoped we might all catch a glimpse of the rare Lucifer Hummingbird this afternoon. One or two of us got lucky, as the male appeared frustratingly briefly and then the female showed up several times at a feeder buried in the leaves. We did get two ‘firsts’ for the trip however, a young male

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Rose-breasted Grosbeak. Sierra Vista, AZ. May 2018. (C) Chris Charlesworth.

Calliope Hummingbird appeared at the feeders for Margaret, Richard and I to see. All of us had leisurely views of a male Rose-breasted Grosbeak here as well, a species not normally found in Arizona.

 

We had a return visit to Applebee’s for dinner before some of us ventured back out into the field, hoping to catch a view of a Common Poorwill, a member of the nightjar family. Unfortunately the poorwills didn’t want to show this evening, though we did hear their calls off in the distance while we enjoyed the great show that is the night sky.

Day 10 – We returned to Miller Canyon, the same area where we had tried to find poorwills the evening before, and it all looked very different bathed in sunlight! Today, a bit of a gusty breeze blew here and there, otherwise, sunny and warm as usual. At the Beatty’s Guest Ranch we headed up to a known nest for Northern Goshawk. The goshawk, though we were sure it was hunkered down on the nest, could not be seen from our vantage point. We carried on up the canyon, hoping to spot a roosting Spotted

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Western Tanager. Arizona, May 2018. (C) Chris Charlesworth.

Owl, but the search couldn’t turn one up. Other nice birds along the babbling creek included Cordilleran Flycatcher, Grace’s Warbler, House Wren, Painted Redstart and Arizona Woodpecker. We ran into another group as they ascended the canyon. They asked about our luck with the Spotted Owl so I told them the bad news. They gave us a tip on a viewing location for the goshawk so we took their advice and climbed the small hill near the nest, attempting to get an eye level view of the incubating adult. It took a long time, peering through the sea of green leaves, but eventually, I spotted the adult sitting atop the nest. Richard and Margaret, who stayed below, ended up seeing the bird sit right up on top of the nest for a moment. The rest of us enjoyed scope views of the bird, which was visible only when the wind blew and the leaves parted enough. We could see the goshawks red eye, it’s hooked bill and occasionally the white supercilium. To finish off our visit at Beatty’s we watched the excellent hummingbird feeder setup for half an hour or so. We had our best views of Rivoli’s Hummingbird here, along with Broad-tailed, Broad-billed, and Black-chinned hummingbirds. A female Calliope Hummingbird fed on flowers near the path, which was nice for everyone who had missed the species on the previous day. On a little pond we saw some Leopard Frogs, and

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Western Screech-Owl. Sierra Vista, AZ. May 2018. (C) Chris Charlesworth.

then after saying goodbye to Tom Beatty Jr, we headed back to Sierra Vista where we had lunch.

 

After lunch we drove a short distance east to the San Pedro River. Soon after disembarking from the van, two people emerged, a man and a woman, and they exclaimed, ‘Andy and Jane?’ The two were friends that had traveled with Andy and Jane years ago in Africa. Sometimes the world seems like such a small place. The man, I think his name was Simon, pointed out where our target bird, a Western Screech-Owl was roosting in a massive cottonwood tree. I was thankful, since the tree had been pruned since my previous visit and I was having a hard time locating the owls’ roost. Blue Grosbeak was another nice addition here, and we saw only our second or third Common Ground-Doves foraging on the ground. A short visit to the gift shop seemed rather lucrative for the gift shop, as quite a few people emerged with little bags of birding memorabilia.

In Douglas, a dusty border town, we stopped to fuel up before we made our way to Portal, where no fuel can be purchased. It was a lovely drive through the desert to Portal,

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Great Horned Owls. Rodeo, NM. May 2018 (C) Chris Charlesworth.

which took us onto State Line Road, where the road is the border between Arizona and New Mexico. On the New Mexico side, it was an hour later, and we stopped to check out a barn where I had seen Great Horned Owls in the past. It didn’t take me long to spot the owls again, and this year there was an adult and three fluffy chicks stuffed onto the top of the hay bales. We had great scope views and the owner of the property pulled up in his pickup truck and told us we could go onto his property for an even better view, so we did! We carried on to Portal, checked into the lodge and then had a little down time before dinner. After dinner, I went on a short stroll, bumping into Geoff who was enjoying the night sky. I ran into Richard and Margaret as well. They were listening to a pair of duetting Western Screech-Owls and as I stood with them, a Striped Skunk rustled around in the leaves near the bank of the small creek.

 

Day 11 – Before breakfast we headed out in the cool morning and made our way back to the New Mexican border to try for Bendire’s Thrasher at Gin Road. We again saw the family of Great Horned Owls camped out inside the hay barn. Cactus Wren, Western Kingbird and Chihuahuan Ravens all appeared, but soon the star of the show arrived, a Bendire’s Thrasher. Now this species is quite similar to the Curve-billed Thrasher but the

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Bendire’s Thrasher. Rodeo, NM. May 2018 (C) Chris Charlesworth.

Bendire’s sports a shorter, pale based bill. We watched the Bendire’s forage about for a few minutes and then he collected some nesting material and flew off. Soon thereafter, a Curve-billed Thrasher appeared on a fence and we were able to see all the key differences between the two species. A rather brief encounter with a Prairie Falcon was noteworthy today, as we spotted the large, brown falcon, as it flew away across the fields and disappeared.

 

Leaving New Mexico in the dust, we returned to Portal and then went a few miles up the Paradise Road. Three species were on my radar here this morning, and we managed to find two of them, Scott’s Oriole and Bridled Titmouse, both of them at the Paradise Cemetery. The one we missed, the Black-chinned Sparrow, has apparently been very hard to find this spring.

We returned to Portal and had breakfast. I had my usual, the juevos rancheros with the spicy red sauce. Feeling well prepared for the day, as I’d picked up our bagged lunches, we bumped and bounced our way up into the Chiricahua Mountains, stopping at Rustler

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Mexican Chickadee. Chiricahua Mtns, AZ. May 2018 (C) Chris Charlesworth.

Park at over 8000 feet elevation. We strolled through a forest of towering pines and firs, listening for the soft calls of our target species, the Mexican Chickadee. The Mexican Chickadee is only regularly found in the USA in the Chiricahua Mountains and in one or two mountain ranges in adjacent New Mexico. Since the big forest fire of 2003, it has been somewhat difficult to find the chickadees as their coniferous forest habitat lost a lot of size. We had some nice birds in this woodland such as American Robin, Red-faced Warbler, and Yellow-eyed Junco, but when the Mexican Chickadee arrived, it stole the show.

 

From Onion Saddle, we headed down the road towards the Chiricahua National Monument, stopping at Pinery Campground to have a look and to eat our lunch. Birds were quite numerous here with Cordilleran Flycatcher, Painted Redstart, Townsend’s Warbler, Acorn Woodpecker, and Western Wood-Pewee all distracting us from eating lunch. We’d heard there had been a Spotted Owl in the area, but despite a very good search, we couldn’t find the roosting owl. Farther down in the canyon we stopped to ‘twitch’ a rarity, a Slate-throated Redstart. It was a short and somewhat steep climb up the babbling little brook to where the redstart had been seen. ‘I’ve got it’, I said, and it

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Hepatic Tanager. Arizona, May 2018 (C) Chris Charlesworth.

was about the first bird I put my binoculars on. The lovely red belly, coupled with a lack of white eye arcs and the lack of any white in the wings, made it the Slate-throated Redstart. The bird fanned its tail, showing the broad white tips to the outer tail feathers, also indicative of Slate-throated Redstart. ‘Does anybody else see it’, I asked, and two members of the group replied, ‘yes’. The bird disappeared after about a ten second look and then the area suddenly filled up with Painted Redstarts. A little pool of water attracted some nice visitors while we sat and watched; Townsend’s Warbler, Yellow-eyed Junco and another Mexican Chickadee, most notably. One of the members of my group who had stayed behind near the van came running up and said that my friend John Coombs had just warned them of a nearby forest fire. It was hot and windy, two things that combine to make for extreme fire conditions. We could see the smoke and as we were leaving, a forest ranger appeared to make sure we were on our way out. As we passed by John Coombs and his Field Guides group, I stopped and chatted with him. He said we should get out for a quick look as they were going to check the area for Spotted Owl. It would be a pity if we drove on by and they found the bird. We searched together, as a group of about 15 birders, but couldn’t find the owl.

 

The drive back to Portal was scenic, especially through parts of the south fork of Cave Creek Canyon. We stopped for half an hour to bird in the canyon, where the sycamores

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Mexican Jay. Arizona, May 2018 (C) Chris Charlesworth.

and oaks nicely shaded us. Birds included Bridled Titmouse, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Black Phoebe, Painted Redstart, Hutton’s Vireo, American Robin and Mexican Jay. Once back in Portal we went for a stroll, with hopes of finding a couple more birds for our trip list. The first target was Blue-throated Hummingbird, the largest of North America’s hummingbird species. I checked in at a feeder where they often visit, but there was no nectar in the feeder. Two houses down, however, the feeder was stocked. We watched for a bit, enjoying Western Tanagers, Blue Grosbeak, Lazuli Bunting, White-crowned Sparrow and Green-tailed Towhee to name a few species. The Blue-throated Hummingbird, a male, flew in and had a quick feed. He then landed on a branch in a

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Blue-throated Hummingbird. Portal, AZ. May 2018 (C) Chris Charlesworth.

nearby cedar and sat there calling as we watched through the scope. In the trees overhead, flocks of Band-tailed Pigeons were a joy to see. Just as we met for dinner the feeders at the café had some interesting attendees, including Cassin’s Finches and Pyrrhuloxia. Our final dinner together as a group was very nice and it was sad to think it would all be over tomorrow. Margaret and Richard went for another stroll this evening, and guess what? They found another skunk. This one a Hognose Skunk, strolling through Portal.

 

Day 12 – A few keeners joined me this morning on another stroll through Portal. The morning bird activity was high. The Cassin’s Finches, Northern Cardinals, Pyrrhuloxia, Acorn Woodpeckers, Canyon Towhees and other various bits and bobs were still at the feeder. Singing in the desert at the edge of town were Cactus Wren, Lucy’s Warbler, Bell’s Vireo, Curve-billed Thrasher and the likes. We had more views of the Blue-throated Hummingbird this morning, and saw again the Band-tailed Pigeons. A Pacific-slope Flycatcher sang several times, but remained hidden in the greenery. After breakfast, on

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W. Diamondback Rattlesnake. Portal, AZ. May 2018 (C) Chris Charlesworth.

our way out of Portal, we came across a large Western Diamondback Rattlesnake that was sunning on the road. I pulled off beside the snake and tried to encourage it to move off the road as there were cars coming in both directions. The snake gave a couple of rattles to me as it headed straight under the tire of the van where it curled up in the shade. Rather carefully, I got back in the van and slowly backed up, under the careful guidance of Nigel. The snake sat there all coiled up. At least he was off the road. We drove through barren areas of western New Mexico this morning as we headed back towards Phoenix for late afternoon flights. Our main birding stop for the day was at the Willcox Sewage Pond, or ‘water treatment plant’ as coined by Jane. It was ridiculously windy here, which made spotting shorebirds through the scope a bit of a challenge. There were plenty of Black-necked Stilts and American Avocets, as well as Killdeer and some really nice Wilson’s Phalaropes. Several ‘peeps’ were pointed

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Group shot at Portal, AZ. May 2018.

out to me and after a quick look in the scope, we’d added Least Sandpiper and Western Sandpiper. Distant gun shots kept flushing the waterfowl, but in the end we added quite a few species here such as Cinnamon Teal, Blue-winged Teal and Green-winged Teal and American Wigeon. Horned Larks ‘hung on for dear life’ in the wind as they foraged at the edge of the pond. The drive back to Phoenix was broken up by a lunch stop in the city of Benson. We tallied up the list as we drove and figured we’d seen 207 species. In my memory, this is the highest list I’ve tallied on an Arizona trip.

 

Chris Charlesworth

 

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A day tour in the Central Okanagan

May 21, 2018 – I met up with Alan and Shirley from Inverness, Scotland, at Mission Creek this morning. It was a great day, weather-wise, with warm temperatures, little wind and blue skies. We walked over the bridge across raging Mission Creek into Sutherland Hills Park where we found the mosquitos were quite hungry. Despite a good search, we could not find a Western Screech-Owl roosting in his regular haunts. To make up for the loss we headed into an area of Ponderosa Pines where we looked for Pygmy Nuthatch, and we found one, a very confiding one at that. Other goodies found in Sutherland Hills Park included Nashville Warbler and Spotted Towhee.

