Friday, May 28, 2010

Horseshoe Fire Update

The Arizona Daily Star is now reporting the Horseshoe Fire in the Chiricahuas has grown to 900 acres. If you plan on birding in the Portal or Cave Creek Canyon area you might want to call ahead and check on conditions. According to the AZ Daily star, The fire has prompted authorities to close Cave Creek Road at the forest boundary near Portal to Turkey Creek Road.”

As for here in Sycamore Canyon the sun is shining brightly and the temperature is currently 84F/29C. We should hit our first 100F today.

At the feeders and in and around my yard today I have already seen Turkey vultures, Gambel’s Quail, Mourning doves, white-winged doves, rock pigeons, Costa's hummingbird, Gila woodpecker, gilded flickers, Ash-throated flycatcher, Cactus Wren, curve-billed thrashers, Northern Cardinal, canyon towhee, brown-headed cowbird, house finches, lesser goldfinches and house sparrows!

I’ve watered my new cactus garden, trimmed and pruned trees, flowers and bushes, filled bird feeders and bird baths, and fed the pets. Now I’m off to do housework before my grandson arrives for the weekend around noontime.  I know, I know, you are all waiting for pictures and details from the birding trip to Portal.  I am working on it! I hope to get it posted sometime today or early tomorrow morning! Until then, have a safe and fun Memorial Day weekend!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Fire in the Chiricahuas!

DSC_0410Smoke rolling over the Chiricahua Mountains from the Horseshoe Fire 5-26-10 

These are the scenes Donna and I saw as we left Rustler Park in the Coronado National forest Wednesday afternoon. We spent a blissful morning in the mountains at 8500’ in elevation searching for Mexican chickadees, Red-faced and Olive Warblers and others.  We got the Mexican chickadee, a Life Bird for us both, but were totally unaware that a forest fire had broken out southeast of us. As we headed down the mountain so I could go home, we stopped to take photos of some of the beautiful scenery.  Suddenly we noticed the smoke off in the distance.  The smoke plume started to build and build until it filled most of the sky. From my perspective it looked like the fire was moving towards or even into Cave Creek Canyon and Portal.  As I did not want to spent the night on the mountain or have to drive across the mountain to Wilcox and back around, I urged Donna, who was driving, to head down the mountain as fast as we could.  While it was only 15 miles to Portal, it took us 45 minutes to drive down the steep, winding dirt road.  Of course, we did stop one more time to get photos.  Who could resist! All of the following pictures were taken at a hairpin turn on the road down from Rustler Park, except for the last shot which was taken from the small town of Rodeo in New Mexico.

DSC_0396 DSC_0400 DSC_0408 DSC_0409 DSC_0412The above shots are taken from the side of the Chiricahua mountains looking SE to Cave creek Canyon. When we got to the canyon it was full of smoke. I heard on the news that the fire was 300 acres in size as of 10 PM last night. I left to drive home, but Donna was spending another night in Portal. She is one determined birder and after saying our good-byes she was off again to do more birding despite the smoke.  She was out of the parking lot before I was!  I do not know how she is since there is absolutely no cell phone reception in Portal. If you are going birding there this weekend, you might want to check ahead!

DSC_0429 On my way home I took a 2 mile detour to the town of Rodeo, NM to see the fire from that perspective (and to count birds)! This is a view of the fire from the main street of Rodeo looking west into Arizona.

I made it home about 7 p.m. last night, unpacked, took a soak in our new hot tub and went to bed.  I was up by 4:45 a.m. to join my team of volunteers to do our Important Bird Area Survey of Sabino Canyon. I’ve taken a nap and off-loaded my photos.  I hope to have the rest of the story and the birding stats posted soon!

Happy Skywatch Friday Everyone!

Monday, May 24, 2010

On the Road to Portal


Roadrunner on my block wall 5-15-10

I took this picture of a Roadrunner as it ran along my garden wall on May 15. The shot was taken through my kitchen window on a sunny Saturday afternoon. We’ve been having lots of sunshine here lately with temperatures ranging from highs in the 90’s down to today’s high in  the 70’s.  I woke up freezing this morning and jumped in my new hot tub first thing just to warm up! It’s suppose to be cool again tonight and tomorrow and then the 90’s return.  We still haven’t hit 100 degrees yet this year, but I know it is coming!

