Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Shadow of the Mountains: Get High on Birds in the Lowlands

Offering fantastic birds and cooler temperatures, the canyons and montane trails of southeastern Arizona are rightly lauded as the premier birding destination in the spring and summer months. This is well and good, but the surrounding lowlands should get their shake too, at least if one is looking for the complete birding experience and is an equitable shaker. Patagonia State Park and the Patagonia Rest stop are very well known for their seasonally attractive Kingbirds, but that's just the beginning. 
In fact, instead of showing a predictable Thick-billed Kingbird from that area, I'll show a singing Lucy's Warbler, because Butler's Birds is anything but conventional. 


The Proctor Road grasslands, down mountain from Madera Canyon, are some of the best. This time of year they host vocal Botteri's Sparrow, Beardless Tyrranulets, and Montezuma Quail. Where the mesquite thickets fill in and where there's a bit of water they also attract Flycatchers (Brown-crested in this case) and Yellow-rumped Shy-faced Tanagers.



Yellow-breasted Chats skulk around in the riparian oasis off the Proctor Road trail, along with several Towhee species. The best way to get crushing photos of a Yellow-breasted Chat, of course, is to find a dead one. He's skulking up in heaven now...



The Forest Roads leading up to Florida Canyon are also excellent. One junction is a pretty decent spot for Black-capped Gnatcatcher, and they're also very good for Rufous-winged Sparrow, another localized bird that is, perhaps, underrated because it has a pretty ubiquitous sparrow name. Botteri's and Baird's Sparrows sound like they're uncommon because those names--Botteri and Baird--don't come up much in the bird world, but Rufous-winged can be a tough find and should not be ignored by anyone visiting the area, especially when they're belting out defiance to the gods.
Nate over at This Machine Watches Birds got a nice recording, as he also did of the Buff-collared Nightjar we had off the afore-mentioned Proctor Road.


Of course, by 10am or so the lowlands are pretty scorching and bereft of shade, so sensible birds and birders both head up into the canyons. The liminal space here, were rocky grasslands meet hillsides of scrub oak, brings in the Wrens, Woodpeckers, and plenty of other cool stuff, like crushable Black-headed Grosbeaks, perhaps North America's "Most likely to be seen not in mature plumage bird." 


Butler's Birds will be relocating to Texas for the first couple weeks of June for some advanced birding. Hopefully there'll be another Arizona outing before then. Certainly the bounty of May has filled the reserves and the coffers and whatever else needs filling from one's home state for a fine send-off.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Terrible with Tanagers, and Where's that Chimneysweep from Mary Poppins?

Couple of days ago local birder Danny Lee posted several images of Mississippi Kite from Sunflower, AZ, a charming, sycamore-infested clearing and riparian area off the Old Hwy 87 about 30 miles northeast of Phoenix. This spot it best known for its annually nesting Common Black and Zone-tailed Hawks, and sycamore creeks are not the usual haunts of Mississippi Kites, but photos is photos after all, at least most of the time. Plus, there is some cleared cattle land on one side of the road, and plenty of high perches, so an MI Kite stopover, though rare, wasn't unbelievable.
The bird was found first on Thursday and I couldn't make it out until Sunday, so I was not very optimistic for the Kite, but Sunflower is just great birding anyway. Bell's and Warbling Vireos are all over, as are Yellow and Lucy's Warblers. Cassin's Kingbirds are already getting their nest on, and there are numerous other species of flycatchers, plus the afore mentioned raptors.



Predictably enough the Kite was long gone, although spooking a Prairie Falcon just near the turn off at mile marker 218 was a nice surprise. Otherwise the best birds of the day were the Tanagers. At one point I had counter-calling Summer Tanagers in a sycamore and 5 different Westerns all in another. The only thing more impressive was how, yet again, I managed not to get satisfactory crushes of these birds.


