Sunday, 3 May 2015

ARIZONA 2015: Tucson mountains and desert (2-3 May)

May 2nd.  Olive Warbler was my most wanted species in Arizona and one I had hoped to have seen before reaching Tucson.  That was not to be but Mount Lemmon in the Santa Catalina Mountains was as good a site for them as anywhere and only an hour's drive from our motel.  Megan, Nessa and Josh decided they'd rather have a bit of a lay-in and visit the zoo so I left on my own as it was getting light. I headed up to Rose Canyon campsite which was listed as a good site for Olive Warbler, parked by the main road and walked down into the campsite but being a weekend it was busy and after an hour an a half with no success I thought I had better try somewhere else.  Back almost to the car I noticed a small bird half-way up a conifer.  Much to my relief it was a male Olive Warbler and a female was nearby.  I was expecting them to be hard to see in the very tops of the pines so these were much better than expected.  As I was watching them Rob O'Donnell, a retired birder from Northern California, and his wife Anne drove up and joined me watching the Olive Warblers. Rob got some much better images than mine which he was generous enough to share. Rob had earlier met a ranger and been told that Incinerator Ridge was a good place for warblers so I followed him up there seeing a Painted Redstart fly across the road on the way.  We spent the rest of the morning birding the Incinerator Ridge area seeing Broad-tailed Hummingbird, Hammond's Flycatcher, Greater Pewee (both new for me), Plumbeous Vireo, Steller's Jay, Pygmy Nuthatch, Western Bluebird, Townsend's (a male, also new for me), Red-faced and another Olive Warbler, Yellow-eyed Junco and Black-headed Grosbeak.  A very enjoyable morning in excellent company but it was over all too soon and time for me to return.

Olive Warbler at the entrance to Rose Canyon camp site

what Olive Warbler really looks like (photo of the same bird by Rob O'Donnell)
another of Rob's
Yellow-eyed Junco at Incinerator Ridge

the view from Incinerator Ridge
Red-faced Warbler, presumably not bright enough for my camera to see and focus on or I wasn't bright enough to use the camera correctly?
the same bird photographed by Rob O'Donnell
a stunning bird
another of Rob's excellent photos
driving back down Mt Lemmon
looking down at Tucson
The zoo visit, by bus, had been a success too, but rather tiring.  A very half-hearted attempt to find our way to "A" Mountain in the afternoon was unsuccessful and we did not feel up to trying anything more energetic.

May 3rd.   We drove to the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum arriving soon after it opened. The scenery was excellent but birds were somewhat disappointing and being a Sunday it was also very busy.  I had hoped there would be some hummingbird feeders but only saw them in the Hummingbird Aviary.  Birds seen included Anna's Hummingbird, Gila Woodpecker, Cactus Wren, Curve-billed Thrasher and Black-tailed Gnatcatcher.  It was very hot when we left the Museum so we returned to Tucson rather than driving on to the nearby Saguaro National Park.  In the afternoon we visited Tucson Mall, a large almost out of town retail centre.  Later I tried the Santa Cruz river walk, reached in five minutes from where we were staying, but it didn't really live up to its name as the river was completely dry.  There were a few birds in the trees there with a male Anna's Hummingbird, 8 Abert's Towees and a Western Tanager the best.

approaching the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum
Saguaro cactus
overlooking Saguaro National Park
Gila Woodpecker tightrope-walking

Megan and tall saguaro
Cactus Wren at nest
the next meal
eagerly awaited
Anna's Hummingbird

with head appearing too big for its body

Curve-billed Thrasher
May 4th.  I had an hour on the river walk before breakfast seeing two Anna's Hummingbirds, Gila Woodpecker, Vermillion Flycatcher, Curve-billed Thrasher, White-crowned Sparrow and Abert's Towee.  We then packed up, left Tucson and drove west to Yuma where we crossed back into California.

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