Our next stop was Munson Pond, which is always a bird-filled location and it was no different today. As we drove along the entrance road we had our first views of the comical California Quail, a lifer for Alan and Shirley. In fact, most birds were lifers for them as this was their first birding outing in North America. A stunning male Bullock’s Oriole made for some nice eye-candy, followed up by a Western Kingbird. On the pond were some ducks including two male Blue-winged Teal, two male Cinnamon Teal, Ring-necked Duck, a lingering Greater Scaup and a family of baby Wood Ducks. We strolled back to an area of willow trees where I hoped we might find a roosting Great Horned Owl, but the owl was roosting elsewhere today.

We crossed the Bennett Bridge to West Kelowna, popping in at my place on Trepanier Creek in Peachland. Our timing was great as the birds were pretty active at the feeders. While Alan and Shirley had coffee, they added several species to their life lists such as Black-chinned Hummingbird, Evening Grosbeaks, Western Tanager, Cassin’s Finch and Vaux’s Swift. A Merlin briefly perched on a tree in the backyard and once it took flight it was chased by the Vaux’s Swift. ‘That was the best coffee break ever’, said Alan. At Seclusion Bay we had lovely views of a pair of Black-headed Grosbeaks, and we enjoyed sweeping views of Okanagan Lake. Next, we checked the area between Peachland and Summerland for the sought-after Lewis’s Woodpecker. This species, only 20 years ago, was quite easy to find in the Kelowna area. Now, their numbers have been reduced greatly and only a handful of sites remain in the Central Okanagan. After a bit of searching, we had scope views of one in the fir / pine forest above Hwy 97. In Okanagan Lake Provincial Park, I was able to locate the first owl of the day, a Western Screech-Owl, and the clients were ecstatic! So was I. A quick stop at the bottom of N. Beach Road near Summerland provided us with our only views of House Wren for the day, as a pair of birds were nesting in dead tree next to the road. Another first for the day was an Eastern Kingbird. We saw more Bullock’s Orioles down here as well. The oriole is a bird one never tires of seeing.

Having reached the southernmost point in our journey today, we turned north, heading up to a little wetland near West Kelowna’s Crystal Mountain Ski Area. Our target was Barred Owl, which we didn’t find, however two more lifers were added to Alan and Shirley’s lists, Lincoln’s Sparrow and two curious Gray Jays. Continuing on, we again crossed the Bennett Bridge into bustling downtown Kelowna, full of tourists on this glorious long-weekend Monday. ‘Swifts are one of my favorite groups of birds’, Alan exclaimed on the drive, so I thought we’d better make a stop at Dilworth Mountain where White-throated Swifts can be found. After a few minutes of searching Alan and I were watching White-throated Swifts rip through the air, alongside Violet-green Swallows.

After a quick pit stop in Rutland we headed up Hwy 33, stopping next at Philpott Road. Two days ago I had located a pair of Northern Pygmy-Owls here, so I tooted in hopes of attracting one. After a while I gave up, though I had managed to attract some songbirds that came to mob ‘the owl’. Red-breasted Nuthatch, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Black-capped Chickadee and a lovely male Townsend’s Warbler were among the birds that came in to investigate. Suddenly a Northern Pygmy-Owl began calling and in no time we were staring at him. Fierce and cute all at once, the pygmy-owl was joined by a second bird. They called simultaneously, one giving a low pitched toot and the other a higher toot. ‘Male and female’, I said, and then the two owls grasped each other by the talons and tumbled through the trees towards the ground. What a show! To finish off our day we headed for an undisclosed area where Great Gray Owls have been known to reside. No Great Gray was in our future today however, but we were just as pleased to find a Barred Owl in the trees next to the road! A second Barred Owl called deeper in the forest. Before it was all said and done, we had Mountain Chickadee, Red-naped Sapsucker and Hairy Woodpecker on the list. We began driving north, traveling through some farmland in the hills along the eastern edge of Kelowna. On a telephone pole was a dark morph Swainson’s Hawk. We’d see another Swainson’s, this time a more typical light morph bird, as we neared Enderby. It had been a fantastic day. I dropped the McAskills off where their relatives live in Enderby. We had found about 90 species of birds today!

Chris Charlesworth

An Okanagan Big Day

May 18, 2018, Jesse Hannebauer, Ryan Tomlinson, James Jansen, and myself, all of Kelowna, British Columbia, decided to a big day. We met up in Kelowna shortly after 10 PM and began the drive south towards Shannon Lake where we picked up James. Prior to that, we made the inaugural coffee stop that would be followed by several more throughout the day. We made it to Penticton and began bumping up a dirt track into the Ponderosa Pine / Douglas Fir forest common in the area. It was about 11:50 PM and we were in place just a few minutes before midnight struck. Right at 12 PM, a Flammulated Owl began calling from the trees next to the track. I shined my light into the tree and there it was, sitting quietly on a fir branch. After a few seconds the little owl flew off into the night. What a great start! On our way down the road we paused to listen to a pair of vocal Common Poorwills that were just upslope from the road.

The next stop on the ‘nocturnal express’ was along White Lake Road, where it didn’t take

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Western Screech-Owl. OK Falls, May 2018. (C) James Jansen.

us too long to get nice views of a calling Western Screech-Owls in the pine trees. Another Common Poorwill could be heard in the distance. As we drove past White Lake, Ryan did some excellent spotlighting, finding our only Great Horned Owl for the day, a bird sitting atop a roadside power pole. We descended into the valley bottom, and then climbed back up the eastern side along Shuttleworth Road near Okanagan Falls. Amongst the larch trees we heard the calls of a Barred Owl in the distance. We listened for quite a while up in the boreal forests between km 22 and 30, but we added no more owls at these high elevations. A light rain was falling at this point as well and the temperatures were not far above freezing. Our evening birding was complete.

 

It was about 4:15 AM when the first Hermit Thrushes began singing, and by 5 AM we must have heard over a dozen of them. Other songsters that got an early start included Lincoln’s Sparrows, Yellow-rumped Warblers, Orange-crowned Warbler, Dark-eyed Junco, Northern Waterthrush, and Ruby-crowned Kinglet. Probably the bird of the day for most of us, found by Ryan, a male Spruce Grouse displayed at the edge of a path and in the trees right overhead, oblivious to our presence. Jesse had been given the task of scribing the birds as we got them and despite doing a great job, he was having a little trouble keeping up as the birds just kept rolling in. Wilson’s Warbler, White-crowned Sparrow, Mountain Chickadee, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Brown Creeper, Varied Thrush, Chipping Sparrow, all made their way onto the list. A Northern Pygmy-Owl started

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Spruce Grouse, Shuttleworth Ck Rd, OK Falls. May 2018. (C) James Jansen.

calling beside the road and within a minute we were all staring at this vicious, yet adorable little owl on the top of a tree. Our 5th owl species. Noting that we had already overstayed our welcome, as we were trying to keep to a schedule, we headed down to Venner Meadows Road where we enjoyed nice views of a pair of Williamson’s Sapsuckers in the larch trees. Our first Gray Jays frolicked in the trees overhead, and Pine Siskins called from the treetops. Farther down at Venner Meadows we were treated to excellent views of a Wilson’s Snipe, as well as looks at Northern Waterthrush, and a pair of American Three-toed Woodpeckers. Our first Red-tailed Hawk, an immature, flew against a hillside across the meadows. A quick visit to Dutton Creek produced our target species, a Pacific Wren and we also added Hammond’s Flycatcher here. On our way down Shuttleworth Road we paused to see a Lewis’s Woodpecker at its regular nest tree, and we were also visited by Lazuli Buntings, Dusky Flycatcher, House Wren, Pygmy Nuthatch, and Violet-green Swallows. James spotted a larger bird flying over the treetops and it perched, giving us a chance to ID it. ‘Clark’s Nutcracker’, we exclaimed, the only one we saw today. At the bottom of Shuttleworth Road we were nearing 100 species of birds and it was just before 9 AM.

 

A quick look at the Okanagan River in OK Falls did not produce an American Dipper unfortunately, and we checked later in the day as well, also with no luck. We did add some valley bottom birds here though such as Cliff Swallow, Brewer’s Blackbird, and Bald Eagle. Our next port of call was a productive one, White Lake. In the sagebrush we searched for an quite easily found both Western and Mountain bluebirds. Sparrows

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Sage Thrasher. White Lake, OK Falls, BC. May 2018. (C) James Jansen.

included Clay-colored, Vesper, and Brewer’s, and there were, as usual, loads of Western Meadowlarks around. We could hear at least two Sage Thrashers singing in the distance, their songs all muddled up with the cacophony of meadowlark noises. A short walk through the sage and James found himself almost face to face with one thrasher, and it was a lifer for him. White Lake itself had some nice waterfowl such as Cinnamon, Blue-winged and Green-winged teal, Ruddy Ducks, Northern Shovelers, Gadwall, and best of all a female Common Goldeneye, picked out by Ryan. We cruised by an area excellent for male hummingbirds sitting atop roadside bushes, and added our first Rufous Hummingbird and diminutive Calliope Hummingbird. ‘Eastern Kingbird, American Kestrel, Pied-billed Grebe’. The birds just kept coming, but we had an agenda to follow so we departed the area, now having seen well over a hundred species. On our way back down towards Ok Falls, we stopped at Mahoney Lake where two Gray Flycatchers were singing in the pine trees. Our only Rock Wren of the day sang on a rocky crag up above the road. As we scooted past Green Lake we saw Redheads, and Ring-necked Ducks.

 

In need of some riparian bottomland species we popped into River Road where Yellow-breasted Chats were very vocal and even produced several very good views, lifers for both Jesse and James. A male Black-headed Grosbeak, our first for the day, sang incessantly, and showed himself for a few moments. When our third hummingbird species of the day, a male Black-chinned Hummingbird, appeared, Jesse and James couldn’t stop grinning, as this was another much anticipated lifer for them. Ring-necked Pheasant was added to the list here, as was our only Black-capped Chickadee for the day and at Hack’s Pond, a Virginia Rail called.

As we made our way to Road 22, Ryan and I spotted our only Downy Woodpecker of the day, atop a telephone pole. We turned onto Road 22 and ticked off Marsh Wren and Yellow-headed Blackbird in the marsh near Hwy 97. Flooding had turned all of the fields at Road 22 into one big lake. There were Eared Grebes, Ring-necked Ducks, Redheads and a feast of other waterfowl feeding in the fields where we had hoped to add Long-billed Curlew to our list. Raptors here included several Ospreys, Turkey Vultures, Redhead, a Cooper’s Hawk and Northern Harriers. Scanning around the mostly flooded fields yielded a single male Bobolink. A Bewick’s Wren sang from the thick vegetation along the S.E. dyke at Road 22. We had just one Gray Catbird today, a bird right at the end of the S.E. dyke. Ryan was quite excited to find a nest of a Great Blue Heron along the oxbows here. ‘It’s an adult with three chicks’, Ryan exclaimed. We headed for the N. end of Osoyoos Lake to do some scoping. A little raft of Lesser Scaup were our first for the day and so was a calling Red-necked Grebe. I put the scope on a distant bird and it was an adult Double-crested Cormorant, locally quite rare. Over the lake, about 25 Bonaparte’s Gulls were feeding, and along Road 22 itself we saw both Ring-billed and California gulls. Before leaving the Rd 22 area, we checked out Meadowlark Lane where we quite easily found our target species, a pair of lovely Lark Sparrows at the edge of a vineyard.

Our attention then turned to cliff loving species so we made our way up to Vaseux Lake. White-throated Swifts were busy swooping and screeching above the cliffs. An adult Golden Eagle conveniently sailed over the top of the cliff. Canyon Wrens were not

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Canyon Wren. OK Falls, BC. May 2018. (C) James Jansen.

cooperating so we tried another rocky cliff nearby, this one on Allendale Road. Just as we were about to give up, a Canyon Wren appeared on the rocks at the bottom of the cliff and let out a series of cascading songs.

