Tuesday, June 2, 2009

A Whirlwind Birding tour of southeastern Arizona. (Pt 1:Of Rufous-capped Warblers and Black-capped Gnatsnatchers)

Picture this: 
Two Bird-crazed teenagers driving around southern Arizona in a red '99 Ford Taurus, drinking Rootbeer, eating Nutter-butters, listening to Taylor Swift and seeing the rarest and best birds that southern Arizona has to offer.  
Set? good, because this really happened. 

My friend Jacob Cooper and I did exactly that this past weekend.  
Jacob told me that he was off work for the weekend so we decided to do a Whirlwind tour of southeast Arizona to see the Mexican rarities. All of them. 

We met on Friday afternoon at the desert museum in Tucson and, after dropping off Jacob's truck with a friend, we hopped into my little red '99 Ford Taurus and headed south to our first stop. Florida wash.  
We arrived at the wash about an hour before sunset and hiked up to the dam and the now famous Sycamore tree.  Our quarry?  exactly half of the entire population of Rufous-capped Warblers currently known to be present in the USA. 

As we hiked past the dam, Jacob heard the telltale chipping call of the warbler. Coming over a rise, he practically stepped on the bird. It was sitting right in the middle of the trail. As it flew out to a fallen tree, I managed to get on my first lifer of the trip. We both ended up getting spectacular looks at America's rarest warbler: 

As we watched the bird flutter down to the stream to drink and bathe, another bird flew up next to it and started singing. We were now looking at a confirmed pair of Rufous-capped Warblers!  Two of only 4 known individuals present in the ABA area. 

Feeling elated after the spectacular looks and photos, we headed back down the wash.  When we got back to the Ocotillo and scrub, Jacob heard a squeaky, gnatcatcher-like sound coming from the hill above us. Sure enough, there in the Ocotillo, about 30 yds above us, was a Black-capped Gnatcatcher! My second lifer of the trip. 

Our next stop was nearby Madera Canyon. We arrived as the sun was setting and drove straight to Madera Kubo. As we watched the feeders, a male White-eared Hummingbird flew down to the back feeder for a drink. This was only the 3rd of this rarest of ABA area nesting Hummingbirds that I had ever seen. As Jacob was watching the male, I spotted another Hummingbird at another feeder that appeared to have a dark patch through it's eye.  A second later, it clicked. This was a female White-eared Hummingbird! I quickly got Jacob onto the bird and both of us watched as the male came by and courted the female.  
We headed back to the car. Jubilant after seeing half of the known population of White-eared Hummingbirds in the ABA area.  

A quick stop at Proctor Rd added Botteri's Sparrow and Rufous-winged Sparrow to our trip list. As we headed back to the car in the quickly darkening light, a Poorwill called from the nearby hillside and a Lesser Nighthawk flew over. 

It was the end to a spectacular first day of birding in beautiful Southeast Arizona. 
As we drove on to Patagonia to stay the night, we wondered what else the weekend would bring. 

Coming soon, Pt 2 of Whirlwind birding: The rarest of the rare. 


Carol said...

How lucky can you get, to see a bird that there are so few of in the area. Impressive looking little fellow.


dAwN said...

I love that part of Arizona and have birded it a few springs! Awesome..How is it this time of year?
Looks like you are seeing some awesome birds!

If you are still there in early spring..I am trying to get a group of Bird/nature bloggers together..from the area. Sherri Williamson seems interested. Let me know if that interests you.