Marcee, Maggie, Rosie, Jenise, Flory, Jan and Bruce joined me for the Fun Birding Tours Mixed Flock Special. It was a particularly nice group.
I didn’t get off to a great start I’m afraid. Running a couple of minutes late as usual, but finally ready to leave, I dashed outside to my car to discover a completely flat tire! I made some apologetic calls and a quick wheel change, eventually meeting everyone about 40 minutes late. Sorry!
Because of this mishap we decided to head straight up to the top of the Santa Catalinas to make the most of what was left of the early morning light. We birded around Summerhaven for a while. The most obvious birds were a family of five RED-TAILED HAWKS, the naive juveniles giving us great views as they struggled to come to terms with their new lives. ROCK and HOUSE WRENS, CORDILLERAN FLYCATCHER, WESTERN BLUEBIRD, CHIPPING SPARROW, PINE SISKIN and extended families of YELLOW-EYED JUNCOS were also around.
We checked the open and riparian habitats in Summerhaven, then slowly drove Bear Wallow and Bigelow Rd, listening as we went for the calls of nuthatches and chickadees which could indicate a flock. These high elevation dirt roads climb through some of the best accessible habitat on the mountain. There’s a great mix of dense forest, ancient and huge pines with hanging mosses, open sunny banks with, on this particular day, a profusion of wildflowers and low level riparian vegetation.
Warblers were a big target and we found an impressive nine species. ORANGE-CROWNED, VIRGINIA’S and YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLERS were foraging on sunny banks and in stream side willows, while the pine flocks consisted of PAINTED REDSTART, TOWNSEND’S, HERMIT, GRACE’S, WILSON’S and RED-FACED WARBLERS.
Also part of these mixed flocks, PLUMBEOUS VIREO, MOUNTAIN CHICKADEE, BROWN CREEPER and three nuthatch species, with lots of PYGMY, a few WHITE-BREASTED and one or two RED-BREASTED NUTHATCHES. Incinerator Ridge Road produced a flock with a GREATER PEWEE and HEPATIC TANAGER.
August is the month to witness this phenomena, high in the SE Arizona ‘Sky Islands’. Today we all agreed that we really made the most of it.
We stopped for a while at a private cabin with many feeders. We saw six species of hummingbird: MAGNIFICENT, RUFOUS, BLACK-CHINNED, ANNA’S, BROAD-TAILED and a couple of quick visits from a male BLUE-THROATED HUMMINGBIRD. Three woodpecker species came in to the same suet block in the space of ten minutes: an ACORN, a HAIRY and then an ARIZONA WOODPECKER.
It had been a very enjoyable day with a great bunch of people. We found nine out of ten of our targets, which were by no means easy ones, with just Olive Warbler eluding us. We were all justifiably pleased with our ourselves.