Friday, June 22, 2012

Madera Canyon map

I updated my Madera Canyon map this week (a singing Scarlet Tanager - seemingly on territory - was the impetus).

Madera Canyon is one of the best spots in Arizona (and hence, the US) for birding - the list of rarities and specialties is too long to list here! Check the Tucson RBA for current birds.

Quick legend:
blue markers: public parking (with parking pass)
red dots: private lodges with publicly visible feeding stations
green line: county line (for you eBirders out there)

I've marked various trails and springs; click for names.

The Scarlet Tanager is currently (17-22 June 2012) being seen along the Kent Spring Trail (red), at the hairpin turn just before the first dot (Sylvester Spring).

Click "View Larger Map" to open in a new window (recommended).

View Larger Map

Friday, November 19, 2010

Puerto Peñasco birding

Recently I traveled to Puerto Peñasco, Sonora, Mexico and solicited advice from the AZNM list before going. While I wasn't able to do a ton of birding, I got a lot of good info from the list, and hate to just sit on it, so I'll summarize it here. Note that I have only been there once, so this is a basic primer for people like me who want to get up to speed on where everything is.
That said, I did discover a new access point to the New Sewage Treatment Ponds - new to me, at least, and I haven't seen a mention of it anywhere.

Here's a map of the area, with a few landmarks:

View Puerto Peñasco birding in a larger map

To the northwest is Cholla Bay and Laguna del Mar golf course, and The Reef.
In town is the Harbor and Malecon (waterfront street), Playa de Oro and a few other spots.
East is the Sewage Treatment Plant and the Estero Morua.

The only spots I visited were Playa de Oro and the Treatment Plant (November 2010).

Playa de Oro is probably like many other beaches in the area. Steep and rocky, there aren't many places to access it unless you staying at one of the campgrounds. However, at the west end was an empty lot (Los Corrales painted on one wall) with an adjacent 7-story yellow building. You could probably get through there. The west end held the most birds anyway, as the beach ends in a rocky jumble that gulls and pelicans like. I saw 9 Surfbirds here one morning, and Black and Ruddy Turnstones.
Seawatching can be productive - I saw two Blue-footed Boobies one evening and a Snow Goose fly by on another and frigatebirds on several occasions. Wilson's, Semipalmated and Snowy Plovers, Sanderling, and Marbled Godwit made for interesting walks, and the amazing sunsets/sunrises were a bonus too:

I visited the New Sewage Treatment Ponds entirely by accident. I was there with a group from my church, partnering with Amor Ministries to build a small house for a family. If you'd like to learn more, contact me or follow the link. The house we built, as it turned out, was a few steps from the north pond of the sewage treatment facility.

Previous reports had indicated that the STP could be difficult to access - needing permission from the guard, canals cutting off access, etc. I suspect conditions here change without much notice.

I was able to scope the north pond easily, and walk dikes east, west and south. Hundreds of gulls, 8-9 frigatebirds, decent shorebirds - about the only thing missing were passerines and ducks (Mallards, shovelers and ruddy ducks only).

To get to the New Sewage Treatment Ponds from the north, I will use the corner of Fremont and Dominguez on the southeast side of town as a starting point - there's a Pemex station on the corner. Head north on Dominguez, going over the railroad tracks at 0.3 miles. At 1.2 miles from the Pemex, turn right (west) on Juan Aldama - there's a store called "Abarrotes Gisele" on the NE corner.

Juan Aldama is a sandy washboard of a road lined with houses. As you head west the houses will become progressively newer and less "house-like". At about 1.6 miles you'll see a sign for "Yonke Vega" - the junkyard.

The north berm of the STP is about 200 yards south of Juan Aldama at this point. The west end is raised quite a bit, sloping to ground level at the east end; access is probably easiest at the east for this reason. The junkyard is at the west end.

If you've looked at the satellite map by now, you're probably as confused as I was, as it looks like barren desert. Well, I checked, and the satellite photo was taken 11 Feb 2006. In the meantime, thousands of houses (I use the term loosely) have sprung up, often cobbled together from weathered pieces of plywood and black plastic.

