Saturday, November 19, 2016

Tropical Kingbird in Lancaster County ~ November 17, 2016

Bob Schutsky discovered a "western-type" kingbird by his house in Peach Bottom on the 16th. The next morning, Jason Horn heard it calling and realized it was a Tropical Kingbird! I headed down there that afternoon and the bird put on a good show during the hour before sundown. I was also happy to get some photos, although most of them were backlighted.

The thinner, longer bill helped rule out Couch's Kingbird. The notched tail was another noted field mark.

This blurry flight shot is clear enough to show the rounded wings.

If accepted, this bird would represent the 2nd record for Pennsylvania.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck in Northampton County ~ October 5, 2016

I had the day off, which allowed me to run up to Walnutport in western Moore Township to look for a Black-bellied Whistling-Duck that was being seen there. I parked the car along Canal Street and was barely out of the car when Bill Etter and Frank Dickman pointed towards the bird swimming below the footbridge.

It was actively diving and feeding and eventually perched to preen on the east side of the canal just north of there. As is often the case in these circumstances, the bird's origin will be in question. These photos show that the bird had no leg bands. The flight feathers and the toes all appeared to be in good shape.

As it turns out, the bird has been hanging out with a group of Mallards for around two months. A pond along Glase Road, at the eastern edge of Moore Township, has held several species of "captive" birds in the past, including Black-bellied Whistling-Duck. Back in 2008, I took this photo of both Fulvous and Black-bellied Whistling-Duck and White-cheeked Pintail.

Additional species seen there that day included Ruddy Shelduck and Mandarin Duck. I haven't seen any of these birds in this pond for several years now, so I'm not sure whether or not the pond's owner still has these birds or what eventually happened with them. Unfortunately, it does 'muddy' the waters and is something that should definitely be checked, given the circumstances.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Arizona Trip ~ June 7, 2016

I had been reading about all the rarities in Arizona and wishing that I was out there. Then, yet another rarity was reported, this one a first U.S. record of a Pine Flycatcher in one of the remote southeastern Arizona canyons. A few days later, Jason called me up and asked if I wanted to go to Arizona. He was surprised to hear me say 'yes' since he knows I'm restricted to the number of trips I can do in a given year and the fact that we had just been to Hawaii in April. So, he booked the flights and I worked on the car, which would have to be a four-wheel drive to tackle the road to get to where the flycatcher was.

Our American flight was from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to Philadelphia and then straight to Phoenix. I got home from work at midnight and we left for Scranton at 2:30 AM. We arrived in Phoenix a little after 10 AM Arizona time. We got our Nissan Rogue, which was an all-wheel drive, not a 4WD, and made the 3-3/4 hour drive to Pinery Canyon in the Chiricahua Mountains.

Along the way, we stopped at the Willcox Playa where we saw Green-winged, Blue-winged, and Cinnamon Teal, Northern Shoveler, Swainson's Hawk, Black-necked Stilt, American Avocet, Long-billed Curlew, Marbled Godwit, a Bonaparte's Gull, Eastern Meadowlark, and lots of Horned Larks. A Harris's Hawk was circling over the road to Pinery Canyon.

We arrived at the spot and, soon after, found the Slate-throated Redstart going to and from its nest.

Also there were the striking Red-faced Warblers and Yellow-eyed Juncos.
Red-faced Warbler with lunch.

Yellow-eyed Junco

Other notables seen there included Broad-tailed Hummingbird, Hairy Woodpecker, Western Wood-Pewee, Cordilleran Flycatcher, Cassin's Kingbird, Mexican Jay, Bridled Titmouse, Bushtit, Brown Creeper, Hermit Thrush, Painted Redstart, Hepatic Tanager, Black-headed Grosbeak, and Spotted Towhee.

We drove the few remaining miles up to Onion Saddle, which revealed only a few birds in the windy conditions. In the waning light, we stopped at Pinery Canyon Campground where we got nice looks at a Northern Pygmy-Owl high up in one of the pines.

On the way back out to I-10, I noticed a snake stretched across the opposite lane of the road. We turned around and found a fairly small Western Diamondback Rattlesnake soaking up the warmth from the macadam.

We got a room at Sierra Vista's Motel 6, where we'd spend the next two nights.

Arizona Trip ~ June 8, 2016

Up before light, we drove the hour over to the Aliso Springs area. It took three tries to get up one of the steep sections of Road 4084A, but the car eventually managed to get us to the little parking area before the very steep descent, so we only had a mile-plus walk in from there to the site.
Aliso Springs campground

Another couple was there when we got there. Within minutes, we were watching the Pine Flycatcher gathering nesting material and going to and from its nest. If accepted, this bird represents the first U.S. record and my 775th A.B.A. area bird.

The bird was unconcerned with our presence as it worked around the campground.

