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

Friday, October 19, 2007

Continental Ranch

El Rio Park

I walked a portion of the multiuse path on the west side of the Santa Cruz this morning. I parked near the future site of the Cortaro Bosque and traveled north to El Rio Park, which overlooks Rattlesnake Pond. El Rio is small but my children enjoyed the playground and swings while I divided my attention between them and the birds around - more than 30 species in 15 minutes including Lawrence's Goldfinches, Rock Wren and a Great Egret.

Rattlesnake Pond from El Rio Park

Cortaro Bosque construction

I decided to make a map of the area, since many of the online maps are a year or two old and there's a lot of construction going on.

View Larger Map

Friday, September 28, 2007

Ina Rd update #2

Stopped by this morning and was pleased to find 3 Pectoral Sandpipers. Also present were 179 Black-necked Stilts, 176 Least Sandpipers, 5 Long-billed Dowitchers, both Yellowlegs, 4 Western Sandpipers, a Lark Bunting and a Prairie Falcon.

On Tuesday and Wednesday a Red-necked Phalarope was present (9/25-26).

Here's a panoramic shot from the west bank - it looks like the work is nearing completion, but I have no idea when it will actually be done. The spot I like to sit is to the left, near the red pole.

(click to view larger)

The program I used to create this image is Autostitch, and it is a free download. I recommend it!

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Little Blue Heron - Avra Valley

John Higgins found a Little Blue Heron at the CAP Recharge Pond in Avra Valley today. I took my son after church and was pleased to find it still there, and active. Lots of other birds around too, White-tailed Kite and many Swainson's Hawks being the best.

Not the best pictures... it's a distant view through a fence.

These two were taken by holding the camera on my cell phone up to my telescope. Can you find it?

The CAP Recharge Pond is in Avra Valley, about 15 miles west of Tucson - not too far from the Desert Museum and the still-closed Avra Valley WWTP.

View Larger Map

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Ina Rd Update

I stopped off at the Ina Bridge this afternoon to see what was about. Turns out I was neither right nor wrong about the "No Trespassing" sign - it is still there, but has been pulled up and is laying flat in the dirt. I didn't see it until I had explored a bit of the west bank. Oh well.

Lots of good shorebird habit here right now; there were 79 Black-necked Stilts, lots of of Killdeer, a Lesser Yellowlegs, Least & Spotted Sandpipers, White-faced Ibis, many teal, 2 Wilson's Phalarope, and best of all, two STILT SANDPIPERS. I was able to view them from the top of the bank rather than the partially completed pathway down closer to the water. I didn't want to flush the birds. I think the stilt sandpipers have been there at least since Monday, when I was able to get a very distant view from a different vantage point.

Speaking of that pathway with its newly painted railing, I did some searching on the Pima County and Marana websites but couldn't find much news about the construction other than this:

Completion Date: Summer 2007
Current Status: The contractor has finished the soil treatment work
Projected Activities: handrail work and miscellaneous cleanup.

So it looks like it is almost done... hopefully before shorebird migration ends.

Here's a view from space:

View Larger Map

Saturday, September 1, 2007

September is here!

I've been looking forward to September for a while. Having grown up in Tennessee, September always brings connotations of changing leaves, cooler temperatures, football, and migration. In Arizona, it's still going to top 100 today, the leaves don't change for a while (if at all), and football is something to pass the time before basketball starts. But the birds are still moving through.

One of my favorite spots to go is Sweetwater Wetlands. It's worth a trip any day of the year. A few months ago I compiled a list of some of the better bird sightings for this spot, and I was struck at how many occurred in September - twice as many as October and four times as many as August. Of course, not many birders go to Sweetwater in August - a pity, because I saw some nice birds there yesterday (Northern Waterthrush, Tropical Kingbird, Gray Flycatcher...).

Anyway, here's my list of "good" birds reported from Sweetwater in September. It's not completely arbitrary - I used the data from eBird as a guide - but it is a list of birds interesting to me. I gleaned this data from the listserv and from the logbook. I'm not making any claims to the veracity of any particular sighting (details for many are available on the listserv) - I look at it as a guide to future trips. Hey, if a Dickcissel showed up on September 8th three years ago, maybe it will again this year!

Greater White-fronted Goose
September 12, 1998
25 birds
Greater White-fronted Goose
September 15, 2002

Greater White-fronted Goose
September 11, 2004
37 birds
Greater White-fronted Goose
September 5, 2006
3 birds thru 9/8
Greater White-fronted Goose
September 7, 2006
64 birds
September 16, 2000

Western Grebe
September 6, 2000

Western Grebe
September 7, 2000

American Bittern
September 16, 1999
flying upriver
American Bittern
September 4, 2003

Swainson's Hawk
September 28, 2006

Zone-tailed Hawk
September 26, 2006

Semipalmated Plover
September 4, 1998
1 bird
Semipalmated Plover
September 18, 2005

Baird's Sandpiper
September 4, 1998
17 birds
Baird's Sandpiper
September 12, 2004
4-5 birds
Baird's Sandpiper
September 19, 2004
2-3 birds
Baird's Sandpiper
September 22, 2004

Baird's Sandpiper
September 3, 2006
4-5 birds
Baird's Sandpiper
September 8, 2006

