Wednesday, February 20, 2008

GBBC: Monday's Finale

I slept late Monday still trying to recuperate from this darn cold. I wore myself out yesterday but I don’t want today to slip away. I have high ambitions but time, distance and health will probably limit the extent of my birding today. I count the birds in my yard and at my feeders while I wake up and fix my breakfast. Then, I check the bird counts and results on the GBBC web site. I notice that no one has counted birds in Saguaro National Park yet, so I make up my mind to make that my destination for the day. But first, I decide to check out two of the other sites I birded at yesterday.

I head to the park first, which is really close by. I decide I can walk the dog and count birds at the same time, killing two birds with one stone so to speak, but when I get to the park there are few birds in sight. The workers are driving their bulldozers through the desert ripping open a brown wound on the surface of the earth. Construction of the Community Center has begun. I hear a few birds off on the opposite side of the park, but all I count are 2 mourning doves, a Gila woodpecker and a couple of house finches. All the little sparrows I saw yesterday are gone for now. I will have to wait to see if they ever come back.

I bring the dog home and head to the Vacant Lot again. This time it is so quiet when I get here. It’s only 15 minutes later in the day than when I was here yesterday, but still, there should be some birds. Then, I see the red-tail soaring across the gold course with nesting material in its beak. I watch as it flies into a tall pine on the golf course. Perhaps I will get to see Red-tail chicks this spring. (Are they called chicks? I will have to look this up!) Then the smaller birds start to emerge. First I see an Anna’s Hummingbird, and then the sparrows start to move about. After awhile I see the Lark bunting again, and in the tall trees at the edge of the field I find Yellow-rumped warblers, a Ruby-crowned kinglet, an Orange- crowned warbler and a Hutton’s vireo! The warmth of the sun is making me very thirsty with this cold, so I finally pack it in and head down the mountain to town. I stop at a local park where I count a vermillion flycatcher along with 50 Brewer’s Blackbirds and 50 American Widgeons in the manmade lake, but I don’t stay here long. I soon head out for Saguaro National Park, east.

Saguaro National park is divided into two sections, one on the west side of Tucson and this other on the east near the Rincon Mountains. The western side has a larger visitor center and more easily accessible trails, but the east side is much closer to me and has a nice 8 mile loop drive. However, today I head to the Javalina Picnic area to eat the fast food I bought in desperation. Plus, I have found that by sitting quietly that often the wildlife will come to me. Not long after I sit down a little ground squirrel comes out looking at me with inquiring eyes. I know it wants me to drop it a tidbit, but I resist the urge. Human food is not good for these creatures and I do not want to contribute to the delinquency of a ground squirrel. Instead, I raise my camera to take a picture, but the squirrel scampers off. Soon however, the birds start to show up.

I’ve been listening to thrashers sing since I got here. Now I hear a covey of Gambel's quail calling to each other across the desert. Then, a little black-throated sparrow lands on a twig right near the picnic table. This time I am able to snap off quite a few pictures before it leaves. Then, I see a flash of feathers cross the road. I leave my belongings on the table and follow. Looking through my binoculars I see a bird that looks like a cross between a junco and a sparrow. While it has a gray head and a junco-like beak, it’s back has the coloring of a chipping sparrow. I know I’ve seen its picture before, but I can’t think of the name. I try to take a picture of it myself but this little guy is secretive and elusive. Every time I think I have clear shot it drops back into the brush again. It always manages to keep a flower, or stick between us. Finally it flies off into even deeper cover, but I’m sure of what I saw and when I get to consult my bird guides afterwards I discover it is a black-chinned sparrow, a life bird for me!

I put away the remnants from lunch and climb around on the hillside. The Javalina Picnic Area is in a bit of a hollow with rocky outcroppings and cactus covered hillside all around. Beyond this natural bowl the Rincon mountains rise in the east and with the recent rains and snow I can hear water trickling down the cliffs in a gentle cascade. Walking up the hillside I come upon the covey of Quail. They are rather tame here and don’t dart for cover as quickly as the ones in my neighborhood, so I am able to take a decent picture of some of them before they dash for cover again. I estimate their number at about 14, which is the most I have seen at one time.

