9th April 1988 - 19th April 1988.
Dave Tombs and I arrived at Tucson Airport after two long flights, this was the first part of a sound recording trip for a new BBC series on North American wildlife called 'Land of the Eagle', this stage for the programme on deserts. As we went to pick up the hire car, around the airport we saw an American Crow, c20 Common Grackles, 6 Mourning Doves, 2 Loggerhead Shrikes and the familiar Starlings and House Sparrow. We only had time to drive to our motel and settle in. New species for me will be in bold.
We travelled a little way north of Tucson to Catalina State Park, in which we spent the whole day. For most of the time we didn't see another person and so, was a quite place to record, seeing a Round-tailed Ground Squirrel, a Goshawk, 2 Turkey Vultures, a Raven, 2 Bell's Vireos, Gambol's Quails, 2 Northern Cardinals, House Finches, 2 Brown-crested Flycatchers, 4 Cactus Wrens, 2 Black-throated Sparrows, a Desert Cottontail, a Pyrrhuloxia, a Rock Squirrel, 2 Gila Woodpeckers, 2 Red-tailed Hawks, 4 Verdins, Mourning Doves, 2 White-winged Doves, a Black-tailed Gnatcatcher, a Ladder-backed Woodpecker and 2 Canyon Towhees.
The middle part of the day was quite and too hot to record, so we found a bar on the main road to have lunch, it was dark and dingy and apart from the lady behind the bar, had only three other customers, a woman who appeared to be very drunk, a cowboy and the man who shoots people!
Or so they claimed, intimidating at first, but after a while we all got on and I'm not sure all their stories were true, but at the time sounded convincing!
We returned to Catalina State Park where there were 20 Gila Woodpeckers, 2 Ladder-backed Woodpeckers, 8 Bell's Vireos, Gambol's Quails, Mourning Doves, White-winged Doves, 2 Rufous-crowned Sparrows, 6 Canyon Towhees, 4 Lucy's Warblers, a Cactus Wren, 2 Brown-crested Flycatchers, Cardinals, House Finches, a Western Wood Pewee, 2 Verdins, Desert Cottontails, 8 Black-tailed Jack Rabbits, Greater Earless Lizards, Gila Whiptails, a Roadrunner, 2 Cassin's Vireos, 2 Vermilion Flycatchers, a Western Scrub-Jay, a Bewick's Wren, a White-crowned Sparrow, a Black-chinned Hummingbird and Round-tailed Ground Sqirrels.
We stopped for lunch at the local bar again and the same three people were there. After, we returned to Tucson and drove along Snyder Road East where high up on some masts were 2 Harris's Hawks, we also saw 4 Phainopeplas, 2 Turkey Vultures, a Pyrrhuloxia, 2 Cactus Wrens and a Chuckwalla.
Then we drove to Mount Lemon, where at a stop at Bear Canyon we saw 2 Painted Redstarts, 2 Hutton's Vireos, an Acorn Woodpecker and an American Robin.
At the Ski Lift at the summit there were 6 American Robins, 2 Broad-billed Hummingbirds, 4 Yellow-eyed Juncos, an Olive Warbler, 2 Steller's Jays and 8 Turkey Vultures.
Today we explored the Saguaro National Monument, now Park, west of Tucson, apart from all the interesting species of cacti, we saw 4 Cactus Wrens, 8 Gila Woodpeckers, a Pyrrhuloxia, 2 Canyon Towees, a Red-tailed Hawk, a Harris's Antelope Squirrel and a Western Diamondback Rattlesnake.
Then we visited the Desert Museum where we saw 4 more Cactus Wrens, a Canyon Wren, 6 Curve-billed Thrashers, 4 Gila Woodpeckers, an Inca Dove, 6 White-winged Doves and 2 White-crowned Sparrows.
In the enclosures were lots of lizards including an excellent Collared Lizard, also there was a colony of Black-tailed Prairie Dogs, a species that apparently no longer exists in Arizona.
On the way back to Tucson we called in at Catalina State Park where we saw a Great Horned Owl.
Photos: Saguaro Cacti and Black-tailed Prairie Dog.
We had arranged the previous day to be allowed into the Desert Museum early, before they opened to the public, it was great with many more birds and a lot more sound. There were 20+ Cactus Wrens, 6+ Gila Woodpeckers, around 10 Curve-billed Thrashers, 20+ White-winged Doves, at least 6 Inca Doves, 2 Canyon Wrens, a Wilson's Warbler, 10+ Canyon Towhees, 4 White-crowned Sparrows, 30+ Gambol's Quails, 6 Bronzed Cowbirds, House Finches and 3 White-tailed Deer.
As visitors started to arrive and the day became hotter we drove to Mount Lemon again, firstly stopping at Bear Canyon, where we saw 2 Hammond's Flycatchers, 2 Audubon's Warblers, a Hermit Thrush, 2 Grace's Warblers and 2 Hutton's Vireos.