It's becoming a bit of an annoyance now, though I dare not give this some sort of quasi-nemesis status. Especially with the Westerns, considering how common and conspicuous they are right now, there's really no excuse not to have crushing photos of them. So, I offer no excuses, only apologies and hopes that I'll come up with better stuff later this week. 
In the mean time, everyone keep your eyes open for an errant Kite stuck somewhere in a tree!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Magnolia in the Evening: Winning on Wednesday

Wednesday was a double victory. The last week of school is now more than half over, and while I will not yet think about the gross amount of things I have yet to grade and evaluations to write, climbing over that hump is encouraging. This Wednesday evening also brought another boon, the opportunity to chase and fine spring vagrant, one both uncommon and bodacious.
A male Magnolia Warbler was found by several birders on Monday morning just outside of the Desert Botanical Gardens, presumably during the weekly bird walk. The bird was relocated photographed on Tuesday in the same area, feeding near some acacia and mesquite trees adjacent to the canal walkway that runs parallel to the DBG. Dios mio it looked good. Warblers are bad enough at staying still even in their appropriate range so I wasn't overly optimistic about a Wednesday chase, but the DBG is only 6 minutes away from work, so if I passed up that possibility than I really wouldn't be any sort of birder at all. I was also joined on-site by Pops, and this would be a coveted and rare weekday lifer for both of us. 

There were plenty of meetings after school but I'm a good Bird Scout with several make believe preparedness badged, and thus my birding junk was in the car, along with some dynamic swim trunks. We actually got there with plenty of daylight left. In fact, there was too much daylight. It was still quite hot and the bird activity was initially low, so we had to make do with other critters, like this Desert Spiny Lizard.


Another cool find early into the birding (really before there were any noteworthy birds) was a Giant Desert Centipede. This dude was about seven inches long and just hanging in the open. I can handle, literally, spiders and roaches and leeches and internal human organs, but I'll be honest in saying centipedes creep me out a bit, and not just because of the innovative surgeries and subsequent films they can inspire in some people.



So on a hot spring (summer) afternoon with little shade, what else does one do? Check out the Rough-wing Swallows being all dramatic on the utility lines, for one.


And observe the local but kinda boring Gilded Flickers for another.


if you're really desperate, you can even creep on shadowy female Lesser Goldfinches, some of the dullest birds in town.


After about forty-five minutes of patrolling the acacia and mesquite trees along the canal, Pops finally had a sighting. A small, darkish bird with white flashing on the tail skipped into a mesquite from across the fence in the DBG area. The yellow was initially covered but pretty soon we were getting semi-obscured but continuing looks at a gorgeous lifer. Magnolia Warbler on the up and up!


The Warbler, unlike those of use who were chasing it, was wise enough to wait on its evening forays until after the sun had drifted below the horizon. Our binocular looks were fantastic; the bird didn't care about we quiet bystanders, though frequent cyclists and joggers would give him a scare.
Shooting warblers without direct light and in a bushy mesquite tree is a losing battle, so I was satisfied with the great visual and some diagnostic photos, especially considering that this was a bird, up until a couple of days ago, that wasn't really on my 'expected vagrant' AZ radar. This is only the second or third record I've seen in the last few years.
After several minutes a couple of bikers flushed the bird across the canal and that was that. There's a certain temptation to try again in the morning with better light, but the foliage on the other side of the canal is much broader and nicer, featuring some dense transplant pines that are actually more in-line with its usual habitat, so there's also a worry that the bird won't bother coming back.


We had just enough time with the Warbler and the residual heat to melt our faces pretty well, no complaints about a near-chase, Wednesday evening lifer.
On the way back to the cars, we were treated to darting Nighthawks and a few other desert species perched atop their respective thrones.




So is the birding luck used up, or is this a powerful omen for the weekend? Only time and terrible tasting, brittle, gimmicky, thyroid-shaped cookies will tell.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Alpha Bravo Charlie Brown: The Best Banding Codes?

Everyone has a love-hate relationship with infamous 4-letter words (poop, soup, pope, work, tree, etc.). For many birders, it's the same with 4-letter banding/breeding codes, or at least it was for me. When I as first getting into the stuff and coming to terms with my inner nerd, the codes were a bit frustrating. Of course, I didn't know them, so I'd have to look them up half to time to figure out what other, cooler birders (oxymoron?) were talking about. Plus they don't always follow the same rules and sometimes they're not even faster to say than the bird's name itself, and then, of course, there's SORA, which used to stand for Solitary Rail but eventually became its own species name, showing that the American Dream is still alive and well.