 

It was time for us to head north, but did it really matter anyhow? We were having fun and we were already about 2 hours behind schedule. As we passed by the north end of Skaha Lake in Penticton, a bunch of gulls rested on the sandbar, one of which stood out from the others, a first year Glaucous-winged Gull. As we traveled north along Hwy 97, paralleling Okanagan Lake we spotted Common Loon and Belted Kingfisher, two more species to add to the list. A trip up towards my place along Trepanier Creek did not produce target species; Pacific-slope Flycatcher, Veery and Vaux’s Swift, unfortunately. James had fatherly duties to attend to, so we dropped him off at his house in West Kelowna and crossed over the Bennett Bridge into Kelowna. We picked up Mike Force at his place near Dilworth Mountain and headed for Robert Lake where we hoped a bunch of new species would be waiting for us. Though we did add two species at Robert Lake, Greater Scaup and American Avocet, the numbers of shorebirds we had hoped for, did not materialize. We headed over towards the Kelowna Landfill and Tutt Pond, hoping to find Black-necked Stilts, but they were not there. The only species we added here was a Herring Gull.

Feeling like we were being defeated at this point, we decided on where our route for the final couple of hours would take us. We drove past Glenmore Road and Snowsell Road where a Swainson’s Hawk was added to the day list, and then we made our way up Hwy 33 towards the Joe Rich area. Along Philpott Road we couldn’t find any Chestnut-backed Chickadees, unfortunately, but we did have great views of a Northern Pygmy-Owl here. We then visited a secret location in hopes that a Great Gray Owl may be the final species to grace our lists, but that wasn’t in the cards either. On our way back down to Kelowna, we saw a new floodwater pond near the intersection of Hwy 33 and Brentwood Road. There was something white in the grass next to the pond. Out came the scope and we added one last bird to our list, an adult Snow Goose. Number 152. A few of the ‘easier’ birds we missed include Wood Duck, Barrow’s Goldeneye, Hooded Merganser, Steller’s Jay, White-breasted Nuthatch, Swainson’s Thrush, etc. All in all, it had been a great day, with many lifers and otherwise excellent birds for members of our party.

Here’s our list of birds: Snow Goose, Canada Goose, Mallard, Gadwall, Green-winged Teal, American Wigeon, Northern Shoveler, Blue-winged Teal, Cinnamon Teal, Redhead, Ring-necked Duck, Greater Scaup, Lesser Scaup, Bufflehead, Common Goldeneye, Common Merganser,  Ruddy Duck, California Quail, Ring-necked Pheasant, Ruffed Grouse, Spruce Grouse, Pied-billed Grebe, Eared Grebe, Red-necked Grebe, Rock Pigeon, Eurasian Collared-Dove, Mourning Dove, Common Poorwill, White-throated Swift, Black-chinned Hummingbird, Calliope Hummingbird, Rufous Hummingbird, Sora, Virginia Rail, American Coot, American Avocet, Killdeer, Wilson’s Snipe, Spotted Sandpiper, Wilson’s Phalarope, Bonaparte’s Gull, Ring-billed Gull, California Gull, Herring Gull, Glaucous-winged Gull, Common Loon, Double-crested Cormorant, Great Blue Heron, Turkey Vulture, Osprey, Golden Eagle, Bald Eagle, Northern Harrier, Cooper’s Hawk, Swainson’s Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk, Great Horned Owl, Barred Owl, Western Screech-Owl, Flammulated Owl, Northern Pygmy-Owl, Belted Kingfisher, Lewis’s Woodpecker, Williamson’s Sapsucker, Red-naped Sapsucker, Hairy Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, American Three-toed Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Pileated Woodpecker, American Kestrel, Merlin, Western Wood-Pewee, Hammond’s Flycatcher, Gray Flycatcher, Dusky Flycatcher, Say’s Phoebe, Western Kingbird, Eastern Kingbird, Cassin’s Vireo, Warbling Vireo, Clark’s Nutcracker, Gray Jay, Black-billed Magpie, American Crow, Common Raven, Tree Swallow, Violet-green Swallow, Barn Swallow, Northern Rough-winged Swallow, Bank Swallow, Cliff Swallow, Black-capped Chickadee, Mountain Chickadee, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Pygmy Nuthatch, Brown Creeper, Rock Wren, Canyon Wren, House Wren, Pacific Wren, Marsh Wren, Bewick’s Wren, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Western Bluebird, Mountain Bluebird, Townsend’s Solitaire, Hermit Thrush, American Robin, Varied Thrush, Gray Catbird, Sage Thrasher, European Starling, House Sparrow, Cassin’s Finch, House Finch, Red Crossbill, Pine Siskin, American Goldfinch, Northern Waterthrush, Orange-crowned Warbler, Nashville Warbler, MacGillivray’s Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, Yellow Warbler, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Townsend’s Warbler, Wilson’s Warbler, Yellow-breasted Chat, Spotted Towhee, Chipping Sparrow, Clay-colored Sparrow, Brewer’s Sparrow, Vesper Sparrow, Lark Sparrow, Savannah Sparrow, Lincoln’s Sparrow, Song Sparrow, White-crowned Sparrow, Dark-eyed Junco, Western Tanager, Black-headed Grosbeak, Lazuli Bunting, Western Meadowlark, Bobolink, Red-winged Blackbird, Yellow-headed Blackbird, Brewer’s Blackbird, Brown-headed Cowbird, Bullock’s Oriole.

Chris Charlesworth

S.E. Arizona with Avocet Tours ~ Apr 24 to 30, 2018

Day 1 – Today was a travel day as we all arrived in Tucson throughout the day. Dinner was at the Black Bear Diner.

Day 2 – After an early breakfast we made our way to Tucson’s Agua Caliente Park, a great place for an introduction into Arizona birding. We started off with a bang, as an Abert’s Towhee scratched about on the ground near the parking lot. Next up we had the first of a number of Lucy’s Warblers in the park. Other warblers were also moving about in small numbers including Townsend’s, Wilson’s, Yellow and Yellow-rumped warblers. A

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Vermilion Flycatcher. Arizona 2018. (C) Kathy Nuszdorfer.

Cooper’s Hawk carried some nesting material towards an unseen nest, and eventually its mate joined it as they soared together in the sky. Vermilion Flycatchers, always a crowd-pleasing bird, put on a nice show for us and we had good views of several Phainopeplas as well. Laure discovered one of our target birds here today, the tiny Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet. We had nice views of Broad-billed Hummingbirds here, and a couple of Black-chinned Hummingbird females squabbled in a flowering bush. A Western Kingbird sat atop a tall eucalyptus tree and a male Black-headed Grosbeak did the same on a nearby tree. One or two people caught a glimpse of a noisy Brown-crested Flycatcher, but for the most part the bird remained hidden in the mesquites. Other little birds noted in the park included a stunning Hooded Oriole, a Lark Sparrow and a tiny Verdin. We walked back to an area near the spring, often good for Cactus Wrens, and sure enough, two Cactus Wrens appeared as if on cue. A nice find here was also a singing Rufous-winged Sparrow. The morning was getting on and we still had Mt. Lemmon to explore, so we darted off and picked up lunch before beginning the big climb.

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Cactus Wren. Tucson, AZ. Apr 2018. (C) Jackie Morris.

From the bottom to the top of Mt. Lemmon you travel from about 3500 feet in elevation to just over 9000 feet in elevation. We passed through 9 life zones on the drive, beginning with the lower Sonoran Desert and ending up in the Canadian ‘boreal forest’ zone. The drive up the Hitchcock Highway is spectacular with incredible views and vistas of rock formations and of Tucson below. Our first stop was in a wooded gully known as Bear Wallow. We strolled up the gully for about an hour, through towering Ponderosa Pines and Douglas Firs, racking up a nice little list of specialty birds. The big highlight here was finding several Red-faced Warblers, one of the most attractive warblers in North America, in my opinion. Just after spotting our first Red-faced Warblers, a pair of Olives Warblers appeared on the scene and both species

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Red-faced Warbler. Mt. Lemmon, AZ. Apr 2018. (C) Kathy Nuszdorfer.

were lifers for many in the group. Laure Neish tallied her 600th ABA bird here! Congrats Laure. Yellow-eyed Juncos, ambling along on the ground, amused the group, and a pair of Mountain Chickadees were a good catch. Western Tanager, House Wren, American Robin and Pygmy Nuthatch were all either seen or heard on our walk.

It was lunch time so we headed to nearby Box Elder Picnic Area and had lunch. We were entertained by some very cheeky birds that came in to mooch our lunches. Included were White-breasted Nuthatch, Yellow-eyed Junco and Steller’s Jays. Kathy N. spotted our first Ruby-crowned Kinglet. A Tassel-eared Squirrel came dashing along right up to our picnic site, offering excellent views of this species that I often find to be a bit shy. We carried on to the bottom of the ski hill (yes there is a ski hill in Tucson) and checked out the hummingbird feeders at the Iron Door Restaurant. Broad-tailed Hummingbirds, both males and females, buzzed about, and a male Rivoli’s Hummingbird (formerly Magnificent Hummingbird, but recently split) came in twice, though both visits were tantalizingly brief. We then headed up to the top of Mount Lemmon where a walk through the open, burned areas from a massive fire about 15 years ago, produced nice

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Tassel-eared Squirrel. Mt. Lemmon, AZ. Apr 2018. (C) Kathy Nuszdorfer.

views of Western Bluebirds. We then had a little break at the Cookie Cabin in the village of Summerhaven. Species, such as Steller’s Jays, Yellow-eyed Juncos and Broad-tailed Hummingbirds kept us entertained as we enjoyed some refreshing drinks. On our way back to Tucson we paused at the Windy Point Vista and enjoyed sweeping views of the city below and the bizarre rock formations. White-throated Swift was noted here, as was a nice little group of Bushtits and a single Orange-crowned Warbler. This evening we had dinner at Chili’s.

Day 3 – On our way out of Tucson this morning we visited a urban area near the interstate where Burrowing Owls had been seen, according to ebird. It was a very built up area of parking lots and strip malls, but after a little searching we found two Burrowing Owls near their burrow in a roadside ditch! Not a bad way to start the day. We then drove to Green Valley where we headed to our hotel and stashed our luggage, picked up lunch and then headed up into the Santa Rita Mountains. We stopped along the way at Florida Wash to listen for Botteri’s Sparrow. Unfortunately the Botteri’s didn’t want to cooperate this morning, though we

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Burrowing Owls. Tucson, AZ. Apr 2018. (C) Kathy Nuszdorfer.

were rewarded with nice views of both Lark Sparrow and the dapper Black-throated Sparrow. Next stop was along the Proctor Trail in lower Madera Canyon. Birds were quite active with the likes of Lucy’s Warbler, Bell’s Vireo, Summer Tanager, Hooded Oriole and Northern Cardinal being spotted. The big highlights however, included a pair of rare Black-capped Gnatcatchers, though the sighting was rather brief, and great views of a singing Crissal Thrasher. We were doing well this morning with our target birds. Higher up in the canyon we hiked for an hour or so, hoping for what is perhaps the most sought-after bird in S.E. Arizona, an Elegant Trogon. Some of the group heard the dog-like barking of the trogon up on a hillside once, but that was it. We were treated to excellent views of Painted Redstart, as well as Hutton’s Vireo, Mexican Jay, Bridled Titmouse and some had quick looks at a Dusky-capped Flycatcher. Arizona Sister, a lovely butterfly, flopped along as we admired it. Our stomachs were

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Crissal Thrasher. Santa Rita Mtns, AZ. Apr 2018. (C) Kathy Nuszdorfer.

telling us it was lunch time so we had a picnic, while Mexican Jays watched from the sidelines waiting to pick up our scraps. We then did some feeder watching, beginning with an hour or so at the feeders at Kubo B & B. On our way down to Kubo, we were stopped along the road by a testosterone filled male Wild Turkey that was in full display for a female. At the feeders, flashy Acorn Woodpeckers posed for photographs, as did Mexican Jays, Lesser Goldfinches, House Finches, Black-headed Grosbeaks, Lincoln’s Sparrow and three species of hummingbirds, Black-chinned, Broad-billed and Rivoli’s. Our first views of Hepatic Tanager, a male and female, were had here, as was a Plumbeous Vireo that was singing almost directly over our heads. I spotted a Hermit Warbler foraging in the oak trees and nearly everyone caught a glimpse of this rather uncommon warbler. Painted Redstarts flitted about like supermodels, flashing their tails back and forth as though they were strutting the runway. We then stopped at Santa Rita Lodge to watch the feeders there, and saw much of the same. A Rufous-crowned Sparrow hopped about in a brush pile below, and a male Western Tanager took a drink from the fountain. Laure and Gordon Neish had walked down to the next picnic area, Madera Picnic Site to utilize some facilities and suddenly, slightly out of breath, Gordon arrived back at Santa Rita Lodge and said, ‘Chris, I need to talk to you about

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Elegant Trogon. Madera Canyon, AZ. Apr 2018. (C) Laure Neish.

something.’ I was a little worried about what might be wrong. ‘There’s an Elegant Trogon down at the picnic site and Laure’s watching it right now. I don’t want to start a stampede.’ ‘Elegant Trogon alert’, I shouted to everyone at the feeders, and then I went in to the gift shop and again said, ‘Elegant Trogon alert’. There was almost a stampede as everyone who was in the gift shop and everyone who was watching the feeders began dashing down to the lower picnic site. We arrived and Laure was still watching the bird. We could hear the croaking as we approached. Just as we caught a glimpse of the stunning green and red ‘Christmas Bird’, it flew. It didn’t take us long to relocate it, thanks to the incessant barking calls. We enjoyed scope views and several folks in our group got great photos of the trogon. What a memorable experience. To top it all off, a Northern Pygmy-Owl suddenly appeared in the top of a juniper. ‘It came out of a nest hole’, one person in my group said. I got the owl in the scope and we had good looks at this vicious little killer who had a red, blood-stained bill. Feeling as though we had done quite well today in Madera Canyon we returned to Green Valley, however, our journey was interrupted by the sighting of our first Greater Roadrunner, doing just what it’s well known for, running across the road.

