Friday, October 1, 2010
Black-capped Gnatcatcher, but Not the First Day
This morning was virtually a carbon-copy of yesterday except I made it to Montosa Canyon about 15 minutes earlier and there were fewer nighthawks along the road getting there. I had to wait a bit since it was a little too dim to see anything well. I had decided just to walk the road twice in both directions, feeling that getting down into the bottom of the dry watercourse didn't do much yesterday, and half the walk would be on pavement without the attending gravel crunch with every step. The temp was the same as yesterday but a little breeze made it feel cooler. Not surprisingly on the first pass the mix of birds was similar to that yesterday. I spent much of the time pishing and whistling owl calls to try to stir things up. By the time I started the second circuit, the sun was warming the road and the hillsides. I was doing the owl whistles and I picked up a few species I didn't get yesterday or earlier today including Dusky Flycatcher, Northern Beardless Tyrranulet, and Black-throated Gray Warbler. The warbler put on quite a show within twenty feet of me in the bright sun. And then there they were! Right in front of me. Twelve feet away below eye level. I assumed it was a pair. Neither bird had a black cap (as shown in the web photos) and the male shouldn't at this time of year. So at first glance they looked a lot like Blue-gray Gnatcatchers,. But their bills were clearly bigger and their tails were indeed nicely tapered, a field mark that was very clear when they cocked and fanned them. The call notes they were giving were somewhat harsher than calls from Blue-grays. They were in no hurry to disappear since I watched them for five or six minutes never more than twenty feet away and always in full sun. And....you guessed it....no camera. This sighting was at 7:45am so I decided to drive back to the motel and write this blog and still have plenty of time to get to the airport, turn in the rental car, and check in for my flight to San Diego.
Tomorrow I head out to sea on the Grande, a boat which will be my home for two nights. My targets will be Red-billed Tropcibird and Craveri's Murrelet. I don't expect to have connectivity so I won't take my computer. You'll just have to wait until Monday night to find out what we saw.
The gnatcatcher was yearbird #705 and a great catchup. This was the third trip to AZ and John and I had looked for it multiple times on the two previous trips. It provided yet another success for going back and back and back, even immediately after a day of not seeing it.