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ARIZONA

Saturday 11th May - Thursday 23rd May 2013

Simon Mitchell

Gambel's Quail (Simon Mitchell)

Gambel's Quail (Simon Mitchell)

Our journey through Arizona took us through a variety of stark and contrasting landscapes: from harsh deserts spattered with candlestick-shaped cacti punctuated by oak and pine-clad hills to wild mountains with atmospheric names like Huachuca and Chiricahua. We visited spectacular barren canyons along the Mexican border at and verdant riverine stands of cottonwoods around Patagonia. With each change in landscape a new and different community of bird species was discovered, with the range of species often contrasting as much as the landscapes themselves.

We recorded a tally of species of 226 species which included virtually all the ‘Arizonan specialities’ present at this time of year. Amongst this list were a number of excellent highlights. Foremost was an amazing eight owl species, all of which were seen. These included the difficult to find Flammulated Owl and Elf Owls as well both Whiskered Screech-owl and Mountain Pygmy-owl both of which can be found in the US only in Arizona.

Other highlights included a number of species, the ranges of which extend only into Arizona (and in the case of a few extreme southern Texas) within the US. Several amongst these are endemic between here and the difficult to access mountain ranges of Northern Mexico. Species such as Gray Hawk, Zone-tailed Hawk, Common Black-hawk, Gambell’s Quail, Scaled Quail, Mexican Whip-poor-will, Broad-billed, Violet-crowned, Blue-throated and Magnificent Hummingbirds, Elegant Trogon, Gila Woodpecker, Gilded Flicker, Buff-breasted Flycatcher, Dusky-capped Flycatcher, Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher, Tropical and Thick-billed Kingbirds, Mexican Chickadee, Chihuahuan Raven, Mexican Jay, Bendire’s, Le Conte’s and Crissal Thrashers, Phainopepla and the unique Olive Warbler. Other species included Brown-throated Wren, Black-tailed Gnatcatcher, Lucy’s, Grace’s and Red-faced Warblers, Painted Redstart, Hepatic Tanager, Botteri’s, Five-striped, Black-chinned, Black-throated, Rufous-crowned and Rufous-winged Sparrows, Pyrrhuloxia, Scott’s, Hooded and Bullock’s Orioles.

Additionally we encountered several species of even more limited distribution. Arizona Woodpecker and Abert’s Towhee are close to endemic to the state and the worlds only free-living population of California Condors were watched at length over the majestic backdrop of Grand Canyon National Park. A few other more widely distributed species included Gray Vireo, Juniper Titmouse and Snowy Plover which are increasingly difficult species to find anywhere within their breeding range were also very welcome sightings. Finally, some excitement was added when we found a Cave Swallow – an unusual species for the state, we also crossed paths with two additional vagrants; both a White-eared Hummingbird and an Evening Grosbeak had set up temporary residence at Miller and Madera Canyons respectively.

Lesser Nighthaks (Simon Mitchell)

Lesser Nighthaks (Simon Mitchell)