Also see the PHOTO GALLERY
following the summaries of the 2018 and 2015 MBWeeks.
We could hardly have gotten off to a faster start on our MBWeek! By the end of our first afternoon we had already seen a staked-out-at-a-sewage-pond Fulvous Whistling-Duck (exceptionally rare in AZ), a family of local and often-elusive Black-capped Gnatcatchers (with a tyrannulet and Varied Buntings among them) at Proctor Road, and a group of always-elusive Montezuma Quail at Santa Rita Lodge (the only ones we'd see all week). And by noon the next day we had already listed Five-striped Sparrows (plus our first Lucifer Hummingbird) along Box Canyon Rd, a Rose-throated Becard at its Tumacacori nest, and that afternoon we listed our first Elegant Trogon, Arizona Woodpecker, and Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher in Madera Canyon.
But, of course, things have a way of evening out. On Day 6 only part of our group managed brief looks and listens at a Rufous-capped Warbler; on Day 7 we missed out on a Flame-colored Tanager (heard 45 minutes before we got there); on Day 8 a stake-out Groove-billed Ani refused to appear for us (while showing up for others that day), and there were no Buff-collared Nightjar sounds that night at The Gulch (though some of us glimpsed either that or a poorwill in the road as it imitated a rock in the road before flying off).
Given a choice, I'd always rather get off to a slow start and finish with a flourish, and it's usually best to have fewer staked-out rarities around during a tour – especially when they involve difficult hikes or long drives which take time away from other places we'd like to visit. (We never did make it to Fort Huachuca, Patagonia Lake State Park, or Mt Lemmon.) Still, we finished with an even 180 species, which is a few species shy of our average in the mid-180s for a trip that includes Willcox water birds. (A Willcox-less trip might have a total in the 160s or 170s.) Our best number was 196 back in 1992, and the last time we did this trip in 2015 we found 192 species.
The below-average total was somewhat expected, given that the monsoon season had generally been modest and spotty, so that there was little rain to stimulate bird activity and song. Most telling was our list of only 8 hummingbird species – the lowest tally for any previous late-summer MBWeek here had been 10. It's also tempting to blame the weather for the absence of Western Screech-Owl, Juniper Titmouse, Bendire's Thrasher, Black-chinned Sparrow, and Bullock's Oriole from our list. But there are always a few "misses" on any trip, and these were about the only regular specialties we couldn't find (and typically none of them are easy to come up with).
But I'd say that what we did find certainly outweighed those we didn't. In addition to the highlights mentioned above from our first day and a half, we saw a long list of "non-Minnesota" species...birds like Mississippi Kites, Gray and Zone-tailed hawks, Barn Owl, Whiskered Screech-Owl, Northern Pygmy-Owl (always a challenge to see, and a nice consolation on the Hamburg Trail trek), Gilded Flickers, 17 flycatcher species (including Greater Pewees, Gray, Cordilleran, Buff-breasted, Tropical and Thick-billed kingbirds), Mexican Chickadees, Olive Warblers (including 4+ in one tree), 10 non-Minnesota sparrows (e.g., Abert's Towhee, Rufous-winged, Botteri's, Cassin's), 9 non-Minnesota warblers (e.g., Lucy's, Virginia's, Grace's, Hermit, Red-faced, Painted Redstart), Hepatic Tanagers, and many others. In addition we heard Common Poorwills, a close Mexican Whip-poor-will, Elf Owls, and Crissal Thrashers.
And let's not forget the Yellow-green Vireo that I'd say Pete and George managed to see along the De Anza Trail on the last morning. According to Pete's description...
"I saw a vireo in the outside branches of a cottonwood tree about 25 feet above us that immediately reminded me of a Red-eyed Vireo – bigger than Warbling, longish bill, dark eye line, mostly whitish below, although it was moving around among the leaves, so that good solid looks were fleeting. George Lahr soon joined me and saw yellow plumage along the sides and flanks and also felt that the bird was more greenish-toned than grayish. We did not hear any vocalizations. After about 20-25 seconds it flew north up the river."
Don't know if they are counting it for their lists (and it would have been a life bird for me), but the account sounds good enough to include it on the all-time MBW list as species #711!
