Tuesday, May 29, 2007

May 27 - Flycatcher Fun

Today I took a run up north to target a few birds that I did not see in migration this year. First up was a try for Cerulean Warbler in High Point State Park at the intersection of Route 23 & Sawmill Road. I did not hear the birds at this spot, and boy it sure was loud from all the traffic !! In the future this situation is going to get worse. Nevertheless, I then drove Sawmill Road until it's western most junction with the bow-shaped Ridge Road. Here I picked up Least Flycatcher, Great-Crested Flycatcher, and Eastern Phoebe. I also heard Eastern Wood Pewee along the drive.

Continuing on Sawmill I drove this road 'til it's end at Deckertown Pike. At this junction there is a large field that has been reliable for Alder Flycatcher in years past. 2007 continued that pattern as I soon heard the diagnostic call of "zreee-bee-o". I was able to get some nice scope looks at this bird once it had remained perched for a bit.

I then went to Stokes State Forest for another traditional spot for Cerulean Warblers. This place did not disappoint ! I heard the birds almost immediately, and it was 2 birds singing. However they were 30-40 yard deep in the woods and I could not get them to come out for a quick view. I walked in a bit but even then I could see some movements, but never got a glimpse of the bird. Oh well, there's other places and plenty of time left to see this guy later this year.

Next up was driving Route 615 south toward the Walpack Inn area. I stopped at the Flatbrook-Roy WMA, where this is some sort fo archery & shooting range in the back. Right away I saw a beautiful male Bobolink and it soon broke out in song ! I heard more Least Flycatchers here and also the song of a Golden-Winged Warbler! But it turned out to be a probable Brewster's hybrid-plumaged bird singing a buzzy "bee-buzz-buzz-buzz-buzz".
The bird mostly looked like a Blue-Winged warbler yet its wingbars were tinged quite yellow-golden. There was a trace of an eye-line but not very thick in size nor color.
There has been a Brewster's Warbler reported in this area at the Roy Tract bridge, just down the road perhaps less than a mile. Possibly I saw the same bird ? or just an oddly plumaged, and songster, Blue-Winged Warbler ?

I then went just south of Peter's Valley to the Blewett Tract fly-fishing grounds. I was still hoping for a Golden-Winged Warbler. I found a definite Blue-Winged Warbler here, alas no Golden -Winged. The bird is here, just not while I was there. Then I heard the surprising little horn-like call of a Red-Breasted Nuthatch. Sure enough in the stand of Spruce there I was able to locate the bird. Its the first time I 've seen one in quite a few months based on the mild winter that recently passed.

A quick stop at Hyper-Humus yielded a Willow Flycatcher giving it's easily detectable "fitz-bew" song. Eventually this bird too found its way into my scope's view of this other empidonax species. Also seen here was Eastern Kingbird, which rounded out a pretty good day of flycatchers seen , as well as, heard !!

Monday, May 21, 2007

May 20 - Heislerville and Belleplain

The first stop today was at Belleplain State Forest. Immediately we had singing Yellow-Throated Warblers outside of the Ranger's office. We got some quick tree-top view of the birds here.
Later at the triangle parking area on Sunset Road, we got even more looks at this bird, now a bit closer. Also seen were extended views of Prothonotary Warbler. There were at least two birds singing in this area. A Hooded Warbler, with a unique ending to his song, made a nice appearance.
We had amazingly close looks at a beautiful male Summer Tanager. He obligingly came out of the woods to the roadside, as if to say "I'm over here, look at me!"

We also visited Heislerville, NJ for the pair of Curlew Sandpipers. I had previously seen this bird at Bombay Hook in Delaware a few years ago, however that was from afar during a rain shower. So to see this bird in bright sunlight and at very close range -- and be a bright breeding plumaged male -- was moreso like a "life-bird" experience than the prior sighting !
more of Howard Eskin's photos of this bird can be found here: http://www.howardsview.com/!CurlewSandpiper/CurlewSandpiper.html

There is also an adult female Curlew Sandpiper, and often both of these birds were in the same view simultaneously.
A White-Rumped Sandpiper was found by Bill E., and subsequently enjoyed by many.
Others here today were stunning Black-Bellied Plovers, Lesser Yellowlegs, Least & Semi-Palmated Sandpipers, many Semi-Palmated Plovers, and Short-Billed Dowitchers.

Friday, May 18, 2007

May 17 - Garret Mountain

A second consecutive day here produced wonderful results.
17 warbler species were seen, and some great new "year" birds were added to my list.

