Tuesday, May 08, 2007

May 6 - Picacho, AZ - Picacho State Park

My final day on this trip with not much time at all... However, as I was driving north from Tucson toward the Phoenix Airport I decided to make a stop at the Picacho Peak State Park, which is about midway to Phoenix. It's an old volcanic plug that remains after all the surrounding rock has been eroded away.

This image is from about 7 miles away:

I was told by Rick Wright that this is a well-known spot for Prairie Falcon, and perhaps some over-wintering birds have decided to have a nest here.

With just about an hour in my schedule I paid the entrance fee and drove to the last parking lot. I began looking up at the peak, but it was pretty far away for my bins.

After a quarter-hour I saw a "sandy falcon" come of the cliff face and fly for about 3 seconds, but it was hard to say for certain what it was. Well, actually I knew what it was, but those were not the looks I was after.

This move was repeated once again about 15 minutes later. I noticed that the bird flew in response to other birds (Turkey vulture, Red-Tailed Hawk) that were flying by. This time I did hear the Falcon vocalize, so I knew for certain that it was my target bird, but still the looks were poor and no field marks were visible with just my bins.

Another 20 minutes went by, and with just about 10 minutes to spare another Red-Tail Hawk flew by the cliff. This time the Falcon chased the Hawk, cried out, and continued to circle for about a minute.

This let me see better the shape of the bird, the color, and ultimately I had nice looks at another diagnostic feature in the black axillaries (arm-pits). Yet another life bird on this trip, bringing my total to 12.