10/17/2009 - Santa Catalina Mts and Tucson

Had the pleasure of guiding a couple from Missouri today. Birding was slow but steady all day, and we consistently turned up at least one desirable bird at each spot. Personal highlights for me were the following, illustrated with what some might call "bad pictures of good birds..."

Red-breasted Sapsucker at Agua Caliente Park, NE Tucson: found two days prior by Liz Harrison on the Tucson Audubon birdwalk there. Having seen this bird multiple times in the Pacific Northwest, it was a little strange for me to see it hanging out on a palm tree!

Buff-breasted Flycatcher (BBFL) at Molino Basin, Catalina Highway: almost the first bird I clapped eyes on as we took our first few steps away from the vehicle was this little gem. I was stunned, having never seen this species in the Santa Catalina Mountains before. Of course, there were sightings from two different locations farther up the highway this summer: Willow Canyon and Middle Bear Canyon. Still, the bird is not expected here and certainly not at this time of year, being strictly a highly localized breeding species in southeastern Arizona. Dave Stejskal suggested to me that Molino Basin is not terribly unlike the habitat preferred by wintering BBFL in Mexico, so perhaps it will be worth keeping an eye on this area over the next few months!

In the field, I thought this bird looked so buffy it's probably a juvenile - but I only saw it for a total of about 30 seconds, mostly through the camera lens (which you can see doesn't help much). If anyone sees this bird and can take note of age, that would be helpful.

Finally, to wrap it up we saw a beautiful drake Wood Duck on the small pond at Fort Lowell Park in central Tucson:

As has been proven time and time again in this corner of the world, you never know what you'll turn up on a day of fall birding in Arizona. :-)

John Yerger
Senior Guide
Adventure Birding Company

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