SE Arizona Birding, Day 2 – Madera Canyon and Patagonia

July 29th, Anna, Chris, Mark, and I all got up early to begin birding Madera Canyon. We were going to have a pretty full day of birding and so we needed to take advantage of the early morning temperatures as well as the great birding activity of Madera Canyon to its fullest. As we walked outside of our Madera Kubo Cabin around 5:45am, the songs of Sulphur-bellied Flycatchers and Western Wood-Pewees filled the air; a few Acorn Woodpeckers flew by and landed in an oak tree, offering good views. Our first stop of the day was going to be the Carrie Nation Trail at the top of Madera Canyon. I wanted us to get there early to beat the heat, beat the crowds, and most importantly see an Elegant Trogon. The minute we stepped out of the car at the parking area for the trail, the unmistakable barking of a trogon could be heard. This was great news; there was at least one trogon present, and I really wanted Chris and Mark to see this iconic bird of southeast Arizona.

The four of us started up the trail, calls and songs of Hepatic Tanagers, Hermit Thrushes, Plumbeous Vireos, Dusky-capped Flycatchers, and Sulphur-bellied Flycatchers filled the air. We spotted a adult Grace’s Warbler feeding it’s newly-hatched chick a worm high in a pine tree. As we continued farther up the trail it was clear that the trogon we had heard calling was far off the trail and inaccessible. I was starting to feel like we weren’t going to see one, but Anna had a feeling that if we kept walking we were sure to run in to one near where her and I had see them last year. In the meantime, Chris and Mark were picking up lifers left and right; Arizona Woodpecker, Magnificent Hummingbird, Anna’s Hummingbird, Bridled Titmouse, and Painted Redstart to name a few.

As we started to get farther up the trail, near where the trail passes over to the right side of the wash, we could hear another trogon up ahead, and then another could be heard even farther up the canyon. The four of us started frantically searching for the nearest trogon. Last year it surprised me how well these birds can ‘throw’ their voices; sounding like they are over 100 meters away when really they are right in front of you. This morning, was no different. As we rounded a corner, I spotted a beautiful male trogon perched along the trail picking berries off a bush, even though its raucous call sounded like it was still quiet far away. We all got fantastic looks for a few seconds, before the bird noticed us and few up canyon. We followed it around for another 20 minutes, occasionally getting good looks. I was able to sneak up to it at one point and get a few good photos.

Elegant Trogon - male in Madera Canyon

We all hiked back down Carrie Nation Trail, pretty happy with our morning so far. The next stop was the Chuparosa Inn, which from reports I had read during the days before our trip, was sure to have some excellent hummingbird activity. We we pulled up to the Inn, Broad-billed and Black-chinned Hummingbirds were buzzing all around. Loads of Rufous, Calliope, Magnificent, Anna’s, Broad-tailed, and one Allen’s were quite a treat and surely nothing Chris and Mark had ever seen in such numbers, coming from Pennsylvania. We spent about an hour there and then headed down to Madera Kubo.

Female Magnificent Hummingbird defending her place at the feeder from a female Black-chinned Hummingbird - Chuparosa Inn; Photo by Anna Fasoli

As soon as we pulled up to the feeders at the Kubo, Chris and I were able to get a great look at a male Hepatic Tanager. Hummingbirds were quite active here, and our target was the Berylline Hummingbird, a rare species that turns up in SE AZ at least once a year. Twice we were able to get brief looks of the Berylline as it dashed in to one of the feeders, only to be escorted away by a male Rufous Hummingbird. Finally, I was able to spot the Berylline perched at eye level in one of the trees right next to the porch, which offered us all stunning views of this wonderful species as it preened at occasionally went to one of the nearby feeders to drink. at one point, the Berylline flew right up to Chris and was only about two feet away from him! Before we left, we also got brief looks at a Violet-crowned Hummingbird, coming in to the feeders on the upper balcony.

Berylline Hummingbird - Madera Kubo

Madera Canyon’s Whitehouse Picnic Area was next on our list. As soon as we pulled in, I saw a male and female Indigo Bunting fly past and we could hear the songs of Botteri’s Sparrow in the adjoining grassland. A quick walk around the area, picked up many lifers for Chris and Mark, including the beautiful Varied Bunting, Lazuli Bunting, Blue Grosbeak, Northern Beardless-Tryannulet, Phainopepla, and Canyon Towhee. Bell’s Vireos were abundant, but never offered a look. From right in the parking area we were offered stunning looks at a Botteri’s Sparrow as it sang from the barbed wire fence. Farther down Madera Canyon Rd, we picked up Cassin’s and Rufous-winged Sparrows, both lifers for all four of us!

Botteri's Sparrow - Whitehouse Picnic Area

Rufous-winged Sparrow - Madera Canyon Rd

Cassin's Sparrow - Madera Canyon Rd

After a quick lunch, we began our drive south towards Patagonia. Along the highway, as everyone else was starting to doze off, I spotted an adult Gray Hawk fly over the road carrying prey in it’s mouth. Our first stop on the way to Patagonia was Kino Springs Golf Course. This was a quick stop, but added quiet a few species to Chris and Mark’s lists, including Gray Hawk (photo below), Vermilion Flycatcher, and Cassin’s Kingbird.

Gray Hawk - juvenile begging for food and sunning it's wings at Kino Springs

We then made a quick stop at Patagonia Lake State Park, picking up a few trips bird like Double-Crested Cormorant, Black-crowned Night-Heron, and Green Heron, but Neotropical Cormorants and Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks were no were in sight. Next we stopped at the Patagonia Roadside Rest Area. This spot is famous for the Thick-billed Kingbirds that have made their home there, and we were quickly able to spot one. Other highlights of this stop were Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Rock and Canyon Wren, Lucy’s Warbler, and Yellow-breasted Chat.

Paton’s yard in downtown Patagonia was our next stop. Chris and Mark needed better looks at a Violet-Crowned Hummingbird, and this is surely the place for that species. Within minutes of arriving, we saw two Violet-crowns as well as a few other hummer species. Black Phoebe was also a lifer for Chris and Mark at this stop. We left as soon as we could though, since the mosquitoes were unbearable.

Violet-crowned Hummingbird - Paton's Yard; Photo by Anna Fasoli

We began driving towards Sierra Vista, and made a quick stop along the highway in the large grasslands area just outside of Patagonia and picked up a few more trip birds, including Loggerhead Shrike, Grasshopper Sparrow, and Eastern Meadowlark. We stopped for a late dinner near Huachuca and then got to our cabin in Ramsey Canyon as rain began to fall heavily.

Chihuahuan Raven, like this one, were plentiful throughout the day. We saw many groups perched together on telephone poles.