 

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Yellow-eyed Junco. Arizona, Apr 2018. (C) Pam Laing.

 

We had dinner at the 19th Hole and because we’re keeners we suited up for some evening birding in Madera Canyon.  We headed for Santa Rita Lodge and joined a group of 20 or so other birders, all of whom were gathered in front of a telephone pole where a celebrity was due to make an appearance at 7 PM. We waited, impatiently, for the little

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Elf Owl. Santa Rita Mtns, AZ. Apr 2018. (C) Kathy Nuszdorfer.

Elf Owl to pop his head out and have a look at his adoring fans, and just as if on cue, at 7, the owl poked his head out, took a few blinks and quickly returned into the darkness of the nest hole. Over the next half an hour or so the little Elf Owl took several extended looks out of its hole all the while cameras clicked and we watched through the scope. Lesser Nighthawks were flapping just above the trees, a first for the trip as well. Once it was dark we headed out to look for other night creatures and it didn’t take us long to find a pair of calling Whiskered Screech-Owls. We enjoyed great views of one of the birds as he sat in a tree, illuminated by my flashlight. More Elf Owls and the soft calls of Common Poorwills filled the calm night sky. We headed up to the top of the canyon to listen for Mexican Whip-poor-Wills and we heard several calling very loudly, an excellent ending to a perfect day.

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Whiskered Screech-Owl. Santa Rita Mtns, AZ. Apr 2018. (C) Kathy Nuszdorfer.

Day 4 – This morning we packed up our luggage and made our way to a nicely landscaped neighborhood in Green Valley which is a known area to find Gilded Flickers. It was another lovely bluebird day with sunny skies and warm temperatures. We parked the van and strolled along the road, attracting the attention of several neighborhood

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Gambel’s Quail. Green Valley, AZ. Apr 2018. (C) Kathy Nuszdorfer.

residents who came out to ask what we were looking for. There were Gambel’s Quail running about, one of which Pat exclaimed had a bunch of cute and fluffy little chicks. Curve-billed Thrashers called from the mesquite trees and Gila Woodpeckers were quite common. White-crowned Sparrows, Wilson’s Warbler and Yellow-rumped Warblers were the most numerous migrants in the area. A female American Kestrel posed nicely for views and all sorts of White-winged, Mourning and Eurasian Collared-Doves were present. I headed back to get the van after we’d walked a fair distance and on the way back I found two of our target birds, the

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Pyrrhuloxia. Green Valley, AZ. Apr 2018. (C) Jackie Morris.

 

first being the Gilded Flicker and the second a Pyrrhuloxia. I raced to get the group and we returned to the area that I had seen the birds. The Pyrrhuloxia was still there, showing nicely. ‘It looks like a fancy cardinal’, Gordon exclaimed. Laure said, ‘Or it could be that the cardinal looks like a fancy Pyrrhuloxia.’ Either way, it was great to see this attractive desert resident. After some searching the Gilded Flicker was found again and everyone had a good look at it.

On our way south, we stopped at the Amado Wastewater Treatment Plant and finally added a couple of more ducks to our lists; Ruddy Duck and Lesser Scaup. Around the edge of the pond were our first Killdeer and our first Spotted Sandpiper. Swallows over the pond included Cliff and Northern Rough-winged, in addition to the usual Barn Swallows.

Next stop was along the Santa Cruz River at Tubac, where a pair of Rose-throated Becards had been seen building a nest in recent weeks. Just as we parked, a Greater Roadrunner scooted off towards a farm building. We filled up our water bottles, put on

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Gray Hawk. Arizona 2018. (C) Kathy Nuszdorfer.

more sunscreen and headed for the trail which took us along the river beneath the giant Fremont Cottonwoods. There were Yellow Warblers, Warbling Vireo, Bewick’s Wren, Dusky-capped Flycatcher, Song Sparrow, and other species in full song, despite it being very warm. Overhead, we had a number of Gray Hawks soaring above the treetops, some of them giving very nice views to us. Suddenly, a small male Cooper’s Hawk landed on a branch and proceeded to eat its prey, a small, young, unidentified songbird. After ¾ of a mile or so we spotted the becard’s nest, a large, bulky and somewhat messy nest, hanging over the river from a cottonwood branch. We sat and watched the nest for half an hour or more, but there was no sign of the becard. We later heard that the birds had decided to build another nest elsewhere. Even if we didn’t see the becard, it was a pleasant walk with a lot of nice birds to look at. We had lunch at a little county park not far away, and

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Bridled Titmouse. Arizona 2018. (C) Kathy Nuszdorfer.

here, we saw our first Cassin’s Kingbird of the tour. Overhead the Gray Hawks kept vying for our attention, while a Vermilion Flycatcher caught bugs from a mesquite.

Farther south along the Santa Cruz River, we stopped at Santa Gertrudis Lane and again headed off to search for more reported rarities. These rarities, a Sinaloa Wren and a Rufous-backed Robin, both from Mexico, had been frustratingly difficult for birders to see over the past few days. ‘We definitely won’t see them if we don’t look’, I said, and in the end we didn’t find either of them.  Again, there was quite a bit to see, and we enjoyed views of Bridled Titmouse, Black Phoebe, Ladder-backed Woodpecker, Summer Tanager and overhead, Black

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Ladder-backed Woodpecker. Arizona. Apr 2018. (C) Kathy Nuszdorfer.

Vulture. Laure found a berry tree that was attracting quite a few birds and she sat there and racked up a nice little list of species, including a Hermit Thrush.

The day was getting on, so we decided we’d better start the drive towards Patagonia. We made it to Nogales, and suddenly found ourselves in the middle of a police chase, as many unmarked police cars sailed by with their lights flashing and their sirens on. What was going down? We then saw a helicopter come in to land beside the highway and we saw a police cruiser with the window shot out and yellow tape all around it. We carried, a bit puzzled, towards Patagonia, almost making it there and found ourselves at a police roadblock on Hwy 82. We were 15 minutes away from our destination and the road worker came to my window and said the highway could be shut down for 4-5 hours. There was only one way around the accident, and that would take us back nearly to Tucson, and would take an hour and 45 minutes. With no other options, that’s what we did, first stopping at a truck stop to have

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Rivoli’s Hummingbird. Arizona Apr 2018. (C) Kathy Nuszdorfer.

a snack, refreshment and a stretch. The drive, which followed Sahuarita Road and then Hwy 83 was quite pleasant anyway, with beautiful scenery. We got in to Patagonia later than expected, but that was ok. We later learned that a police officer had been shot and killed in Nogales earlier that day, which brought a sombre mood over the group. Everyone enjoyed the little village and we had a good dinner at the Wild Horse Saloon before getting some much needed rest.

Day 5 – It was chilly at the famous Patagonia Roadside Rest Stop this morning as we visited the site at about 6:20 AM. The sun had yet to shine at the bottom of the little canyon along Sonoita Creek. The birds were just coming to life and soon after we arrived we saw our main target species, the Thick-billed Kingbird! It was a fairly short view, but a good one, and it was a lifer for many present. The stunning cliffs at the rest stop

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Black-chinned Hummingbird. Arizona Apr 2018. (C) Kathy Nuszdorfer.

provided us with excellent views of a Canyon Wren and distant scope views of a singing Rock Wren, two new species for our trip list. Overhead, White-throated Swifts screeched. The bushy hillsides here attracted a few migrants including Wilson’s Warbler, the omnipresent Lucy’s Warbler and our one and only Green-tailed Towhee. Hummingbirds were zipping about, and included Costa’s, Black-chinned and Broad-billed. Our stomachs began to tell us it was breakfast time so we returned to Patagonia and visited the excellent café called The Gathering Grounds. We enjoyed it so much, we returned for lunch.

After breakfast we headed for Patagonia Lake State Park. On the way I tried to find a Botteri’s Sparrow with no luck, though we did see some Say’s Phoebes and heard singing Eastern Meadowlarks. Once we entered the park we made our way for the ‘Birding Trail’. We spent about an hour here, heading mostly for the

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Black-throated Sparrow. Arizona Apr 2018. (C) Kathy Nuszdorfer.

water at the east end of Patagonia Lake. A group of ten or so Neotropic Cormorants sat on a log here and I saw some Blue-winged Teal, though they flew off before the rest of the group could see them. Otherwise, there were American Coots, Ruddy Ducks and a couple of Pied-billed Grebes here. A Green Heron showed very well at the edge of some reeds, as did a Snowy Egret. Spotted Sandpipers were quite numerous on the muddy shoreline and a Belted Kingfisher was a nice bird to see. Overhead, Laure spotted our only Zone-tailed Hawk of the trip, so that was great. At the other end of Patagonia Lake some of us did a hike along the Blackhawk Trail. Though we never made it to the area

 

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Solitary Sandpiper & Killdeer. Patagonia Lake State Pk, AZ. Apr 2018. (C) Kathy Nuszdorfer.

where we could have seen a Common Black Hawk, we did see some interesting species at the dam spillway. There was a Solitary Sandpiper here, along with a Least Sandpiper, some Killdeers and a White-faced Ibis. A couple of American Pipits flushed from the spillway. Pam and co. spotted some grebes out on the lake and with the help of the scope they turned out to be two Western Grebes and one Clark’s Grebe! Pat watched a Black-throated Sparrow carrying nesting material.

After Patagonia Lake, we headed for the Paton’s Center for Hummingbirds, a property formerly owned by Mr. and Mrs. Paton, who invited thousands of birders onto their property to view their birds. They put out hummingbird feeders, seed feeders, orange halves and water features for the birds. Since they both have passed away, various organizations, including the Tucson Audubon Society, came together to purchase the

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Bewick’s Wren. Arizona. Apr 2018 (C) Kathy Nuszdorfer.

property and today it is run by volunteers. We arrived to find the place quite busy with other birds. Michael said he had never been in a place with so many birders as in S.E. Arizona, and that this was quite a cultural experience for him. I think the others on the trip agreed. We found our spots on benches and chairs in the shade and began watching the feeders. The Paton’s is especially known for one species in particular, the Violet-crowned Hummingbird. This bird, which barely squeaks across the Mexican border, can be found reliably here and within a few minutes we’d already had our first views. A male and a female came in to suck nectar from the feeders and after the hour or so we spent there, we’d all had decent looks at them. Other hummingbirds visiting the station included Broad-billed, Anna’s and Black-chinned. Besides hummers, other birds appeared such as Curve-billed Thrasher, White-breasted Nuthatch, Pine Siskin, Yellow Warbler and White-

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Yellow Warbler. Patagonia, AZ. Apr 2018 (C) Kathy Nuszdorfer.

crowned Sparrows.