July 27 – All arrived @TUS airport by 1:30 pm; first to Green Valley WTP (for that whistling-duck), then to Proctor Rd and Santa Rita Lodge in Madera Canyon; dinner at Cattle Town and first of 2 nights in Tucson.
July 28 – Box Canyon Rd, De Anza Trail in Tumacacori, return to Madera Canyon and Box Canyon Rd, and Ajo Way Burrowing Owls en route to dinner at Little Mexico.
July 29 – Saguaro Nat'l Park East, St David, Willcox settling pond, up Pinery Canyon Rd and down through Cave Creek Canyon to Portal for first of 2 nights; dinner at Portal Peak Lodge.
July 30 – Stateline Rd before breakfast, Cave Creek Canyon (incl South Fork Canyon, Southwest Research Station, Paradise Rd jct), Onion Saddle, Rustler Park, and Paradise Rd (incl George Walker House feeders); dinner at Portal Peak Lodge.
July 31 – Paradise Rd before breakfast, Bob Rodriquez feeders, Four Bar Cottages, Stateline Rd, Douglas (gas) & Busbee (lunch), San Pedro House, and Ash Canyon B & B; dinner at Ricardo's, owling at Miller Canyon, and first of 3 nights in Sierra Vista.
August 1 – Hunter Canyon, and drive up Carr Canyon Rd to Reef Townsite & Ramsey Vista campgrounds; dinner at German Cafe.
August 2 – San Pedro House, Ramsey Canyon & Hamburg Trail hike; dinner at Ricardo's & Pizzeria Mimosa, and owling in lower Carr Canyon.
August 3 – Pre-dawn nighthawk drive on Moson Rd, Sierra Vista WTP, one group to Whitewater Draw and other group to Miller Canyon & Beatty's feeders, then both groups in Patagonia; dinner at Cow Palace, nightjar-less drive to Warsaw Canyon @California Gulch, and night in Green Valley.
August 4 – De Anza Trail @Santa Gertrudis Ln to search for that vireo (by those with afternoon flights home).
(boldfaced species = unexpected rarities, or often-elusive & local AZ specialties)
Yellow-billed Cuckoo (heard-only)
Lesser Nighthawk (pre-dawn along Moson Rd)
Common Poorwill (heard-only twice; probably seen at CA Gulch)
Blue-throated Hummingbird (best at Southwest Research Station)
[ Calliope Hummingbird (possible ID by leader-only) ]
[ Long-billed Dowitcher (possible ID at Willcox) ]
Great Blue Heron
Golden Eagle (en route to Douglas)
Northern Goshawk (heard-only at Miller Canyon nest)
Gray Hawk (best at Tumacacori)
Zone-tailed Hawk (3-4 sightings)
Great Horned Owl (leader-only in Portal)
Gilded Flicker (Saguaro National Park East)
Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet (with the Proctor Rd gnatcatchers, on our first day)
Gray Flycatcher (Paradise Cemetery migrant)
Violet-green Swallow (best along Portal-Paradise Rd)
[ Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (possible ID) ]
Crissal Thrasher (heard-only twice)
Botteri's Sparrow (best by Pizzeria Mimosa)
Eastern Meadowlark (the lilianae subspecies)
Lucy's Warbler (best at Tumacacori)
Virginia's Warbler (best near Ramsey Vista campgr)
Grace's Warbler (Reef Townsite campgr)
Black-throated Gray Warbler (ditto)
Townsend's Warbler (seen by a few near Onion Saddle)
Hermit Warbler (best at Rustler Park)
Black-tailed Rattlesnake (seen twice by a few)
Antelope Jackrabbit (California Gulch)
* * *
Sorry to disappoint you all – Cindy especially – but it turns out that 192 is not a record for this MBWeek. While it is a nice total, 15 more than the last time the Edwardsons attended, and a bit above the average for this late-summer week in AZ, our highest total was actually 196 species way back in 1992. A few other trips here had around 190, and keep in mind that this trip was a day longer starting on a Friday, and it included two birds we only had in Phoenix (Honkers and Lovebirds!) which none of the other summer SE AZ trips had included. (Starting in Phoenix also failed to break our all-time MBW high of 113 degrees, as it merely reached 110 that day, but I doubt anyone was too upset by this.)