In the background you can see the existing house that we replaced; they borrowed the plywood, so after they get moved in they will return it.

I was able to walk down into the ponds, as the water level was not high. To the east is a dike that runs south, with water on both sides; it dead ends at a canal after 100 yards but provides views of one of the southern ponds. Parts closer to the houses looked like a frequent playground for some of the neighborhood kids.

With the houses so close to the berm, you may attract some attention from the neighbors, but the kids I met were very friendly and curious.

And yes, we finished the house; this was for a family of 6:

References for further reading:
Finding Birds in Southeast Arizona, p232-239
A Bird-Finding Guide to Mexico, p56-58

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Madera Aztec Thrush

I've updated the maps to show the location of the Aztec Thrush that was reported on 11/17 and 11/20. Basically it is about 250 yards up the Old Baldy Trail from the well-documented "x" (which is about 1.75 miles from the parking lot). There is a Madrone tree with lots of fruit (red berries) just left of the trail - both sightings have been from this tree.
I've also included the 11/16 observation of the Eared Quetzal and the 11/18 observation of the Crescent-chested Warbler, the only ones I know of for either since the last update. I wonder if the recent cold front that moved through had an effect, or if there are fewer birders looking... I suspect the former. There's another front coming through - who knows what could blow in. Or out.
Happy Thanksgiving!

Map Key
Red: Aztec Thrush
Green: Eared Quetzal
Orange: Crescent-chested Warbler

detail of upper Old Baldy Trail, looking south - click for larger

upper Madera Canyon, looking south - click for larger

area map:

View Larger Map

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Madera 13Nov07

Just a quick update to the maps, plus a revised list of sightings and times. I finally saw this Crescent-chested Warbler this morning on my fourth try and was pleased to make some new friends as well. I heard the Eared Quetzal well up the canyon from the "X" at 9am. It would probably have been audible from the Agua Caliente Trail. I hiked all the way up to the Agua Caliente Trail from the X, something I do not recommend. Any self-respecting quetzal heard me coming a mile away and departed long before I made it up... only the kinglets stuck around to laugh at me as I "hiked" - more like a controlled fall uphill. I'll stick closer to the trails next time.

See previous posts for more details on these two birds.

Eared Quetzal

10-28-07 . . . 1:30pm
10-29-07 . . . 4:15pm
10-31-07 . . . 12:00pm
11-1-07 . . . 10:40am
11-3-07 . . . 12:30pm
11-4-07 . . . 9:30am
11-4-07 . . . 11:00am
11-4-07 . . . 12:00pm
11-4-07 . . . 12:30pm
11-6-07 . . . 4:15pm
11-9-07 . . . 9:10am
11-9-07 . . . 10:00am
11-10-07 . . . 12:30pm
11-13-07 . . . 9:00am

Crescent-chested Warbler

10-30-07. . 10:00am
11-6-07 . . . 9:00am
11-7-07 . . . 10:40am
11-9-07 . . . 10:00am
11-10-07 . . . 1:15pm
11-10-07 . . . 2:00pm
11-11-07 . . . 11:45am
11-12-07 . . . 1:00pm
11-13-07 . . . 10:15am
11-13-07 . . . 11:50am

An updated view of the upper canyon, looking south. Green is for Eared Quetzal, Pink for Crescent-chested Warbler. Click for larger view.

Detail of the Old Baldy Trail near the top, click for larger view:

The red "x" is where the main wash crosses the trail, marked by two crossed logs. As you can see most of the observations are from this area.

Map of area:

View Larger Map

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Madera Canyon Update

Update to the previous entry

I have plotted 8 of the reported encounters with the Eared Quetzal(s) of Upper Madera Canyon. A ninth report was limited to “Agua Caliente Trail.” If anyone can give a better estimate of a location (preferably GPS coordinates) I will update the map. In addition I have plotted the two Crescent-chested Warbler sightings to the best of my ability.

Eight data points is enough to make some preliminary observations. Elevations range from 5920 feet along the Carrie Nation Trail to 7330 feet on the Agua Caliente Trail. 25% of the observations (2) are from the eastern Old Baldy / Super Trail drainage, and 75% (6) are from the western Carrie Nation / Vault Mine trail drainage.