Then we drove higher, to Rose Canyon where there were 3 Audubon's Warblers, a Steller's Jay, 2 Brown Creepers, a Hairy Woodpecker, 3 Mountain Chickadees, an American Robin, a Western Bluebird, a White-breasted Nuthatch and 2 Pygmy Nuthatches.
Later, we went to Catalina State Park to record owls, we saw 3 Elf Owls and heard 5 more, heard 2 Western Screech Owls and a Poorwill, and saw a Coyote.
We left Tucson and headed south on Highway 10, between Tucson and the turning for Hwy.83 we saw 2 Bendire's Thrashers, 4 Cassin's Sparrows, 20+ White-crowned Sparrows, a Lucy's Warbler, 2 Audubon's Warblers, a Raven, a Turkey Vulture, 30+ Brewer's Sparrows, a Rufous-winged Sparrow, 4 Curve-billed Thrashers, a Cactus Wren, 6 Gambol's Quails and 4 Canyon Towhees.
We continued south on Hwy.83, past the Santa Rita Mountains seeing an American Kestrel, a Roadrunner and 2 more Turkey Vultures.
After a while we turned west onto Box Canyon Road where we spent most of the day, seeing House Finches, Mourning Doves, around 40 Brewer's Blackbirds, 2 Swainson's Hawks, a Cassin's Kingbird, 2 Rock Wrens, 5 Canyon Wrens, 4 Mexican or Grey-breasted Jays, a Ladder-backed Woodpecker, 2 Golden Eagles, 3 Phainopeplas, 3 Western Meadowlarks, a Black-throated Sparrow, a Loggerhead Shrike, a Black Phoebe, 2 Brown-crested Flycatchers, 3 Mule or Black-tailed Deer and heard a Western Screech Owl and a Poorwill and lots of Canyon Treefrogs.
Later, we returned to Hwy.83 and continued south to Sonoita, then on to Patagonia, where we saw a Great Horned Owl.
Photos: Above southern grasslands and the Santa Rita Mountains.
Right, Mexican or Grey-breasted Jay.
We spent all day in the nearby Patagonia Reserve, now a park and much more commercialised, most of our visit was spent along the Sonoita Creek which was lined with large Cottonwood trees and excellent for birds.
We saw a Great Blue Heron, Bewick's Wrens, about 50 Turkey Vultures, 2 Cassin's Kingbirds, an Acorn Woodpecker, a Hermit Thrush, 2 Green-tailed Towees, Canyon Towhees, a Curve-billed Thrasher, House Finches, White-crowned Sparrows, 4 Vermilion Flycatchers, a House Wren, Lucy's Warblers, 4 Cliff Swallows, 2 Northern Mockingbirds, 4 Common Flickers, a Yellow Warbler, 3 Ravens, a Gray Hawk, Black Phoebes, Audubon's Warblers, a White-tailed Kite, a Red-tailed Hawk,
2 American Black Vultures, a Cooper's Hawk, Swallows, a Lincoln's Sparrow and an excellent view of a Western Screech Owl sat in it's hole.
An early start, first a visit to Jane Church's garden in Sonoita where we hoped to see Montezuma Quail, but they didn't show, we did see several Black-chinned Hummingbirds, a Rufous Hummingbird, 2 Broad-tailed Hummingbirds and at least 8 Mexican Jays.
Then we headed east through the southern grasslands past the Whetstone Mountains and as we neared North Huachuca there was an amazing thunder storm which as it cleared produced a double rainbow; the only birds seen along this route were 2 Golden Eagles.
At Fort Huachuca we saw several Chihuahuan Ravens, 2 Loggerhead Shrikes, a Red-tailed Hawk, a Northern Mockingbird and a Great Horned Owl sat on it's nest.
From there we drove to Gardner Canyon where there was a large array of hummingbird feeders and we spent some time watching 2 Broad-billed, 2 Blue-throated, 6 Magnificent, 8 Black-chinned, a Calliope and 2 Broad-tailed Hummingbirds coming in to feed.
We returned to the main road and at Hereford took the road to San Pedro River seeing 2 Killdeers, a Vermilion Flycatcher, a Great Blue Heron, 2 Canyon Towhees, 2 Acorn Woodpeckers, 2 Tropical Kingbirds, 2 American Kestrels and 2 Northern Harriers.
Photos: Right, Mexican Jay.
Below, Southern grasslands and the Whetstone Mountains,
Gardner Canyon and double rainbow near N. Huachuca.
More photos of the Southern grasslands and Whetstone Mts, and the double rainbow here.
