It was a glorious day with lovely sunny skies, but the wind was vicious and that wreaked havoc with our birding efforts at times. We began back at Madera Canyon where we hiked quite some distance up the trail chasing the sounds of a distant Elegant
Trogon. Unfortunately we never did see the bird and it still remains elusive to us. Otherwise, birding seemed a little slow though we did enjoy several nice views of Painted Redstart.
Next we headed for Florida Canyon where we searched for another hard to get bird, Black-capped Gnatcatcher. We heard the calls of one up on a steep slope, but alas it wouldn’t show itself. We were quite happy to see two Scott’s Orioles here feeding on flowers of Ocotillo. Also in the Ocotillo were several Lazuli Buntings. A
White-striped Longtail, a rather large member of the skipper family, was a new butterfly for our list here. On our way from Florida Canyon we saw quite a large Coachwhip snake, which was a lovely pink color, as it slithered off into the desert.
We had lunch in Madera Canyon while Mexican Jays, Bridled Titmice, Hepatic Tanagers and Dusky-capped Flycatchers kept us entertained, and then we visited the Kubo Cabin feeders. The usual suspects were here with Magnificent Hummingbirds, Broad-billed Hummingbirds and Black-chinned Hummingbirds dominating the sugar feeders, though a Painted Redstart did steal a sip of nectar as well. At the feeders at Santa Rita Lodge we were quite happy to see a male Arizona Woodpecker appear, showing well the red on his nape.
We said goodbye to Madera Canyon and began the drive towards Nogales, popping in at Rio Rico to check out the ponds. Unfortunately these ponds had completely dried up so we didn’t see too much here. Over the irrigated fields were good numbers of Barn and Northern Rough-winged swallows. Along a fence line a Say’s Phoebe and a pair of Vermilion Flycatchers showed off and high overhead we saw our first Black Vultures. Lark Sparrows were moving through the area in great numbers today. The wind had really picked up by this point so we called it a day and headed for our motel in Nogales.
The first of May was a great day for my group and we enjoyed gorgeous sunny weather, with temps in the low 20s, and the wind was almost non-existent. We began pre-breakfast out at Pena Blanca Lake, west of Nogales. Bird activity was high, and we quickly added our first new trip bird, a Canyon Towhee as it sat atop a rocky outcropping. Janet picked out a Nashville Warbler and some got to
see it before it disappeared. Also providing a very brief look was an Orange-crowned Warbler. Our first Black Phoebe sallied out for insects from an exposed perch along the shore of the lake. Out on the water were several American Coots and one or two Ruddy Ducks, as well as a couple of Mallards. Numerous swallows, including Bank Swallow, N. Rough-winged Swallow and Violet-green Swallows showed nicely as they flew over the water, and some perched on power lines. Vermilion Flycatchers were everywhere today and who knows how many we eventually had seen at the end of the day. Breakfast was beckoning so we returned to the van, along the way picking up our first Gray Flycatcher of the tour.
After breakfast we had a quick tour through downtown Nogales, turning around just before we came to the Mexican border. Before entering Patagonia Lake State Park we paused in a bit of grassland to look for Botteri’s Sparrow which was quite an easy task as one sat up in a bush for scope views. Once at the lake we enjoyed a couple of hours of exploring this great park that has a variety of habitats including reed-beds, muddy shores, desert and riparian cottonwoods. In the cottonwood / willow riparian habitat we tallied
species including Summer Tanager, Bullock’s Oriole, Ladder-backed Woodpecker, Yellow Warbler, Cassin’s Kingbird, Vermilion Flycatcher and Bewick’s Wren to name just a few. Desert scrub had Lucy’s Warbler, Phainopepla and a Northern Beardless Tyrannulet. Along the muddy shoreline we picked up a nice White-faced Ibis along with several species of duck including Green-winged, Cinnamon and Blue-winged teal. Spotted Sandpipers poked along the shore as well and several Neotropic Cormorants were here. Great Egret, Black-crowned Night-Heron and Great Blue Heron were all noted around the edge of the pond. In the reeds and in bushes right along the lake we had brief views of Common Yellowthroat and a very cooperative Yellow-breasted Chat! Everyone was very pleased with our morning so we made our way into Patagonia for lunch at the Gathering Grounds.