Regardless, the banding codes are both useful in their function as, well, breeding and banding codes, and they're also pretty nifty once you've got the hang of it (which I don't). So, the big pressing question then is, which birds have the best 4-letter banding codes? Below is a list of some lucky, convenient, and/or otherwise excellent 4-letter codes. Feel free to comment with add-ons or objections:

LEGO--Lesser Goldfinch 
The source of so much fun and creativity for children, as well as significant pain in the soul for any unlucky and unshod persons who happened to step in the wrong place at the wrong time, this is the perfect code for a Lesser Goldfinch. They too, bring joy and creativity to children, and also are excruciatingly painful to the feet. Never heard anyone testify to that before? That's because there are no survivors. The bird is mostly sulphur, after all.

"I'm toxic in moderate doses, tehehe."
NOGO--Northern Goshawk
---begin transmission---

     "Col. Swainson's, this is Sergeant Tanager. Our migratory advance is underway and we've already pushed up canyon, brushing past the local defenders with ease. We'll move quickly from pine to pine and crest the summit by mid morning. The enemy will be taken completely by surprise. Out."
     "Roger that Tanager. We're moving in three battalions of Jays and Band-tailed Pigeon support behind you, will set up sweeping units and recon procedures. This is it Tanager. This is the day we seize control of the mountain and fulfill our destiny. If we pull this off, we'll all be heroes. Maintain vocal contact Tanager, update canyon status. We're waiting for your signal."
     "Tanager, do we proceed?"
     "Tanager?"
     "TANAGER!?!? Respond!!!"
     ...
     ...
     "..chhhhh...(static)...this is--cough, splutter--Sergeant...Pewee. Tanager's dead. It's--cough--no--everyone's dead. Mother of God...it's a...it's a...NOGO sir...pull back! NOGO, NO GOOOOO-----------{screeching sounds and a sharp rip heard in the background}.
..................drip..............................drip..................................drip

---end transmission---

Compliments of PRBYApparel.com

MALL--Mallard
Except maybe for pigeons, no bird has so many plumage variations, so many different outfits, as the Mallard (factoring in domesticated of course). Common, garrulous, and gregarious, it is very appropriate that this bird's code is MALL, because obviously that's where they'd hang around all day if they could--and sometimes they do.

Gross
BUFF--Bufflehead
It's pretty disappointing this code couldn't go to the incredibly ripped Buff-breasted Sandpiper or the similarly toned Buff-breasted Flycatcher, but it's still cool even if misapplied. When one sees a Bufflehead in the buff, well then it all comes together (referring of course to the birder being in the buff). *This is best done only with unisex birding groups.

What a...flash!
COME--Common Merganser
HOME--Hooded Merganser
Mergansers, Sawbills, Ducks of the Hearth. Many is the angry or beleaguered birder who has wondered out to the edge of a great body of water. Perhaps he was running from his past. Perhaps he was depressed from coming in 2nd, again, in his State Big Year. Birders, like birds, travel great distances and to some extreme locales. They experience great emotional highs and lows. Perhaps the troubled birder sought the water for its cool, calming effect. Perhaps he sought it so he could finally see his reflection out in the world. Perhaps he was tempted to lean just a bit farther forward and fall in, letting the mystical body consume him, his problems, and his grief. 
How many such birders have been pulled back from the brink, then, when they see COME HOME floating by. All is well, gentle birder. The world has a place for you; be secure in it. Come home.


"HOOOOOOME."
KILL--Killdeer
This is just a great code but there are few worse bird's for it. Killdeer are big, whiny sissies .They only way they'd kill someone is by screeching them to death...which is pretty metal actually. Ok.


"Well this one time, I thought about killing a bug."
SAND--Sanderling
SAND isn't especially fun, but this is about the most appropriate code for any bird. Sanderlings are born of the sand. They live, laugh, and love the sand. Sand courses through their lungs and pulses in their veins. For breakfast they have sand toast with sand butter, and at night they have sand steak. A life spent running up and down the sand is, for a Sanderling, a life well and wisely spent.
Several scientists have posited that the reason for their back-and-forth wave-running is actually the intention of breaking down (weathering and eroding) any larger shell chunks that are washed up on the beach, thereby creating more sand.

"Today this beach, tomorrow the coast...soon the world will all be sand."

SNOW--Snowy Owl
Snowy Owl = Super Convenient.
Take the above Sanderling paragraph and switch the bird for a Snowy and the sand for snow. It's an almost identical relationship, except Snowies don't create more snow by weathering a la Sanderlings. They create it by soliciting tears from the relatives of their victims. Let it snow, let it snow, let it...

