Arizona Still Exists

Ay,

Sorry, we died for a bit there.

While I really had fun dragging out my first afternoon in Arizona, life has caught up to me. There’s so much I haven’t written about, so instead of a tome, you will hence be treated to more of a barrage of photos. The story is in the captions. Take it or leave it; I don’t get paid to write here.

Day 2:

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We started our first full day in Arizona at the Santa Rita Lodge once again, where I was able to find my lifer Hepatic Tanager
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We then went to Proctor Road, which treated us to Rufous-winged Sparrow, Canyon Towhee, Zone-tailed Hawk, and a quick view of a Black-capped Gnatcatcher which I decided was too short to count.
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Making a quick stop back at the lodge produced this male Blue Grosbeak
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As well as this Bronzed Cowbird
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We birded Madera Canyon for some of the more famous Southeast Arizona specialties, which included this Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher, Yellow-eyed Juncos, a Painted Redstart, and a Red-faced Warbler. A few of our group were lucky enough to see a glimpse of an Elegant Trogon as well, but I was not so lucky on that day…
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I did, however, see this Arizona Ridge-nosed Rattlesnake, which most of the group missed. Arizona’s state snake, I later found that it is actually quite unusual to see, which was pretty cool.
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Early afternoon brought us back to Santa Rita Lodge again, where I got my one good shot of Rivoli’s Hummingbird
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And late afternoon took us on a hunt for Rose-throated Becard. We found the known nest without too much trouble, and got the birds soon after. Vermillion Flycatchers, and Yellow-breasted Chats were also abundant.
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The bird to end the day was this Elf Owl, my lifer. I saw the bird whilst eating peanut butter and strawberry ice cream (2 flavors mixed together). The feeling was utterly euphoric. Everything was so casual but so beautiful. I set down the ice cream on the road, took this shot, and the owl flew.

Day 3:

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Although we missed our target Rufous-capped Warbler here at Florida Canyon, we did find this beautiful male Scott’s Oriole
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    As well as this Northern Beardless Tyrannulet
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    Scaled Quail. Quailed Scale. Crailed Male. Whale Dale.
  2. Day 4:
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We had driven to Cave Creek Lodge in the late afternoon of the previous day, so we awoke to the presence of these giant beasts: Blue-throated Hummingbirds
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Our day today was mostly spent birding the Chiricahuas themselves, which were filled with these things. Grace’s and Red-faced Warblers also flitted about high in the trees.
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Later in the day, we had a solid chunk of free time to wander about Cave Creek, during which time I saw this boi
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And this boi
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And this one
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Our day ended with this Whiskered Screech-Owl, a pretty epic find by MOB

Day 5:

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We started this day birding the lowlands. I got photos of Botteri’s Sparrow, Cassin’s Sparrow, and Black-throated Sparrow, but the only one that will make in on here is this crush of a Bendire’s Thrasher.
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Ok, this Canyon Towhee too.

Note: My notes state: “Note the weird f*cking Quail teenagers”, but I have no idea what I meant by that.

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Thicc-billed Kingbird was a MAJOR highlight of the afternoon. At one point in time, we were able to see Western, Cassin’s, and Thicc-billed Kingbirds all within 360 degrees. It was awesome.
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At the time, we thought the adult Thiccy was screwing its child. Looking at the photos more closely, it now looks more like it just accidentally landed on its tail for a second. Made a good story at dinner nonetheless.

This Thicc 🅱oi resonated within me. Live long, my friend.

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Once back at Cave Creek, We had some more time to photograph in the afternoon, and so I snagged some crushes including this one of Arizona Woodpecker
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Black-headed Grosbeaks were insanely common. I got questions about why I was interested in the Black-headed Grosbeaks, being from California and all, but they’re nowhere near this common in SF.
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Curve-billed Thrasher, of the palmeri subspecies. Note the lack of white wing bars, lack of defined spotting on the breast, and overall drabness.

