2015 Field Trip Observations

2015 Field Trip Observations

Contributed by LSNY Members

Please send in your field observations, with or without illustration, for review and publishing to info@linnaeannewyork.org

SE Arizona trip with Rick Wright by Louise Fraza — 3/13/2015 to 3/18/2015

Trip Report published 3/5/2016
Participants:  Broder, Pearl; Fraza, Louise (Registrar); Goldstein, Gina; Howley, Kathleen; Paci, Sandra; Rabi, Judith; and Rakowski, Miriam.

Day 1.  We met our trip leader, Rick Wright, at breakfast on the morning of March 13 at the Tucson Airport Hampton Inn, all of us having flown in the day before.  The weather was pleasant with a mixture of sun and clouds.  After driving for a good hour we stopped at the Amado Sewage Farm pond.  Some construction was in progress there and we had to strain to get scoped looks at the waterfowl.  A Pacific Loon stood out even though it was sleeping with its head tucked in.  We then stopped at the site of a hawk watch near the town of Tubac.  There we found a crowd of people with scopes due to an ongoing birding festival.  We were lucky to arrive when two low-flying Common Black Hawks flew over, clearly showing their distinctive silhouette of long wings and short tails.  Some of us also saw a Golden Eagle. We took a walk along the green banks of the Santa Cruz River where we admired some of the more common local birds.  Rick, who until a few years ago was a Tucson resident, pointed out the field marks and names of the prevalent regional subspecies.  The Arizona Northern Cardinal, for example, has a larger bill and a longer, bushier crest and goes by the name of “Superb”.  The White-breasted Nuthatch we saw was the “Nelson” subtype, which has more white on the face and a smaller black stripe on the top of the head.  This made us realize the need to look more carefully at the birds we see round us every day.  Our next stop was the Paton’s House at Patagonia, a former private residence with marvelous bird feeders which is now managed by the Tucson Audubon Society.  The feeders were generally quiet but we had some “ooh and aah” moments when the Rufous and Anna’s Hummingbirds showed us their gorgets.

After lunch in the town of Patagonia, we drove to the Cienaga Resource Conservation Area near Sonoita.  Here we drove though typical Chihuahuan desert habitat - vast expanses of yellow, dry grasses interspersed with some low bushes.  It is quite different from the cactus-rich Sonoran desert near Tucson but with the mountains in the background, hauntingly beautiful.  We soon started to see flocks of small birds as we drove along and eventually we all managed to get close looks at the Vesper Sparrows which were migrating through the area by the hundreds.  We reached the town of Willcox, our lodgings for the next two nights, in the evening.  After checking in at our motel, we visited the local sewage pond where a great surprise awaited us.  While watching the sunset, groups of cranes suddenly lifted into the sky from a nearby field.  New groups kept coming and coming as the sky turned shades of violet and magenta, and a long freight train rode underneath.

Day 2.  We visited the town of Portal in the Chiricahua Mountains.  This is a picturesque town with a tiny old post office building, and houses with gardens and lots of bird feeders.  It was a lively morning and we had close looks at several of the typical birds of the area such as Canyon, Spotted and Green-tailed Towhees, Gambel’s Quail, White-winged Dove, Acorn, Gila and Ladder-backed Woodpeckers, Bewick’s Wren, Audubon’s Yellow-rumped Warbler, White-crowned and Black-throated Sparrow, Lark Bunting, and Yellow-eyed Junco.  We also studied a Cassin’s Finch, which was a life bird for several of us. While we were birding, the “natives” were getting ready for their St. Patrick’s Day Parade, which included dressed up donkeys and horses. It had been pleasant and sunny in Portal, but our next destination, Rustler Park at about 9,000 feet made us grateful for the extra clothing we were wearing.  It was windy and mostly cloudy up there and the pines were rustling, but the orange head and breast of an unexpected Olive Warbler lifted everyone’s spirits.  That was before the even more unexpected Williamson’s Sapsucker showed up.  After a vain search for the Pygmy Nuthatch, we returned to Portal for a late lunch and then made the drive back to Willcox.  Here we treated ourselves again to the sunset crane spectacle before a delicious Mexican dinner.