While I am standing there photographing quail, a little rock wren hops up on a picnic table as if to inquire about what I am finding so interesting. Well, you of course, I think as I snap off some pictures of it. The sun is beating down on my feverish body but I don’t want o give up yet. I climb even farther up and start to circle the picnic area, but it seems all the birds like the bottom of the bowl better, for there are few up here, save for a red-tail lazily circling the sky.

I continue on my way and climb one final outcropping. The effort and the heat make me dizzy and I sit down. It’s then I realize I’d better cash it in and go home. If I passed out up here no one would see me and I’d lie here in the sun and fry to a red crisp! I’m so thirsty but my water is down in the car. I have to at least make it that far, so, I slowly make my way down trying to avoid other people’s picnic tables. I don’t want to intrude on their privacy. Back at the car I gulp what is left of my water and decide I should head home, even though it is only about 3 pm. If I was feeling better I would go do a couple of other counts before the day ended, but I must go home. As I drive south on Houghton Rd I briefly pull off to head to another park, but then reprimand myself and get back on track. I make one final count of the evening birds in my yard and call it a day. The GBBC has ended until next year.


Anonymous said...

Oh those quail are so CUTE! You are so fortunate to have them near you, and to live so close to Saguaro Nat'l. Park! I hope you are able to keep tabs on the hawks as they raise a family this spring. How cool! I would love to be able to see Bonnie and Clyde raise a family. I just have to figure out where they plan to nest this year.

I hope you're feeling more like yourself soon. I too hate to let a day slip by, even when I don't feel like doing anything. It's good for the soul to get out there and watch the birds.

Anonymous said...

The Tuscon area is a favorite of ours! You had a great day, and I love the pictures.

Mary said...

I love the wren shot! So haughty looking. Every time I come to Tucson, I try to get good pics of the quail and never manage it. Loved your shot of them.

Kathie Brown said...

Amy, I love the quail. They were back in my yard again today. they scurry woot wooting across the road, talking ot each other as they come. thenthey get tot he seed block and scrath away like regular chickens, only way cuter. I am truly blessed!

Wren, I did have a good day! And thank you for coming to visit me!

Mary, hello! I love the wrens. this one looked so curious and wide-eyed. This photo reminds me of the bird in that children's book, "Are You My Mother?" I wonder if this wren thought I was a "Snort"?!

Larry said...

You are a really determined birder!I think I'd be sitting down at a restaurant while you were still out birding-congratulations on the lifer!

Mary said...

Kathie, I hope by now you are feeling great.

Getting outdoors with the birds is good for the mind and body. Thanks for sharing your trip to the park and showing some wonderful photos. No quails here. I haven't seen them...

Anonymous said...

What a great day of birding! Glad you were such a diligent GBBC participant in spite of your cold.

Kathryn and Ari said...

Greetings from another Backyard Bird Counter!

The Santa Rita range is so lovely: I took a college class there last spring, and we stayed at UA's Santa Rita Research station. It was a wonderful time in a beautiful landscape. I look forward to reading your future posts!


Aunt "B's" Backyard said...

Incredible shots! You have quite the busy, involved day. You are so lucky to have a park like that to visit. I am really envious!! BEAUTIFUL. I really enjoy walking with you through your postings.

Kathie Brown said...

Ocean, I am feeling much better. Thank you for your kind thoughts.

Larry, it's called an obsession. I am trying to learn balance in my life. I'll let you know if I acheive it.

Mary, you would love these cute quail. I wish I could send you some!

PA-birder, I look forward to the GBBC every year. I had a great time in spite of the cold/flu.

Kathryn and ari, Welcome! How did your GBBC go this year? The Santa Ritas are truly beautiful. If the Rosemont Mine goes in, it may ruin everything, including the birding. Have you heard about this? Check out the SSSR link on this page or the Empire-Fagan Coalition.

Aunt B, so glad you ejoyed walking through the park with me. That's what I love about Blogging, I get to see other places and share my own. Talk about an armchair traveler!