SE Arizona – Day 3 (July 18): Santa Ritas and Tubac

Day 3 probably included more misses than any other day but we were still able to put up some great birds and once again enjoyed a very successful night vigil.

Again starting early, our first stop was a good spot for Gilded Flicker south of Tucson. The flicker was playing hard to get but in the meantime we enjoyed great looks at a Gila Woodpecker on a nearby saguaro and a Lesser Nighthawk that flew right past the car. Finally, we nailed the Gilded Flicker on a telephone pole, obtaining good views before the bird flew off.

Gilded Flicker

Gila Woodpecker

Our next stop after the Gilded was Montosa Canyon in search of Black-capped Gnatcatcher. We heard and then saw two Black-tailed Gnatcatchers on the way in but two hours of searching yielded no positive Black-capped Gnats.  We did, however have a very skittish bird moving around near us, behaving very much like AZ Black-cappeds: acting very twitchy and not coming out for good views. I had a feeling this was indeed the BC but didn’t get good enough views to be absolutely sure.

Despite not getting the Black-capped, Montosa was quite birdy for the hour and many birds were audible over the slight breeze, including Canyon Wren and Towhee, Pyrrhuloxia, Phainopepla, Rufous-crowned Sparrow, Hooded Oriole, Blue Grosbeak, Varied Bunting and others.

After our strikeout at Montosa, we moved on towards Tubac, with our first stop being at Santa Gertrudis Lane for Crissal Thrasher. We did hear Crissal but were unable to obtain a visual. Cassin’s Kingbirds, Yellow-breasted Chats and Lucy’s Warblers were quite common along this stretch and we enjoyed good looks at all three. Also present were a couple Phainopeplas, as well as a Lark Sparrow, a few Common Ground Doves and a Black Phoebe.

Moving on to Tubac, we stopped for lunch at the deli before hitting the De Anza trail to follow-up on a tip about Ruddy Ground-Dove. In the blinding triple-digit temps we were unable to find the dove but did get great views of a surprise flyby Mississippi Kite as well as a few Ash-throated and Vermillion Flycatchers near the parking lot.

A nearby cattle through provided us with terrific looks at a displaying male Bronzed Cowbird which even did a little fluttering at one point.

displaying Bronzed Cowbird

At this point, with time to kill in the afternoon, we decided a return trip to Madera Canyon was in order.

We raced immediately towards the feeders at Madera Kubo but still noted a few nice birds on the way in, including singing Botteri’s, Rufous-winged and Black-throated Sparrows as well as Blue Grosbeak and American Kestrel.

Perhaps discussing the weirdos eying them 😉

The feeders were again hopping, and we were able to catch up with everything we saw there the day before as well as a couple of extras which included both a male and female Hepatic Tanager, Hooded Oriole, a flock of Bridled Titmice and better looks at Magnificent Hummingbird. Sulphur-bellied Flycatchers called from the trees along the road.

Hepatic Tanager

begging Bridled Titmouse

adult Bridled on his way to feed one of the many juvies

Black-headed Grosbeak

After spending some time at the Kubo, we moved on to the feeders at the nearby Chuparosa B and B. Our highlights here were a female Broad-tailed Hummingbird and a nice Painted Redstart taking a path very close by.

At this time, the rain clouds that had assembled overhead began to open up and for the next four hours we endured consistent rain showers, occasionally getting heavy at times. It worried us, as we wondered about the prospects of our night birding.

However, we still got both of main targets up here. We had a great experience sound-wise with a Mexican Whip-Poor-Will and nailed two Whiskered Screech-Owls, one of which showed wonderfully right over our heads.

Probably would've been my best night bird shot of the trip, had the head been turned the "right" way! Still, the little "feet", a good feature for Whiskered are quite apparent in this photo

A few misses, but still a good, quality day.

-AB

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