Total ABA Species Recorded During 2010 - 731

Friday, October 1, 2010

Black-capped Gnatcatcher, but Not the First Day

I'm writing this blog early today because firstly I fell asleep last night without realizing I hadn't written the blog; and secondly because I have the time now and there probably won't be any further birding done today.  Yesterday, although I was awake very early, I had trouble getting going.  I finally got my stuff together and headed for the local McDonald's which is open at 5:00am.  I got a quickie breakfast and headed for Montosa Canyon.  The drive is only about twenty miles and takes you past the Whipple Observatory where you're asked to dim your lights so they won't interfere with the astronomy going on there.  Along the road I was treated to a great morning show of Lesser Nighthawks doing their best to get themselves killed by the car.  But no thumps were heard.  I arrived at the area where the gnatcatchers are seen about 6am.  The elevation here is about 5000 feet and the temperature was a cool but very pleasant 66F.  I birded until after 9am when the temp had risen to 90F and the bird activity had quieted.  Although I saw and heard many nice Arizona birds, I got nary a nibble from any gnatcatchers.  Wilson's and Townsend's Warblers, many Bell's Vireos as well as a couple of Hutton's and a Warbling, Black-headed Grosbeaks, Western Tanagers, woodpeckers, wrens, and Northern Cardinals.  For those who haven't seen the Arizona cardinals with their longer crests and a somewhat different red color, you need to make the effort.  I drove to Proctor Road at the base of Madera Canyon, but it was very quiet.  Madera Canyon had some road construction, but since Mexican Jays were the only birds I saw, I went back down and drove over the Greaterville Road to Sonoita.  I had lunch in a mercantile store at the main intersection, but I saved the piece of pie I bought, that one that looked too good to pass up, for later.  Even though the temp was close to 100F, I decided to see what was happening at the Paton's feeders in Patagonia.  There were four species of hummers (Anna's, Black-chinned, Rufous, and Broad-billed) and the total numbers of hummers increased after a lovely red-head appeared and refilled the feeders.  While there, I chatted with a lady from Boise who was visiting her family in Phoenix and had broken away for a couple of days to visit SE AZ.  Midafternoon I left to drive back to Green Valley where I cleaned up and had dinner at a family restaurant which turned out to be just right.  Back at the motel I watched "Men in Black" again and as noted earlier failed to post a blog.
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. guessed 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.


  1. You never said how the pie "that looked too good to pass up" tasted. I must confess I'm a bit of a foodie . . . I like to know these things. Congrats on # 705. Look forward to hearing about your venture at sea. Renee

  2. Tenacity!! Good luck on the pelagics. I think those Craveri's are tough in recent years - only ones I've seen were from the bow!

  3. Not sure what your plans are for a Yellow Rail, but Google "Yellow Rails and Rice Festival". It is in Jennings, Louisiana, 4-6 November. Almost looks too easy, ride a combine with a farmer and/or watch the rails from the edge of the field.