Sunday, June 14, 2015

A Bit Red in the Face

Earlier this June I made a somewhat unsuccessful trip to the Bradshaw Mountains south of Prescott, AZ. This relatively accessible range offers excellent pine, spruce, and oak habitats favored by some pretty magnificent montane species. I arrived around 6pm, hoping to find a few promising spots in the daylight that might produce Mexican Whips and Flammulated Owls a few hours later. With this primary objective I was semi-successful. I found an area that offered great audible and visual access to Whips, (this didn't pay dividends with photographs), but busted on the tiny and timorous Flamms. The saving grace was that the Bradshaws are infested with Red-faced Warblers. 

And I really mean infested. Most ranges in Arizona above 5,500 feet have populations of RFWA, but in my experiences I'll see between 1 and 5 birds in a given 4 hours hike. At one spot in the Bradshaws I had 5 RFWAs in the same tree. They were singing, gathering nesting material, and foraging all low to the ground. Did you know RFWAs make cup nests on the ground? I did not, but I had to be grateful to the cloudy skies and onset sunset for diminishing the light, lest everything I owned become melted. 

Luckily most things became only half-melted, and once the sun was down the Warblers dissipated, things cooled, down, and things reformed Terminator 2 style. I had some of the best looks I've yet managed at Whips up in the Bradshaws, and hopefully can find some time to try again for the Flamms before end of June, by which time they tend to stop vocalizing. I'm getting more and more into the nocturnal birding in Arizona, especially this time of year, but there is a reason why diurnal birding is still the third most popular sport in the world, behind bowling and hornussen
Logically, it's best when both worlds can collide, which means getting up even earlier and staying out even later by birding standards. It is worth it. Just make sure you get enough rest so that you're up for a rollicking game of hornussen midday.