I feel a bit like this Roadrunner lately.  It seems like I am always on the go. By the time most of you will be reading this I will be on my way to Portal, AZ and Cave Creek Canyon where I will meet Donna Simonetti and Bosque Bill for 36 hours of high speed birding.  If all goes well I’ll come home with new friendships, 8-10 lifers and tons of great pictures and, of course, more birding stories. I’ll keep you all posted via this blog or my Facebook page! Until then, have a great day watching birds, ‘cause Birds are Everywhere!

For those of you interested in statistics, my Life List for Cochise County, AZ is currently at 110 species.  It was only 82 at the start of this year. My Year List for Cochise county is 77 species. I have only birded in Cochise County twice so far this year. I will update these statistics when I return! Portal and Cave Creek Canyon are both in Cochise County.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Sycamore Canyon Sky

5-20-10 Skywatch Friday

Sycamore Canyon Sky 1-21-10

With views like this it isn’t hard to love living here! 

Skywatch Friday!

Poetry is happening on

Kathie’s Poet Tree

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Chasing Birds With Matt Morrow


The day after Kathryn left I was out the door by 8 a.m to meet Matt Morrow in Madera Canyon. Matt had flown in from Alabama for little more that 48 hours to see as many species of birds as possible while he was here.  I met Matt while I was in Alabama in March and he had taken me around to see the local birds there.  I picked up three life birds then, now were were going to see how many we could get for Matt here.

DSC_0081 Matt had spent the night at the Madera Kubo and I met him there at the cabin.  He had already been up the mountain trails and captured a few *Life Birds on his own.  As I waited for him to collect his gear I watched as a Flame-colored Tanager came to the feeder outside the Kubo.  This was a *Life Bird for me also.  What a way to start a birding day! A hummingbird feeder hung from the roofline of Matt’s cabin where he was a able to see Broad-billed and Magnificent hummingbirds. Then we headed down the canyon to the Madera Picnic Area and the Proctor tail where he picked up Acorn Woodpeckers and a Says’ Phoebe.

DSC_0110Along the Proctor Trail we followed this Blue-gray Gnatcatcher hoping against hope it was the black-capped.  but with such a prominent eye-ring and lack of the black cap we concluded that it was the blue-gray instead.

DSC_0116 We soon discovered we had found a nesting pair and watched as they built their nest together in the crotch of a small tree. Though we kept our distance they really didn’t seem to mind us being there and they sang as they worked on collecting bits of moss and bark and twigs.DSC_0120

Birds Seen in Madera Canyon with Matt on 4-14-10

  1. Magnificent Hummingbird
  2. Broad-billed hummingbird
  3. Broad-tailed hummingbird
  4. Hepatic Tanager
  5. Flame-colored tanager
  6. Wild turkey
  7. Turkey Vulture
  8. Acorn woodpecker
  9. White-breasted Nuthatch
  10. Mexican jay
  11. Townsend’s Warbler
  12. Dark-eyed Junco (gray-headed)
  13. Yellow-eyed Junco
  14. Pine siskin
  15. Lesser goldfinch
  16. Common raven
  17. Ruby-crowned Kinglet
  18. Say’s Phoebe
  19. Ash-throated flycatcher
  20. Dusky-capped flycatcher
  21. Blue-gray gnatcatcher
  22. Warbling vireo
  23. Yellow-rumped Warbler (Audubon's)
  24. Green-tailed towhee
  25. Canyon towhee
  26. Chipping sparrow
  27. Northern Cardinal
  28. Willow flycatcher
  29. Spotted towhee

Then, on our way out of the canyon we stopped along Whitehouse Canyon road so Matt could see:

  1. Phainopepla
  2. Cactus Wren
  3. Curve-billed thrasher
  4. Rufous-winged sparrow

All of these were life birds for him.