Also there were Black-throated Gray Warbler, Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher, and a Canyon Wren.
Black-throated Gray Warbler

Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher

Canyon Wren

Other birds seen there included Bridled Titmouse, Bewick's Wren, Blue Grosbeak, and Scott's Oriole. Rufous-crowned Sparrows were seen along the road going in.

After carefully driving back out the rough road, we went a little west to where a Red-headed Woodpecker was hanging around another campground. It took about a half-hour before I spotted it up at the top of a snag.

On the way back out to the main highway, we saw Gray Hawk, Black Phoebe, Vermilion Flycatcher, Phainopepla, and Lucy's Warbler.

From there, we headed south of Sierra Vista and up Miller Canyon. After parking the car at the top of the road, Jason noticed a hissing noise. Our right rear tire had something in it and it was losing air. We jumped back in the car and I headed the 2-1/2 miles back down the gravel road as quickly as I could with Jason occasionally sticking his head out the window to check on how low it was getting. We headed towards Sierra Vista and found a "Big O Tires" franchise. I told the guy behind the counter that we were getting a flat and needed it plugged. He asked me if it was a rental and I told him that it was. They took the car in right away. They not only found a piece of metal in the right rear; they also found a screw in the right front. The really amazing thing was that they patched both of them for us and told us that there was no charge! I said, "Are you sure?" He said, "No charge. Just come back and see us when you need tires." I said I would if I could but I was from Pennsylvania, so that probably wasn't going to happen. I shook his hand and thanked him.

Back on the road, we decided to head for Ash Canyon. Present there were Ladder-backed, Acorn, and Gila Woodpecker, the 'red-shafted' form of Northern Flicker, Violet-green Swallow, Bridled Titmouse, Bushtit, Bewick's Wren, Curve-billed Thrasher, Black-headed Grosbeak, Spotted and Canyon Towhee, Lark Sparrow, Hooded, Bullock's, and Scott's Oriole, and Lesser Goldinch.
Ladder-backed Woodpecker

Acorn Woodpecker

Gila Woodpecker

Northern "Red-shafted" Flicker

Bridled Titmouse

Bushtit (female)

Bushtit (male)

Bewick's Wren

Black-headed Grosbeak

Spotted Towhee

Canyon Towhee

Lark Sparrow

The five species of hummingbirds included Broad-billed, Magnificent, Black-chinned, Anna's, and the more unusual Lucifer Hummingbird.
Magnificent Hummingbird

Lucifer Hummingbird

A blurry shot of Lucifer Hummingbird included to show the gorget color.

Lesser Nighthawks and a Great Horned Owl were seen near dusk.

Arizona Trip ~ June 9, 2016

As soon as the Ramsey Canyon's Preserve gate opened at 8:00 AM, we parked and started the two mile hike up Ramsey Canyon to find the pair of Tufted Flycatchers. It didn't take long until I spotted one of the birds perched low in the understory. Like the Pine Flycatcher, the bird was uninterested in our presence.

On the way back down the trail, a pair of Painted Restarts were taking food to their young in the nest.

A little farther along, a Grace's Warbler was trying to distract us away from her nest.

Other species seen during the hike included Band-tailed Pigeon, White-throated Swift, Greater Pewee, Western Wood-Pewee, Sulphur-bellied, Dusky-capped, and Cordilleran Flycatcher, Steller's Jay, Red-breasted and White-breasted Nuthatch, Canyon Wren, Hermit Thrush, Plumbeous and Hutton's Vireo, Black-throated Gray and Red-faced Warbler, Hepatic and Western Tanager, Black-headed Grosbeak, and Spotted Towhee.
A view from "The Overlook" at 6200 feet. The Tufted Flycatcher site is beyond the notch near the center of the photo.

We left the preserve and drove up to Tucson where we booked a motel before heading down to Madera Canyon. Along Madera Canyon Road, I got some photos of a Rufous-winged Sparrow.

Just up the road, Black-throated Sparrows were on the other side.

When we stopped at the feeders at the Santa Rita Lodge, we heard an unverified, second-hand report of a Plain-capped Starthroat at one of the feeders. We spent the rest of the day there and, if there really was a Starthroat there, it never returned. While there, we saw White-winged Dove, Arizona Woodpecker, Mexican Jay, Black-headed Grosbeak, Scott's Oriole, and Lesser Goldfinch. Among the hummingbirds was this Magnificent Hummingbird.

A perched Zone-tailed Hawk was barely visible through the foliage.

At dusk, we watched an Elf Owl bring food to the female at a hole in a telephone pole. A Whiskered Screech-Owl was also seen in one of the trees by the feeders. A Northern Pygmy-Owl 'tooted' nearby. Just downhill, a Western Screech-Owl flew across the road. Mexican Whip-poor-will and Common Poorwill were also heard. We spent the night in Tucson.