That night, after dinner, I was also able to hear my lifer Common Poowill. Furthermore, after I got out of the shower that night, Jack ran into the room, whisper-shouting “Elf Owl!” As far as I know, Ryan’s profile picture of me is still me at the elf owl, without a shirt, and a towel around my neck. Fun stuff.

Note: My notes also state: “Jack threw a Bible at my d*ck and I felt God”. I’ll just leave that there.

Day 6:

The day stared with a number of ‘Big Hours’, the first of which I did with Eddie from 3:50 to 4:50 am. Got like 13 species. I then did another one after the sun actually came up with Eddie, Oscar W., and Ryan. My ideal start to any day.

Our first stop was a spot in the foothills, where we saw a flyby Crissal Thrasher, and a few Woodhouse’s Scrub-Jays.

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Once on the road again, we stopped at a nice lady’s Bed and Breakfast, where I got this nice photo of a Bridled Titmouse. A hummingbird bander was doing work in her yard, and watching him work provided bonus entertainment.
We had lunch back at the lodge, where my notes state that I “put beetles on Jack and a dead Cricket on Canyon”. Good stuff for sure.
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This Mexican Jay we saw along the road somewhere. Good bird. Nice and humble.

We spent the afternoon searching for Elegant Trogons in South Fork (in Cave Creek Canyon). We did get a Trogon, and it was epic, but I want to talk about it a little more than I’ve talked about everything else, considering I had a lot to say on it at the time.

The next few captions are taken directly out of my notes from that day. I don’t want to paraphrase:

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“Canyon spotted a Trogon. Took out my camera before trying to get a look at the bird. Wish I hadn’t done that. Anyways, I got a killer look of the Trogon in Michaels Scope; ELTR is truly one of the most beautiful birds I have ever seen. Describe ELTR in great detail. Perfect green back. Yellow bill. Flat-ended tail. Orange eye-ring contrasting with black face.”
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“The Trogon is amazing, but also somewhat comparable to the apple of discord from Greek mythology. I didn’t realize any of this until after the whole experience was over, but the Trogon brought out the worst in all of us. Strange to think that something so beautiful could make us become so ugly, and I watched birders and photographers push one another out of the way for better looks at the Trogon. Every birder for themselves. Birders/photogs ran; didn’t care if they scared the bird (or didn’t think about it). Don’t get me wrong, I don’t regret a single moment I spent with that bird, and my favorite moment of all was my view through the scope. The Trogon put photography into perspective.”
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“Someday, I want to go out into the middle of the woods where no one is and spent as much time as I can with one Trogon, by myself, without saying a word. I think this feels so bittersweet because I got a taste of how incredible an encounter with an really Elegant Trogon could be.”
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We ended this rather interesting day with a Vinegaroon, a strange desert thing.

Day 7:

The day started with a really long drive, but at least we got to sleep in until 5:45. We tried again for better looks and Bendire’s Thrasher, and when that failed, we drove to Culver’s for ice cream and lunch.

Excerpt from my notes: “Clouds here are amazing. Silent storms (just lightning) tons of cumulus clouds”

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In the afternoon, we visited San Pedro House and Trails where we found an Inca Dove perched on a low branch. Inca Doves played a prominent role in our trip, often gracing our ears with their “no hope” call.
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This Botteri’s Sparrow also gave us crushing looks, and when I’m less lazy, I think this shot deserves a better edit.

We ended our day with a search through Ramsey Canyon in pouring rain for Flame-colored Tanager. We missed the Tanager due to the fact that we had to leave before they locked up the parking lot we were in, but not before we heard a tanager call that could have either been the Flame-colored or a Western. We heard it right where the Flame-colored had been seen as well. That one stung a bit.

That night, we ate our dip away at an All You Can Eat Buffet, where I ate more ice cream than anyone probably should. This day was certainly the most ice cream-filled of the trip.