We ate our lunch at Parque Los Arroyos in Sahuarita and of course, we watched birds while we ate.  This quaint little park is located in a neighborhood behind Walmart and is a hidden treasure.  These are the bird species seen in 1 hour there:

  1. Turkey vulture
  2. Cooper’s hawk
  3. Swainson’s hawk
  4. White-winged dove
  5. Mourning dove
  6. Eurasian-collared dove
  7. Anna's Hummingbird
  8. Black-chinned hummingbird
  9. Gila woodpecker
  10. Verdin
  11. Cactus Wren
  12. Ladder-backed woodpecker
  13. Curve-billed thrasher
  14. Phainopepla
  15. Chihuahuan Raven
  16. European Starling
  17. Lesser goldfinch
  18. House sparrow

 DSC_0142 From Sahuarita we high-tailed it up to Sweetwater wetlands where we spent just a little over an hour counting birds and saw 36 species, including this Black Phoebe.  However, so far the Vermillion flycatcher had eluded us, so, it was off to some parks I know of in town where the Vermillion Flycatcher hangs out.

We tried Himmel Park first, which is where I saw my first Vermillion Flycatcher, but no luck today.  As we headed to Reid Park I kept thinking about where we could go next if there were no Vermillions there. I drove to the Northwest corner of the park which is usually a guarantee to see them and sure enough, I had barely parked the car when one flew up to the chain link fence surroundings ball field!  this was a female however, and I so wanted Matt to see that brilliant red male.  It wasn’t long before one showed up, and then another.  In all we saw 4 vermillion flycatchers there as well as a Cooper’s Hawk up in the pine trees.  But one of the most amazing things we observed was the mating flight of a hummingbird species. While we were watching the Vermillion Flycatcher catch insects on the ball field I heard the hum of wings nearby.  I looked and saw a female hummingbird sitting in one of the diamond shaped openings of the chain link fence.  Her back was to us, so I am not sure what species she was, and on the other side of the fence was a male hummingbird shuttling back and forth in front of her.  He did this a few times and then went into his dive display.  It was all so fast and blurry and he was on the other side of the chain link fence but we were less than 10 feet away and it was AMAZING! Matt and I both stood there with our mouths agape, awed by what we were seeing. We were only there 10 minutes but in some ways it was the best 10 minutes of the day!


By now the shadows were getting long and we headed back to Sycamore Canyon.  On the way there I stopped at a place I know of to show Matt the great-horned owl chicks in their nest.  Last year there were 4 chicks.  this year there ear only 3. since owls are Matt’s favorite birds, this was a real treat for him.

The one bird still remaining on Matt’s list was the Gilded Flicker.  In all the places we had be to today we had not seen one. They live here in Sycamore Canyon and I see several of them every day, but it was getting late for them to show up at my feeders.  Still, I drove past the turn for my neighborhood to the top of Sycamore Leaf Drive where I know they like to hang out.  I was driving slowly and just as I was saying to Matt, “This is where the gilded flickers usually hang out,” as if on cue, one flew right in front of the windshield! I quickly pulled over so Matt could jump out for a better look, then, after he got back in the car and I was turning around we saw 2 more on a nearby saguaro. 

DSC_0151As Gus and I fixed supper, Matt sat in a chair on my back patio and played my classical guitar for me.  You see, Matt is not just a birder, he is also a musician and a fine human being as well. Gus took this photo of us before Matt left and as you can see, we both look exhausted but you can also see, we are both smiling!

*Life bird: A bird species a birder has seen for the very first time.

Matt got 39 Life Birds while in Arizona.

I got 1 Life Bird on this day!

Total species of Bird seen today: 76!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Disaster In the Gulf

I feel the Earth trembling

as Black Death gushes from her own breast

ripped open by manmade greed

and ignorance

always thinking he can conquer

and quell,

and outsmart

the natural order of things,

always choosing dollars

over tranquility.

And Mother Earth trembles

as her rich blood flows

into her briny ocean

where it does not belong,

Blood that has become poison

with chemicals and chemicals added

to dispense the unstaunched flow

and ocean and wetlands tremble,

and fish and wildlife tremble,

and all of the people tremble

at this dark unknown.