Day 3.  After an early morning visit to the Willcox Sewage pond, we drove through a large agricultural area where one of the nest boxes on poles along Windsong Road revealed a sleepy barn owl.  Near a farm building, perched on the farm equipment and the road were dozens of Yellow-headed Blackbirds. Their heads gleamed in the morning sun like so many headlights.  We passed by feedlots with tens of thousands of cattle which was a distressing sight even for some of the non vegetarians in our group.  Our next stop was White Water Draw.  There was a pair of Great Horned Owls nesting in a nearby high ceilinged shed.  Rick, always protective of birds’ wellbeing, did not call our attention to this but we took a few quick pictures, nevertheless, while trying not to disturb the owls. The sun was nice and warm as we walked on the dikes along the impoundments but the wind was strong.  We found several of, for us, exotic species in the water such as Cinnamon Teal, White-faced Ibis, American Avocets and Black-necked Stilts as well as the more familiar water birds.  On the way back to Tucson we relaxed on the chaise-lounges at Mary Joe Ballatar’s Ash Canyon B&B near Sierra Vista. Her garden has well-stocked feeders of all kinds. It was still early in the year for many of the hummingbirds but we did enjoy great looks at Magnificent and Anna’s.  There were some interesting mammals such as the Yellow-nosed Cotton Rats below the feeders and a family of Rock Squirrels on the boughs of a nearby American Sycamore.  We came away with recipes for peanut butter/lard cakes and a supplier for the unique feeders Mary Joe has.

Day 4.  After a successful early morning stop at the airport Burrowing Owl site near our hotel, we visited Catalina State Park with its Sonoran Desert habitat.  It was spring break for the local schools and the park was very busy.  Rick took us to a lively spot where he took part in a big sit one fall birdathon, tallying 50 species.  We saw Canyon and Abert’s Towhees there as well as Rufous-winged and Lark Sparrows, Lucy’s Warblers, Verdins and Bushtits. We took a nice hike and admired the desert scenery. By then the day had turned hot and sunny and the birds already seemed to be on their siesta.  In the afternoon we visited the Sweetwater Wetlands, a waste water treatment project that is also a park.  It lived up to its reputation as one of the best places to find the elusive Sora.  We had two of them, very close in broad daylight.  So far our pace had been a bit hectic with early mornings, long van rides and birding till dark.  Today we enjoyed a leisurely break before dinner.

Day 5.  After another peek at the Burrowing Owls, we visited McDonald Park on our way to Mount Lemmon.  On the way up we stopped at the Gordon Hirabayashi Recreation Area, where people of Japanese descent were detained during World War II.  As we ascended the vegetation changed from Sonoran desert to pine woodland.  It is a dramatic ascent along stone columns which have been sculpted by the wind to resemble Easter Island type heads and other fabulous giants.  A stop at Rose Canyon produced a pair of Olive Warblers, the bird we had been told not to expect, as well as the sought for Pygmy Nuthatches.  There was also plenty of opportunity for Rick to continue his explanation of the different juncos. The Yellow-Eyed and the different races of Dark-eyed such as the Pink-sided, the Grey-headed and the Oregon were all present there.  

Day 6.  This morning’s destination was Madeira Canyon in the Santa Rita Mountains.  The day quickly became cloudy and a light drizzle broke out as we were watching the feeders near the gift shop.  Some new trip birds we saw there were Hepatic Tanager and Arizona Woodpecker.  We were all impressed and amused by a male Wild Turkey displaying for a group of females.  After a while the rain became a downpour and we left in search of a drier area which we found in Montosa Canyon to the south of Madeira.  The sun even came out but the dark clouds remained on the Santa Rita mountains.  In the early afternoon we dropped off two of our trip mates at the airport after which we continued on to Reid Park, one of Tucson’s city parks that has several ponds.  Our new birds there included Marsh Wren and House Wren and a good look at Black Phoebe for those who missed it before.  Rick pointed out some bizarre looking ducks which he explained were Mallards that were selectively bred to encourage certain characteristics, such an ability to dive or to grow a crest.  Altogether we tallied 152 number of species for the trip.