Baird's Sandpiper
September 14, 2006

Pectoral Sandpiper
September 8, 2000

Pectoral Sandpiper
September 19, 2004
2 birds
Pectoral Sandpiper
September 29, 2004

Stilt Sandpiper
September 17, 2004

Wilson's Phalarope
September 1, 2006

Red-necked Phalarope
September 16, 2000

Red-necked Phalarope
September 16, 2004
thru 9/17
Sabine's Gull
September 14, 2002
thru 9/15
Tern sp.
September 5, 2006
Yellow-billed Cuckoo
September 10, 2006

Vaux's Swift
September 20, 2000

Vaux's Swift
September 15, 2002

Costa's Hummingbird
September 14, 2006

Willow Flycatcher
September 13, 2006

Willow Flycatcher
September 14, 2006

Gray Flycatcher
September 3, 2006

Hutton's Vireo
September 24, 2004

possible Philadelphia Vireo
September 9, 2004

Red-eyed Vireo
September 15, 2004

Western Scrub-Jay
September 20, 2000
near entrance
Sage Thrasher
September 17, 2004

Northern Parula
September 3, 2005
thru 10/3
Blackpoll Warbler
September 23, 2001

American Redstart
September 15, 2006

Prothonotary Warbler
September 19, 2000

Northern Waterthrush
September 4, 2003
thru 9/7
Northern Waterthrush
September 8, 2005
thru 9/13
Northern Waterthrush
September 5, 2006
thru 9/7
Northern Waterthrush
September 7, 2006

possible Connecticut Warbler
September 8, 2004
good details
Hooded Warbler
September 10, 2006
Yellow-breasted Chat
September 6, 2006

Cassin's Sparrow
September 1, 1998
TAS Field trip
Clay-colored Sparrow
September 1, 1998
TAS Field trip
September 8, 2004
September 14, 2006

September 22, 2005

Friday, August 31, 2007

Buff-breasted Sandpiper

Today I happened across Mark Stevenson and Molly Pollock at the Pinal/Pima County line. They had just discovered an unusual sandpiper in a flooded field near Pinal Air Park. Mark asked if I had ever seen a buff-breasted sandpiper (I have, in TN and SC, but it has been a while). A quick look through Mark's scope sent me running back to the car for The Shorebird Guide. We enjoyed great looks and were able to see the plain head and buffy breast, white wing linings, yellow legs, long wings and dove-like appearance. It had a few small spots along the side of the breast, near the wing. We considered the hybrids mentioned in the book (p 314-5) but everything pointed to it being a classic Buff-breasted Sandpiper. The narrow buff/white edges to the feathers on the back make me think it was a juvenile, but hopefully someone will get some good pix.

I watched the bird from 9-11:30am. It flushed several times, once flying south into Pima County before returning to its favorite spot - where we first saw it. This spot was in the field just east of the three flooded fields. It had a few small puddles about 75 yards south of the north edge. The bird preferred the drier land, and perched on the berms frequently. Once I saw it raise one wing and flash its white wing linings - cool!

As far as I know this is the 3rd or 4th state record. I think this is the first record this far south in Arizona, so neither Pinal nor Pima County has had a record.

The fields are south and east of the corner of Trico and Pinal Air Park (see map below). To get to the spot turn south on Trico Road from Pinal Air Park Rd (Exit 232, I-10). In 20 yards turn left (east) and follow the farm road a hundred yards or so.

I believe this is private property so please be respectful and use good judgment if you go to look for this bird.

View Larger Map

Monday, March 12, 2007

Santa Cruz north of Ina Rd, 3/12/07

I stopped at the Santa Cruz River on my way home today. There's a place on Ina Rd that's good if you only have a few minutes, on the east side. From here you can look north down into the riverbed. If you have more time you can explore the south side.

Here's an aeria
l picture for reference; red is on the north side; blue is where I park to bird the south.

There is space enough for a few cars to park:

And here's the view:

Closer inspection (a scope is handy) reveals lots of Black-necked Stilts...

Here's a partial list of what I saw today:
4 Gadwall
10 American Wigeon
10 Cinnamon Teal
40 Northern Shoveler
20 Green-winged Teal
4 Killdeer
196 Black-necked Stilt
7 American Avocet
1 Spotted Sandpiper
20 Least Sandpiper
23 Long-billed Dowitcher

Waterfowl numbers and species are down from earlier in the year; the stilts and dowitchers have been there through the winter. There's a lot of construction on the west side bank; it is part of Marana's work on the new park at Silverbell and Cortaro.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

First post

I don't see this as being an authoritative blog on Arizona birds - there are plenty of others out there who are better at birding and blogging - but I may have something to say that interests others. I like birds, and I'm not exactly sure why, but perhaps that's for later. I'll try to pepper this with maps and pictures, if I get a decent camera, and probably links to other websites I find interesting and helpful.

I don't anticipate that I will limit posts to birds, but I think that will be the majority.

While I think of what to say, I think I'll upload a few pix, one of the back yard, one of the front.

The snow-covered mountain is Mount Lemmon.

The second photo is of Safford Peak, commonly known as Sombrero Peak. It's at the north end of the Tucson Mountains and a few hundred yards from our house.