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Arizona Birding Trip & Photos - Jan 17th - 22nd 2003

Yellow eyed Junco Arizona is such a wonderful place to bird and this trip was no exception. With a group of friends we drove the 13hr drive to South East Arizona and the Chiricahua's, Tucson and Phoenix, with lots of birding stops in between. Our goal was to find some of the species that winter there. Some of them are Mexican species while others are very localized, found in just one or two spots and requiring many miles of driving to find them.
The temperatures were cold at night, around freezing point with light snow on some of the highest peaks in the mountains, but warming up to a very pleasant and sunny mid 70's during the afternoons.
Our target birds included - Ruddy Ground Dove, Black-capped Gnatcatcher, Rufous-backed Robin, Lawrence's Goldfinch, Le Conte's, Crissel and Bendire's Thrashers, Pinion Jay and Red-naped sapsuckers, all off which we were were very pleased to get and 6 of which were lifers for me, which I will mention next...
The first target bird we got was the Black-capped Gnatcatchers in Patagonia St. park - two of them, which had been reported in this area for a few months. So after we had all spread out and followed their calls we were able to locate these two difficult to find birds by scrambling up the side of a hill!
Next came the Lawrence's Goldfinches at the "Pima Co. department of Transport maintenance yard" in Continental - beautiful little birds that cooperated with us very well for some great views immediately on getting out of the car!
Then the Rufous-backed Robin. This one had been coming to a water trough in Santa Rita and along with American Robins and lots of Hermit Thrushes, came down to drink and gave us great views.
Those birds were all found on the first day there. One bird we tried for but missed the first day was the Ruddy Ground Dove. However we had another chance at seeing it and the next morning we were back at the "Pattons Feeders" in Patagonia to try again. This time we were rewarded, Phew! Just the one, very alert and wary, feeding with the Inca doves. Also there was a Violet-crowned Hummingbird as well as a few Anna's Hummers.
We then had a long 3hr drive that evening to get to Phoenix where we hoped to get our next bird, the Le Conte's Thrasher, the next morning. We found it at a well known "Thrasher spot" in Buckeye, just west of Phoenix, on "Baseline Rd." There were a couple of them singing which helped us locate one of them as it sat on top of a sage bush for good scope views. We then had another long drive to the Tucson area were we were able to locate some Guilded Flickers among the saguaro cactus and some other desert birds.
The last day in AZ was spent in the Sulphur Springs Valley and Chiricahua Mtns. This was an amazing day for large flocks of birds. Among these were approximately 20 Ferruginous Hawks among the fields, a few hundred Lark Buntings, at least a 1000 Yellow-headed blackbirds perching on an electric station, several thousand Sandhill Cranes with hundreds of Snow Geese and I think the most beautiful flock of all - around 300 turquoise Mountain Bluebirds swarming over a field! Just amazing.
The final morning we were back in Texas in the Davis Mtns where we located a flock of around 200 Pinion Jays which had been present for a few months! This was the icing on the cake for me as it was a bird which I had tried for but missed for quite a while and it was just a wonderful way to finish off the trip.
There were so many wonderful birds, ones that I don't get to see that often, including Olive Warbler, Painted Redstart, Clarks Grebes, White-winged Scoters, cute little Bridled Titmice and Yellow-eyed Juncos. It was a very successful and well led trip with lifers for everyone!
Here's a few photos from this wonderful trip. Not all photos are clear as they were taken in a low resolution due to memory space as well as some being a good distance away or taken through a spotting scope. I've edited them as best as possible to get the best view.

Saguaro Cactus

Saguaro Cactus.
Tucson, Saguaro National Monument

Patagonia State Park
A view over the lake and park. This was a nice SP, our mission here - to find the Black-Capped Gnatcatchers that had been reported here.
Patagonia SP
Black-capped Gnatcatcher
Black-Capped Gnatcatcher.
After climbing up some steep hill sides and following their calls we finally found the two Gnatcatchers for some good views. It was very hard to focus on them as they were constantly moving. They were in winter plumage and missing their black cap.
Rufous-backed Robin.
The Rufous-backed robin, here with American Robin and Hermit Thrush, was seen at Santa Rita Ranch where it was coming to a drinking trough. Unfortuantly it stayed in the shadows!
Rufous-backed Robin
Prairie views were spectacular with the mountains beyond. Common birds here included lots of Horned larks, Savanna Sparrows, Chestnut-collard Longspurs, Meadowlarks and, if your lucky, Baird's sparrow! (we didn't get so lucky unfortunately but we tried!)
Saguaro National Monument.
We stopped here for a few hours to try and get some Guilded Flickers, which are only found in this part of Arizona and a small area of Southern California and nest in the huge saguaro cacti. We were able to find about 4 Flickers as well as many Gila Woodpeckers. The views and cactus were great!
Saguaro National Monument
Le Conte's Thrasher
Le Conte's Thrasher.
The Le Conte's Thrasher was found on "Baseline Rd" in Buckeye, just west of Phoenix. It was a long drive there, over 3 hrs just to get this bird but we were rewarded! There were two of the singing at the spot and we were able to get great scope views of this very pale colored Thrasher. (Photo taken through a scope).
Fish Hook Cactus.
Just as their name states, they have large fish hook shaped spines easily caught in clothing! This one is in the town "Continental".
Fish hook cactus
Rufous-winged Sparrow
Rufous-winged Sparrow.
This sparrow perched up on a cactus for us for quite a while, singing and giving us great views. Again, at the Continental "Feedlot Cafe".
Yellow-Headed Blackbirds.
This was an amazing sight! At least a thousand of them gathered on a power station in the Sulphur Springs Valley along with several hundred Cowbirds. This is just a fraction of them!
Yellow-headed Blackbirds
Chiricahua Mtns
Chiricahua Mtns.
Back in the Chiricahua Mtns in SE Arizona, there was snow in the higher elevations. Birding was quiet up here but we were still able to find Painted Redstart, Mexican Jays, Red-naped Sapsucker, Bridled Titmice and lots of juncos, both Yellow-eyed and Dark-eyed. .
Yellow-eyed Junco.
These birds were quite fearless, coming up close for some great views.
Yellow-eyed Junco
Fiery Sunset
On leaving Arizona we were left with the most amazing sunset - the sky looked like it was on fire! A nice way to say good-bye :)

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