Today I birded with Rob F. and Bruce McW, and immediately the ridge-top trees were full of birds. Seemingly the most numerous migrants today were Scarlet Tanagers, with many being females. Bay-Breasted warblers were in good numbers with 6+ seen, including 2 in the same view. Others Northern Parula, Yellow, Chestnut-Sided, Magnolia, BT Blue, Yellow-Rumped, BT Green, Blackburnian, Prairie, Blackpoll, Black-and-White, Redstart, Ovenbird, C. Yellowthroat, Wilson's & Canada.

Other specialties seen today were a Black-Billed Cuckoo near the road to the stables, a Yellow-Bellied Flycatcher was nearby as well. Behind the stables we spotted a perched Merlin.

We had an apparent Gray-Cheeked Thrush in the woods behind the typical Louisiana Waterthrush stream, and later a definite one near the Swing Sets area. Lincoln's Sparrows continued with a few late White-Throateds as well. Later I had an adult Bald Eagle flying overhead !

One would be hard-pressed in May to find a better spot in Northern New Jersey to easily see these migrating birds.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

May 16 - Garret Mountain

Once again here. Until I start targeting some species that I missed in migration this is where I will bird, almost exclusively. And why not ?

This morning from just after 6 and until 9 a.m. I was able to see 18 species of warbler in the park. Many of the warblers seen today were females.

My first Tennessee of the year was seen up by the castle. Several Bay-Breasted including a female, Magnolia, Blackburnian, Canada, Wilson, Yellow-Rumped, Parula C. Yellowthroat, Blackpoll, Yellow, BT Blue, BT Green, Ovenbird, Redstart, Black-and-White, and Chestnut-sided warblers were spotted. Hooded was only heard.

Flycatchers were represented well with E. Kingbird, Phoebe, Pee Wee, Great-Crested, and an unidentified 'Traill's flycatcher" which was back-lit and silent !

A pair of Yellow-Billed Cuckoos were seen, Scarlet Tanagers, Veery, Swainson's Thrush, and a single Gray-Cheeked thrush were found as well. I also saw my first Lincoln's Sparrows of this spring with these being found in 3 separate parts of the park.

Another first of the year was a Solitary Sandpiper on a mudflat near the Gazebo. and my latest record ever for a Ruby-Crowned Kinglet bookends the noteworthy birds seen today.

Can't wait to see what tomorrow brings ?

Monday, May 14, 2007

May 12 - Garret Mountain's Catch-22

This morning turned out to be an outstanding birding day. At first I had lower expectations due to the winds from the northeast, but when spring migration is on the winds matter less than during the fall movements.

Warblers seen today were: Blue-Winged, Nashville, Northern Parula, Yellow, Chestnut-Sided, Magnolia, Black-Throated Blue, Yellow-Rumped, Black-Throated Green, Blackburnian, Bay-breasted, Blackpoll, Black-and-White, American Redstart, Worm-Eating, Ovenbird, Northern Waterthrush, Louisiana Waterthrush, Common Yellowthroat, Wilson's, and Canada.
I only heard Prairie Warbler as I walked down the mountain on my way out, however other birders also reported seeing Hooded, Cape May, and Mourning !

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.

May 5 - Arizona - Highway 77

I had a few target birds left on my trip, so today I hired Rick Wright of Aimophilia Adventures to help me locate them. We were to take Highway 77 north from Tucson, traveling along the Gila River through Winkelman, and then on towards the town of Globe.

We first drove to our furthest point, a "brake-check" area on the crest of a large hill on Highway 77. This has been a reliable spot for the Gray Vireo over the recent years. Unfortunately it was extremely windy and gusty on the ridge. After about 30 minutes we heard the call of the Vireo, and moments later I was able to see a pair of the the birds. While not the closest looks the birds did stay up on the brush for awhile and took some short flights. This allowed me to get some diagnostic views and hear the birds again. Considering the conditions I think it was quite a good show.

On the drive back down the river we continued searching for the Common Black-Hawk. During the drive we have two separate quick views of the Western Scrub Jay. We then stopped at an indistinct spot of desert as we heard some birds. Here we had nice views of Townsend's Warbler, Brewer's Sparrow, Lucy's Warbler etc.

Without success on the Hawk, we then stopped at Winkelman Flats and the bridge there that crosses the Gila River. Here we had a nice collection of birds. Notably a Yellow-Breasted Chat perched in a leafless tree giving great views of this difficult to see bird in my northern New Jersey home-region. Overhead we had Barn, Tree, and Cliff and Rough-Winged Swallows, and a few migrant Vaux's Swifts.

Returning north on the highway I finally spotted a hawk overhead and stopped the car. However this was a Gray Hawk, and while uncommon not only in the US and particularly this far north, it was not the target bird. But just a minute later Rick located the Common Black-Hawk.

The bird was circling overhead, but was still low enough to give me excellent views of this species.