We had lunch back at the Gathering Grounds and folks had a little while to look around the town and get some retail therapy if they inclined, and then we began heading east to the Sonoita Grasslands. We stopped at Las Cienegas, an area of grassland, dotted with shrubs and bushes, and here we added quite a few species to our trip list. A Chihuahuan Raven flew by, showing off some of its distinctive field marks, and several Horned Larks were seen along the road’s edge. A Grasshopper Sparrow sat in a bush long enough for scope views, and we had nice looks at a ‘Lilian’s Eastern Meadowlark as well. A distant Loggerhead Shrike in the scope left us wanting more, as this birds ‘In the next time zone’, I joked. We

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Loggerhead Shrike. Las Cienegas Grasslands. AZ. Apr 2018. (C) Laure Neish.

ended up having excellent views of Loggerhead Shrike right beside the van eventually. Western Kingbirds and an Ash-throated Flycatcher were trip ticks, as was a single Botteri’s Sparrow that sat in a bush beside the van for a few moments. A pair of Pronghorn Antelope acted very strangely as we slowly drove along the dirt road. We speculated that there may have been a youngster hiding somewhere in the grass nearby. It had been a fantastic day again, and we headed into Sierra Vista, checking in at our hotel before heading out for dinner at Applebee’s.

Day 6 – This morning, after visiting ‘America’s fastest Subway’, we headed into the Huachuca Mountains and explored the Beatty’s Guest Ranch at Miller Canyon. It was sunny and warm, but quite windy today. As soon as we arrived, there was an Arizona Woodpecker showing nicely in an oak tree nearby, a first for the tour. Once in Miller Canyon we chatted with Tom Beatty Jr. who was toting his rifle and was accompanied by about 10 dogs, Redbone Coonhounds he called them. He told us that the Spotted Owl we had hoped to see was not roosting in its usual location, which was too bad. As a consolation prize he took us to see a Northern Goshawk nest at the edge of his property. The nest was made of sticks and was quite high up in a tree, except there was no goshawk around the nest. We watched for a while and nothing

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Indigo Bunting. Hereford, AZ. Apr 2018. (C) Kathy Nuszdorfer.

appeared so we began to walk away. Just then I found a lovely male Indigo Bunting singing away and we had great scope views of it. Three birders from California, including a young girl of about 9 or 10 years old, were also looking for the goshawk and suddenly one of them began shouting. The goshawk was showing its head above the nest. We watched for a while, enjoying the red eye of the hawk, and then let her be as we didn’t want to cause too much stress on the bird. Even though it was quite unlikely we would find the owl, we still took a walk up Miller Canyon. There were quite a few birds in the canyon including a lovely Hermit Warbler, spotted by Dave, and Dusky-capped Flycatchers, a Cassin’s Vireo, Painted Redstart and Spotted Towhee to name a few.

Next, we visited Ramsey Canyon Preserve, where, after visiting the nature store, we headed up along the trails that followed a babbling creek. Tiny ‘Coue’s’ White-tailed Deer grazed along the edge of the stream and we saw the usual Rock Squirrels and Arizona

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Painted Redstart. Arizona Apr 2018. (C) Kathy Nuszdorfer.

Gray Squirrels here. Birds were about, but not plentiful. There were Bushtits, Black-throated Gray Warblers, Northern Flicker, Hepatic Tanager, and one of the most confiding Cooper’s Hawks I’ve ever seen, a rather small bird, a male, sitting on an open branch in the afternoon sunlight beside the trail. Butterflies were common here and we saw the usual Pipevine Swallowtails and Arizona Sisters, two of the more colorful species to be found here. To finish off our visit to Ramsey Canyon we headed for the nearby B & B which has some feeders. Rivoli’s, Black-chinned, Broad-billed and Black-chinned hummingbirds came in, but no Blue-throated Hummingbird, the one I’d hoped for. A Grace’s Warbler put on a brilliant show for us here, foraging and singing in branches right next to us. Kathy and Laure got some lovely photos of this beautiful

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Grace’s Warbler. Ramsey Canyon, AZ. Apr 2018. (C) Kathy Nuszdorfer.

warbler.

To finish off the day we headed for Ash Canyon B & B. We sat in chairs and watched the various feeders, mostly hoping for a glimpse of the rare Lucifer Hummingbird. After quite a while, a male Lucifer Hummingbird did show up, but the view was brief and not everyone saw it. There were plenty of other birds there to keep us entertained though, such as Canyon Towhee, Mexican Jay, Cassin’s Finch, Lark Sparrow and Black-headed Grosbeaks. We returned to Sierra Vista, had a delicious meal at the Texas Roadhouse, and after dark a few of us went out to look for Common Poorwills along Miller Canyon Road. Unfortunately it was very windy tonight and though I had a fleeting glimpse of a poorwill flying away, nobody else in the group saw one.

Day 7 – Our last day in Arizona, and it was breezy, but sunny. We returned to the speedy Subway to pick up our lunch, and then made our way back to the Huachuca Mountains. We ascended Carr Canyon Road, an impressive dirt road with several switchbacks that

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Buff-breasted Flycatcher. Huachuca Mtns, AZ. Apr 2018. (C) Kathy Nuszdorfer.

took us from the bottom at around 4000 feet up to the end of the road at 7200 feet. Our first birding stop was at the Reef Townsite Camground. Almost as soon as we got out of the car our target species appeared, North America’s smallest empidonax flycatcher, the Buff-breasted Flycatcher. This little flycatcher is only reliable in the U.S. in the Huachuca Mountains. Other birds at the campground included a nice selection of warblers. Black-throated Gray, Grace’s, Hermit, Townsend’s, Yellow-rumped and Painted Redstart were all noted. Hermit Thrush hopped about on the ground here. Plumbeous Vireos sang their buzzy songs and were accompanied by Hutton’s Vireos. We ran into a couple of other birders who claimed to have seen a Virginia’s Warbler so we searched for a while, but didn’t find it here. We strolled along the main road, birding in brushy areas bathed in sunlight. At a spot where I’d had Virginia’s Warbler before, we paused for a bit and I heard the soft call of one down the

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Wild Turkey. Arizona, Apr 2018. (C) Kathy Nuszdorfer.

slope. After a few minutes it appeared and sat on a dead branch for five minutes while we viewed through the scope. Pat was happy as this was one of her most wanted birds on the trip! Jackie and Michael had gone ahead a little bit and we drove down to the road to find them anxiously awaiting our arrival. They had just seen a Woodhouse’s Scrub-Jay! We searched for a little to no avail, but I was happy to hear a couple more Virginia’s Warblers singing in the valley below us. At the end of the road we used the facilities and then turned around, bumping our way back down the mountain. Along the way we made one more stop to look for Greater Pewee, a species that eluded us on this trip. We did see our first Blue-gray Gnatcatchers here however, and had great views of a Plumbeous Vireo.

 

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Verdin. Arizona. Apr 2018. (C) Pam Laing.

 

We had lunch at a picnic area at the bottom of the mountain beneath the oak trees. Lunch was interrupted by the appearance of a singing male Scott’s Oriole! Mexican Jays waited around the picnic tables ready to pick up our scraps and another Canyon Towhee showed off for a moment of two.

 

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Pronghorn Antelope. Las Cienegas Grasslands, AZ. Apr 2018. (C) Pam Laing.

 

We picked up our suitcases at our hotel in Sierra Vista and took a vote. It was between

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Scaled Quail. Elgin, AZ. Apr 2018. (C) Laure Neish.

Common Ground-Dove and Western Screech-Owl at San Pedro House, or Scaled Quail near Elgin. We decided on Scaled Quail. The drive out to the Appleton – Whittell Research Ranch, an Audubon property in the grasslands near Elgin, was beautiful. Once we arrived it didn’t take us long to find the Scaled Quail as about 10 of them scurried around some trucks in the parking lot. Eventually some came in to the feeding area near the station as well. It was a fine place to finish our birding in S.E. Arizona. We made our way back to Tucson in the late afternoon and had our final dinner together as a group at the Guadalajara Grill, enjoying some delicious Mexican cuisine. We had tallied 163 species together, not a bad total for a week’s worth of birding.

 

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Group shot at Windy Point, Mt. Lemmon, AZ. Apr 2018. (C) Kathy Nuszdorfer

 

Chris Charlesworth

Okanagan Spring Birding ~ Apr 6 to 8, 2018

Day 1 – Thirteen intrepid birders gathered at Kelowna’s Apple Bowl Stadium, the meeting point for our three day spring tour in British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley. As we were greeting each other in the parking lot, a pair of Wood Ducks flew overhead, and we

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Western Screech-Owl. Kelowna, BC. Apr 6, 2018. (c) Chris Charlesworth

hoped this was a sign of good things to come. The weather today was cool, with light showers periodically, and dense fog at higher elevations. We began along Mission Creek where a short walk produced a roosting Western Screech-Owl, an individual that has been using the same grove of trees for years. Other species noted in the area included a male Varied Thrush and several calling Pygmy Nuthatches.

 

We made our way north to Lake Country, pausing for a coffee before heading up Beaver Lake Road. The first few kilometers of the journey took us through the grasslands where we enjoyed nice views of Mountain and Western bluebirds and Western Meadowlarks. An attempt to find Red-naped Sapsuckers came up empty handed, though we did have Red-breasted and Pygmy nuthatches, Spotted Towhee and Say’s Phoebe. As we got up to the higher elevations on Beaver Lake Road, the dense fog was too much for us and there were just no birds to be found, so we turned around and made our way down the

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Varied Thrush. Kelowna, BC. Apr 6, 2018. (c) Lou Davidson.

mountain, stopping next at Robert Lake. We had lunch here, while scanning the flooded body of water for birds. Yellow-headed Blackbirds were right near where we parked, and for many were a first of the year sighting. Waterfowl, as usual, were a major attraction here today and we tallied an impressive 13 species of waterfowl during our visit. Included were Northern Shoveler, Ruddy Duck, Ring-necked Duck, Redhead, and Green-winged Teal to name a few species. Canada Geese on the far side of the lake gathered, and a few Cackling Geese were mixed in.

 

Our next destination was Munson Pond, where little flooded area near the road had attracted a Greater Yellowlegs, the first of the year for many. As we slowly drove down Munson Road, a male Audubon’s race Yellow-rumped Warbler flitted about beside the vehicles. We scanned the pond, racking up a nice assortment of waterfowl with both Greater and Lesser scaup side by side for comparisons. Also present were Ring-necked Ducks, Common Goldeneye, Hooded Merganser, Redhead, Canvasback and a hybrid male Eurasian X American Wigeon. On our walk around the lake we didn’t see too much of note, other than a very bright male American Goldfinch. I spotted an immature Harris’s Sparrow in a willow tree above the path, a fairly rare

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Harris’s Sparrow. Kelowna, BC. Apr 6, 2018. (c) Pam Laing.

species in the Okanagan Valley. From Munson Pond we then parted ways for a little bit before reassembling for dinner at 6 PM.

 

After dinner we returned to Beaver Lake Road to try our luck at some owling. Once we entered some fairly thick coniferous forest we stopped and I gave my best Northern Saw-whet Owl imitation a go. It didn’t take long for a saw whet to come tearing in and hover right over my head, actually smacking the top of my head quite hard. Luckily the talons were not able to grasp my scalp! The owl sat briefly in the trees, looking unharmed, before disappearing into the dark. As soon as it became evident that the owl was very territorial, I ceased imitating the bird. On our way back to Kelowna, Lesley, Annette and I, saw a Great Horned Owl atop a snag along Glenmore Road at Bubna Slough.

Day 2 – Once again we converged on the Apple Bowl at 8 AM. This morning, a female Merlin sat in the treetops right where we parked. We figured that one of the several nests we could see in nearby trees may be of interest to the Merlin. It was raining lightly

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Merlin. Kelowna, BC. Apr 7, 2018. (c) Pam Laing.

as we left Kelowna and crossed the Bennett Bridge, but by the time we arrived at my place, along Trepanier Creek, in Peachland, the rain was falling quite hard. We huddled beneath the cover of the roof, while peering at the feeders where Mountain, Black-capped and Chestnut-backed chickadees, White-crowned Sparrow, Spotted Towhee, Hairy Woodpecker, Dark-eyed Junco and Red-breasted Nuthatch were all coming in to feed. Three Turkey Vultures, looking very wet and unhappy, perched in the neighbors trees.

