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Thursday, April 17, 2008

Arizona Sky Islands and Desert Rivers

The Patagonia-Sonoita Creek Preserve, where the Cottonwoods were already greening up in late March.

A Lincoln's Sparrow in the car park.

Along one of the trails I finally found a Lark Sparrow, a species I have wanted to see for many years.

Vermilion Flycatchers were quite easily seen at most 'wetland' sites we visited. This male was at the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area near Sierra Vista.

A male Broad-billed Hummingbird on a feeder at the Patagonia-Sonoita Creek Preserve. We also saw a beautiful male Violet-crowned Hummingbird here.

Perched above the creek amongst the willows and cottonwoods, a Black Phoebe.

Yellow-eyed Junco was one of the more common mountain denizens. Look how similar it is to the Dark-eyed 'Gray-headed' Junco (subspecies dorsalis) in the next picture.

Apart from Yellow-eyed and this Gray-headed, we also saw a couple of black hooded Oregon Juncos.

There is a striking progression through habitat types when ascending any of the Sky Island mountain ranges in south-east Arizona. These small ranges, northern outliers of the Mexican Sierra Madre, are surrounded by low lying desert scrub and grassland. But with just slight increases in elevation you move into these Madrean Oak Grasslands. This is in the Chiricahuas.

As the grassland thins, Oak-Juniper woodland thickens. Chiricahuas again.

Higher still, a mixture of Pine and Manzanita. The flowers of the Manzanita were attracting Costa's Hummingbirds here.

Western Scrub-Jay at the fabled 'Big Thicket' feeding station of Dave Jasper in Portal.

Cave Creek Canyon on the east side of the Chiricahuas.

Green-tailed Towhee at the Big Thicket.

Ladder-backed Woodpecker, also at the Big Thicket.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Arizona Desert Grasslands

The wide, arid valleys of south-east Arizona are much changed from the grasslands of 100 years ago. Agricultural irrigation has a significant effect on the birds present, often concentrating activity around active fields. The Sulphur Springs Valley is renowned for its raptors, like this Ferruginous Hawk.

Whitewater Draw Wildlife Area near McNeal in the Sulphur Springs Valley is a major wintering site for Sandhill Cranes. Up to 25,000 can be seen at the peak, but by late March most have departed, only 1000 or so remained.

The shallow floods attract other waterfowl such as American Avocet...

...and Black-necked Stilt as well as Least Sandpiper, Long-billed Dowitcher and Greater Yellowlegs.

Small flocks of Lark Bunting were fairly easy to find, but other sparrows were in short supply.

An adult Swainson's Hawk.

Loggerhead Shrike: probably the most widespread and regularly seen species in the lowlands - due in part to its prominent perching of course!