Big Day! 14 June 2004

I had the good fortune to be joined by Gavin Bieber and Jerry Bock on a lengthy Big Day last week. We were semi-foolhardy in our attempt to beat the June Big Day record for AZ (set by Rich Hoyer, Keith Kamper, and Jake Mohlmann in 2006), but we saw lots of great birds in the process. Jerry is lucky enough to tout this as his personal best 24-hour species total! Gavin and I have also never seen this many birds in a single June day in AZ.

Here are a few highlights:

Lucifer Hummingbird - rare anywhere in Arizona, but a few pairs nest each year in Ash Canyon, and visit the feeders at Ash Canyon Bed & Breakfast
Buff-breasted Flycatcher - plenty of very vocal birds at Reef Townsite in Carr Canyon

Blue-winged Teal - listed as "casual" in June in the Tucson Audubon Society "Finding Birds in Southeast Arizona"
Green-winged Teal - casual in June [actually at Benson Sewage Ponds - oops]
Northern Pintail - continuing female (casual in June)
Redhead - 2 still present (rare in June)
American White Pelican - also still 2 present (casual in June)
Greater Yellowlegs - 1 still mostly in alternate plumage. Returning already? (casual in June)
Long-billed Dowitcher - accidental in June
Wilson's Phalarope - rare in June

Osprey - a big surprise, tearing apart a prey item on a telephone pole in the wash just east of the store at Patagonia Lake (casual in June)
Violet-crowned Hummingbird - expected, but always nice (Paton's yard, photo below)
Thick-billed Kingbird - almost missed this one, heard calling just before we left the Roadside Rest Area

ORIOLES - a 4 Oriole day! We wrapped up the day at the back of the Tubac Golf Course with the continuing BALTIMORE ORIOLE, a great way to finish. There are only a handful of records from this corner of the country.

We saw 154 species between 12AM and 8PM. This left us 16 species shy of Rich/Keith/Jake's total of 171, a nearly impossible gap to close at 8PM. We did better than expected with ducks, but not as well as we could have with owls and many other species - even passerines! My impression was that there was not as much singing activity in Carr Canyon or the San Pedro River as I normally expect for this time of year at the times of day we visited them.

With an excessive amount of scouting and nest-finding, a June Big Day total approaching 190 or even 200 is not out of the question. There are several really good options for routes, as Arizona's breeding diversity is very high - especially for a land-locked state. The best time would obviously be in the beginning of the month when birds are singing more, or towards the end of the month when a few shorebirds and other very early migrants are starting to trickle south.

The best part about the day? We ALMOST missed European Starling! (Almost...)

Below I've included a few photo highlights from our day:

The glow of Tucson from Windy Point Vista, on the Catalina Highway (about 3AM).

A distant panorama of the Huachuca Mountains, as seen from the San Pedro House (9AM).

The San Pedro River - only a trickle in June, but just wait until July...

Always a treat, the easiest place in the U.S. to find Violet-crowned Hummingbird (Amazilia violiceps) is in Marion Paton's yard in Patagonia. Thanks for keeping those feeders full, Mrs. Paton! (About 3:30PM)

Botteri's Sparrow (Aimophila botterii) isn't really singing much this time of year, but this fellow obliged nicely by perching out in the open on a desert broom (Baccharis sarothroides), about 15 feet from us! (About 4:30PM)

Good birding,
John Yerger

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