Wednesday, June 29, 2011

New! 'Bird Sit' at Boyce Thompson on July 9th

'Bird Sit' with Rick Wright & Alison Beringer

July 9th, Saturday, from 6:30 to 9:00 a.m.
Boyce Thompson Arboretum

Rick Wright and Alison Beringer invite nature lovers to a very different birdwatching experience on July 9th -- a sedentary, peaceful, focused 'bird sit' in the Demonstration Garden at Boyce Thompson Arboretum from 6:30 to 9:00 am. "We'll walk slowly towards the Demonstration Gardens, where we'll install ourselves for what should be a very productive 'puddle watch' as birds arrive and depart for a drink or a bath. We can hope for good numbers of Lucy's and Yellow Warblers, and even such secretive birds as Bell's Vireo and Yellow-breasted Chat often emerge from the thickets near the Arboretum's Woodland Garden for good views at the artificial stream. And there's always the chance of a surprise," said Wright, who saw a rare Indigo Bunting and also a Blue Grosbeak near this spot just a week ago.

This was taken in Scottsdale, but there is an active
 Cooper's Hawk nest right now with baby Coop's
at the Arboretum.
 Senior Leader at WINGS Birding Tours Worldwide, Wright is one of Arizona's experts in hard-to-identify birds such as sparrows, flycatchers, and warblers. A native of southeast Nebraska, Rick attended the University of Nebraska and Harvard Law School, and holds M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from Princeton University. As an undergraduate, he taught laboratory courses in ornithology; in 1985, he was a founder of the Nebraska Ornithologists' Union Bird Records Committee.  Rick taught at Princeton, Rutgers, Fordham, and the University of Illinois.  A frequent lecturer at birding festivals and conventions, Rick enjoys all kinds of birding, from the frantic pace of the World Series to quiet puddle watching. His wife, Alison Beringer, is a professor at Montclair State University, New Jersey, and an equally enthusiastic and equally experienced birder in her own right. This unique outing is included in the regular daily admission of $7.50 for adults ($3 ages 5-12) and there's no pre-registration required; just be in the Arboretum's visitor center lobby at the 6:30 a.m. start time. Read more about Wright's tours and guiding at or connect with him on Facebook .

Monday, June 27, 2011

Sabino Canyon

White Tail Deer in lower Sabino Canyon.

Sabino Creek.  I feel cooler just looking at it!

Sabino Canyon is just on the north edge of Tucson in the Santa Catalina mountains. It's a great quick escape from town.  There is a nearly 4 mile paved trail up into the canyon with nine stops along the way and the shuttles come and go every half hour, but the wheelchair accessible shuttle is only every hour on the hour.  I suggest riding the shuttle up to the top and then hiking your way down.

We went in early May, and initially took a narrow trail that went along side of the paved road. It wasn't really wheelchair accessible, I probably made it maybe a quarter of way up the Canyon on the trail, then had to start using the paved road.  It is a few degrees cooler than in the city, as the main road ascends from from 2,800 feet to 3,300 feet and crisscrosses Sabino Creek. Fremont Cottonwoods and Arizona Sycamores provide great shade along the roadway but it gets very hot in the sunny sections, even in May, on the black-topped road.

The highlights of our hike were the White Tail Deer we saw just yards away from us on the dirt trail, and the Cooper's Hawk sitting on her nest high in a Cottonwood tree at about mile 2 right next to the paved road.  The Cardinals were fun to watch and must be used to people, as they boldly hopped around on the picnic tables and in low branches right over our heads!  Other birds the area is known for include Gambel's Quail, Cactus Wren, Phainopepla, Black-throated Sparrow. In spring and summer you may also see or hear Broad-billed Hummingbird, Brown-crested Flycatcher, Bell's Vireo and Scott's Oriole.

Access: This is a Fee Area. A pass can be purchased at the Entrance Station. Day Pass $5, Week Pass $10, Annual Pass $20.  Barrier-free accessible sites are available at Cactus picnic area and Bear Canyon overlook.  Toilet with barrier-free access is located at the Sabino Canyon Visitor Center.

Male Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis)
This Fall, try seeing Sabino Canyon from a different perspective – at night! It’s a special time when animals emerge from daytime siestas to prowl around the cool desert floor and the moon gently illuminates the silhouettes of stately Saguaro cacti. Sabino Canyon Tours offers Moonlight Rides three nights per month.  September 8th, 9th, and 10th at 8:00 PM, October 8th, 9th, and 10th at 7:30 PM and November 6th, 7th, and 8th at 7:00 PM. Must make your reservations ahead of time, call (520) 749-2327.

Click image below for slide show:

Related Websites:

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Dirt Means Fun!

No, I didn't go nuts with instant tanning cream, it's DIRT!