Numbers aside, though, this was certainly a memorable and successful MBWeek. With an early and active monsoon season, the deserts and grasslands were greener than I’d ever seen here. We never really got rained on, but there were some interesting diversions like the flash flood that blocked our way up Pinery Canyon – and at the same time turned us around in time to find a most obliging pair of Montezuma Quail lingering along the roadside! And though that large puddle/small pond on the California Gulch road briefly immersed our minivans’ headlights, the combination of this and our earlier flat tire failed to prevent our evening excursion to see Five-striped Sparrows and unexpected Elf Owls.
I was also impressed by places I’d never been to, such as the amazing Chiricahua Desert Museum, upper Miller Canyon above Beatty’s (vocal and visible pygmy-owls and eventually 2 Spotted Owls), Comfort Springs (our first Red-faced Warblers), Hamburg Trail (for Tufted Flycatcher – species #699 on the MBW composite list!), and especially under-birded Peña Blanca Canyon (trogons, tyrannulets, Varied Buntings, and more on refreshingly level terrain).
Of course, there were many highlights as well at more familiar sites: Mississippi Kites circling over Saint David; seven owl species actually seen (not just heard), with four of these in Miller Canyon; Harris’s Hawk, Lesser Nighthawk, Gilded Flicker, and Rufous-winged Sparrow all along the same residential street in Green Valley; a Plain-capped Starthroat on our third try at the Conrad feeders and Lucifer Hummingbirds on our first at Mary Jo’s B & B; the Buff-breasted Flycatcher nest at Carr Canyon; Thick-billed Kingbirds at three sites (just one is normal); the simultaneous appearance of a Greater Pewee, Mexican Chickadees, and Olive Warblers near Rustler Park; both Crissal and Bendire’s Thrashers in the same shrub at Willow Tank; and the best movement of warblers I’ve ever seen in AZ – 11 species at one spot in Summerhaven on Mt Lemmon, with multiple Virginia’s Warblers among them!
True, there may have been some disappointments: Buff-collared Nightjars and Mexican Whip-poor-wills had apparently stopped calling for the season, the White-eared Hummingbird at Beatty’s had not been seen for days, that Flame-colored Tanager was a no-show on the day we were at Ramsey, at Peña Blanca the Black-capped Gnatcatcher and Rufous-capped Warbler were heard-only, and there were a few birds on our list that no more than two or three of us saw. But these hardly matter considering the long list of Arizona specialties we did find, with no fewer than 115 of these “non-Minnesota” birds.
July 31: Early-afternoon arrival at PHX, Encanto Park (especially for Honkers?), and drive to Tucson via Columbus Park and Sweetwater Wetlands (a.k.a. visitor-friendly sewage ponds); dinner at Casa Molina and night at La Quinta Tucson Airport.
August 1: Lisa Frank Ave (for Burrowing Owls), Saint David (for kites), Willcox, Pinery Canyon (for a flash flood and quail), and drive to Portal via Douglas; first of 2 dinners and 2 nights at Portal Peak Lodge.
August 2: Stateline Road, first of 3 visits to the Conrads’ feeders, Dodie’s yard in Portal’s exclusive western suburbs, Cave Creek Canyon (incl South Fork Canyon & SW Research Station), E Turkey Creek Rd (briefly), Rustler Park & vicinity, return to the Conrads after a break, and post-dinner poorwilling.
August 3: Third & successful visit with the Conrads’ starthroat, Willow Tank & vicinity, Paradise Road & Cemetery and Goerge Walker House feeders, Chiricahua Desert Museum (!), and drive to Sierra Vista via Mary Jo’s Lucifer Hummingbird feeders at Ash Canyon B & B; dinner at Outback Steakhouse and first of 3 nights at Days Inn, Sierra Vista.
August 4: Ramsey Canyon (briefly), rest of morning at Miller Canyon (incl the hike above Beatty’s and the Beatty feeders), afternoon return for most back up the canyon (for Spotted Owls) / brief visit for others to Coronado National Monument and Hunter Canyon; dinner at Outside Inn and owling at Miller Canyon.
