Owl-a-palooza? Owls Well that Ends Well? Never mind, the corn, the owls this evening in Miller Canyon and Patagonia were the big treat of the day, as Patagonia Bird Guide Matt Brown led me by the ear to the a great cache of owls. We spotted the spotted Owls, including adult and baby, up in Miller Canyon, in the deep woods behind Beatty's Guest Ranch. It was another Indiana Jones type hike through dense woods, along steep rock paths and across not quite roaring rivers. Thanks to some other birders, after about 20 minutes of tromping we found, first the adult Spotted owl, plain as day halfway up a tree. We had great looks at the adult and adequate looks at the baby in a nearby tree.
Before heading leaving we sat by the hummingbird feeders in the bleacher seats set up for just such viewing. 4 rows of seats allowed a dozen birders to sit for hours hoping for the arrival of the White-eared Hummer. It just didn't show. But I was able to also add a Blue-throated Hummingbird, so it was still a fine show. I would have liked the Magnificent Hummingbird to have made an appearance, but time was not on our side, as there was still a two hour return trip to Patagonia for more owls.
I had met Matt down at the Patten House in Patagonia for the express purpose of finding a Thick-billed Kingbird. Melody Khel had given me his number and suggested he'd make the search that much quicker. She wasn't kidding. We found the kingbird high in a tree just down the road from the Patten house and I had great looks through Matt's scope. Matt also has a great ear for hearing birds, so if you're ever down in Patagonia and need a guide for owls and other local species, look him up.
And then later, down in Patagonia, where some of the best birding in North America takes place, we found and put in the spotlight on for night time viewing, the Whiskered Screech Owl, the Western Screech Owl and the smallest owl of them all, the Elf Owl. 4 owls! I have now seen 14 owls in North America this year.
The day had actually started a lot earlier. I was up at 4:00am cruising the roads to Madera Canyon in search of a Common Poorwill on my way up to Madera Canyon. I found one on the Old Nogalas Highway, just where Melody had advised me to look. It took off from the road, and flew off right in front of my windshield, allowing me a really nice look.
We had birded for about 8 hours the previous day and she give me very specific directions to a number of birds I could get on my own, yesterday morning. She was dead on. I found the Botteri's Sparrow after a short search, while playing it's call on my iPhone off of Madera Canyon Rd, close to Proctor Road. I got it to come out, sit on some bushes and in trees and give me nice looks while I listened to it sing.
From there I went up to Proctor Road, where in a scene reminiscent of Steve Furca's perilous walk in Florida, I walked along a dirt road for only a mile in 97 degrees with no humidity, to find Varied Buntings. Again, playing the call proved successful and I was able to lure him out for some wonderful photos. Hot and tired, but satisfied with finding the bird, I was off again in search of a Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher at the Madera Kobo Bed and Breakfast. It's an old gingerbread house and while I was watching the many, many birds come to the feeders, I kept a wary eye out for the witch who must surely have lived inside. Seems, though, the only thing she was fattening up, were the birds who swarmed to the multiple feeders. The flycatcher came soon after I arrived, but I stayed for nearly an hour, as more than a dozen birds came in, including a juvenile Hepatic Tanager, Black-headed Grosbeaks and even House Finches.
After a fruitless try for an Elegant Trogan and Magnificent Hummingbird, where I had a luncheon picnic with the other hummingbirds and Goldfinches, I headed back down to Patagonia where I hooked up with Matt for the owls.
Of course, my trip to Tucson, Arizona was not just about owls. I came with a wish list that was mostly fulfilled. I started at 6am on the last day of July with Melody Khel and we targeted specific species until about 2pm, with a day list that included about 45 species, 20 of which were new for the Big Year, including my favorite bird of the day, the Red-faced Warbler.
We started at the bottom of the Santa Catalinas where we quickly found:
Rufous-crowned Sparrow Rock Wren
Hutton's Vireo Black-throated Gray Warbler
Painted Redstart Mountain Chickadee
Yellow-eyed Junco And listened to a Northern Pygmy Owl
I have to catch a flight, so:
To Be Continued...