 

From Trepanier we headed down to Peachland, passing by fields full of hundreds of grounded American Robins. Our next stop was in Summerland at Trout Creek Point. A short stroll in the rain produced a nice immature Northern Shrike, as well as locally rare Dunlin, the latter of which was feeding along the shoreline. In Penticton we had coffee indoors and waited out the worst part of the rainstorm before heading off to check out the Okanagan Lake waterfront. Gulls were virtually nonexistent,

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Greater Scaup. Kelowna, BC. Apr 6, 2018. (c) Pam Laing.

with just a couple of Ring-billed Gulls on the beach. Farther out were some waterbirds such as Greater Scaup, Red-necked Grebe and a Common Loon. We watched in wonder as the Penticton Fire Department arrived and raced out from the marina with sirens on. I suspect it may have been a drill.

 

Our next stop was at Three Gates Farm along White Lake Road. The pine forest was fairly quiet here, though there were Mountain Chickadees and Pygmy Nuthatches calling here. As we continued down White Lake Road we accumulated quite a tally of Say’s Phoebes, a species that was obviously migrating. Also of note were both Western and Mountain bluebirds once again. Western Meadowlarks were seen quite well, but we couldn’t track down a Red-naped Sapsucker

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Rough-legged Hawk, OK Falls, BC. Apr 7, 2018. (c) Lou Davidson.

unfortunately. As we drove towards White Lake, a Rough-legged Hawk allowed great views as it sat atop a telephone pole. We had lunch near the lake. I held my sandwich with one hand and manned the scope with the other. On the lake were Bufflehead, American Wigeon, Northern Pintail, Green-winged Teal, Ruddy Duck and more. An adult Bald Eagle feasted on some sort of duck at the south end of White Lake. An adult Northern Shrike hunted along a fence line while we enjoyed the view through the scope.

 

At Mahoney Lake we heard, but could not see White-breasted Nuthatches, along with both Red-breasted and Pygmy nuthatches. A Pileated Woodpecker called in the distance and we had good views of a Downy Woodpecker here as well. As we passed by Green

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American Dipper. OK Falls, BC. Apr 7, 2018 (c) Lou Davidson.

Lake, we noted good numbers of ducks, mostly Lesser Scaup and Bufflehead. A short stop at Okanagan Falls produced an American Dipper sitting on the rocky edge of the fast moving water. Three female type Barrow’s Goldeneyes, the first for the tour, foraged near the dam.

 

At Vaseux Lake we walked the boardwalk to the viewing platform. Marsh Wrens were seen well, with one observed building a nest. From the platform we scoped the lake, and there were a few ducks, though nothing we had not already seen. The Vaseux Cliffs produced our first Golden Eagle of the tour, but Canyon Wrens were being uncooperative. Time was getting on so we continued to Oliver where we checked into our motel, the Lakeside Inn, on the shore of Tuc-el-nuit Lake. Just before we were to gather for dinner my phone rang and it was Alicia. She exclaimed she had found a Great Horned Owl on a nest outside of her room. I went out to see, and sure enough there was a Great Horned Owl sitting on a rather flimsy nest in a willow next to the lake.

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Great Horned Owl. Oliver, BC. Apr 8, 2018. (c) Chris Charlesworth

Day 3 – As we emerged from our rooms this morning there was the feeling of excitement in the air as the weather had cleared and the birds were active! We all had a good look at the nesting Great Horned Owl, including the other adult who was perched right out in the open this

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Osprey on nest at Osoyoos, BC. Apr 8, 2018 (c) Lou Davidson.

morning. Out over the lake a few of us saw a Northern Rough-winged Swallow fly past. There were Wood Ducks present this morning as well, and also Barrow’s Goldeneye and Northern Shoveler. Our first birding stop, after the coffee shop, was Road 22. We spent quite a bit of time here and were rewarded with some fantastic sightings. In the weedy fields on the west side of the Okanagan River, we spied a Savannah Sparrow, first of the year for many. Northern Harrier, a new species for the tour, glided low over the grasslands while Ospreys, also an FOY (first of year) for many, were seen too. Raptors were moving north over the ridges of the valley’s western ridge in good numbers. The birds were far away but it was possible to identify Bald Eagles,

 

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Flock of 18 Am. White Pelicans at Osoyoos, BC. Apr 8, 2018. (c) Pam Laing.

Cooper’s and Sharp-shinned hawks, Northern Harrier, Turkey Vultures and many Red-tailed Hawks. A formation of 18 American White Pelicans came winging up the river, eliciting quite the reaction from the group. High overhead I spotted a formation of 90 or so Sandhill Cranes also flying north. Scanning the ‘Throne’ to the east, I spotted an adult Peregrine Falcon soaring off the cliff face and then, through the scope, saw it land on the ledge. It may have taken a half an hour, but eventually everyone saw the Peregrine sitting on the cliff through the scope. Feeling we had done quite well at Road 22 we were just about to leave when a Long-billed Curlew could be heard in a field nearby. We headed over to the field and sure enough, two Long-billed Curlews had came in and began foraging amongst the

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Long-billed Curlew. Osoyoos, BC. Apr 8, 2018. (c) Pam Laing.

horses.

 

We then headed up Shuttleworth Creek Road, exploring mostly the area of larches along Venner Meadows Road. Though we never did see them, we did hear a couple of drumming Williamson’s Sapsuckers in the woods here, as well as a Pileated Woodpecker. Hairy Woodpecker showed itself however, as did a couple of Gray Jays. Monica heard the telltale single toots of a Northern Pygmy-Owl and within minutes we had the bird in the scope atop a larch. Rebecca and Alicia were lucky participants who got to see a Ruffed Grouse along the roadside. Unfortunately the bird disappeared before any of the rest of us could catch a glimpse.  It was mid-afternoon now so we said goodbye to some of the coastal contingency who headed back west. The rest of us returned to Kelowna, and in our vehicle we added two more species, Herring

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N. Pygmy Owl. OK Falls, BC. Apr 8, 2018. (c) Chris Charlesworth

Gull and Horned Grebe along the shores of Okanagan Lake. As a group we had found 104 species of birds during the three day tour.

 

Chris Charlesworth

 

MANITOBA ~ Owls in Winter, March 8 to 10, 2018.

Day 1  An early morning start on the first day took us east of Winnipeg, leaving the Great Plains behind, into the Boreal Forest of the Canadian Shield. The day got off to a splendid

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Fisher dashing across field, behind Sharp-tailed Grouse. Manitoba. March 2018. Photo: Dave Iluck

start, as we were photographing a covey of Sharp-tailed Grouse, when a Fisher, an elegant but rarely seen mammal, ran across the field, heading for some nearby trees. We managed some photos of this beautiful mustelid in full stride. It wasn’t too long until we spotted our first of five Northern Hawk-Owls, and shortly after that our first of six Great Gray Owls! The owls put on a spectacular show, allowing us to watch them hunt using the vehicle as a blind. We watched one of the Great Grays catch and eat a Meadow Vole. There were many great photo opportunities against a variety of backgrounds from cedar and spruce to the pale gray of a Trembling Aspen stand. Great Gray Owls can certainly melt into the middle-storey of the aspen forest. Other boreal

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Great Gray Owl, Manitoba. March 2018. Photo: Dave Iluck

birds rounded out a great day including a male Am. Three-toed Woodpecker working a tamarack, just a meter off the ground, and a stunning Northern Shrike.

 

Day 2  We tried a different area on day 2, but our planned stops near Winnipeg were hampered by thick fog (although we did enjoy good views of White-tailed Jackrabbit). We decided to head north and, as the fog lifted and the sun revealed some dazzling hoar frost, we caught a glimpse of a little bump in some roadside trees. As we were traveling at speed, it took a while to stop the car, turn it around and then cruise back to the right area. I was quite sure bump was a small owl, and probably a Boreal Owl. Indeed, as we pulled level and raised our binoculars, it became immediately clear that the number one bird on Dave’s wish list was right in front of us. We enjoyed superb views and then left the Boreal Owl soaking up the sun. We continued and found

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Boreal Owl. Manitoba, March 2018. Photo: Dave Iluck

other enjoyable birds such as Pileated Woodpecker, and Pine Grosbeak, but we couldn’t resist going back before lunch to check on the Boreal Owl more time. It wasn’t in its original spot but we found it about 200 meters up the road, actively hunting along the edge of a snowmobile trail. After lunch we worked our way slowly back towards Winnipeg, adding a very photogenic Northern Hawk-Owl, more Sharp-tailed Grouse and other goodies like Hoary Redpoll, to the list.

 

Day 2 The final day was more relaxed with a shorter loop around Winnipeg. Gray Partridge showed well, and they were the ‘early bird’ lifer of the day for Dave. We took a little time to photograph Red-tailed Hawk, Bald Eagle, Great Horned Owl, Northern Shrike and the like, but the Boreal Chickadees were less cooperative in front of our lenses. We added another Northern Hawk-Owl, and then Dave decided he wanted to try for Winnipeg’s famous Eurasian Tree Sparrow to finish the tour. It didn’t take too long to add this unexpected species, and one of its hybrid offspring to the trip list. From there it was just a hop, skip, and a jump to the airport, with just a bit of spare time to hundreds of trip photos.

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Northern Hawk-Owl. Manitoba, March 2018. Photo: Dave Iluck

 

Christian Artuso

COLOMBIA ~ Trans-Andean Express. Jan 19 to Feb 3, 2018.

Written by guide, Avery Bartels.

Day 1 – Bogota – Monterredondo – Villavicencio
Holding nothing back we got off to a bright and early start to this tour. After a quick 4am coffee in the hotel lobby in Bogota we piled in to Leonardo’s van for the 2 hour transfer to our first birding site above the village of Monterredondo east of the capital. Those of us who were returning from last year’s tour were very pleased to have Leo at the wheel again after enjoying his expertise and good company in 2017. As dawn broke at Monterredondo we wound our way up the dirt road that we would spend the morning on encountering a very obliging Lined Quail-dove to kick off the trip. After a quick field breakfast we started on foot up the road where we quickly heard our first of three Cundinamarca Antpittas. This being the only known area for this shy endemic we were pleased to hear them, even if none were close enough to the road to coax into view. We were plagued by dense fog until around 9:00am when we decided to drive down a little to try to get below the cloud layer. Succeeding in this, we quickly encountered an excellent flock that we followed down the road for more or less the next 45 minutes! Among the common flock species we picked out a couple Ochre-breasted Brushfinches, a much sought after target here along with several gorgeous Green-and-black Fruiteaters and the diminutive Barred Becard. A small flock of endemic Brown-breasted Parakeets were heard flying past but alas, they were obscured by the trees. On the lower part of the road we encountered our first Whistling Heron, a surprise at this elevation! Here we also found a Green-bellied Hummingbird, another east slope target. Continuing east down towards the lowlands we stopped for a pair of obliging Cliff Flycatchers on a wire at the side of the road.

After a late lunch on the outskirts of Villavicencio we checked into our nearby hotel where we freshened up a bit before driving to the east side of the city. Here we turned down a small road that parallels the Rio Ocoa where we spent the rest of the afternoon at a vantage point over the river. Here there were many water birds including both Green and Scarlet Ibis, along with the abundant Bare-faced and a few White Ibises. A couple Grey-cowled Wood-rails skulked along the edge of the vegetation and a small group of Oriole Blackbirds landed on the shore opposite us. There was a steady stream of birds flying up and down the river and included in the procession were Large-billed Tern and Capped Heron. Across the road, the open fields held Burrowing Owl and Double-striped Thick-knee while an Aplomado Falcon cruised over us.

Back at the hotel we tallied up our bird list to find we had recorded 118 species, a great start to the trip!

 

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Capped Heron. Colombia, 2018. Photo: David McCorquodale.

 

Day 2 – Villavicencio to Santa Maria de Boyaca
Our second morning of the trip was spent at an excellent patch of foothill forest by the Bavaria water bottling plant just outside of Villavicencio. Here the avifauna has a distinctly Amazonian flavour with Gilded Barbet, Violaceous Jay and Channel-billed Toucan amongst the more common species. As we worked our way up the road we encountered a pair of White-chinned Jacamars, always a treat, as well as a diminutive Yellow-browed Tody-flycatcher in the canopy overhead. A brief scurrying at the side of the trail produced split-second views of a Tayra as it started up a tree only to decide better of it and move off through the undergrowth. A young male Golden-headed Manakin was distinctly agitated by this large member of the weasel family and while watching it a Buff-throated Woodcreeper showed up as well. Further on, we eventually all got good looks at an obliging Yellow-billed Nunbird, one of our top targets, as it perched stolidly in the subcanopy. Approaching the van again in the late morning we found a smart looking Pectoral Sparrow as well as an unexpected Plain-crowned Spinetail.