It seems I had a little too much fun recently at Granite Reef Rec. Site on the Salt River.  Meandering down the trail towards the dam I kept getting stuck in the sand and the more I tried to spin myself on to more solid ground, the farther away from the trail I got. Before I knew it I was on some sort of critter trail, best suited for animals under 2 feet tall (hey, I'm at least 3 1/2 or 4 feet tall sitting down).  Then I got hopelessly mired down in spidery ant-filled plant debris.  Eventually my friend Tammy realized that the odd chirping sound she kept hearing wasn't some rare bird, but me setting off my car alert signaling for help. 
When we finally emerged from all the bushwhacking we ran into Marcus Watson from Desert Rivers Audubon and , who, unlike me, had seen quite a few birds that morning.  Notable birds seen included a possible Caspian Tern!, three Greater Roadrunners, Bullock's Orioles, the continuously calling Common Yellowthroat, Gray Flycatcher, Western Kingbirds, Gilded Flicker, Ladder-backed Woodpeckers, Gila Woodpeckers, and Lucy's Warblers.  Later in the week Marcus saw a Summer Tanager and a possible female Blue Grosbeak!

Gray Flycatcher way up high in mesquite tree.

First year male Bullock's Oriole high in mesquite tree.

Caspian Tern at Granite Reef Rec. site, photo by Marcus Watson, June 14th, 2011

Greater Roadrunner, Granite Reef  Rec. site, June 14th, photo by Marcus Watson

The latest member of the Thomas family, Paco.  He's hot-on-the-trail
in search of the smelliest stuff he can possibly find to roll in!  Go Paco!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Southwestern Willow Flycatcher Project

Get an inside view of what it's like to be working on this project in the Bill Williams River National Wildlife Refuge.  Birder and naturalist Greg Joder has gone from Bald Eagle nestwatching to searching for Southwestern Willow Flycatchers.  You won't be seeing too many pristine photos of the SWFL, they're hard to find much less photograph!  But you will see great photos and videos of the wildlife in the refuge. Click HERE to see a video of a typical day searching for the Southwestern Willow Flycatcher at the Bill Williams NWR

Note from Greg Joder, June 21st, 2011 -
This is a female in what we are calling territory 2. notice, ironically, she is carrying nest material that is tamarisk (you know - the tamarisk leaf beetle release fiasco and its impact on SWFL productivity - if you don't I can send you a brief essay outlining the issue) and also notice she is banded. this female just lost her first nest to predation the other day and we discovered one of the ruined eggs was a cowbird egg. she has since rebuilt another nest and I will be back tomorrow to see if she's started laying eggs again. I will keep you posted... it's great to share this with you and other birders - thank you!   
Female Southwestern Willow Flycatcher (Empidonax traillii extimus)
 in Bill Williams River NWR, Copyright Greg Joder, 2011
In the amazing photo below, Greg captured the menacing pose of a Bobcat at the Planet Ranch in the Bill Williams River NWR.

Bobcat seen at Planet Ranch in the Bill Williams River NWR, Copyright Greg Joder, 2011

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Birds 'n Beer Comes to Phoenix!

The first Birds 'n Beer night was a great success with nearly 60 people in attendance!  The night's topic was Bird Sex and was so well received that June's Birds 'n Beer topic will be Bird Sex Part II.  So don't miss out on all the fun, Thursday, June 16th, 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. 
RSVP at Audubon's Facebook page :

or via email:

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Audubon Arizona's Nature Film Festival

Audubon Arizona's Ninth Annual Nature Film Festival
and Silent Auction  at Harkins Camelview Theatres,
on Wednesday, June 15th.

This summer, enjoy a slice of nature at Audubon's annual film festival. Tickets are only $25 and include food, drink and popcorn, two feature films, "The Legend of Pale Male" and "Hummingbirds: Magic in the Air," and the opportunity to bid on one-of-a-kind auction items, including exciting travel-themed packages.  Contact for your advance tickets!

You won't want to miss it!

Friday, June 10, 2011


Click image to enlarge

I planted sunflower seeds this spring anticipating great shots of cute little Lesser Goldfinches nibbling away on big beautiful sunflower blossoms. Instead I have ravenous little monster Goldfinches chomping away and annihilating all the sunflower leaves.  Go figure.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Digiscoping Harris Hawk Fledglings

Are you SURE that's how you take off???
Ranger Amy at McDowell Mountain Park showing
 me the digiscope images on my iPhone

On Friday, June 3rd, expert birder and naturalist at McDowell Mountain Park, Ranger Amy, set up scopes so we could see their three fledgling Harris Hawks.  Two were out of the nest in a nearby clump of mistletoe, the third was still in the nest, and all three were crying to be fed. Mom was off hunting for food while Dad observed the noisy wing flapping fledglings from afar.  The young hawks are already as big or bigger than their parents.  We kept our distance and tried getting closeup photos with just my SonyCybershot 12x but it wasn't powerful enough.  So we tried using the iPhone with the viewing scope.

