On July 30th, I flew from New York into Tuscon, and met up with rest of the camp-- nine other campers from all over the country and Costa Rica, and two excellent leaders: Michael O'Brian and Louise Zemaitis, both well known birders and authors.
We ate lunch in the airport and then headed to our hotel, noting a couple of House Sparrows on the drive, and two life butterflies-- Sleepy Orange and Fiery Skipper-- in the airport parking lot. After unpacking in our rooms we quickly got outside for our first taste of Arizona birding, in the parking lot of the hotel. The heat and huge cacti made it obvious that this was the desert, but the birds confirmed that: just in the parking lot were Cassin's Kingbirds (lifers, or birds that I have never seen before, will be in bold for this report), Lesser Goldfinches, Verdins, White-winged Doves, and a pair of vivid orange Hooded Orioles.
We then headed to Sweetwater Wetlands, a great birding spot in Tuscon, for the afternoon. There we walked a loop around some wetland habitat and saw plenty of desert and wetland birds. Gila Woodpeckers were common, as were Verdins, big reddish southwestern Song Sparrows, and the range-restricted and black-masked Abert's Towhee. In the ponds were lots of Mallards, some of which seemed to be pure or at least close to pure Mexican Ducks (currently considered a subspecies of Mallard), plus some Cinnamon Teal, American Coots, and a Common Gallinule or two. The bird highlight was probably a Sora that gave great looks for a while in the reeds by the side of a pond. A family (with lots of chicks) of Gambel's Quail were fun to watch hiding in the underbrush. There was also a pair of Tropical Kingbirds, which have a very small range in the US, defending their territory from a Cooper's Hawk. On the way out, we added two more new flycatchers to the trip list (and my life list)-- Black Phoebe and Western Kingbird. The kingbird perched right next to a Cassin's Kingbird, giving us a great comparison of these similar species. It wouldn't be Arizona without hummingbirds, and we saw two at the end of the walk: Black-chinned, which were common the whole trip, and Costa's, which was a good sighting, and one of only two for the whole trip.
|It is a sewage treatment plant...|
|But it has good birds! Like these Yellow-headed Blackbirds.|
We ate dinner in Tuscon and returned to our hotel, eagerly anticipating this next morning, when we were scheduled to go to the famous Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum.
|The Desert Museum|
|Juvenile Cactus Wren|
|There were also lots of cacti|
|A Queen, one of the most colorful and abundant butterflies in Arizona|
|A drabber, but much less common butterfly-- Arizona Powdered-Skipper|
|It's really delicious!|
|Starting in the desert...|
|Through the scrub oaks...|
|And into the pines.|
|Male Anna's Hummingbird|
|Male Broad-tailed Hummingbird|
|Female Broad-tailed Hummingbird|
|Female Broad-tailed Hummingbird on Sarah's finger|
|A Pygmy Nuthatch duo|
|My tent at Bear Flats|