After lunch we made our way north to the small mountain town of Santa Maria de Boyaca passing through some incredibly scenic and lushly forested canyons en route. As we neared the town in the late afternoon we met up with our local guide Eibar at the Cachipay road, a short stretch of unpaved track leading to a small military base. Here we were hoping to view the Black-and-white Owl(s) that regularly feed on the insects that are attracted to the lights on the base. While we waited for darkness to fall we enjoyed a couple Long-tailed Tyrants and a Spectacled Thrush along with other common disturbed forest species. Little Tinamous provided a beautiful soundtrack as darkness crept in. Once dark, Eibar tracked down a calling Black-and-white Owl which gave us great views. Not only that but we could hear a pair of Band-bellied Owls (a species not recorded too often in Colombia, mainly due to limited access to their range on the eastern slope) calling right by where we had parked the van. With minimal coaxing the pair flew into the bare branches of a large tree beside us treating us to excellent views, even as the batteries to my headlamp waned!

Day 3 – Santa Maria de Boyaca
After a nice breakfast in town we made our way to the nearby Almenaras Private Reserve, owned by a hydroelectric company. As Eibar is employed by the hydro company he had keys to let the van past the gate so we could go a little further into the reserve than we could have on foot. We started birding below the gate in more open field and forest edge habitat. It took us a half hour to move 100m as bird activity was high and here we encountered a Lineated Woodpecker at nest cavity, Gray Seedeater and the stunning Blue-necked Tanager. Entering the forest we caught up with a pair of diminutive Scaled Piculets. Another area of good activity produced an obliging Orange-billed Nightingale-thrush, a pair of Lined Antshrikes and a Cerulean Warbler (our first of a few today!) as well as a female Golden-tailed Sapphire. A band of Chestnut-eared Aracaris passed through and raucous calling ahead alerted us to a group of Speckled Chachalacas. As the morning wore on, Eibar brought us to a Golden-headed Manakin lek where we spotted a lone male. Not long after this we took a fork in the road where Eibar had previously seen the star bird of the Santa Maria area – Spot-winged Parrotlet. Although we would ultimately “dip” on this very local species we did encounter another target here, a male Blue-rumped Manakin as well as an incredibly obliging White-tipped Sicklebill that was picking insects out of spider webs on the bank at the roadside.

After lunch back in town Eibar suggested we bird a stretch of a little travelled road southwest of the town. Here we had a further encounter with a White-chinned Jacamar that was feeding at the side of the road. Eventually we managed to track down and get good scope views of a Rufous-browed Peppershrike and our first Speckled Tanager made an appearance. Several Spectacled Parrotlets flew into a patch of Guaduas bamboo near us and entertained us with their antics. Hopping back in the van we drove back to town and carried on a little ways up the road towards Bogota. Here Eibar showed us several Andean Cock-of-the-rocks as they displayed to each other at a small lek right beside the highway. After watching these stunning birds for a half hour we called it a day and returned to our hotel and another very hardy Colombian dinner.

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White-chinned Jacamar. Colombia, 2018. Photo: David McCorquodale.

 

Day 4 – Santa Maria de Boyaca to Bogota
Leaving Santa Maria shortly after first light we started on our way up the route 56 back to Bogota. Eibar had a couple birding stops planned for us before we bid him goodbye late morning. Our first stop was at a bridge where some in the group got brief and distant views of a White-capped Dipper along with better views of two Fasciated Tiger-herons. Our next stop was actually inside a tunnel! Eibar suggested we get out of the van about 100m before exiting one of the many tunnels we went through this morning and walking out to the vista of a beautiful waterfall crashing down beside the road. A fine way to get things rolling after which we carried on up the road on foot picking up our first Green Hermit and Pale-breasted Spinetail of the trip.

Passing the Chivor Reservoir back on route 56 we parked by a small path leading up the slope. Here we encountered good activity with our first Booted Racket-tail and Red-headed Barbet being real crowd pleasers! Also present were a pair of Burnished-buff Tanagers, our only ones of the trip. After our first of many frustrating attempts at seeing Whiskered Wren (something of a nemesis bird for us by the end of the trip!), we heard the unmistakable song of a Pavonine Cuckoo. This extremely rare and local bird has been recorded in the vicinity of Santa Maria but I was still very surprised (not to mention pleased) to hear it. Unfortunately it was a ways away across a steep gorge and we had no hope of calling it in. As we made our way back to the van another “mega” presented itself, a Crimson-bellied Woodpecker dropped onto a trunk in a small opening ahead of us. After giving us about 2 seconds of view it flew off, unfortunately before most in the group had gotten on it.

We bid farewell to Eibar and carried on towards Bogota. After a scenic lunch at a roadside restaurant our journey was only broken by a quick stop for Silvery-throated Spinetail at the edge of a wetland north of Bogota. As was becoming a habit with the endemics we had encountered so far, we only heard one that called once and refused to show itself.

Day 5 – La Florida Park (Bogota) – Jardin Encantado – Rio Claro Refuge
Shortly after first light we arrived at Parque La Florida on the edge of Bogota. Here we broke our duck of only hearing endemics getting excellent views of a curious Apolinar’s Wren and brief views of Bogota Rail, of which several were also heard calling. On the lake were the usual abundance of (Andean) Ruddy Ducks and migrant Blue-winged Teal along with a couple Spot-flanked Gallinules that we eventually picked out along the far shore. Yellow-hooded Blackbirds called raucously from the reeds around us.

As we descended down towards the Magdalena Valley, west of the capital we made a stop at the fantastic Jardin Encantado (Enchanted Garden) in the village of San Francisco. The hummingbird feeders here attract literally hundreds of hummers and we enjoyed crippling views of the endemic Indigo-capped Hummingbird as well as the elusive Gorgeted Woodstar along with commoner species such as Black-throated Mango, Brown Violetear and Rufous-tailed Hummingbird. Our only Red-billed Emerald of the trip showed up just before we headed out to find lunch at a nearby restaurant.

Most of the afternoon was spent driving down into the lowlands the north to the Rio Claro Refuge where we arrived with enough daylight left to pick out a beautiful Channel-billed (Citron-throated) Toucan as well as a Greater Ani and a few Plain-colored Tanagers.

 

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Indigo-capped Hummingbird. Colombia, 2018. Photo: David McCorquodale.

 

Day 6 – Rio Claro Refuge
Our plans for the morning were somewhat hampered by the fact that breakfast was not served until 8:00am so we decided to bird along the entrance road after a quick coffee. This proved quite productive as we encountered our first of many Bay Wrens, a nesting Blue-chested Hummingbird, a troop of vociferous Dusky-faced Tanagers as well as a confiding pair of calling White-mantled Barbets that we were able to get great scope views of. On the way back to the dining area we came across a pair of Cinnamon Woodpeckers foraging on a cecropia trunk.

After breakfast we were invited by the director of the reserve to cross the newly completed bridge over to the other side of the river where plans are being made to put in a trail system specifically for birders! Unfortunately for us this had only really just been started but we wandered around where faint trails existed and we encountered some typical western lowland species that we wouldn’t find again on this trip such as White-whiskered Puffbird, Checker-throated Antwren, Olivaceous Flatbill and Orange-billed Sparrow. A pair of Gartered Trogons obliged us with excellent views before we made our way back across to the lodge.

After lunch and a rest we spent the later part of the afternoon birding the entrance road and then a trail that leads follows a small stream near our accommodation. Along the road we spotted two distant soaring King Vultures as well as a singling long-billed Hermit and a Double-toothed Kite. Along the trail activity was low but we were able to scope a pair of Black-crowned Tityras and a lone Saffron-headed Parrot passed high overhead.

After dinner we went out to try our luck with night birds, inadvertently walking through an army ant swarm (and suffering several bites!) but not hearing any owls. Fortunately on our way back we were able to spotlight a Common Pauraque at the roadside.

 

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Double-toothed Kite. Colombia, 2018. Photo: David McCorquodale.

 

Day 7 – Cueva del Condor – Laguna del Hato – Libano
Leo picked us up at first light and we drove down the highway to the nearby Cueva del Condor. Near the parking area there was a lot of bird activity and we spotted our first Chestnut-fronted Macaws and a pair of One-colored Becards. The “Condor Cave” is, unsurprisingly, not aptly named as the shrieks and cries that are heard from the mouth are the result of the Oilbird colony inside rather than the caves namesake. The access to the cave is via a shallow streambed with little bits of trail along the edge with several crossings on stepping stones necessary. While it was not overly birdy the walk in had a certain element of adventure to it that made an enjoyable morning of it. En route we did encounter our top target, a pair of Antioquia Bristle-tyrants in the sub-canopy. Most of the group were also able to lay eyes on a skulking Black-faced Antthrush that circled around us, close but mostly remaining behind the fairly dense undergrowth. After enjoying the Oilbirds we made our way back out, scoping a stolid Barred Puffbird, a pacific lowland specialty, and picking out a Brown-capped Tyrannulet along with a pair of Pacific Antwrens in a small flock.

After lunch we began the drive south towards Libano, our destination for the night. En route we spent an hour at the entrance road to Laguna del Hato. In the dry forest here we found several new species such as Jet (poor looks only for part of the group) and White-bellied Antbird, Rufous-tailed Jacamar, Yellow Oriole and our second Barred Puffbird of the day! We had been hoping for the endemic Velvet-fronted Euphonia as this would be our only chance for this species and after hearing them in the distance we eventually tracked down a pair as we were driving back out towards the highway.

 

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Barred Puffbird. Colombia, 2018. Photo: Avery Bartels.

 

Day 8 – Libano to Santa Maria de Cabal
This morning was spent in the vicinity of Libano where we were hoping to track down four endemics including the very tricky Tolima Dove and a recently split hummingbird the Tolima Blossomcrown. Our first stop provided us with a pair of skulking Yellow-headed Brushfinch, the most straightforward of the endemics here. Also along this stretch of road we found our first Andean Motmots and Bar-crested Antshrikes of the trip, both providing good views. Just before we moved on a female Blue-naped Chlorophonia briefly perched up in a clump of mistletoe near the van.

Our next stop was a horse track that leads through a small patch of forest where we had been told by a local guide we ran into that the Blossomcrown and Dove could, with luck, be found. Alas, we dipped on both but this area did hold some seeding bamboo which attracted Slate-colored Seedeater and Dull-colored Grassquits, both rather infrequently seen species. A small flock of Barred Parakeets, another nomadic species, circled overhead screeching.

In the late morning we packed our bags and started on the long drive to Santa Rosa de Cabal. Backtracking down into the Magdalena Valley again we made a quick stop at a creek where we found the hoped for Crested Ant-tanager, one sitting out in the open for us for several minutes! Shortly before lunch we stopped at the roadside for a nice Pearl Kite, perched on a wire, while across the road Red-breasted Meadowlarks flew about the fields. The rest of the drive over the central Andes was very scenic but without any birding stops.

Day 9 – Santa Rosa de Cabal to Buga
A 4:30 start saw us pile into the back of two jeeps and head off up the dirt track that leads to a little visited side of Los Nevados National Park. We were not going quite as far as the park, which was fortunate as the hard seats and lack of suspension in the jeeps made for a very uncomfortable final 45 minutes as the “road” became truly atrocious. Our quarry for the day was the critically endangered Fuertes’ Parrot, a species presumed extinct up until about 20 years ago. Our local guide for the morning was the excellent Arnulfo and he planted us in the spot where they typically are seen in the early hours of the morning. We had to wait for a while but we were kept entertained by a nice mixed flock that passed by us a couple times that held Hooded, Lacrimose and Scarlet-bellied Mountain-tanagers. A Merlin, rather uncommon in Colombia and a lifer for Arnulfo (!) passed overhead and a higher than expected Chestnut Wood-quail called a couple times from the ravine below us. Meanwhile, in the pasture a flock of Hooded Siskins and a couple Paramo Seedeaters foraged. At last Arnulfo heard the Fuertes’ Parrots and a group for five flew past and alighted in a tree 100m away! Here they proceeded to forage and we were able to watch them in the scope for several minutes!

Buoyed by our success we drove a little further on to another forested patch of road and a side path where we had good activity. A beautiful male Purple-backed Thornbill sat up on an exposed perch and a magnificent Sword-billed Hummingbird did the same a little further on! Tapping coming from a row of trees on the nearby ridge eventually proved to come from a Powerful Woodpecker which allowed for great scope views for all before we eventually tracked down a calling Gray-breasted Mountain-toucan, one of the most stunning of Colombia’s birds. We heard several Antpittas including the near-endemic Bicolored and the more widespread Chestnut-naped and Undulated but with the foliage all cut back a little ways from the road we had no opportunities to track any down.