The observations fall into 3 clusters (see maps below). The first cluster is near the Carrie Nation / Vault Mine split about 0.75 mile from the parking lot. These three observations occurred at 9:30am, 11:00am, and about 12pm.
The second cluster is centered on the original observation at the top of the Carrie Nation drainage and is west of Jack Mountain. The times for these are 10:40am, 12:30pm, and 1:30pm.
The third cluster is closest to Josephine Saddle and is east of Jack Mountain. The times for these two data points are 4:15-4:45pm.

More observations would certainly help decipher any patterns. If you see or hear either bird please post, or email someone who can. You could even use the "comment" section below. Good descriptions of locations will help immensely (see Moez's for an exceptional example). Other observations or conclusions are welcome and solicited!

Here are some perspectives created in Google Earth. Green circles are quetzal, pink stars are Crescent-chested warbler sightings. Click for larger view.

looking south - all sightings with dates and times, trails labeled

looking south - cleaner, showing clusters of sightings

looking south - more of a ground perspective

Here also is a map of the location. I recommend the larger view. Green placemarks with black dots are sightings, the others are heard only. Purple is the warbler.

View Larger Map

Here is a list of all reported encounters of both birds taken from the AZNM listserv.

Eared Quetzal
October 28, 2007, 1:30-1:45pm. Seen Reported by: Laurens Halsey
Location: “Agua Caliente Trail, Santa Rita Mtns, Santa Cruz Co, AZ (about ½ mile west, or towards Agua Caliente Saddle, from Josephine Saddle”

October 29, 2007, 4:15 - 4:45pm Reported by: John Yerger
Location: “The subject area is about 0.25 mi west of Josephine Saddle, and is recognized by the short, dense oaks just right of the trail.”

October 31, 2007, about 12pm Reported by: Jerry Bock
Location: “perhaps a little more than halfway up the Agua Caliente trail from its junction with the Carrie Nation trail when I heard the call of the quetzal somewhere behind me and up the slope”

November 1,2007, 10:40am. Seen Reported by: Dave & Sharon Telford
Location: “a half mile from the Josephine Saddle on the Agua Caliente Trail (exactly 0.52 mi according to my GPS). We put a small pile of rocks at the base of a pine tree three feet up on the uphill slope to mark the spot. The Quetzal was 60 feet down slope about 20 feet high in a tree then it flew off to the SW.”

November 3, 2007, 12:30pm Reported by: Laurens Halsey
Location: “Our location was approximately the same spot that I heard and saw it last Sunday afternoon (31d41.50N, 110d52.26W), we were on the Agua Caliente Trail as described in previous postings. The bird vocalizing was downhill, northeast, and possibly a few hundred feet from our location.”

November 4, 9:30am. Seen Reported by: Wayne Irvin
Location: “The location was, at most, a mile farther upstream on the Carrie Nation Trail from the fork with Old Baldy Trail.
From Mike Brady: “Headed to the spot marked near the Carrie Nation trail where he saw the bird which was roughly 100 yards up from the Vault Mine trail head.”

November 4, around 11:00am Reported by: Mike Brady
Location: “We heard the bird vocalize a couple of times upslope in an area between the Carrie Nation Trail and the Vault Mine trail.”

November 4, 12:30pm. Seen Reported by: Mike Brady
Location: “Another birder reported seeing the quetzal around 12:30 up along the Agua Caliente trail. Basically it sounds like this bird is moving around, up and down a lot but pretty much sticking to the Canyon draw the Carrie Nation trail goes up.”

November 6, 2007, 4:15pm Reported by: Moez Ali
Location: “Take the Old Baldy trail from the parking lot and hike up about 1.5 miles to a very prominent hairpin curve in the trail that has a well-defined drainage crossing the trail, now marked with two large burnt logs making an "X" just above the trail. This is the main draw we first heard the bird, about 300 yards directly up from the trail. The draw acts as a decent trail to go up the drainage and the small side draw is about 200 yards up from the trail. This area would be a good bet for the bird first thing in the morning when perhaps the bird starts out lower in the drainage around the fruiting madrones and moves up canyon later in the day, perhaps accounting for the detections later in the day.”

