Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Birding the Bush: It's that Time of Year Somewhere

March 8th and a projected high of 83 degrees? Yeah, and it's moving to 88° on Thursday. At any rate, such conditions mean it's time to  get out to the riparian channels and beat the bushes for early migrants and breeders, birds or otherwise. There are several good spots for such behavior along Highway 87, where sycamore riparian habitat and juniper/oak scrub coalesce beneath unambitious granite canyons. In the foothills of the Mazatzal Mountains, Mesquite Wash, Bushnell Tanks, and Sunflower make for fantastic sites, with excellent overall diversity as well as notable breeders like Common Black and Zone-tailed Hawk, Gray Vireo, and Violet-green Swallow. These sites are grouped close together and i in the shadow of Mt. Ord, Maricopa County's highest elevation and one of its best birding locations. 


I'm waiting on the Mt. Ord and/or Slate Creek Divide (another hot spot for tough-on-county birds) trips for a few more weeks, but the more easily accessed Bushnell Tanks felt like an overdue stop, and I was not disappointed. This is a bit cruel, because everyone else will be disappointed. the riparian corridor and liminal juniper scrub was super birdy, with several FOY birds and a county-first Greater Pewee, but with the bird activity being of a high octane, I was pretty lazy with the camera. Plus, the CBHA and  ZTHA had not yet arrived, so we all must still content ourselves with immature RTHAs, which is not contenting at all as it turns out.  


Of course, hawks are the best thing ever, the superlative thing to watch, and all the more so when they start getting their breed on. There was a whole political conglomerate in the early 1800s who wanted to go to war on their behalf against the British ("Red-tails over Redcoats!!"). But it's also just about time for the Black-throated Sparrows, Black-chinned Sparrows, Chin-throated black Sparrows, and Sparrow-chinned Blackthroats to start their breeding bonanzas--almost


This dude perched right next to the trail like he was ready to start his vocalizing and then, as if remembering what day it was and that he was now rudely early, the ugly cousin of fashionably late, he just kinda froze. It probably took him a while to work up the guts too.
#firstbreedingseasonblues


The juniper scrub of the Mazatzal foothills has hosted some unusual vagrants/migrants this winter, especially considering the relatively mild winter we've experience west of the Rockies. Evening Grosbeaks and Cassin's Finches have been present in these channels throughout the winter, and while their numbers were much lower than on my visit to the area a month ago, they still had a very audible presence. Unfortunately, all the males were attending a stag party or something, or they're sick of juniper and ready to get back into the pines. 


So not a whole lot to show from the weekend. Saturday was a recovery day from Friday, which was one of those rare and unholy events where work and personal life come together for an entire evening, and this always requires heavy imbibing. No doubt listservs and eBird alerts will be lit up with FOY/Early reports in the ensuing weeks. Birders will be on call. For those of you out east who are begrudging my constant prattling about our weather, I shall get just desserts when it starts breaking 100° in April. Then the sweaty shoe shall be on the other foot. Enjoy.  

14 comments:

  1. I have never noticed the outlined white throat on female EVGRs. Cool!

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    1. Cheers Greg,

      I've often noticed how they're nowhere near as good-looking as the males--no mysogno--so you're a good sport and a true gentleman!

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  2. Nice. I'm always an advocate of BTSP in blog posts. I'm anti FOY on listervs. Nobody gives a shit.

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    1. "Just got my first-of-the-season White-winged Dove at my feeder. Love those guys. They are so neat."

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  3. Crushy BTSP...I miss them.

    Number of days where I have seen both EVGR and BTSP? Zero.

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    1. Cheers Seagull,

      It is something that I do not take for granted. This winter has been real weird, and will like as much not be repeated.
      Not just same day...these birds were like 15 minutes apart.

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  4. Nice looks at the EVGR and BTSP. I really hate those off-topic and annoying listserv posts, "I went to the GRP today. Saw 31 species, highlight was a Green-winged Teal." REALLY? Green-winged Teal? NO WAY! Let me get out there ASAP.

    I too am looking forward to the next few months of birding and birds.

    Great post.

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    1. Thanks AZ Walker,

      I guess those posts are our penance for the helpful ones, but good God certain times of year they're just overwhelming.
      I especially like getting FOY reports of birds that are year-long residents.

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  5. Nate is spot on - BTSP is an instant turn-on.

    Truly, yours is some of the best bird photography I've seen as evidenced in this post, but what is going on with that first photo? My eye wants to go up and left, but ...can't.

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    1. Yeah landscape photography...beyond me. I was just trying to show the varied habitat, but it kinda looks life barf. Also, not so consistent with the bird photography either.

      Anyhow, you're a trooper!

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  6. Black-throated Sparrow, yes! I just learned that they summer in eastern Oregon, and that they're possible in Malheur where we're camping in May. If we see one even half as well as you did this one, we'll be ecstatic. Great shots!

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    1. Cheers Doc Martens,

      Bring ice! (for the face)

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  7. The best FOY I ever saw was in Ebird. A thirty-minute wonder of a bird, a Rustic Bunting, was in Portland last spring. One local birder put FOY in the comment box. Totally acceptable.

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    1. That birder sounds like a very good birder.

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