After lunch we had a short wander around Patagonia and then headed over to the Paton’s Center for Hummingbirds where we sat and enjoyed the birds coming to feeders for a while. There were loads of birds here with most abundant species being White-winged Doves and Brown-headed Cowbirds. Also present were
many White-crowned and Lark sparrows and one or two Song Sparrows. Abert’s Towhees fed out in the open, alongside comical Gambel’s Quail and our first Inca Doves. At suet feeders were Ladder-backed and Gila woodpeckers, as well as White-breasted Nuthatch and a lovely male Summer Tanager. Hummingbird feeders attracted Anna’s and Broad-billed hummingbirds, but we couldn’t find the sought-after Violet-crowned Hummingbird today. A Hispid Cotton Rat or two
fed on seeds beneath the feeder as did a tiny unidentified brown mouse.
Final stop of the day was another fantastic one at the famous Patagonia Roadside Rest Stop. Upon arrival we watched a hillside where numbers of Western Tanagers were noted and we had good looks at a Hermit Warbler. A male Costa’s Hummingbird could be heard displaying, but never did show itself. Broad-tailed Hummingbird showed however. A Rufous-crowned Sparrow, our first of the tour was seen through the scope, and John Hunt pointed out a male Lazuli Bunting. Overhead a Zone-tailed Hawk teetered by, and in the distance a Gray Hawk called. White-throated Swifts zipped about above the rocky cliffs and at the base of the cliffs were two Rock Wrens. A Canyon Wren sang its lovely descending song here as well. We carried on, kicking Western Tanagers, Phainopeplas,
Lucy’s Warbler, Warbling Vireo and Brown-crested Flycatcher out of our boots and eventually we found the signature bird of the rest stop, a Thick-billed Kingbird, perched nicely atop a dead cottonwood. Wow, what a day it had been and we returned to our hotel in Nogales with big smiles on our faces.
From Nogales we made our way east to the Patagonia Roadside Rest Stop this morning, where we spent an hour and some exploring this well known area for any avian delights. The ‘Patagonian Picnic Table Effect’ which is the phenomenon of one observer finding a rare bird and then subsequent birders showing up to look for it, finding more rare birds in the process, did not transpire today. We found nothing rare, though we enjoyed looks at a multitude of birds including both Canyon and Rock wrens, Rufous-crowned Sparrow,
Thick-billed Kingbirds, Ladder-backed Woodpeckers and Western Tanagers, the latter of which many of the ‘Brits’ have coined their favorite bird of the trip.
In Patagonia we headed straight for the Paton’s feeders and about 5 minutes after we arrived a Violet-crowned Hummingbird appeared at the feeders and it never returned during the hour we remained there. Luck was on our side! Many of the same species we had seen here the previous day were again seen. After a short break for coffee and a treat at the local cafe we carried on east, stopping in at the Sonoita Grasslands on the way. Not only were the birds quite cooperative here, but the scenery was also very stunning. A place that is often quite windy, it was a treat to bird here today in calm conditions. Birds added to the trip list included the local race of Eastern
Meadowlark known as ‘Lilian’s’ Meadowlark, as well as several Horned Larks, a Grasshopper Sparrow, a flock of Brewer’s Sparrows, Chihuahuan Ravens and a very cute Scaled Quail. A number of Pronghorn Antelope were seen on the grasslands as well.
After a picnic lunch we headed for Sierra Vista and the Huachuca Mountains at Ramsey Canyon. We headed straight up to an area where several recent sightings had been made of interesting birds, including one of our most sought-after species the Elegant Trogon. We arrived to the scene and heard the trogon calling and it didn’t take me too long to spot it perched on a branch in the thick oak forest. It flew off before everyone could see it, but not to worry because I spotted it again and we all had good views. Great bird! As we made our way down the path I pointed out our first Greater Pewee of the tour, and Tim called out a nice male Hermit Warbler. In the parking lot of the preserve I found a singing Buff-breasted
Flycatcher that perched out in the open for scope views. This species is a specialty of the Huachuca Mountains, but is usually found at higher elevations than lower Ramsey Canyon. Feeling quite content we made our way to our hotel in Sierra Vista for a little R & R.