- Southeast Arizona Birding Guide, Richard Fray - https://arizonabirder.com -

Tucson CBC

The last CBC of the season for me. I took the same area of foothills in northwest Tucson for the fourth year, roughly bounded by Orange Grove to the south, Magee to the north, Oracle to the west and Skyline to the east. As with my Elfrida and Patagonia counts this year, my area in Tucson has relatively little variation in habitat, being generally foothill desertscrub suburbs. No ponds, no fields, relatively few large trees, no large shopping malls, just lots of nice desertscrub washes and gardens.

Just like last year, the first bird on the list was Peregrine. If you want to see one in Tucson, my tip (or rather Rick Wright [1]‘s tip from about five years ago, which still works) is to get out at first light to check the large utility poles along Ina Road between Oracle and Skyline. I saw what was presumably the same adult male twice more during the day in the same area, Ina and First.

One of the most productive places is always Park Place Apartments, a large apartment complex set in mature pines adjacent to Pima Wash, the main water course through my section. Last year I found an American Redstart there in a flock of Yellow-rumped Warblers, and the pines attracted high elevation species which were invading Tucson at the time, namely a couple of Red-breasted Nuthatches and a flock of Red Crossbills.

I didn’t arrive at the apartments until after lunch, having spent most of the morning walking washes and logging the expected stuff (which is all very nice, of course). I decided this year to put extra time in at the apartments and check the whole complex systematically. This I did, paying particular attention to the pines themselves in search of the Great Horned Owls I had been told are always present. I finally found them, completed a full sweep of the copmplex with a few nice sightings but nothing rare, and was almost back to the car in an area I had already surveyed, when a bird feeding on the fruit hanging from a palm tree caught my eye. And no wonder, for when I raised my binoculars a molting male Rose-breasted Grosbeak was staring back at me. A great bird to find in any season, but especially in winter. Of course, as sod’s law dictates, it’s not even the first one I’ve found this year: my friend Mark Rossell [2] and I discovered one at Madera Canyon in May [3]. And it was a bit of a scruffy bugger as well, but you can’t complain about finding good birds whilst surveying random locations…

Apart from that obvious highlight, the day was very pleasant but held little in the way of surprises. The numbers of some species were phenomenal though, whilst others were lacking or absent. For example, I counted 106 Gila Woodpeckers! But only six Curve-billed Thrashers.

Here’s the full list…

Gambel’s Quail 102
Sharp-shinned Hawk 1
Cooper’s Hawk 9
Harris’s Hawk 5
Red-tailed Hawk 5
American Kestrel 4
Peregrine Falcon 1
Rock Pigeon 6
Mourning Dove 503
Inca Dove 2
Great Horned Owl 2
Anna’s Hummingbird 47
Costa’s Hummingbird 5
Gila Woodpecker 106
Ladder-backed Woodpecker 3
Vermilion Flycatcher 2
Common Raven 1
Verdin 85
Cactus Wren 17
Rock Wren 1
Bewick’s Wren 1
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 7
Black-tailed Gnatcatcher 10
Northern Mockingbird 10
Curve-billed Thrasher 6
European Starling 13
Phainopepla 73
Orange-crowned Warbler 5
Yellow-rumped Warbler 26 (all Audubon’s)
Abert’s Towhee 6
Black-throated Sparrow 2
White-crowned Sparrow 33
Northern Cardinal 4
Pyrrhuloxia 4
House Finch 223
Lesser Goldfinch 60
House Sparrow 83
Rose-breasted Grosbeak 1