Thursday, April 22, 2010

Birding From Dawn ‘till Dusk: Day 3 Vail and Tubac

DSC_0209 Mourning dove on nest in Vail, AZ 4-9-10

We started our day with coffee and birds at a friend's house in Vail, AZ. Vail sits at the vase of the Rincon Mountains and at the edge of Saguaro National Park.  Because of this it is rich in bird life and my friend Judy has numerous species in her yard…

DSC_0206… including a nesting family of Harris Hawks! This is the nest in a silk oak tree right next to the Judy’s pool! The hawks and humans mostly get along though the hawks did eat the family cat last year.  You can just see the little baby’s fuzzy face just peeking over the top of the nest.

DSC_0214 Meanwhile Mamma or papa keep watch from the utility pole at the corner of the front yard while the rest of the family is off searching for dinner!

DSC_0215 Harris Hawks live and hunt in family groups.  This nest site was successful last year also and the family is growing.  I do not know how big it will get before they decide to branch off into another breeding pair.

DSC_0222Mexican Poppies and Desert Bluebells 4-9-10 

When we left Judy’s house we drove along a roadside covered with wild flowers.  I just had to get out and photograph this wild beauty.

DSC_0227 View of wildflowers with the Rincon Mountains as a backdrop 4-9-10


Townsend’s solitaire on St. Gertrudis lane 4-9-10

Kathryn and I spent the rest of the day down in Tubac where we ate lunch and meandered through the little village viewing art.  As a final stop for the day we visited Santa Gerturdis Lane, a local birding hotspot just down the road from Tubac.  It is a private road with no through traffic but rich in bird life since the Santa Cruz River flows by.  To bird there you must park on the frontage road and walk in. As Kathryn and I searched the hedgerow for birds I caught sight of this plain looking bird.  At first I thought it was a mockingbird, but something wasn’t quite right. The posture was too upright, the beak too short, and there was no white in the wings. Plus, it had a white eye-ring. Suddenly it struck me what I was looking at and I couldn't believe my eyes for this bird has eluded me for 5 years!  It was a Townsend's Solitaire!  This bird is in the thrush family with robins and bluebirds. A bird of open forest and woodland edges, it is called “solitaire” for a reason.  It is never seen in flocks. The bird perched quietly in the dense brush but I was able to zoom in and catch a ray of sunlight on its body illuminating it just enough for this photo!  Life Bird* number 378 for me! However, this is a yard bird for Kathryn, but she still enjoyed seeing it.

*A Life Bird is the first time a birder see a particular species of birds.  Most birders keep a Life List of all the bird species they have seen in their lives.


Sycamore Canyon Update: Today is cool here in Sycamore Canyon with a morning low of 40 degrees at 4:30 AM after a cold front moved through late yesterday afternoon and dropped out temps from 80 to 70 in little over and half hour.  With it came a brief but fierce rainstorm and high winds.  Our low temperature for yesterday was reached late last night. It was 46 degrees at 10:30 PM which was the last time I checked. We started the day yesterday at 63 degrees! Don’t worry, sunshine and warmth will return tomorrow!


Naturegirl said...

Kathie is was nice stopping by and seeing a bit the desert land in bloom something I so enjoy when we winter in Scottsdale. Since I could NOT travel this year your post was a treat for me. Good for you for spotting the Townsend’s solitaire!I know the feeling when you spot a species for the first time!!
Oh NO The hawk ate the cat!!!
OH NO!!!

kayleen said...

The Harris hawk photos are really neat. One of the things I miss from my days in CA are the poppies. They are so colorful and cheerful!

Thanks for tactfully pointing out the error of my ways on the thrasher. Had the correct name long-billed thrasher on the photo site, so I dunno how I got it wrong on the blog. Has been corrected.

Anonymous said...

Those flowers are absolutely beautiful Kathie.

Kathie Brown said...

Nature girl, so nice to see you and glad I could give you a glimpse of the desert this spring. I know, it is a tragedy about the cat and I did warn them but they did not believe the hawk would eat it. They are good people though.

Kayleen, well, I do know that the curve-billed thrasher has a western variety that is a bit duller than the regular curve-billed thrashers, but I didn't think they were that brown. We get the duller western variety here so I have not actually seen the regular variety.

The poppies are a new thing for me here in AZ and I fell in love with them the first time I saw them. We get both Mexican and California poppies growing wild here. Both are beautiful!

Roy, I love them also. See comment above.