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia
HORE--Hoary Redpoll
Some recent studies have argued that Hoary Redpoll isn't even a distinct species, just an arctic/tundra sub-species of Common Redpoll. They can be told apart by their slightly larger size, more dominant white, and fainter streaking. They also can be told apart by their caked-on lipstick, their outrageous stiletto heels, their fishnets and short skirts, and their thoroughly trampy attitude.
It was that man, J.J. Audubon, who first made the observation, giving the species its name and code, when he observed one such harlot finch cavorting with some Common Redpolls.
He is recorded to have said, "What is that skanky bird there? It's like the other Redpolls but way more promiscuous, just swiveling hips and revealing her cloaca to anyone who'll buy her a seed at the feeder. Disgusting. HORE!"

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia. What a floozy.
HOSP--House Sparrow 
Never mind the fact that they shouldn't actually live here, in the United States. These European interlopers are very generous sharers of other people's homes. HOSPitality is their game, truly, for they know the pains of homesickness and the troubles of finding comfort, a place to lay one's hat. At carnivals and in movie theaters, in airports and apartment complex parking garage overhangs all across the country, the House Sparrows strive to make the United States, their adopted country a little bit homier.

"I'll be the first bird to nest in the international space station."

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Miller Canyon: The High Life

Mid to later May in Arizona is Miller time. This preeminent of the Huachuca canyons holds constant attractions, both migratory and residential. The southeastern specialties found here often rub shoulders with seasonal rarities and plenty of other generally cool birds. The canyon is, of course, most famous for its Spotted Owls and its hummingbird station on the Beatty Guest Ranch. It's not particularly well known for its Spotted Towhees, but they are there too. 


After some quick forays in Huachuca Canyon and Sierra Vista with foul-mouthed birdwatching machine Nate McGowan, we headed south to Miller Canyon for the largest chunk of the day's birding. Although we were arriving a bit after peak hours, the canyon was still noisy with residential and migratory bird activity. The lower reaches held Hermit and Swainson's Thrushes, Vireos, Titmice, and about a thousand pounds of Dusky-capped Flycatchers. 


There were plenty of ABA/AZ specialty lifers on the hike and along the way to our larger targets. With some complicated directions from the ever helpful and loquacious Beatty fellas, we located the Spotted Owl nest, from which the female's head was visible (not photographed). The Northern Pygmy Owl nest didn't produce anything for us but we picked up some montane Warbler species, including Painted Redstart and Grace's, as well as several attempts at my still-photo-nemesis Red-faced Warbler, perhaps Arizona's best warbler despite these unjust shots.



We didn't turn up Olive Warbler, which I've actually never seen in Miller Canyon anyway, nor Hermit Warbler, which is a migrant that's very good at not showing up as soon as you try to find one. I'll go ahead and further posit that those plane-faced, bug-eyed Hermit Warblers are one of the dorkiest looking of the bunch. I know that simplicity is the way of the hermit there, warbler, but still, a mask, a cool scar, supercilia, a tribal tattoo, something. So no, I won't apologize for not having a single decent photo of the species. Sorry.

The main prize up canyon was one that's even grown in value since our departure, where apparently two Northern Goshawks have since hatched. When we made it up the bird was still incubating the eggs and was thus barely visible. With the recent hatchings, presumably it is now more conspicuous, as may be the Goshawk chicks--not at all a common bird or a common sighting.
It was pretty crazy to see this large, intimidating, and rare bird just sitting pretty. The sighting was all the more interesting because bird activity in the area was very high. Tanagers, Pewees, and warblers were all very active in the sycamores and pines nearby, mercifully thankful that their smaller size and thinner frames, perhaps, would keep these top predators from developing much of an interest.


The muted sighting and photo of the Goshawk was actually better than we got of the Spotted Owl, so these canyon highlights were a bit unsatisfying. There is no better cure for the nascent birding desire at soul-satisfying views than a hummingbird station.
The feeders themselves detract from sightings with their overpowering plastic redness, but the general buzz they create and sustain in the surrounding trees is more than compensatory, and the Beatty hummingbird station was also the recent site of our last major target for Miller Canyon.



At the Beatty hummingbird arena, some birds bide their time and plot violence, or sugar consumption, in the shadows, while others perch in open, broad (tailed) daylight with a devil-may-care attitude. 