Day 8:

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This day started out with a breakfast of bacon, eggs, and toast, and continued with a drive to Carr Canyon for Tufted and Buff-breasted Flycatcher. The Buff-breasteds are incredibly cute.
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As was the Tufted. Rare boi. Also wanna paste in a section from my notes again.
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“Finding the TUFL was a team effort: Michael thought he heard the bird, Isabel led the group over to the spot, and Oscar W. found the actual bird. Everyone viewed the bird together; completely made up for the ugly Elegant Trogon moment. I had an personal moment with the Tufted as I stood on a hill, and it flew incredibly close to me.”
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After lunch at a 50s-themed place, we went over to Bob Behrstock’s house for Lucifer Hummingbird. My notes state that: “Bob was chill; taught me how to best ID female and young male COHU.”

Day 9:

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Breakfast that morning was with a “crabby and wonderful waitress”. We then went over to Hunter Canyon, where we found a few Black-chinned Sparrows as well as our target, Rufous-capped Warbler. We really wouldn’t have found the thing if not for an awesome birder named Aaron who birds the canyon every day, and showed us exactly where to find it.
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After another lunch at Culver’s we went to Las Cienegas NCA, where we saw this subtle Cassin’s Sparrow. Their songs are incredibly beautiful though. Look it up.
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Saw this as well……epic prank

That just about wraps up day 9. We arrived at our hotel in Patagonia pretty early, and I loved the hotel. We had a crazy pool noodle fight, in which multiple pool noodles were destroyed, but we managed to hide the wreckage before anyone important could see. Dinner that night was also excellent – It’s hard to go too wrong with nachos.

Day 10:

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Visiting the Paton Center for Hummingbirds produced this cute Summer Tanager couple, a nice complement to the Pronghorns of yesterday afternoon.
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He CHOMP
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Probably my best Zone-tailed Hawk shot of the trip.

An additional highlight of the Paton Center was my lifer Yellow-billed Cuckoo, which was a bit too fast for a photo, but I got nice looks nonetheless. I’d gotten better about chilling out with the camera by this point in the trip (see ‘Elegant Trogon’).

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Seeing as our views of Violet-crowned Hummingbird were nice but brief at the Paton Center, we visited Sonoita Creek Reserve, where we found quite a few cooperative birds.
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Vermillion Flycatchers were also abundant
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Our next stop was an awful, bridless lagoon, but we did see these two Dung Beetles working on a project of theirs while the Red Ants worked on their own.
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Of course, the drive out was what really made the stop worth it, as I lucked into killer views of a male Montezuma Quail! My top target bird of the trip, I was completely taken aback seeing this guy. Still by far my favorite moment of the trip.
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Seriously, it was pure luck that I got these views. I just happened to be in one of the front seats of the front van. Anyone who was behind me didn’t get to see the bird well at all, and only 2 people in the second van even saw it at all. Total luck.
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The day ended with some epic bangers of a Western Screech-Owl. 

Day 11:

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Our final day of birding in Arizona was spent on Mt. Lemmon, a pristine location for many of the mountain birds we still had yet to see, or had yet to see well. These species included birds like this Painted Redstart.
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This Dusky-capped Flycatcher we saw tending to its nest, and presumably a chick inside. While at this spot, we saw our second Olive Warbler of the trip (the first had been seen by only 2 people), and I got a look at it, but it wasn’t definitive, and in the end I decided not to count the bird. I get a knot in my stomach whenever I count something that I knew I shouldn’t, and the idea of counting that Olive Warbler gave me that feeling. Another bird I missed was a Greater Pewee that the front end of the group hear, but I was talking with Isaiah in the back, so we both missed the bird.
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When you’re surfing the dark web and you hear, “FBI open up!”
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These ladybugs were all clumped together on a twig.
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My final photo will be of this Red-faced Warbler. We found a flock of these in the early afternoon, with a few Virginia’s Warblers mixed in as well. A lifer for many, the Virginia’s Warblers were a great end to a great trip.

Day 12:

This day consisted only of flights, including mine, out of Tucson, but I felt compelled to acknowledge the day anyway, because it existed and I lived it.

—–end rant

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