Who will save us from disaster?

Can we really save ourselves?

There are not enough dollars in the sea

or centuries in our lifetime

to undo This Great Harm.

~Kathie Adams Brown (May 16, 2010)

One Single Impression Prompt 116: Trembling

As the oil continues to flow into the Gulf of Mexico these are just some of the bird species at risk from "This Great Harm."

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Birding from Dawn ‘till Done, Kathryn’s last Day in Sycamore Canyon

DSC_0024 Can a day start out any better than with a red-tailed hawk soaring in a bright blue sky?

Skywatch Friday!

DSC_0031 Since Kathryn's plane did not leave until late afternoon we spent our last morning going for a hike in Sycamore Canyon. in 30 seconds we were in the Big Wash or the main Canyon and seeing birds. An unfamiliar song led me to this familiar bird, a canyon towhee.

DSC_0039Farther up the canyon we were startled when a red-tailed hawk flew screaming out of this nest high over our heads in a saguaro.  We had not seen the nest nor taken notice of the cactus until the bird flew out. since we did not want to disturb the bird or the nestlings we hurried away from that location.

DSC_0041Meanwhile mama (or papa) bird continued to scream at us from across the canyon in a mesquite tree on the opposite rim.

DSC_0052 We were seeing so many birds in the sycamore Canyon, a reminder to me that I need to come out here more often!  while I am chasing birds all over SE Arizona, once again I am discovering that there is a treasure trove right in my own backyard! We found this little bird and I took several photos of it.  I’ve studied and studied it and finally come to the conclusion…

DSC_0057 …that it is a Western (Pacific/Cordilleran) Flycatcher due to the lack dusky smudges on its undertail coverts, the short primary projection, the slight crest and the eye ring pointed at the back.  If you have a different opinion please tell me and tell me why!

DSC_0060 However, the male Phainopepla presents no such problem in identification with his silky black crest and red eyes.

We saw so many birds out in the wash and the whole time I kept saying to Kathryn that I was so surprised we had not seen a black-headed grosbeak out there. We barely got back home and I was dressing after taking a shower when Kathryn called out to me that there was a black-headed grosbeak in the acacia tree in the front yard!


While I saw it there I was unable to get its picture, but then the bird obliged me by flying to the backyard and landing in the mesquite tree which made photographing it a bit easier as I could gently slide the sliding glass door open and poke out my lens.

 DSC_0070 What a great way to end her birding trip.  To top it all off, as we left for the airport we saw a Swainson's Hawk soaring at the bottom of the road in my neighborhood, her final species for this trip and a new addition to her AZ Life list! Sycamore Canyon is a great place to live!

Location: Sycamore Canyon Wash
Observation date: 4/13/10
Notes: Birding with Kathryn.
Number of species: 28
Turkey Vulture 5
Red-tailed Hawk (Western) 3 one hawk on nest in saguaro.
White-winged Dove 5
Mourning Dove 22
Greater Roadrunner 1
Costa's Hummingbird 2
hummingbird sp. 1
Gila Woodpecker 6
Gilded Flicker 4
Gray Flycatcher 1
Cordilleran/Pacific Slope flycatcher 1
Bell's Vireo 3
Gray Vireo 1
Common Raven 2
Verdin 7
Cactus Wren 6
House Wren 1
Black-tailed Gnatcatcher 1
Northern Mockingbird 5
Curve-billed Thrasher (Western) 6
Phainopepla 6
Lucy's Warbler 2 pair building a nest.
Green-tailed Towhee 1
Canyon Towhee 1
Rufous-winged Sparrow 1
Pyrrhuloxia 2
House Finch 10
Lesser Goldfinch 1
House Sparrow 1
This report was generated automatically by eBird v2(

Location: 17 S. Vermillion Sunset Dr.
Observation date: 4/13/10
Notes: Birding with Kathryn. Her last day here.
Number of species: 17
Gambel's Quail 6
White-winged Dove 2
Mourning Dove 15
Gila Woodpecker 8
Gilded Flicker 3
Say's Phoebe 2
Chihuahuan Raven 1
Cactus Wren 3
Curve-billed Thrasher (Western) 6
European Starling 3
Rufous-winged Sparrow 1
Lincoln's Sparrow 1
Northern Cardinal 1
Black-headed Grosbeak 1
House Finch 9
Lesser Goldfinch 6
House Sparrow 9
This report was generated automatically by eBird v2(