The sugar water is about the only sweet thing shared between the different hummingbird species. In fact, they're often so busy not sharing that they don't get any for themselves. The Hummingbird hierarchy is beautiful, intriguing, and totally lacking in virtue. Being among the largest hummers present, Magnificents usually reign supreme. They're like the Great White Sharks of the Hummingbird world, for obvious and apparent reasons that need no further elaboration.


The White-eared Hummingbird often breeds in Miller Canyon, though in small numbers, and a pair arrived back in town early enough for us to try for them while in the area. They're not as physically intimidating as the Magnificent or Blue-throated Hummingbirds, nor as colorful as the Broad-billed, but the rarity and limited U.S.--range factors make this a highly coveted bird, plus that ear stripe is just awesome. You could land a plane on that thing at midnight.


The male White-eareds are actually pretty gorgeous but it's difficult to capture the colors on the head and gorget with this bird, especially when its predominantly backlit, a frequent trouble with the Beatty station any time after 9:00am or so. This was my first lifer of the trip, leaving Berylline and Buff-breasted as the only two ABA hummers I've yet to see, plus stupid Allen's, which everyone knows is just a greener-backed subspecies of Rufous anyway...


With a similar though less good-natured dynamic to a mixed flock, all the hummingbird commotion attracts the attention of other birds as well. Bushtits and Titmice and Titless Bushmouses were all chittering in the surrounding oak scrub. Also of interest was a violently ill Acorn Woodpecker. It was Sunday morning, after all, so needless to say it had been partying too hard with its other head-banging buddies the night before.



We've all been there, when the fun of Saturday night sucks away the happiness of Sunday (which is why the day after feels so terrible). It's terrible, the world is spinning, you regret the late night texts you sent to the jock Arizona Woodpecker even if it is a lying bastard, and then you puke. Then you feel amazing again and are ready to have your picture taken. FANTASTIC!


After racking 'em up in the Huachucas, we took a detoured drive through Patagonia and then north on the I-19 to the Santa Ritas, where several more potential lifers awaited. The greatest perversity about Miller Canyon is the driving need one feels to go back as soon as one has left. Early July I'll be wiping out on its rocky trails (which I've managed to do every single time I've hiked it) and trying for the Berylline Hummingbird, if the Goshawks don't take me first.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Birders can now look cool too, or at least die trying...

Hey BiRd nErDs, for those who are fashionably inclined and for those who aren't but want to be, there are all kinds of witty productions going on with PRBY Apparel. My personal favorite is the "THGU Life" Hoody. Check it out: https://www.facebook.com/PRBYapparel

The company is run by birder and marketeer Paul Riss of Punk Rock Big Year, whom I had the pleasure of birding with earlier this spring. Like all Canadians, he is hairy, covered in tattoos, and exceedingly polite. Most relevantly, PRBY Apparel is producing some really clever and well-designed stuff for birders, hipsters, and anyone who wants to be gorgeously mantled.
Check it out.


Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Birding to the Brink: Huachuca Lowlands and Sierra Vista

It's the middle of May, and needless to say this past weekend was one of Heavy Birding. I logged about 12 hours of sleep over the course of the weekend, including Sunday night, picked up 3 lifers, took two birds off the 'heard-only' portion of my list, and logged about 700 miles. It started early Saturday with the 370mile round trip chase for the Sharp-tailed Sandpiper in Cameron, AZ, and continued through the Huachuca Mountains on Sunday and the Santa Ritas on Monday. Perhaps the most remarkable sighting was one I missed--the first breeding record of breeding N. Saw-Whet Owls in Maricopa County, which is as simultaneously awesome and tragic as it is predictable (In this sense that I'd have to miss something amazing). There were plenty of fantastic birds over the weekend, most of which were not adequately photographed, and suffice it to say enduring the last couple weeks of the school year will be very difficult now. 
Early Sunday I joined up with the Texas birdwatching machine Nate McGowan in Tucson, where he had bravely roosted at a shady Red Roof Inn and had his pick up high quality Tucsonian narcotics. For my part I discovered the only known McDonald's in NOrth American that doesn't open until 6am right when I needed a restroom.  It could only get better, then, as we headed down the I-90 towards the Huachucas.  