Crescent-chested Warbler
October 30, 2007, 10am Reported by: Matt Brown
Location: “a little more than a quarter-mile west of Josephine Saddle. The spot was near a small saddle which separates the Temporal/McBeth Spring drainage on the left from the Hopkins Fork of Madera Canyon below and to the right. The bird moved close to the trail in small silverleaf oaks”

November 6, 2007, 9am Reported by: Jim Ambrose
Location: “along the Old Baldy Trail... about half way between the trailhead and Josephine Saddle. On his way down it was about half a mile up the trail.”
The bird was reportedly in a huge mixed flock on the trail. (Moez Ali)

Friday, November 2, 2007

Casa Grande Golf Course

UPDATE 11/3/07: It is a Northern Jacana! There are only three accepted Arizona records. According to some golfers, it has been here for a month or more. Today it was on the northwestern pond on the back nine.

View Larger Map

see some stunning photos here:

Access: it is suggested that any one going to look for the jacana check in at the pro shop first to ask permission/check in. They are aware of the bird and of the birders. Be prepared for a variety of reactions from golfers (stay out of their way), and beware of stray golf balls!

From I-10: exit 190 (McCartney Rd), travel west to Pinal Ave (387), south 2 miles, right on Korsten, west 1 mile, right on Thornton to clubhouse.

From I-8: exit 172 (Thornton), travel north about 5 miles to clubhouse.

From clubhouse to best viewing spot: south on Thornton to Korsten, left to Pinal Ave, north 1 mile to Rodeo. Left on Rodeo to end of pavement; park and walk south along west edge of golf course. Bird was along edges of first pond (northwesternmost).

Note that the Casa Grande Wastewater Treatment Plant located just west of the golf course. I have not been there but recall the occasional bird report.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Madera Canyon Eared Quetzal

Given the spate of recent birds (Eared Quetzal, Crescent-chested Warbler) reported from upper Madera Canyon, I decided to go for a hike. I had the misfortune to miss my friend Jerry by an hour or so and thus he took a different trail (Vault Mine) than I did. He heard the quetzal; I did not. I did have the blessing of enjoying some fine company anyway - Peter, John, Morgan, and Laurens and I hiked the Agua Caliente and Old Baldy Trails.

view looking south... red dots are sightings.

To back up a little... Laurens reported a probable Eared Quetzal on 10-28 along the Agua Caliente Trail (marked yellow); John and Morgan heard it a little east of the original spot on 10-29. Jerry heard it on 10-31 on the Vault Mine Trail.
On 10-30 Matt Brown reported a Crescent-chested Warbler along the Agua Caliente Trail. See the AZNM listserv archives for details.

For anyone thinking of looking for these birds, it is about 2.5 miles from the parking lot to Josephine Saddle via the Old Baldy Trail, then another .6 miles west along the Agua Caliente Trail to the original spot. You can also access the Agua Calinete Trail via the Vault Mine Trail, which a is a very steep and rough trail. The Carrie Nation Trail peters out somewhere above the junction with the Vault Mine Trail.

It was a beautiful day, despite being rarity-free. I created a map of the canyon with the various trails marked, and the locations of the quetzal sightings. The Crescent-chested Warbler was seen near the 10-29 sighting of the quetzal. I measured some of these locations today with a GPS, but standard disclaimer applies: don't use this for navigation.

View Larger Map

A new thing: I'm going to upload it as a Google Earth file too. It has more detail and includes the Super Trail and a topo map. If you have Google Earth, download it and let me what you think.

Get it here:

You can also view it by typing
into the box at

I'm still searching for an easy way to import Google Earth files into Google Maps to make them embeddable - anyone have any ideas?


UPDATE #1: I realize the spot I have marked for the original sighting is further west than originally described, but I got the location by gps while standing next to Laurens, the original observer. The location is the saddle west of Jack Mountain (the "bump" between Mts. Wrightson and Hopkins)- I don't know the name. It is .62 miles west of Josephine Saddle, which is the other side of Jack Mountain.
Andrew 11/1/07 2:00pm