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Posts Tagged ‘Vermillion flycatcher’

We visit Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge. April’s a prime time to experience its vast bird diversity (over 330 species!), the result of: winter rains bringing surface water to its rare riparian habitats; its location on a  spring migration flyway; and that the Wildlife Refuge represents the northernmost range of many sub-tropical birds. This combination brings the birds (and so birdwatchers from around the world) to this isolated piece of southwest Arizona.

Willows, Cienega © SR Euston

Willows, Cienega © SR Euston

Leaving I-19 at Amado, we turn and head west just past a local icon, the Cow Palace restaurant. The route winds through dry grass rolling hills. It is a stunningly lonely trip with only a few ranch compounds visible down dirt side roads. The few vehicles we pass are mostly white, green and yellow Border Patrol trucks. Few of the mesquite have leaves. At 58°, it still feels like winter and is,at once, both magnificent and forbidding.

On its eastern edge, near the tiny town of Arivaca, Buenos Aires has two riparian trails. This day we tour the easternmost, the Arivaca Cienega Trail, a boardwalk and path that circle a cienega (wet meadows and a hidden spring) of tall cottonwoods, sycamores and willows and then leads to a desert surprise, a real pond! I spot a vermillion flycatcher, its iridescent red head stripe flashing. In a bare mesquite grove Stan discovers a tropical kingbird.

Cienega Pond © SR Euston

Cienega Pond © SR Euston

Boardwalk © SR Euston

Boardwalk © SR Euston

On our following trip only 10 days later, the mesquites have leafed out. It’s also high spring and much hotter (+90°). We’re grateful for the mottled shade of the creekside vegetation along the Arivaca Creek Trail. Although there are only a few intermittent waterholes the birds again abound. Following his lonely whistle, we manage to spot a Grey Hawk high in an old cottonwood. I see an summer tanager and, at the picnic table, a vermillion flycatcher watches us eat lunch.

Along the Arivaca Creek Trail © SR Euston

Along the Arivaca Creek Trail © SR Euston

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In the last week we’ve birded at two of the most renowned birding areas in the US—in Patagonia along Sonoita Creek (a rare riparian habitat with year-round water on the east side of the mountains) and near our Southern Arizona home on the mountains’ western flanks up Madera Canyon where Madera Creek is currently flowing.

Broadbilled hummingbirdfrom Wikipedia Commons

Broadbilled hummingbird
from Wikipedia Commons

Patagonia was pretty much a bust (although Stan just might have spotted a rare grey hawk) but Madera Canyon more than made up for it. On the paved handicapped accessible trail our big sighting was a Lucy’s warbler, a rare though nondescript little grey bird (thank heavens there was a more seasoned birder around to point it out). It was also great to see a person birding from her motorized wheelchair.

800px-Piranga_hepatica

Hepatic Tanager
from Wikipedia Commons

But up the road at the Santa Rita Lodge, we hit the jackpot. It doesn’t hurt that the Lodge provides public covered seating and about 15 feeders, including multiple hummingbird feeders. Birding doesn’t get much easier and the results were spectacular: Wilson’s warblers; acorn, Arizona (Strickland’s) and Gila woodpeckers; black-chinned, Anna’s, rufous and (that unbelievably beautiful iridescent blue/green with an orange bill) broad-billed hummingbirds; Mexican jays; lesser goldfinches; a Scott’s oriole and a hepatic tanager.

Vermillion flycatcherfrom Wikipedia Commons

Vermillion flycatcher
from Wikipedia Commons

We completed this trifecta of birding destinations (truly people come from around the world to bird here) with a trip to Tumacacori (a Spanish mission on the Santa Cruz River at the base of the mountains), where, perched on an adjacent picnic table, we spotted a pair of vermillion flycatchers!. We also added the silky flycatcher and pyrrhuloxia to our life lists.

All that’s missing is that pinnacle of southern Arizona birding the elegant trogon, a supposedly common bird in spring and summer at both Patagonia and Madera Canyon. Maybe next time.

Here are some photos of the riparian habitats these beautiful birds live in:

Sonoita Creek © SR Euston

Sonoita Creek © SR Euston

Madera Creek © SR Euston

Madera Creek © SR Euston

Santa Cruz River at Tucmacacori© SR Euston

Santa Cruz River at Tucmacacori
© SR Euston

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