With a primordial dawn and a fair amount of wind, we first stopped near the Maricopa picnic area to try for the Sinaloa Wren seen a few days previous. Birding in that immediate area turned up plenty of birds, but no SIWR. We had Bewick's and House, plus all three western Tanager species in fair numbers, Grosbeaks, a couple Lazuli Buntings, Plumbeous and Cassin's Vireo, Bushtit and Bridled Titmice...the list goes on and we had most of these species, with vocalizations, all in the dense vegetation in the SIWR area. Some stakeouts are really boring but this area was distractingly good. The SIWR had not been seen on Saturday nor that morning, but maybe our miss was due, in part to the other birdies. 


Rufous-crowned Sparrows were singing relatively high in the trees--an usual sight for scrub dwellers--and there were several very vocal Dusky-capped Flycatchers around. This myiarchus was a photo-target and I was very glad to get on with the crushing as the sun made its way over the mountains. Of course, they turned out to be some of the most common birds on our trip.


Since we had such good birding so early on the Huachuca Trail and we were holding out for the wren, we didn't press much farther down. The possibility of early Buff-breasted, Sulphur-bellied and Other-Stomach-Named Flycatcher farther down was intriguing, but I figured we'd have these species later on (mistaken assumption, but a seemingly safe bet at the time). 
Around 6:30am we were joined by some additional birders at our stakeout. The added eyes did not turn up the Code 5 rarity, though one energetic and defensive lady in a long jean skirt swore a Bewick's Wren to be our target. As the sun rose higher into the sky a few more melodies, or more accurately, noises, joined the chorus.


A little late to rise, I guess, the Western Wood-Pewees now filled the area with their raucous call and impressive fly catching. They don't have the color of Buff-breasted or Sulphur-bellied, of course, but Flycatchers are probably the best group of birds, so even the comparatively dull Wood-Pewee is a welcome attendant to a crush-party.


With so many sites on our itinerary we couldn't stay too long at the Sinaloa haunt, but the Maricopa Camp area was absolutely teeming with birds. I'm still ruing the missed Flycatchers further up the trail, and will definitely swing by again in July when Berylline Hummingbird hopefully shows up.
Tanagers are a group of birds I have not at all properly crushed, but this certainly is a place for it; there's potential, and I think we had over three dozen species or so in this acre of space in an hour and a half.
It was one of those moments of pure pleasure birding, birding so good you feel hedonistic, almost guilty--almost. Hiking and 'sploring are enjoyable aspects of the birding regimen, and sometimes they're straight necessary to see some species, but often times picking a single spot and practicing patience pays the biggest dividends. While we didn't pick up rarities, the birds-per-branch ratio in Huachuca Canyon is absurd. The hardest point of access is navigating through the military base to get there; its streets are more confusing than the turnpikes and culture of Boston.


The largest stop on Sunday was Miller Canyon, but along the way we perused to Sierra Vista pull offs, checking the grassy hillsides in rocky areas for elusive Montezuma Quail. We didn't want this to be a a long stop, so I quickly broke down and played some tapes. In pretty short order we were rewarded with the shrill whistle of the male MOQU, but couldn't get visuals. This bird is tough to see, but I underestimated exactly how difficult, despite failing in the past. After an unsuccessful period searching for the birds we started walking back to the car only to flush three of them--2 females and a male--that had been sitting maybe ten feet away from us.
It was ├╝ber embarrassing. I was expecting the birds to be farther away, and thus wasn't looking close to my feet. Their hurried, vibrato take off was startling enough in the chilly, silent morning, and the stinging humiliation of knowing the crushing opportunity was so close if I had only noticed the proximal birds was a bit hard to stomach. The three adults flushed far away into the tall grass and were not seen or heard further. Again we started walking to the car, and AGAIN we flushed more quail!



This time it was two chicks, and once more they were almost underfoot before they flew, far closer to us than where we were scanning. The chicks landed close enough that I could get diagnostic photos, but the 'what-if' scenario was excrutiating. These gorgeous and secretive birds all held still until we were maybe ten feet away. That means if I'd only seen them at 11 feet, they could've been destroyed by the crushinator (*which does not actually harm the birds). Oh well. Much like Ft. Huachuca, this will be another stop next time I'm in the area.


Miller Canyon is probably one of the top 5 birding sites in Arizona and thus deserves its own post. The start to the morning was filled with some pedestrian conquests of common flycatchers, and some fancy-pants failures with the rarer stuff. Sierra Vista was almost a Pyrrhic victory, such do I covet a covey of these Quail. Enough whining though. There were many more birds to see.