Bird List for South East Arizona, March 13 — 18 2015
 Pacific Loon  Vermillion Flycatcher
 Pied-billed Grebe  Ash-throated Flycatcher (H)
 Neotropic Cormorant  Loggerhead Shrike
 Wood Duck  Bell’s Vireo(H)
 Mallard  Hutton’s Vireo
 Northern Pintail  Mexican Jay
 Gadwall  Chihuahuan  Raven
 American Wigeon  Common Raven
 Northern Shoveler  Horned Lark
 Blue-winged Teal  Violet-green Swallow
 Cinnamon Teal  Northern Rough-winged Swallow
 Green-winged Teal  Bridled Titmouse
 Ring-necked Duck  Verdin
 Lesser Scaup  Bushtit
 Ruddy Duck  Red-breasted Nuthatch
 Great Blue Heron  White-breasted Nuthatch (Nelson’s)
 Great Egret  Pygmy Nuthatch
 Green Heron  Brown Creeper
 Black-crowned Night-Heron  Cactus Wren
 White-faced Ibis  Canyon Wren
 Black Vulture  Bewick’s Wren
 Turkey Vulture  House Wren
 Northern Harrier  Marsh Wren
 Cooper’s Hawk  Ruby-crowned Kinglet
 Common Black Hawk  Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
 Swainson’s Hawk  Black-tailed Gnatcatcher (H)
 Red-tailed Hawk  Western Bluebird
 Golden Eagle  American Robin
 Bald Eagle  Northern Mockingbird
 American Kestrel  Bendire’s Thrasher
 Peregrine Falcon  Curve-billed Thrasher
 Prairie Falcon  European Starling
 Wild Turkey  Phainopepla
 Gambel’s Quail  Olive Warbler
 Sora  Orange-crowned Warbler
 Common Gallinule  Lucy’s Warbler
 American Coot  Yellow Warbler (Morton’s)
 Sandhill Crane  Yellow-rumped Warbler (Audubon’s)
 Killdeer  Yellow-rumped Warbler (Myrtle)
 Black-necked Stilt  Black-throated Gray Warbler
 American Avocet  Common Yellowthroat (H)
 Greater Yellowlegs  Painted Redstart
 Spotted Sandpiper  Hepatic Tanager
 Least Sandpiper  Spotted Towhee
 Long-billed Dowitcher  Canyon Towhee
 Dunlin  Abert’s Towhee
 Ring-billed Gull  Green-tailed Towhee
 Rock Pigeon  Rufous-winged Sparrow
 Eurasian-Collared Dove  Chipping Sparrow
 White-winged Dove  Brewer’s Sparrow
 Mourning Dove  Vesper Sparrow
 Inca Dove  Lark Sparrow
 Greater Roadrunner  Black-throated Sparrow
 Barn Owl  Lark Bunting
 Great Horned Owl  Song Sparrow (Falllax)
 Burrowing Owl  Savannah Sparrow
 White-throated Swift  White-crowned Sparrow (Gambel’s)
 Broad-billed Hummingbird  Lincoln Sparrow
 Magnificent Hummingbird  Yellow-eyed Junco
 Black-chinned Hummingbird  Dark-eyed Junco (Pink-sided
 Anna’s Hummingbird  Gray-headed and Oregon)
 Costa’s Hummingbird  Northern Cardinal (Superb)
 Rufous Hummingbird  Pyrrhuloxia
 Acorn Woodpecker  Red-winged Blackbird
 Gila Woodpecker  Eastern Meadowlark (Lilian’s)
 Ladder-backed Woodpecker  Western Meadowlark
 Hairy Woodpecker  Yellow-headed Blackbird
 Arizona Woodpecker  Great-tailed Grackle
 Northern Flicker (Red Shafted)  Brown-headed Cowbird
 Williamson’s Sapsucker  Brewer’s Blackbird
 Red-naped Sapsucker  House Finch
 Gray Flycatcher  Cassin’s Finch
 Dusky Flycatcher  Pine Siskin
 Black Phoebe  Lesser Goldfinch
 Say’s Phoebe  House Sparrow
 Yellow-nosed Cotton Rat  Rock Squirrel
 Desert Cottontail  Round-tailed Ground Squirrel
 Black-tailed Jackrabbit  Coues’s White-tailed Deer

