Sunday, February 10, 2008

A Satruday Birding Mystery

Then sun has changed its angle over the past month and it is finally slanting under our northeast facing covered patio. It’s warm enough to eat breakfast outside for the first time in two months. The last time I can remember eating out here was the morning after Thanksgiving. Now we sit once again in the light caress of sunshine with hummingbirds buzzing the nectar and finches, mourning doves, and Gila woodpeckers visiting feeders and suet. As long as we don’t move fast the birds don’t mind our presence.

We decide to try the Tucson Botanical Garden for a visit today, so we set out around noontime. It proved to be a bad choice as the good weather has brought out all manner of tourist and residents. The garden is very busy and we see few birds, except for this beautiful broad-billed hummingbird that Gus was able to get a shot of before more people came walking by and scared it off.

We decided to try Reid Park instead. Gus has never been there and I am hoping he will get to see and photograph the Lewis’s woodpecker. We decide to make a picnic of it and stop on the way to pick up subs and drinks. The park is more crowded than the last time I was here. Under one of the pavilions someone has a birthday party set up complete with one of those inflatable jumping contraptions in the shape of a princess’s castle. The abundance of people and pets has affected the birding. I don’t see many birds at all at first, other than the long-tailed grackles that whistle and call from the trees. I’m especially surprised the house sparrows aren’t around, as they came and started begging as soon as I sat down at a picnic table last time I was here. After awhile the female Vermilion flycatcher shows up, and soon after her we see the male.

As we are finishing our lunch I hear a strange call and see a dark shape like a flying cape dart into the trees to the west of us.
We walk over cautiously looking up. I swear they will have to bury me with my neck folded backwards for if I keep this up it will have a permanent kink! I scan the pines for bird life but the trees are strangely empty. Last time these trees were full of warblers and ruby-crowned kinglets. Now, silence. Is this caused by the presence of so many people and dogs? I do finally spot a few juncos and house finches farther away on a little knoll, and then we see the phantom clinging to the north side of one of the palm trees. He stays in the shadows but Gus is able to get closer than I did and capture these amazing pictures.

I spot some movement in the upper branches of one of the pines. This would not be so unusual, but this bird is moving like a nuthatch.
It is! And a red-breasted one at that! While I would see them all the time in the woods of Maine, it is much rarer to see them here. I so enjoy these busy little birds with their habit of walking upside down on the tree trunk.

We start the walk back to our car. We’ve been here almost 2 hours. I am still gazing upward into the tree branches when I see this particular fluffy projection on a branch. A quick view with my binocs reveals a Cooper’s hawk perched in the upper reaches of the tree. Now that it's been discovered, it takes wing. Now I know why I haven’t seen any warblers or sparrows. They’ve all fled for their lives! Mystery solved.


Kiosco Salo Concepción said...


Un saludo cordial desde Concepción, Chile.


Kiosco Salo Concepción

Ruth said...

What beautiful photos. The Vermilion Flycatchers are stunning. But the thought of eating breakfast outdoors on the patio is the most appealing image in your post!

Lynne at Hasty Brook said...

Beautiful photos! We got to watch a pair of Vermillion Flycatchers hunting in a pasture outside Wickenberg last spring. Life bird so lovely. I've only ever seen pictures of Lewis's Woodpeckers- remarkable colors.

Anonymous said...

I think I'm jealous. Breakfast on the porch in February? No, let me change that, I know I'm jealous! Such great birds too!

Amy said...

Such wonderful photos! I am sooooo looking forward to spring and the return of our hummers. The Cooper's rear view shot is priceless! Isn't it funny how it's dead silent when hawks are around? I've watched RB Nuthatches hold completely still on a suet feeder when a hawk is nearby. They barely bat an eye feather! Love your photos, they're so great!

Beth said...

I love everything in your post but most especially the hummingbird picture. Enjoy the sun and the birds and your porch--if I had a porch it would be under 5 feet or snow!

Kathie Brown said...

Kiosco salo concepcion, I wish I spoke Spanish! Gracias! is all I know to say!

Ruth, you know, we haven't even been here a complete year yet but I'm starting to think we should stay! I ate breakfast outside again today.

Lynne, I'm so glad you got to see a vermilion flycathcer. I fell in love the first time I saw one! Until recently I had only seen picture of the Lewis' also. I'm so glad Gus was able to get better shots.

PA-birder, birds and breakfast outside on the patio? Yeah, you can't beat that!

amy, I think I'm starting to learn that if the birds aren't around, there's a good reason.

Beth, 5 feet of snow! How well I remember! During the ice storm of 1998 we lived in Presque Isle and got 5 feet of snow. It completely buried our trampoline and we had to hire a bucket loader to scoop out the driveway. I think people from Minnesota or Alaska might understand Maine snow, but few others would.

Mary said...

Kathie, your photos knock my socks off - your birds are stunning. I really enjoy seeing new birds. May I ask what camera you are using?

And yeah, breakfast on the porch. I'm jealous.

Larry said...

More great photos! I'm getting a little envious every time you show those vermillion Flycatchers-I'd really like to see one for myself.

Aunt "B's" Backyard said...

Just checked your site out and I'm glad I did! You have an interesting variety of birds there and you certainly take advantage of their presence. They are beautiful. I have an uncle in Phoenix, maybe I should visit, hehe!

Kathie Brown said...

Larry, Mary, Lynne, Ruth, Amy, Beth, Vern and newcomer, Aunt B, you will all just have to come to AZ and see a vermilion flycatcher in person! They are so tiny and their color is so intense it just takes your breath away! Welcome Aunt B! You have a nice Blog!

jalynn01 said...

I so enjoy your photos. The Vermilion Flycather is awesome. Have never seen one here in Eastern PA.And the hummer makes me homesick for summer. This blogging connects all of us together and allows for sharing the most awesome of birds from one state to another. Thanks! I'll be visiting often.

Kathie Brown said...

Jalynn, thanks for visitng my Blog. It's always nice to see a new face! Your comments are right on the mark.