The morning after we arrived at our place just outside of Tucson, Arizona, we were welcomed by a family of Harris’s Hawks. One of the hawks perched about ten metres from our patio, while the others perched on nearby saguaros. Here’s an iPhone photo of the closest hawk, since Doug had not yet unpacked his big camera.
A few days after that interesting sighting, we read in the Rare Bird Alert that a Fan-tailed Warbler had been seen in a wash near Catalina State Park. This was a very rare bird for the area. Using our eBird app, we could determine the location where it had been seen. The number of people waiting around for it to show up was also an indication that we were in the right place. We looked around the area for an hour or two without any success, so we headed off to another location to look for different birds. We figured the bird had flown away in the night.
Later that same day, we returned, because an email alert let us know it was still around. Here’s a view of the crowd looking at the fancy warbler. We met some people that had driven non-stop from Wisconsin, so we felt pretty lucky to be in the area already.
The Fan-tailed Warbler didn’t seen to be at all perturbed by the onlookers. It hopped around chasing insects under the roots of a tree that was overhanging the bank. It mostly stayed in the shadows which made it difficult for good photos.
In between our two times checking for the Fan-tailed Warbler we visited Lakeside Park. There were no “special” birds there, but we were happy to have such a close-up view of this Least Sandpiper.
And this Great Egret took to flight nearby as well. Notice its black feet; Snowy Egret’s feet are yellow.
On the first day that our friends were visiting, we went birding at Sweetwater Wetlands and Christopher Columbus Park. At Christopher Columbus Park (below) we saw two species of cormorants and two species of egrets along with over twenty other species.
Next up was the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. It’s a great place to become familiar with the desert flora and fauna. We went early Monday morning, and it wasn’t very crowded when we visited the hummingbird aviary.
We were very fortunate to see this Lewis’s Woodpecker on a palm on the grounds of the museum. Although they winter in the area, they are not seen very often.
It was also a good day to take in the “Raptor Free Flight” show. We have seen the show several times, so Doug was able to predict where the Great Horned Owl might land. He took this photo with his iPhone.
This photo of the Crested Caracara was also taken with his iPhone. The caracara is in the falcon family although it is very un-falcon-like. It feeds on carrion and some lizards and mammals.
The next day we travelled south to a trail near Tubac that follows the Santa Cruz River. The river was the highest we’ve seen it in three winters.
We saw plenty of birds including a Chestnut-sided Warbler. This Lark Sparrow was Doug’s best photo of the outing.
From there, we drove to Madera Canyon. Below, Doug and Bob are trying to get a good shot of some little bird high in the treetops.
This Arizona Woodpecker was a little more cooperative. It is a little smaller than the Hairy Woodpecker that we are used to seeing in BC and has a brown back.
One day, we did some urban birding at Reid Park. Here the group is surrounded by ducks; both wild and domestic. Jo Ellen and Gretchen are looking up at some Black-crowned Night-herons that are perched in the branches above.
It is such a treat to get this close to a male Wood Duck that was swimming in the smaller of the two ponds.
This male Mexican Duck in the same pond, is definitely not as flashy as a wood duck, but it is still an interesting bird. Until recently (2020), it was considered a sub-species of a Mallard. It resembles a female Mallard, but has a yellow bill. It’s important to look at the tail feathers, because if there is a curl or some white, that would indicate that it is a hybrid.
On another day, these javelinas were “helping” clean up the excess bird feed at the Paton Center for Hummingbirds in Patagonia, AZ.
Nearby, we got several good looks at the hummingbird that made the center famous: the Violet-crowned Hummingbird. The light didn’t catch the violet crown very well, but the clean white front with a red bill are distinguishing features.
We doubt that this male Northern Cardinal in Patagonia had any idea that he would take such a striking photo. And so with this photo, we wish you a Merry Christmas!
The next two photos are a little past our contrived deadline, but are included because we looked several times in November for a rare bird and we were happy to finally see it. We saw it December 5 from the bridge at Sweetwater Wetlands, very close to the parking lot.
The sought-after bird was a Northern Parula. It migrates from the eastern US to the east coast of Mexico, so this little guy was a little off-track. Every year, a few spend some time in the Tucson area.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! Our next post will be in January.