Especially when the bird turned in it's circle, I got wonderful views of the upper-wing side of the Hawk.

Another awesome morning in Southeastern Arizona !

May 4 - Tucson, AZ - Catalina State Park

After a very long night and just a few hours of sleep it's back to birding this morning. Last night Melody Kehl mentioned to the group that a reliable spot for Crissal Thrasher was at Catalina State Park, specifically the Nature Trail loop at the trail head parking lot.

To my surprise when I arrived at the lot I saw another birder form last night's trip in Kirk, who is from Sault Ste. Marie in Ontario. Evidently he took the advice as well !

Together we walked the trail and quickly found a Crissal Thrasher. there were not the best looks as the bird was partially obstructed by the saguaro it was perched in. However, later Kirk and I had looks at two more Crissal, and these provided the nice looks we were hoping for.
Later he spotted a Kestrel, which was a trip bird for me.

And we also saw these species:
Gambel's Quail, Turkey Vulture, Red-Tailed Hawk, White-Winged dove, White-Throated Swift, Costa's Hummingbird, Gila Woodpecker, Western Wood-Pewee, Flycatchers of Vermilion, Ash-Throated & Brown-Crested, Cassin's Kingbird, Raven, Curve-Billed Thrasher, Lucy's Warbler, Canyon Towhee, Rufous-Crowned Sparrow, Pyrrhuloxia, and Black-Headed Grosbeak.

Another morning and another lifer. Not bad at all.

May 3 - Nogales, AZ - California Gulch

This afternoon I met with guide Melody Kehl for a trip into the southernmost parts of Arizona.
The target birds were birds that barely enter the lower 48-states. These are the Five-Striped Sparrow and Buff-Collared Nightjar.

After a long and bumpy ride, many miles into the canyon, we set ourselves on course to find the sparrow. It is a bit early for these birds to be back in numbers, however they had just returned the week before. It took awhile however we did hear the call note of the bird. While searching the vicinity of the sound I did pick up the bird flying low into an Octotillo bush.
Immediately the bird dropped down to the ground, hopped twice, and then disappeared into the underbrush.

So it was unfortunate that I did not get nice looks at this bird, I was only able to see the bird and the white on its head. But when a bird is named "Five-Striped Sparrow" you want to see all of the stripes! However I guess I'm somewhat lucky as I was the only one in our group to actually see the bird, albeit just for an instant.

Then we waited around until sunset just past 7:30, and instantly heard Common Poorwills calling, following by the call of the Nightjar. We waited around another hour or so and tried to locate the bird without success. Finally at 9:30 the bird began calling again, and this time Melody was able to locate it perched in a tree. She was able to line us all up for a view, and then ever so briefly put a light onto the bird so we could enjoy the view of the Buff-Collared Nightjar.

On the drive out we were lucky to see a couple of Poorwills, one of which was firmly planted on the roeadside. We were able to see this bird in our headlights, and it offered very nice views as it sat there motionless.

Potentially this bird will be split out into the Sonoran (Mexican) Poorwill.

Overall a very rewarding trip. Like seabirding, you may not get the best nor longest looks at the bird, but it is the effort that counts and it is the best one can do without truly disturbing these birds of the night.

May 2 - Green Valley, AZ - Madera Canyon & STP

Today I visited Madera Canyon. It is a wonderful place to bird as there is a nicely paved road all the way to the top of this canyon. I wonder just how many fantastic birds are actually in Southeastern Arizona, as the birding is fantastic in Madera, yet it is but one of likely hundreds upon hundreds of canyons in the region. One can only guess.
Onto the birds.

First up was Florida Wash where I gave a half-hearted attempt at Crissal Thrasher. However all was not lost as I did pick up another life bird here in the Cassin's Vireo. This bird was heard-only as I quickly had to give up my chase thru the cat-claw acacia & mesquite. Also seen was a Lazuli Bunting and Rufous-Winged Sparrow. Migrant warblers of Black-Throated Gray, Townsend's, Lucy's, Wilson's and Virginia's were also seen. More Brewer's Sparrows were also enjoyed here.
credit-P LaTourrette

The next stop was Proctor Road and here I had both Black & Say's Phoebe, Cassin's Kingbird, Bullock's Oriole, Summer Tanager and Orange-Crowned Warbler. Overhead I had a Zone-Tailed Hawk and Cooper's Hawk.

At Santa Rita Lodge I had fine looks at a male Lazuli Bunting, Acorn Woodpeckers, and a few hummingbirds (Anna's, Black-Chinned, & Broad-Tailed). I also saw my first Cassin's Vireo just below the lodge at Bog Springs Campground.

