This post is all about birds we’ve photographed and the places we’ve seen them.
In early March we visited Agua Caliente, a historic resort that has been converted to a regional park. It had a very tropical feel with all the introduced palm trees.
This Hooded Merganser was hanging out with a pair of Mallards in the main pond. It’s the only one we’ve seen in Arizona, although they’re only considered uncommon in the winter months here. This one is a first year male and we thought he was pretty special.
This Northern Parula is in the Wood-Warbler family and is considered rare in all of the west. We were thrilled to be able to find it in our binoculars in a tall willow, and Doug was very pleased to get a photo.
This Lucy’s Warbler was in the same tree. If you look closely, you can see rusty speckles on its head. Since seeing this one, we’ve had numerous sightings; they seem to be everywhere! One even visited us at our yard. But the first good sighting is always special.
Perhaps this should have been called the “Cute Birds” section. (Can you decide which is the cutest?) We like to say that, “every bird is a good bird” when people ask, “Have you seen any good birds today?” but we think this Ovenbird is a very good bird. It’s also a Wood-Warbler and like the Northern Parula, its quite aways from where it should be living. Its also quite skulky, walking along the forest floor. Luckily, we had information about where it might be found, but even so, we looked for it on two different days before we were successful. It was hanging out near the Anza trail close to Tubac.
Tumacacori National Historic Park is close to Tubac and about five minutes from where we saw the Ovenbird. We did the full tour last spring. This year, we headed directly to the orchard in hopes of finding another rare bird.
And we successfully located a Black-capped Gnatcatcher. This male’s cap hasn’t quite come in all the way yet, but its dark bill is a distinguishing characteristic. Black-capped Gnatcatchers don’t wander very far into the US and are usually found in Mexico.
For some variety, we drove to the Ironwood Forest National Monument, which is within twenty minutes of our place. We had information that a couple of Sagebrush Sparrows were hanging out near a corral. We found the corral and there were plenty of sparrows around, but they were all a long ways out in among the bushes. We saw some common sparrows (White-crowned and Black-throated) but not the particular one we were looking for. Here’s a view of the Ironwood Forest, which doesn’t have very many trees in it at all.
Wendy was trying to get closer to some sparrows, but Doug saw the bigger picture and took this great shot of the clouds.
Although we didn’t see a new sparrow for us, we did get a view of these “birds.” These heritage aircraft (circa WWII) were in town getting re-certified so that the pilots would be able to fly in upcoming airshows around the country.
It was a cool day at Sweetwater Wetlands when we saw this Cooper’s Hawk perched on a post. You can see white spots on its back because its all fluffed up trying to keep warm.
Another day at the Wetlands, we had a good look at a Green-tailed Towhee. Usually they hide underneath bushes. They are a little smaller than the Spotted Towhees that we have in BC.
We have posted many Pied-billed Grebe photos on this blog, but this one is a bit different. Doug was lucky enough to have his camera ready when this grebe came up with its next meal: a frog.
We never know what unusual bird we might see at Sweetwater Wetlands. This day we were treated with a sighting of a Black-bellied Whistling Duck. Apparently, they are common locally around Tucson, but this is the first we’ve seen in Arizona. And, according to the reports, it flew off the next day.
Black-chinned Sparrows are uncommon and like to hang out on arid hillsides with dense patches of vegetation which makes them difficult to see. Luckily for us, a couple of them have taken up residence at the Desert Museum, and we’ve had a couple of opportunities to see them. This day, this sparrow was more interested in the grass seed and totally ignored us.
This female Costa’s Hummingbird entertained us another day at the Desert Museum. You can see pollen on her bill.
We have a trio of Harris’s Hawks in our neighbourhood. One afternoon, Wendy looked up from her sewing machine and saw a hawk fly by. We grabbed the binoculars and camera and went out to investigate, and Doug caught this one in flight. Harris’s Hawks hunt in family units. Last year, we got good view of them at the Desert Museum’s “Raptor Free Flight” (which isn’t taking place this year), but this was the closest we’ve ever seen them in the wild. We’ve seen them from a distance for the last few weeks on our daily walk in the neighbourhood.
The middle of March is a good time to see hawks and other birds in migration. We went to an open field in Tubac and sighted five species of hawks (Cooper’s, Common Black Hawk, Gray Hawk, Zone-tailed Hawk and Red-tailed Hawk) as well as Turkey Vultures, but most were so high up in the sky that a photo wasn’t warranted. These White-faced Ibis were interesting though.
The hawk sightings dwindle by late morning, so before lunch, we went birding along the nearby Anza trail. We saw this Cassin’s Kingbird right after we crossed the road. It is quite similar to the western Kingbird that we see in BC, but is has more gray on its throat.
We also saw this Gray Hawk perched way up in a cottonwood.
After lunch, we drove a few minutes south to the Santa Gertrudis Lane, which has an access to the Santa Cruz River and the Anza trail. We’ve posted pictures from this river in the last few months, because we have been looking to see a Rufous-backed Robin. This time we were successful, but it was such a quick look that we don’t have a photo. Later in the month, we returned again and although we had a better view of the robin, the photographs were only good for identification purposes. That gives us a good reason to go back again!
We went birding a lot in March – over twenty days. We hope you enjoyed seeing some of the birds we saw.