August 5: Hunter Canyon (briefly), most of the day up Carr Canyon, afternoon break for some / Sierra Vista sewage ponds & San Pedro House for others; dinner at Ricardo’s and owling at Carr Canyon.
August 6: Sierra Vista sewage ponds, San Pedro House, rest of morning up Ramsey & Hamburg canyons (for Tufted Flycatchers!), and afternoon drive to Green Valley via Patagonia (Patons’ feeders, Blue Haven Rd, and wayside rest), South River Rd, Rio Rico, and Amado sewage ponds; dinner for some at American Family Restaurant and first of 2 nights at Comfort Inn, Green Valley.
August 7: Peña Blanca Lake and Canyon; lunch/dinner at the Cow Palace, afternoon break for most / Madera Canyon for some, and late afternoon-evening drive to California Gulch (with a flat tire en route and a “car wash” on the way out).
August 8: The Calle Lecho neighborhood in Green Valley, a flat-tire fix at Walmart, and Mt Lemmon’s Bear Canyon, Rose Lake Canyon, Bear Wallow Rd, and a Summerhaven warbler wave (!); return to Phoenix, dinner at Caffé Boa, and final night at Clarion Hotel, Chandler.
August 9: Departures for home from PHX.
(boldface type = “non-Minnesota” species: absent, accidental, or casual in MN)
Canada Goose (Phoenix-only)
Northern Goshawk (heard-only)
Great Horned Owl
Northern Pygmy-Owl (future split?)
Gilded Flicker (Steve-only)
Rosy-faced Lovebird (Phoenix-only)
Warbling Vireo (future split?)
Western Scrub-Jay (future split?)
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
White-breasted Nuthatch (future split?)
Brown Creeper (future split?)
Black-capped Gnatcatcher (heard-only)
Curve-billed Thrasher (future split?)
Black-throated Gray Warbler
Rufous-capped Warbler (heard-only)
Northern Cardinal (future split?)
Eastern Meadowlark (future split?)
Red Crossbill (future split?)
* * *
ARIZONA MBWEEKS PHOTO GALLERY
~ Also see the photo gallery on the Winter Arizona MBWeeks page ~
Scaled Quail ~ Willow Tank (Roy Zimmerman photo, 2015)
Lesser Goldfinch (Roy Zimmerman photo, 2015)
Northern Pygmy-Owl ~ Miller Canyon (Roy Zimmerman photo, 2015)
Montezuma Quail ~ Pinery Canyon (KRE photo, 2015)
Burrowing Owls ~ Tucson (KRE photo, 2015)
Spotted Owl ~ Miller Canyon (Jerry Pruett photo, 2012)
Plain-capped Starthroat ~ Portal (KRE photo, 2015)
Lucifer Hummingbird ~ Ash Canyon (Roy Zimmerman photo, 2015)
Lucy’s Warbler ~ Portal (Roy Zimmerman photo, 2015)
Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher ~ Huachuca Canyon (KRE photo, 2012)
Mexican Chickadee ~ near Rustler Park (Roy Zimmerman photo, 2015)
Canyon Wren (KRE photo, 2011)
Phainopepla (KRE photo, 2011)
Buff-breasted Flycatcher nest ~ Carr Canyon (Roy Zimmerman photo, 2015)
Thick-billed Kingbird ~ Portal (KRE photo, 2018)
Cordilleran Flycatcher (Roy Zimmerman photo, 2015)
Acorn Woodpecker (Roy Zimmerman photo, 2015)
Broad-billed Hummingbird (Pete Hoeger photo, 2018)
Violet-crowned Hummingbird ~ Patagonia (KRE photo, 2012)
White-eared Hummingbird ~ Miller Canyon (Jim Mattsson photo, 2010)
Elegant Trogon ~ Huachuca Canyon (KRE photo, 2012)
Botteri’s Sparrow (KRE photo, 2018)
Five-striped Sparrow ~ California Gulch (KRE photo, 2012)
Yellow-eyed Junco (Jerry Pruett photo, 2012)
Varied Bunting ~ Peña Blanca Canyon (Roy Zimmerman photo, 2015)
Gray Hawk ~ Sonoita Creek (KRE photo, 2008)
Barn Owl ~ near Portal (Pete Hoeger photo, 2018)