Digiscoping isn't quite as easy as you would think, with an iPhone anyway.  Amy tried with my iPhone and it was difficult to position the phone's lens at just the right angle and distance, keep it centered, zoom in, and tap the screen to take the picture, whew, all without jiggling the camera!  To successfully digiscope using an iPhone, you really need some sort of mount to steady and position the phone.  Rich Hoyer of Tucson has some tips on digiscoping with an iPhone posted here.  If you'd like to try digiscoping with your point-and-shoot digital camera, check out this video on how to make your own digiscope adapter out of a soda bottle, duct tape, a hose clamp, and some rubber!  If any of you can figure out how to make a similar adapter for the iPhone, please contact me at .  I'd love to give it a try!

Harris Hawk male adult watching the fledgling's antics from a distance.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Birders - Let Your Voice Be Heard...

This is a great opportunity for the birding community to voice their concerns and ideas regarding the development of the land around the Rio Salado Audubon Center and its riparian areas.  So, don't miss it!

Community Information Session, June 7, 6 p.m., Broadway Heritage Neighborhood Resource Center, 2405 E. Broadway, Phoenix, AZ 85040 (24th street and Broadway)

The following is from the official City of Phoenix website, Home >Environment & Sustainability>LandStewardship>BrownfieldsLandRecyclingProgram> DelRioAreaBrownfieldsPlanningProject

If you live, work or are interested in what’s happening in your community, help shape the future and participate in this important planning project. Attend this meeting and learn how this project will continue to improve the quality of life in the South Mountain area.

In December 2010, Phoenix was awarded a two-year, $175,000 grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Brownfields Area-Wide Planning Pilot Program to conduct brownfields planning activities. The goal of the project is to create a brownfields area plan that will help guide the redevelopment of brownfield sites within the area, direct the assessment and cleanup of sites, and identify resources available to assist with redevelopment. The project is built on public participation and will need input from citizens who live and/or work within the Del Rio and surrounding areas.

The project area, identified as the Del Rio Area, includes land between 7th Avenue and 16th Street, from the Salt River south to Broadway Road. There are at least three known brownfield sites in this brownfields-impacted area: 1) Former Del Rio Landfill, 2) Northwest corner of Central Avenue/Salt River, sand/gravel/landfill site, and 3) Vacant land east of the Rio Salado Audubon Center. The City expects that these three sites, and others identified will be considered for reuse planning, and for potential assessment, cleanup and redevelopment. The planning activities conducted under this project will consider existing and future development plans underway.

Project Schedule

Attend one of the upcoming Community Information Sessions and learn the basics of brownfields and the community activities that will take place for this planning project. Click here to view the Community Information Session Flyer. Subscribe to the electronic mailing list by clicking on Subscribe to the Del Rio Area Brownfields Planning Project link to receive meeting notices.   (Brownfields is a term used to describe real estate that is contaminated or perceived to be contaminated by hazardous substances or petroleum in soil or groundwater. Examples of brownfields are old gas stations, landfills, and abandoned industrial facilities.)

Public participation is NEEDED!

Community Information Session
6 p.m., Tuesday, June 7
Neighborhood Resource Center
2405 E. Broadway, Phoenix, AZ 85040

To RSVP, please call 602-256-5669 or email
It’s not necessary to RSVP to attend; however, we want to be sure there’s plenty of seating.

Brownfields Visioning Workshop
6 p.m., Tuesday, June 28
Rio Salado Audubon Center, 3131 S. Central Ave.

Brownfields Design Workshop
6 p.m. Tuesday, July 19
Rio Salado Audubon Center, 3131 S. Central Ave.

Brownfields Results Workshop
6 p.m., Tuesday, August 16
Rio Salado Audubon Center, 3131 S. Central Ave.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Sweetwater Wetlands

Female Gila Woodpecker at her nest with a honeybee buzzing about.
Sweetwater Wetlands... "Sweetwater"?   Really?!  I'm not so sure. I damn near fell over in the parking lot when the first wave of smell hit me. Maybe a more accurate name would be Stinkwater.  I know all the birders in Tucson love this place but gee zippity people, nobody bothered to mention the smell! Though it is a good place to look at birds and it is fairly wheelchair accessible, it's not exactly a place where I would stop and have a picnic. And this was on a cool day in May. I can't imagine being here in the summertime.
Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoniceus)
at Sweetwater Wetlands, Tucson, AZ, May 2011
The place was overtaken with Red-winged Blackbirds and their loud calls seemed to drown out all of the calls and songs of any other birds that might have been there. 
Mesquite bosque area bordering the parking lot
 at Sweetwater was hopping with birds and critters.
As often happens when you're out birding, the best show in town ended up being right by the parking lot.  A family of Gila Woodpecker's (top photo) had an active nest in the Saguaro right by the restrooms, and Cactus Wren and Abert's Towhees were hopping around everywhere along with cottontail bunnies. Desert Spiny and Zebra-tailed lizards were crawling over the big boulders that lay underneath the mesquite bosque by the parking lot.  The mesquites and creosote bushes were dotted with Verdin, a few Wilson's and Yellow-rumped Warblers, and possibly a few Hammond's Flycatchers (photo on right).

Click image below to view slide-show.

Do you have an event, bird walk, meeting, or nature walk that belongs on this calendar? Please send info to

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