Sunday, November 2, 2014

What the Arboretum's Harborin'

There are many consequences--most of them social or financial--that come with the birding pastime. There are also some benefits, one of which is that one can often combine birding with other activities. As I've been oft-whining the last few weeks, now isn't the best time to be birding, in my opinion, around central Arizona. With the low promise of plentiful birds, and the promise that many of the birds one does find being in drab plumage, there isn't a lot of impetus to get up before sunrise, especially if a drive is involved. But this weekend I needed to do some scouting for a possible class field trip at the Boyce Thompson Arboretum in Superior, AZ. 
It's a neat place with lots of trees; I needed to determine if it'd be a viable site for 90 students to spend some time reinforcing natural history/science concepts. And hey, where there are trees and water, there tend to be birdies too. So Butler's Birds decided to kill two birds with one stone this weekend (sometimes the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few). 

The Boyce Thompson Arboretum hosts several different biomes, some of which are artificial transplants with botany from Australia or Africa, and some of which are continuations of the surrounding Sonoran Desert. The more intriguing, and also more difficult birding is near the exotic trees, where some good rarities have been found over the years. Someone reported some out-of-season birds such as Tyrranulet and Bell's Vireo in the area, but apart from Kinglets and White-crowned Sparrows I only turned up Northern Flickers, LOTS of Northern Flickers. They all stayed up high with their foraging, but I was not above (and, in fact, was below) peeking up at their spotted undergarments. #voyeuristbirding

The site would lend itself pretty nicely to a field trip, but truth be told I did not find a lot else of interest with the birds. Verdins were being weird and building nests, which they seem to do compulsively all year long, sometimes building multiple nest balls in the same tree. 

Phainopeplas perched in the desert ironwood. If Spiderman were a Cardinal these guys would be Venom, but with a prettier call note.

This ever-sharp and loud Cactus Wren also seemed to be gathering nesting stuffs, or else he thought this was a stick bug. Like Verdins, they build multiple nests to act both as decoys and also proof of their industriousness to prospective mates. Perhaps they get an early start on all that construction as well.

I haven't been crushing many birds lately, so allow me to indulge here with a closer crop. It's the state bird after all, and worth a second glance (though maybe not a third). Even though it's not the best state bird, maybe not even in the top ten, it's still way better than the large majority of other state birds.

When things started to heat up at BTA--which still happens, even in November--I drove into the old western town of Superior for some lunch breakfast. I do love me some cheap diner steak and eggs, served forth by a lady named Holly or Charmin who calls me darlin'. It was to be the Buckboard City Cafe, "Home of the World's Smallest Museum." The museum consisted of various odds and ends from the 1980s transferred from someone's attic. The cafe was full of politically opinionated bikers and the service was slow. Lastly, the food was terrible. I felt like this tree a couple of hours later. Nuff' said.

Next weekend I'll be heading south to the Huachucas with a birder friend from Indiana, if all goes as planned, and hopefully there'll be some diversity on this blog again. Here's to November!