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Birding from Dawn ‘till Dusk Day 6: Mt. Lemmon

DSC_0201 On April 12 my friend Kathryn and I took a drive up the Catalina Highway to Mt.. Lemmon. When Kathryn visited me two years ago we went birding in several places.  This time we went to all new places for her.  Mt. Lemmon is a totally different experience from Patagonia or Saguaro National Park. As we headed up the highway we stopped at several overlooks along the way. At one of our first stops I looked back over the Tucson Valley to see Houghton Rd running like a straight line through the desert.  Houghton Rd runs from the Catalinas at its north end to the Santa Ritas at its extreme south end.  It is the ribbon that connects these two mountain ranges that are part of the ring of mountains that surround Tucson like the rim of a bowl.


At the Babad Do’ag parking place I learned that Mt. Lemmon is known as the “Frog Mountain” to the native peoples. I think that name is much more colorful than Mt. Lemmon, and who knew that the name “Tucson” means “at the foot of the black hill.”  In researching this information I also learned that during WWII a Japanese internment camp was located at the base of Mt. Lemmon. Know by the ironic name of “Catalina Honor Camp” the detainees were forced to work on the construction of the highway. One of these “internees’ was a Japanese–American by the name of Gordon Hirabayashi. In 1942 Hirabayashi openly defied curfew and was sentenced to 90 days in jail.  With the backing of the ACLU he fought his conviction all the way to the supreme court. When he lost  he was sent to the Honor Camp. Years later his conviction was overturned and in 1999 the Catalina Honor Camp was renamed the Gordon Hirabayashi Recreation Area. I have driven by this place so many time and always wondered about the funny name.  Now it doesn’t seem so funny any more.  Now I want to go back there and visit this area named after such a courageous person.

DSC_0210Farther up the roadway we stopped to see the cascades of Seven Falls.DSC_0216 At windy point we marveled at the rock formations and gazed below at the ribbon of asphalt we had just driven up! Though we were always on the lookout for birds, the high winds kept many of them down.  At this location we did see a common raven and 2 white-throated swifts. The swifts were life birds for Kathryn.

DSC_0219When you drive the Catalina highway it is as if you are driving from Mexico to Canada in 27 miles, for the road starts out in the Sonoran desert at 3000’ in elevation and ends at 9100’ ft. in forests of Aspen and fir. Because of this there are many and varied habitats with the accompanying bird populations. We started out seeing Turkey Vultures and Western Kingbirds and ended in Summerhaven for lunch where we saw Yellow-eyed juncos and Stellar’s jays!


We also saw Acorn Woodpeckers and this is really the only bird photo I got.  The Stellar’s jays were high in the pines and deep in shadow where their cobalt blue and black plumage makes them virtually disappear in the foliage. Still, it was a great day and we had such a good time, which included a stop at the Palisade Visitor’s Center where Kathryn got her first look at a Magnificent Hummingbird!

Birds seen along the Catalina Highway:

  1. Turkey vulture
  2. Common Raven
  3. Western Kingbird
  4. American kestrel
  5. White-throated Swift
  6. Cooper’s Hawk
  7. Magnificent Hummingbird
  8. White-breasted nuthatch
  9. Yellow-eyed junco
  10. Acorn woodpecker
  11. Stellar’s Jay (my first AZ sighting!)
  12. Lesser goldfinch

And that’s…

My World Tuesday!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Home Again

DSC_0215My new cactus garden 5-10-10

Home Again.  What a nice sound.  I have been so busy the last two months. Eventually it all caught up with me and I was overwhelmed. The pace has slowed but it still hasn’t stopped. I’ve been birding with friends, then I went to Maricopa to take care of my adopted grandchildren for a few days.  I returned home in time to take Gus to the airport for his first trip home to Maine in two years! Before I left for Maricopa we started to landscape our side yard as a cactus garden. What fun we had selecting cacti and succulents to plant. We knew some of the plants we wanted but discovered others as we went along.