The next stop was Kubo Lodge and this place is amazing. Notably the Flame-Colored Tanager provided great looks (and much better than when I saw the bird here last year)


Other tanagers of Hepatic, Western and Summer were also here. The same hummingbirds were present, augmented by Magnificent, Blue-Throated & Broad-Billed.
Arizona Woodpecker, Mexican Jay, Hooded Oriole, Painted Redstart, Plumbeous Vireo, Bridled Titmouse along with Rock & Canyon Wrens were also seen.

At Churaposa Lodge similar hummingbirds were seen along with Scott's Oriole and the much sought-after Elegant Trogon.

On the drive back to Tucson I stopped in at the Green Valley Sewage Treatment Plant.
This gave me my first ever looks at breeding-plumaged Wilson's Phalaropes ! Quite a sight.
Also present were both Cinnamon & Blue-Winged Teal, Northern Shoveler, Horned Larks and an American Pipit. Snowy Egret, Black-Necked Stilt and White-Faced Ibis waded and the swallows were represented by Barn, Cliff, Northern Rough-Winged and Purple Martin.

credit - R. Beckemeyer

May 1 - Tucson, AZ - Sabino Canyon

After getting the Hammond's, my next targets were the other migrant empids of Dusky Flycatcher and Gray flycatcher. I went to the riparian habitat of the canyon to locate the birds. The area above the dam was lush with recent growth of the spring. Again I tried to find aMacGillivray's Warbler but was without success.

Soon I found the drooping tail of the longer-billed Gray Flycatcher, and in fact there were a few here today.

I also did manage to find a Dusky Flycatcher.
It was a great comparison to see all 3 of these species in less than 24 hours.

I managed nice looks at Canyon Wren, which early on had been a nemesis bird for me during last year's trip. Both sexes of the Summer Tanager was a treat to see so close. And repeat views of Black-Throated, Rufous-Crowned & Lark Sparrows also brought back memories of the last trip to AZ.

On the walk out, I managed a final lifer for the day in the Brewer's Sparrow !

April 30 - Tucson, AZ - Sweetwater Wetlands etc.

What's with the word "Sweetwater" ?.
I mean, I know it's called that to sugar-coat what it really is, but why "sweet?".
It's like "sweatbread", which is also covering the true name. Anyways, I digress.

I stopped here hoping to luck into some lifebirds, but missed them both. Tried to find a MacGillivrays' Warbler in the brush, but no migrants were seen here. And I dipped on the Franklin's Gulls, which although only singles, had been reported as recently as last week.

Harris' Hawk is the specialty of this park, and the expected bird was seen. Lesser Nighthawks hawked in the first morning light along with Rough-Winged & Cliff Swallows. An Olive-Sided Fly was my first in this State. I had a glimpse of Lazuli bunting & Bullock's Orioles here as well.

Next stop was Ina Road just down the interstate a bit. Just past the dam shorebirds such as White-Faced Ibis, Avocet, Black-Necked Stilts, Long-Billed Dowitchers and (uncommon for the area) Marbled Godwits did their thing.

A few Cinnamon Teal were up resting on a bar of rocks. And Spotted Sandpiper was seen.
I walked the western shoreline to look at some passerines. Black-Headed Grosbeak may have been the most numerous bird of the week and several were here, Green-Tailed Towhee were found in the brush along with Abert's Towhees.

I made a final stop at Redi Park to try for the Lewis' Woodpecker there. However, like the missing Franklin's Gull singletons the over-staying woodpecker appeared to have left a few days ago. All was not lost as while looking for the Luigi, I walked the neighborhood behind the park and found my first new life bird of this trip in the Hammond's Flycatcher !!

Not bad for my first day, in the urban sections of Tucson.

April 29 - Tucson, AZ - Starr Pass

In late June 2006, I had made my first trip to the birding hot spot of Southeastern Arizona. It was absolutely fantastic. Today I returned to the area for a one-week stay.

Birds around the hotel area today are examples of the typical desert-scrub inhabitants, and are enhanced by other riparian birds drawn to the water of the adjacent golf-course.

Gambel's Quail are ubiquitous, along with other species like White-Winged Doves, Curve-Billed Thrashers, Cactus Wrens, Canyon & Abert's Towhees, and numerous Ash-Throated Flycatchers. The three Killdeer fledglings could put a smile on almost anybody.
photo credit - Jim W.

Nice looks at Gilded Flicker and Gila Woodpeckers, Pyrrhuloxia, Roadrunner, Black-Chinned and Costa's Hummingbirds and Black-Tailed Gnatcatcher all brought back memories from last year.

The regal White-Crowned Sparrow is always nice to see, Lesser Goldfinches bounded everywhere, and for some reason I have a place in my heart for the lovely Verdin.

credit - Art Morris.