Monday, October 13, 2008

Autumn Birds in Sycamore Canyon

Sweet faced Gila Woodpecker in mesquite tree by Kathie Adams Brown 10-7-08
click on photos to enlarge for best view

Autumn must truly be upon us after this weekend’s record breaking low temperatures. This morning the official record at Tucson International Airport was 39 degrees Fahrenheit. The old record for this day is 43 degrees F. Still we slept with the windows open and the brisk air flowing through. Of course it reminded me of waking up in New England on a brisk autumn morning but it lacked the rustling of maple leaves and the damp smell of the forest. Still, I’ll take what I can get.

Anna's Hummingbird male by Kathie Adams Brown 10-13-08

The cold air makes the hummingbirds especially hungry. I refill the almost empty feeders and watch as these flying warriors vie for this liquid nourishment. They are not the only ones who seek it out as I am just as likely to find a Gila woodpecker or two dangling from a branch above and slurping up their sweet reward. My bird populations are changing daily. Hummingbird species have moved in and moved on. This year I am getting more Anna’s, along with last year’s Costa’s, but a rufous female or immature male is hanging around also and I see it every now and again.

Rock Wren by Kathie Adams Brown 10-13-08

I have been hearing the Rock Wrens for a few weeks now but this afternoon is the first time I have seen one in my yard. I watch as it searches about along the block wall looking for and finding insects to eat. I fear for the pesticides my neighbors have sprayed. I hope the little bird is not eating poisoned food. I have noticed a decline in the number of insects around my house, though I have refused to use pesticides myself.

The Turkey vultures still circle overhead in the warmth of the day, and I am surprised to still see nighthawks moving through the area. Friday night as I came out to water my plants I looked off to the west and noticed first one, then more nighthawks flying south up over the big wash. I grabbed binoculars and camera and proceeded to count close to 75 birds in groups of 5, 10, or 15. It was just after sunset and I think I caught the tail end of a much larger migration of both Common and Lesser nighthawks. I can only assume they are migrating and I wonder if they use Sycamore Canyon and the Santa Rita Mountains as their map to their winter homes. Farewell for the winter my crepuscular friends. I will miss you this winter and look forward to your return in spring. For now I will welcome Rock Wrens and the winter sparrows that are gathering in the wash. I will learn to decipher your field marks yet and call you by name when I can.

Silhouette of a nighthawk by Kathie 10-10-08


Deborah Godin said...

Lovely quartet of birds! We're supposed to have nighthawks around here, I certainly remember them from my childhood not far from here, but haven't heard any yet. Their 'peent' was always synonymous to me with hot humid summer nights.

Kathie Brown said...

I have so grown to love them. Aren't they migrating away from there now also?

Arija said...

Kathie, you constantly amaze me how you find and photograph your birds.
If you have a moment, could you please give me some pointer on my blog?

Anonymous said...

Lovely set of images Kathie. The Woodpecker is really nice. Most of our Summer visitors have gone now. We are on the lookout for the Winter ones from Northern Scandinavia.

Doug Taron said...

The hummingbird photo may be your best yet. Great post. This is a time of year that I have not experienced down your way.

Now that we are well into October, you need to be on the lookout for a butterfly. The Chirachaua White flies in the Chirichauas, the Huachucas, and the Santa Ritas. The caterpillars feed on pine, and that's the zone where you should look for adults. They are strongly sexually dimorphic- the males are white, the females, orange. It's a much sought after species.

Texas Travelers said...

Great post as usual.
Terrific Photos.

Soon it will be winter birds. I am looking forward to the goldfinches again.

Thanks for the visit.

PS: Bugling elk at sundown and loons crying at dusk are two of my favorite sounds. I wish I could hear them more ofter.

Larry said...

nice photos-It's interesting to see what you have going on during migration in your area.I've never seen a large number of Nighthawks moving through-Usually just a couple if any.

Anonymous said...

I wish we had our Nighthawks back. I used to love to listen to them flying. Wow do I ever miss that.

Celeste said...

Fantastic Annas Hummingbird photo! I was lucky enough to see a flight of Nighthawks in downtown Chicago one evening a couple of years ago. My condo faces out onto a park and they were at least fifty of them all hawking insects, I have never seen anything like it here, before or since.

Kathie Brown said...

Arija, thank you for such a nice compliment. I find the birds wherever I can but I also put out feeders which attract the birds close to my home. I happen to live in one of the Birdiest places in the USA, which makes it much easier. I'll be happy to help if I can.

Roy, we are in transition also but the winter birds are trickling in.

Doug, I followed that link to the butterflies you were talking about and I will be on the lookout for them. You should come down at this time of year someday because the butterflies are out in force! I am seeing them everywhere! If I see the Chirachua White should I collect one for you?

Texas Travelers, will I be seeing some of those winter birds on your blog?

Larry! Always nice to see you!

Abe, I wish they'd come back also, for their own sake as well as yours.

Celeste, what a wonderful experience! Thank you for sharing that with me.

Doug Taron said...

Kathie- I was hoping you might collect one with your camera.

Kathie Brown said...

Doug, I will try! How long will they be around for?