Another day in the Patagonia Reserve where there were Great-tailed Grackles, 200+ Turkey Vultures overhead moving north, Bewick's Wrens, an American Kestrel, a Raven, 2 Great Blue Herons, a Lincoln's Sparrow, 6 Vermilion Flycatchers, Audubon's Warblers, Cassin's Kingbirds, Ladder-backed Woodpeckers, a White-breasted Nuthatch, Yellow Warblers, Common Flickers, White-winged Doves, a Common Yellowthroat, Song Sparrows, 4 Swallows, 6 Black Phoebes, 2 Gray Hawks, 2 Northern Cardinals, 2 Acorn Woodpeckers, about 20 Cliff Swallows, 3 Bullock's Orioles, a Bushtit, 2 Bridled Titmouses, a Scott's Oriole, a Black-headed Grosbeak, 2 Northern Rough-winged Swallows, a Swamp Sparrow, around 100 Brown-headed Cowbirds, a Dusky-capped Flycatcher, 8 White-tailed Deer, 6 Arizona Gray Squirrels and a Western Harvest Mouse.
Our last day in the south and we returned to the Patagonia Reserve where we saw around 20 Turkey Vultures, Bewick's Wrens, Song Sparrows, Common Flickers, 4 Vermilion Flycatchers, 4 Black-chinned Hummingbirds including a pair on a nest, a Summer Tanager, White-winged and Mourning Doves, a Common Ground Dove, Audubon's Warblers, 2 Black-headed Grosbeaks, Yellow Warblers, Lucy's Warblers, House Finches, 2 Black Phoebes, 2 Ladder-backed Woodpeckers, Cassin's Kingbirds, 2 Ash-throated Flycatchers, 3 Lesser Goldfinches, a Gray Hawk, a Common Yellowthroat and 2 Red-winged Blackbirds.
Then we drove to Sonoita and Jane Church's house again, this time she was in and told us that the quails mainly showed in the afternoon, so we decided to come back later, while we were there we saw a Black-tailed and 8 Black-chinned Hummingbirds around her feeders, also a Scott's Oriole, 2 Bridled Titmouses and a Mexican Jay.
We drove north and visited Lower Gardner Canyon seeing around 12 Chipping Sparrows, 2 Vermilion Flycatchers, 2 Black-throated Sparrows, 2 Lark Sparrows and a Dark-eyed Junco.
Driving back to Sonoita we stopped to watch a group of 9 Pronghorns, and, back at Jane Church's she invited us in to view her back garden from the kitchen. During the wait we saw 8 Mexican Jays, House Finches and Mourning Doves, 4 Chipping Sparrows, 4 White-crowned Sparrows and 2 Acorn Woodpeckers all coming in to feed, eventually a male and female Montezuma Quail appeared, also 2 Mexican Woodrats. Unfortunately, I could only take photos through the glass in the window, but at least they're a record.
Later we drove back to Tucson seeing a Swainson's Hawk on the way.
Below: Summer Tanager.
Black-chinned Hummingbird on nest.
Above: Male Montezuma Quail.
Our last full day in Arizona and we had collected almost all the sounds on our list, except for one species, Phainopepla, although we had seen several they either weren't singing or could be pinned down to a song post. So, today that was our challenge, we started along the Tortolita Track west of Catalina State Park, and soon found 2 Phainopeplas which flew off, as we searched we also saw Black-tailed Gnatcatchers, 2 Verdins, Brewer's Sparrows, 4 Gila Woodpeckers, House Finches, 2 Cliff Swallows, 2 Curve-billed Thrashers, 2 Red-tailed Hawks, Canyon Towhees, a Western Wood Pewee, 2 Harris's Antelope Squirrels, 2 Cactus Wrens, 2 Lucy's Warblers, 3 White-throated Swifts, 4 Gambol's Quails and a Scott's Oriole.
Later we moved to Catalina State Park and found 3 Phainopeplas and one was regularly returning to sing from the top of a tree in a line of Paloverde Trees, Dave wanted to put a microphone in the tree and run back cable to the van and wait for the bird to return, which we did, but on testing the signal all he could hear was loud religious singing, we had put so much cable out that it was acting as an aerial and there must have been a powerful transmitter nearby!
We spent the next ten minutes lifting various parts of the cable to different heights off the ground and onto bushes and finally we got a clear line, all we could do then was wait for the bird to come back. It eventually returned and sang perfectly, and while I collected the cables Dave went to take the microphone out of the tree, then I heard a shout "come and look at this", Dave was about to grab the microphone when he heard a rattle and there beneath the tree was a Western Diamondback Rattlesnake which he had almost stepped on, we retrieved the mic with the aid of a pole!
While we were in the park we also saw around 10 Black-throated Sparrows, 4 Cactus Wrens, Northern Cardinals, a Pyrroloxia, Gila Woodpeckers, Canyon Towhees, a Curve-billed Thrasher, a Verdin, a Costa's Hummingbird, a Broad-billed Hummingbird and 20+ White-throated Swifts.
Photos: Right: Dave recording in the Sonoran Desert.
Paloverde Tree. Also here.
Western Diamondback Rattlesnake Dave running cable from the microphone