Rye Playland and Environs By Louise Fraza — 12/5/2015

Tom Burke & Gail Benson © Jean Shum
Tom Burke & Gail Benson © Jean Shum

Everyone showed on time up at the appointed place at the end of the large parking lot at Rye Playland. It was a stunningly beautiful morning. There had been a red sunrise an hour earlier and everything was still aglow. The temperature was slightly above freezing and the sun was warming things up rapidly. The water was flat and still, but we soon noticed there were very few birds. 

Ash-throated Flycatcher, Sherwood Island SP © Jean Shum
Ash-throated Flycatcher, Sherwood Island SP © Jean Shum

We perused the Sound and the lake and had to work hard to come up with most of the usual birds. It was the same situation at the nature center feeders and during our walk in the woods and around the lake. We left for the Marshlands area at about 11. It was a bit livelier there with a good array of woodpeckers and feeder birds. Unfortunately, the Wild Turkeys were not in attendance.

Ash-throated Flycatcher © Jean Shum
Ash-throated Flycatcher © Jean Shum

Tom inquired if there was an interest in driving to Sherwood Island Park in Connecticut to try and find the Ash-throated Flycatcher and the Dickcissel that had been reported there, and everyone showed an interest. It was only a half hour straight up I-95. We all arrived there without incidence. The two birds were there, just as reported and we were all excited about watching them and studying the field marks of these vagrant birds. Thanks to Tom’s observational skills, we came up with a total bird count for the day of 55 species.

Participants: Tom Burke – Leader, Gail Benson, Dale Dancis, Kathy Drake, Louise Fraza, Gina Goldstein, Anne Lazarus, Sandra Maury, Miriam Rakowsky, Ann and Phil Ribolow, Jean Shum and Lenore Swenson.

The Famous Painted Bunting by Sherry Felix — 12/8/2015

Passerina ciris-20090208 by Doug Janson on Wikipedia
Passerina ciris-20090208 by Doug Janson on Wikipedia

A field observation: There was been a vagrant Painted Bunting in Prospect Park late November, 2015 on.

Painted Bunting Singing (composite) © Sherry Felix
Painted Bunting Singing (composite) © Sherry Felix

You’d be hard pressed to miss it – a painted bunting looks like something from a coloring book. I first saw the Painted Bunting (a life bird) on Friday, December 4, 2015 at 9:30 am. The moment I entered the park I saw a group of people by a tree. I rushed over and there was the Painted Bunting sitting on a branch of a pine tree in full view. I didn’t even have my camera or binoculars out yet. I followed the bird around for a while, along with its entourage of birders. Next day I returned to try and get a semi-decent photograph. There were at least 50 birders at a time surrounding the little bird, who didn’t care a fig about the people. It was very hard to photograph because of all the birders. I couldn’t get a good view and when I did someone invariably jostled me. I tried for two days and managed to get a few semi-usable shots on the second day.

Environmental note: habitat restoration and management is crucial to our local birds not just to vagrants. There a lots of feral cats wandering the parks in NYC. Vagrant birds are not a good thing if global warming is the cause.

More pictures on my blog at Painted Bunting in Prospect Park on port4u.net. A web search will come up with a lot more about this bird. If you would like to add to this post or report another sighting please send me your pictures and text.