Sunday, April 19, 2015

Ordinarily Good Birding

Maricopa County has its various birdy attractions throughout the year. Certain thrashers and sparrows come to mind in winter, while Cuckoos, Bitterns, and Rails tend to captivate the later summer interest. But as April runs into May, there's only one place to be in Maricopa: the tender, elevated, loving slopes  of Mt. Ord. After taking last weekend off from birding, due largely to hangover fall-out and from quite possibly the worst week of work ever, the trek up Mt. Ord was an overdue return. This was the case because many of the elevation breeders have now returned as well. The scrub lowlands were teeming with Sparrows as well as smaller numbers of the coveted Gray Vireo. 

Blue-gray Gnatcatchers and Black-throated Gray Warblers are by far the most common birds this time on year on Ord. Between those two names it sounds rather dour, but even if these birds are not bursting with color, they are bursting with song, or at least bursting with song-esque sorts of noises.

The juniper/pine/oak habitat hosts many other breeders, including WEBL, LEGO, WBNU, RBNU, JUTI, HETA, and VGSW. I was even fortunate enough to hear a Northern Pygmy-Owl tooting from somewhere out in this mess. The bird quieted down as I approached closer and I could not locate it, despite waiting in the area fro another 30 minutes. I don't even know why I am mentioning this failure. 

There were some vocal Grace's Warbler's mixed up in the canopy, jostling for position and prominence with Redstart and Hutton's Vireos. Yellow-throated or Grace's? Who wins in a beauty contest? Who wins in a fight? Who wins at bingo?

The old corral and water tank off FR 1688 was typically birdy, but otherwise the greatest concentrations of species were off from the main road nearer the summit of Ord, around 7,000 feet. Here I got more than an earful and less of an eyeful of the skulky Virginia's Warblers. It's ok; an eyeful of warbler sounds unpleasant anyway, makes one's eyes all black-throated blue.

There were also some holdover Cassin's Finches near the summit, and one weird-o finch hanging out on its own. It was bulkier and had more olive-green on its breast and supercilium. It looked pretty good for female Purple Finch is all I'm saying...but that would be very rare and I have no documentation, so I'm not actually saying anything.
Watching Violet-green Swallows streak through the blue sky atop Ord's summits never gets old. Trying to photograph them in flight does.

In other news, no one has re-found the Eared Quetzal since its original discovery on Friday, which is why I am writing this blog post, instead of affably losing myself in the Santa Rita Mountains. Things are getting pretty flavorful down there though, with Trogons moving onto territory and Sinaloa Wrens still ratcheting to such an extent that a desperate one-day weekend trip may be next on the cards.