This blog post is about our March birding in the Tucson, Green Valley and Tubac areas.
On our regular monthly visit to Reid Park in central Tucson, we were lucky enough to see a female Belted Kingfisher fly over the smaller pond. She landed on a perch long enough for Doug to take a photo, then she made another couple of passes over the pond and was gone.
A Lewis’s Woodpecker has been hanging around Reid Park and the neighbourhood since the fall. We have seen it several times, but sometimes we only see it on a power pole. This time, the woodpecker was checking out the pine trees near the ball park and we were able to get some good views.
We returned to Box Canyon to try again to see the Five-striped Sparrow. It’s an impressive canyon. Here’s a view of the “waterfall,” which is usually dry or seeping. We saw the special sparrow in the gully just to the left of the white rock face (waterfall).
The Five-striped Sparrow’s range is limited, from Northwest Mexico to just into Arizona. It likes to live in brushy scrub on rocky slopes and can be very skulky unless it is singing from atop bushes.
We saw this Wilson’s Warbler from the bridge in Tubac. Because we were looking down at the bird, we had a good look at the male’s black cap.
The same day, we also birded at Santa Gertrudis Lane, which is just south of Tubac. We saw some interesting birds, but the highlight was seeing this White-tailed buck.
In the middle of March, we returned to the Tubac area and joined several others at the Hawk Watch at Ron Morriss Park. The park’s open space gives a good view of the sky and it’s right beside the Santa Cruz River, which has cottonwood trees that are favoured by the hawks when they rest overnight on their migration.
The Common Black Hawk was one of the hawks we had hoped to see. The first day we saw just one, but three days later, we saw twenty. Sometimes the birds are way up high, but the “Main Guy”shouts out which species he sees and a general sky location. The Common Black Hawk has very broad wings and an obvious tail band.
Here’s a photo of a Zone-tailed Hawk. It looks a lot like a Common Black Hawk, especially when perched. When it is flying, it is very similar to a Turkey Vulture, which may be an advantage when it is hunting prey. Both Common Black Hawks and Zone-tailed Hawks are rare and local, with US populations around 300 nesting pairs.
Doug’s favourite hawk is the Gray Hawk. It is rare and very local and regular at only a few locations near the Mexican border in mature trees along permanent streams. The US population is only about 100 nesting pairs. We see and hear Gray Hawks at several locations that we bird regularly. It’s always a pleasure to see one.
We saw this Great Egret on an unusual high perch at Canoa Historic Conservation Area. Its black feet are very obvious, which is one feature which distinguishes it from a Snowy Egret.
In February, we posted a photo of a group of birders on a golf course in Green Valley, all looking for a Couch’s Kingbird. We went another time in February with no success, and a couple of times in March. On our fourth attempt, we had good views of the bird for several minutes. That day, we just happened to be in the right place at the right time. Couch’s Kingbirds are common in some parts of Texas, but are rarely seen in Arizona.
This is a Common Merganser, which we see in Canada regularly. They winter down in Arizona, but we don’t often see them at a city park. This one was at Christopher Columbus Park in Tucson.
Some friends told us of a location where we could see a Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl. We drove a couple hours south on a secondary road, then turned on to a decent dirt road, which became rockier as we progressed. We walked the final section of road until we reached a wash. It was a bit like searching for a geocache, since we had some coordinates to follow. Here’s Doug in the wash, taking photos of the owl.
The owls were quite far away, so these photos have been digitally enhanced. Ferruginous Pygmy-Owls are less than 7″ tall (17cm). They are active in daylight.
We were lucky enough to see the two owls together, and we could hear a third owl tooting in the distance.
We also considered ourselves very lucky on the day that we saw this Swamp Sparrow at Sweetwater Wetlands. We knew the area that this skulky bird hung out, and we had spent a few hours over several visits hoping to catch a glimpse of this elusive bird. On the day we saw it, we decided to wander by its favourite spot, “just in case.” We rounded the corner and the sparrow was out in full view. It moved to another perch long enough for a good photo. It was another case of being in the right place at the right time.
We had tried to see a Pine Warbler several times. We searched twice at the cemetery in Tucson (see the photo in the February blog) and we didn’t see the one that was reported beside the golf course in Green Valley when we were looking for the Couch’s Kingbird. But the day we went to give it our final try, it was almost too easy. The bright yellow bird, which mostly hides in pine trees, chose to perch in a leafless mesquite and also foraged on the ground. It was the first time we had seen this species. A lifer!
Here’s a photo of Doug taking a picture of the Pine Warbler. He’s standing beside the De Anza Trail in Green Valley, beside a tall fence (as you can tell from the shadows) that is meant to keep the golf balls from landing on hikers.
We have one more blog to post from March, about our trip to Portal, Arizona and Cave Creek. The scenery was stunning and we saw some new birds. Coming soon.