Sunday, March 27, 2016

Madera Whiskers: An 8 o'clock Shadow

Two blog posts in the same month? It does feel a bit excessive, a bit overkilled. Was there really an age when these came out every week? Anyhow, with no school/work this past Friday there was some extra time even if it came with extra commitments as well. A proper day's hiking and birding is still hard to come by but in a capricious and volatile landscape one must be like the Mexican Jay: adaptable and slate-blue.

Madera Canyon has not a few virtues, and in addition to those relating to is avifauna its relative proximity to Phoenix is high on the list. Considering that most of the premium Maricopa County birding spots are still 45+ minutes, two hours to Madera is quite reasonable.
Butler's Birds headed down with some associates around 12pm and arrived with plenty of daylight left for a hike and merry-making.
Groups of people often make groups of birds uncomfortable, but groups of Titmice are equal to the task. The bird below, with the unintentionally affected lighting, looks like a miniature Blue Jay.

One of the additional attractions to Madera Canyon is the night-scene, which definitely cannot be said of the Green Valley area at large. Mexican Whips had not arrived yet nor any errant Buff-collared Nightjars, but the Whiskered Screech-Owls were in fine form after sundown.
It took a little while, between when the birds started calling around the Bog Springs campground at 7:30 to 8:00pm, but the WHSOs, much like WESOs, were eventually very curious and accommodating. 

Night birding really is a pleasure. The species list will rarely break double digits, of course, but being surrounded by invisible calling owls, only catching the faintest glimpses of movement against a starlit backdrop, establishes that oneness feeling, that warm enveloping with nature that birders and naturalist so often seek.
It's also a pleasure because you do not have to get up super early or supersede other early day activities to do it, and you don't have to worry about back-lighting or white-washing.

Not only were the WHSOs accommodating, they actually were responsive to my impersonation calls. I will be quick to go on record in saying that neither my WESO nor WHSO calls are particularly good (nor any others), but these owls were good sports, coming low in their oaken milieus for some encouraging face-to-face conversations. Maybe they just wanted to check out whatever ungainly and awkward owl would be making such rude noises.


  1. Your titmouse comment has me thinking about how delightful it would be if blue jays were the size of goldfinches.

    1. That would be dangerously delightful, and the world would be a commensurately more delightful place.

  2. I was thinking Blue Jay before I read it. Good work. Also, the titmouse is obviously the star of this post because apparently owls are just trash birds in Arizona, lying around everywhere like that. Yawn.

    1. Hard to argue with you Greg. They are a pestilence.

  3. Nice shots Laurence! Especially that last one...