After lunch down by our hotel we made the 2 hour transfer to the excellent Otun Quimbaya Refuge. As we neared the accommodations we decided to do a little birding along a side road that leads down to a bridge over the Rio Otun. This proved an excellent choice as we spotted a pair of Torrent Ducks upstream! Several Cauca Guans were perched up in the canopy across a shrubby area and beside them was a more elusive Wattled Guan! A patch of Guaduas bamboo also housed some “roosting” Night Monkeys, huddled together in a ball.

 

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Gray-breasted Mountain-Toucan. Colombia, 2018. Photo: Avery Bartels.

 

Day 10 – Otun Quimbaya Refuge
We had the whole day to devote to this wonderful reserve and we started by spending the morning walking up the road from the lodge with our local guide Harvy (very knowledgeable!). As we were leaving the grounds we spied a Wedge-billed Hummingbird foraging on some flowers in the garden. The initial part of the road is somewhat underwhelming so we concentrated on covering ground for the first hour or so. Still, during this time we picked up several Red-ruffed Fruitcrows, one of the star attractions here, and heard a Moustached Antpitta as well as the wonderful fluted song of the Chestnut-breasted Wren. Soon we ran into more activity and in a few small flocks we picked out a pair of Ashy-headed Tyrannulets, Rufous-breasted Flycatcher, Black-billed Peppershrike, Metallic-green Tanager and a female of the aptly named Multicolored Tanager. Another endemic, the Stiles’ Tapaculo while more modest in appearance, showed uncharacteristically well as it sang for us just a couple metres away. Golden-plumed Parakeets and a Hook-billed Kite were spotted overhead as the morning warmed up. On our way back to the lodge I got a brief view of a juvenile Moustached Antpitta beside the road but unfortunately it flew off its perch before anyone else got on it.

After lunch Harvy suggested we try birding the Humedal trail that starts at the far end of the soccer field by the lodge. Activity was light although Harvy did briefly spot a Chestnut Wood-quail on the trail before we all got superb views of a Moustached Puffbird. Shortly afterward it started to rain heavily and we quickly finished the loop trail and took cover for the remaining daylight.

Luckily the rain had stopped by the time we finished dinner and we decided to go out for some owling. The night was very quiet and we hadn’t heard a peep before my spotlight landed on a small owl perched right beside the road – a Colombian Screech-owl! Flabbergasted at our incredible luck we enjoyed crippling views for a few minutes before leaving it to continue its hunting in peace! Nearing the lodge again we heard a pair of Tropical Screech-owls but could not coax them in.

 

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Colombian Screech-Owl. Colombia, 2018. Photo: Gisele d’Entremont.

 

Day 11 – Otun Quimbaya Refuge – Laguna del Sonso – Buga
At 5AM we again packed into two jeeps to transfer up to the end of the road in time for dawn to try for a very special bird, the Hooded Antpitta. When we arrived several Sickle-winged Guans were in the trees around us. As we watched for the Antpitta several other birds were coming out for forage along the wet patch of road near us. These included a Slaty-backed Nightingale-thrush and very briefly, a Moustached Antpitta though it was still not light enough to get tickable views. A group of White-capped Tanager flew overhead and a shy Chestnut-breasted wren was seen by some as it serenaded us from close by. With no sign of our target we wandered up a quasi-trail a couple hundred metres to another area that Harvy has seen it but here we also came up empty handed. We did track down a pair of White-naped Brushfinches though before having a field breakfast at the jeeps. A walk up the trail that carries on past the end of the road was very quiet but we did see tracks of Mountain Tapir and another Torrent Duck as well as some Torrent Tyrannulets. Back on the road we drove down a little ways to a section Harvy knew was often active. Sure enough we encountered a busy section with a few trip birds for us like Golden-olive Woodpecker and Fawn-breasted Tanager.

After lunch it was time to make tracks for Buga, just north of Cali. A quick ice cream stop provided our first Spot-breasted Woodpecker of the trip. We arrived at Laguna del Sonso in time for an hour or so of birding. This area holds the most extensive wetland complex in the Cauca Valley and we were quickly on our first Snail Kite and Blue-headed Parrots of the trip. A Striped Cuckoo was singing nearby but we could not track it down. A pair of endemic Apical Flycatchers showed themselves well before it was time to head to our hotel for dinner.

 

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Torrent Ducks. Colombia, 2018. Photo Gisele d’Entremont.

 

Day 12 Laguna del Sonso – Yotoco Forest Reserve – Cali
As we were leaving for Laguna del Sonso we noted several Buff-necked Ibis in the palms at our Hotel. At the entrance to the Laguna we met up with Jonathan, our local guide for the morning. A quick stop at the nearby pond produced a few Cinnamon Teal, a very local species in Colombia before Jonathan showed us some roosting night birds. First up were two Common and one Lesser Nighthawk in the same tree, then, not 100m further, a Common Potoo! Plenty of birds were passing overhead and these included our first Glossy Ibis and Anhinga of the trip. Dwarf Cuckoo and Plain-breasted Ground-dove were soon also added to the trip list. A scrubby patch produced a vocal but uncooperative Great Antshrike that would not show itself. Fortunately, a male Jet Antbird made up for this by cooperating beautifully. Before leaving the lagoon to transfer to the nearby Yotoco Forest Jonathan had another treat in store for us, a pair of Comb Ducks in the wetlands visible from the highway!

Arriving as we did at mid-morning meant that activity was fairly light at the Yotoco Forest, however, after running into a few Rufous-naped Greenlets and Plain Antvireos we did spot a Chestnut-crowned Gnateater that showed for most of the group. Golden-crowned Warblers were in the next little understory flock and a Streaked Xenops put on a show as it foraged beside the trail. After lunch back at the hotel we returned to the Yotoco Forest where we spent an hour and half enjoying the birds in the gardens and forest edge. A migrant Yellow-throated Vireo was a surprise and a pair of Sooty-headed Tyrannulets chased each other around the forest edge. Unfortunately there was no sign

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Common Potoo. Colombia, 2018. Photo: David McCorquodale.

of the hoped for endemics – Greyish Piculet and Turquoise Dacnis. Some consolation came in the form of a Hoffman’s Two-toed Sloth in the canopy near us. At 4:45 it was time for us to make tracks for our hotel in Cali.

 

Day 13 – Km 18 – Finca Alejandria – El Descanso and upper Anchicaya – El Queremal
We started our birding at the famous Km 18 above Cali off the old road to Buenaventura. There was good activity where we had our field breakfast as a mixed species flock came through that included, at last, a diminutive Greyish Piculet pecking away on some vines! A pair of Red-faced Spinetails were nest-building in the same tree. Further along we got nice views of a pair of Multicolored Tanagers and a small group of Colombian Chachalacas. Yellow-bellied Siskins, Scarlet-fronted Parakeets and Long-tailed Sylph soon followed before we were picked up by Leo and drove the final stretch to the incredible Finca Alejandria.

This site holds one of the most outstanding feeder setups in the country. Multicolored Tanagers come to drink from trays of sugar water while Golden-naped, Golden, Scrub, Black-capped, Saffron-crowned and several other Tanager species are attracted to the bananas along with a support cast of Emerlad and Crimson-rumped Toucanets, Red-headed Barbets, saltators and thrushes. Most of the 15 species (!) of hummingbirds at the feeders were not new to us but the star attraction certainly was, the male Blue-headed Sapphire! This is one of the only places where this species, with a small range just in southern Colombia and northern Ecuador, is more or less a certainty to see. A couple hours later, and after an excellent home cooked lunch, we tore ourselves away to continue on over the divide down onto the pacific slope into the famed Anchicaya Valley. After dropping our bags at the hotel in El Queremal we carried on down the road to El Descanso, a small restaurant and store on the side of the road that happens to have feeders out back. While the setting is not much too look at the birds certainly were! Violet-tailed Sylphs, White-tailed Hillstars and Empress Brilliants were common at the hummer feeders while several Green Thorntails foraged in the flowering bushes nearby. The banana feeders were a bit sparse when we arrived but that didn’t stop a pair of stunning Toucan Barbets from putting on a show for us!

An hour walking down the road was fairly quiet but we did come across a couple of the local specialties including Tricolored Brushfinch, Rufous-throated Tanager and a Nariño Tapaculo.

 

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Blue-headed Sapphire. Colombia, 2018. Photo: David McCorquodale.

 

Day 14 – Lower Anchicaya Valley – El Descanso
Knowing we had a couple hours of driving ahead of us down to the low elevations where we would be birding today we planned on a 4:30 start. This was hampered somewhat as our jeeps didn’t arrive until close to 5:00 but at last we were on our way. Arriving at our destination we started birding our way through the humid foothill forest that lined the road. A clearing soon provided us with some activity that included a Blue-whiskered Tanager and Scarlet-thighed Dacnis. This was followed by Pacific Flatbill and a couple lowland hummingbirds: Band-tailed Barbthroat and White-whiskered Hermit. Another area of activity held our first Spot-crowned Barbets as well as a pair of Moustached Antwrens and a Lemon-spectacled Tanager. Soon Russet Antshrike, Slate-colored Grosbeak and our first of two(!) Lita Woodpeckers were added to the list, the latter giving good scope views as it preened in the sun. Black-headed Antthrushes and Choco Toucans were providing the sound track as we enjoyed all this avian splendour! Activity lightened as the morning progressed though we still encountered the odd roving group of Tawny-crested and Dusky-faced Tanagers. New birds kept coming though as we enjoyed pairs of Dot-winged Antwrens and Rufous Mourners foraging at eyelevel in the trees down-slope of us. One of the most spectacular targets of the area is Scarlet-and-white Tanager and eventually we picked out a female. Knowing they are almost always in pairs we scanned for the tell-tale splash of red but alas, came up empty handed. There was still time for a couple more tanagers as a small group of Scarlet-browed Tanagers passed overhead and a Rufous-winged Tanager showed nicely in the lower canopy. Three different Sulphur-rumped Flycatchers were also spotted throughout the morning, a tricky species in Colombia. Eventually drizzle settled in and knowing that we had a fair bit of driving ahead of us we drove on a little ways to see a spectacular waterfall that drops down right on to the road. We even drove under it, just for the fun of it, before turning around and repeating the act on our way back up the mountain! After gaining a few hundred metres elevation we made a couple quick stops after the rain stopped as we wound our way back towards El Queremal. These produced excellent views of a pair of Slaty-capped Shrike-vireos in a cecropia, our only Black-cheeked Woodpecker of the trip, a beautiful Laughing Falcon and a very tranquil Broad-billed Motmot that allowed us to spend several minutes photographing it as it sat in place a few metres off the road.

 

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Spot-crowned Barbet. Colombia, 2018. Photo: Gisele d’Entremont.

 

Day 15 – El Descanso – Upper Anchicaya – Cali
For our final morning of the tour we arrived at El Descanso at first light where we enjoyed the feeder setup again as well as a fresh breakfast while picking up our first Velvet-purple Coronet of the trip, another stunning pacific slope specialty. As fog started to roll in we decided to drive down a little ways to get under it. This accomplished, we spent the next few hours birding the forest patches and fincas along the upper part of the road. Surprisingly, there was not a whole lot of bird activity and we were only able to add a few species to the trip list. A confiding Double-toothed Kite showed very well as it hunted from beside the road and several Variable Seedeaters were spotted. A pair of Lemon-browed Flycatchers jostled with a pair of territorial Golden-crowned Flycatchers while in the undergrowth we tracked down a vocal Scale-crested Pygmy-tyrant. Our final endemic of the trip, a Parker’s Antbird called a couple time well upslope of us but was too far away to be coaxed into view.

All too soon it was time to pick up our luggage at the hotel and head back up to Km 18 for lunch. The restaurant had a banana feeder which attracted in the usual array of wonderful tanagers as well as a troupe of comical looking Acorn Woodpeckers.

Our birding finished, we made our way to the Cali airport for our flight back to Bogota. Over the course of the 15 days we recorded (seen and/or heard) a total of 537 species including 19 Colombian endemics.

 

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Our 2018 group next to the Otun River, Colombia. Photo: Gisele d’Entremont.

 

 

Tales and photographs of the adventures of Avocet Tours