I have yet to even learn all the names of the cacti but I really like this little one. Though small and hairy looking it displays a lovely flower. Once established, these cacti will need little to no water which is very important here in the desert.

With Gus gone to Maine, I spent the next few days cleaning house like crazy because on Saturday, May 8th I had a women’s club meeting here at my house.  Not only was I hosting the meeting, I also gave a bird presentation to the club. I took the PowerPoint presentation I had used for the middle school program I did a few months ago and adapted it for this one.  Gus helped me hook up my laptop to our TV so I could show the slide show there.  Everything went very well and I was pleased. On Saturday afternoon I finally got a break and took a nap.  I spent Mother’s day watching my grandson Xavier while his daddy worked and his mom studied for her college final exams.

This morning I was out the door and ready for a walk. Though I have seen birds in my yard as usual, I wanted to see what is in the neighborhood.  So, up the road I travel into the new Sombra neighborhood. It is a one mile hike from the gate to the cul de sac at the top.  At first I wasn’t seeing much but as I travel higher and higher up the side of the mountain I am starting to see more birds.

Right now the desert is blooming. So far we have had a very cool spring and I am quite comfortable in my sleeveless shirt and capri’s. With our recent spring rains the desert has come to life in shades of  lime, sage, yellow and orange. The ocotillos reach high towards the sky waving their orange plumes to the heavens. A red-tailed hawk soars above me.  Cactus wrens and gilded flickers call from the desert. I hear a curve-billed thrasher sing and then I catch the motion of a tiny yellow bird low in a creosote bush. I am surprised to see a female Wilson’s Warbler gleaning insects from the leaves and I almost doubt my eyes to see this species here in the desert so far from water, but then her mate flies in with his jaunty black cap and the identity is confirmed.

All around me I see flowers blooming, many which I do not yet know the names of.  My frustration in not knowing their names only drives me to want to learn more about this exotic place I live in. I catch the flash of black and yellow in the twigs of a mesquite tree.  I see black streaks on white flanks and realize I am seeing yet another warbler.  The yellow throat and yellow rump confirm the Audubon's variety of a yellow-rumped warbler.  Then, on the opposite side of the road I see another.  This has turned out to be a very productive walk with 22 species seen in this one mile stretch of road. It has taken me an hour to cover it with all the stops I made to observe the birds, but I am so glad I came. Now it is time to head home again and water that cactus newly planted garden!


I love this new succulent flower I discovered called purslane. The magenta colored poppy shaped flowers rise above the rosette of thick leaves below.  I initially bought one plant but liked it so much that I went back for 2 more! More pictures to follow as we continue to work on this area, but already I can tell that the birds are loving it! I hope to catch up with all of you soon and finish the rest of my “Birding From Dawn to Dusk” posts! Right now its time to cook dinner before Gus returns tonight from the airport!


Birds seen on my walk this morning:

Location: Sycamore Canyon-Sombra
Observation date: 5/10/10
Notes: Took a walk to the top of the Sombra neighborhood where the pavement ends. At fisrt I wasn't seeing much but the farther I went up the more birds I saw. Was quite surprised to see the warblers!
Number of species: 24
Gambel's Quail 5
Turkey Vulture 1
Red-tailed Hawk (Western) 2 one soaring, one perched on a saguaro
White-winged Dove 16
Mourning Dove 2
Gila Woodpecker 3
Ladder-backed Woodpecker 1
Gilded Flicker 4
Say's Phoebe 1
Ash-throated Flycatcher 1
Brown-crested Flycatcher 1
Western Kingbird 1
Common Raven 1
Verdin 2
Cactus Wren 6
Curve-billed Thrasher (Western) 5
Phainopepla 1
Yellow-rumped Warbler 1
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Audubon's) 1
Wilson's Warbler 2 foraging together in a low bush
Canyon Towhee 2
Black-throated Sparrow 4
Pyrrhuloxia 1
House Finch 2
This report was generated automatically by eBird v2(