Saturday, May 9, 2009

Hoyer's Voyeurs

Hoyer's Voyeurs Big Day Summary for the Tucson Audubon Society Bird-a-thon
May 7, 2009, with Rich Hoyer, Mich Coker, and Greg Corman

The Hoyer’s Voyeurs bird-a-thon team spied 169 species on our two-county, 17.5-hour big day attempt on May 7, 2009. This was not an all-out Big Day of the classic sort; rather we started at 2:00 instead of midnight; we stopped at dark instead of continuing to a brain-dead state; and we limited ourselves to just Pima and Santa Cruz counties. Furthermore, route planning was done solely using the internet resources eBird and the archives of the AZ-NM Mexico e-mail list, no field scouting being possible with our busy schedules. But we operated as a big day, rushing from spot to spot, sticking to our time schedule, making no breaks for meals. And of course, our prior experience doing big days was a major guide.

Predictably, our first bird was Northern Mockingbird, singing all over Tucson this time of year, and we rushed up to the upper elevations of the Santa Catalina Mountains for several night birds. In two hours and 25 minutes we were departing the mountains with eight night birds including both screech-owls, Spotted Owl, and fabulous views of a Flammulated Owl, a lifebird for 2 of us.

We picked off all the expected species as we sped along the freeways on our way to Madera Canyon, with number 25 being a Northern Cardinal on the power line in Continental. The fruiting mulberry in Continental provided our only Cedar Waxwings and gobs of other species. One half-hour later, on our first stop in Madera Canyon, Mexican Jays escorted us past the fifty-species mark. And 25 minutes later we jetted past 75 species with a calling Hammond’s Flycatcher at Madera Kubo, where the gorgeous male Flame-colored Tanager out-sang and outshined everything else in the canyon.

A quick stop above the upper parking areas added a few birds such as Hermit Warbler and singing Hermit Thrush, but Elegant Trogon did not call after a 10-minute wait. Opting to stick to our schedule, we decided against a hike up the Vault Mine Trail and thus regrettably passed up our only chance for the trogon. On top of that, it seems we were too early (by maybe only a day or two) for Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher.

After the cooperative Crissal Thrasher and a lucky find of MacGillivray’s Warbler at Tumacacori, a White-faced Ibis south of there became our 100th species just before 9:00 in the morning. A sane birder would have been happy with that number and headed home for a needed nap. But we were only four sevenths of the way through our hoped-for bird list.

Either our birding stops on the I-19 corridor were quicker than expected or maybe our driving was slightly madder than the Google Maps directions suggested, and we arrived at the Patagonia Roadside Rest a full half hour early. We got Thick-billed Kingbird almost immediately, but there was no sign of the Five-striped Sparrow reported a couple days earlier, nor Pacific-slope Flycatcher. We passed the 125 species mark with an Abert’s Towhee just before arriving at the Paton’s backyard, where a latish Green-tailed Towhee, an earlyish Blue Grosbeak and an Indigo Bunting were bonus birds on top of the expected Violet-crowned Hummingbird.

With the extra time to play with, we gambled with a couple of detours, first to a stake-out Zone-tailed Hawk up Harshaw Creek road (success) and then a failed attempt to find Horned Lark, Cassin’s Sparrow, and Loggerhead Shrike in the Sonoita Grasslands. This is where some advance scouting would have helped. But with little effort we were able to snag Say’s Phoebe and Grasshopper Sparrow right in Sonoita, and with those we made a beeline for Summerhaven.

In mid-afternoon, while it was 100°F in Tucson, Marshall Gulch was utterly delightful. And the thirteen new species that it provided, such as Red Crossbill and Magnificent Hummingbird, made it hard to tear ourselves away from here. But then a slowing of success as we descended the Catalina Highway also ate up time as we tried for a few remaining high elevation species. Eventually we had to give up on Greater Pewee and Golden-crowned Kinglet, with one last stop below Babad Do’ag providing Black-tailed Gnatcatcher then Gilded Flicker, our 150th species at 5:08 p.m. With sunset just 2 hours away, and the slow drive through Tucson during rush hour ahead of us, our chances for making our goal of 175 was looking distant but also distinctly possible. We still hadn’t seen Cooper’s Hawk or either of the large falcons, and we were going to have to trust our luck with any lingering water birds at Sweetwater Wetlands. Could we possibly find 25 new species there? If the reported dowitchers, some tired sandpipers, both species of cormorants, Green Heron, Peregrine Falcon and a couple of migrants like Nashville Warbler would cooperate, it was indeed possible.

Passing through Tucson, Cooper’s Hawk finally made an appearance as one flew behind the car along Tanque Verde Drive, but nothing new showed up before we had Burrowing Owl then our first Killdeer upon arrival only 10 minutes behind schedule at Sweetwater. We scanned every edge, scoped every distant puddle, glanced at every grackle and swallow and thoroughly worked the place. Finally, after a full hour there, we saw Bank Swallows and then Lesser Nightawk, our final two of 18 new species from this great birding location.

Looking back, it was the lack water birds that did us in. We did amazingly well with night birds (missing only Barn Owl and Northern Saw-whet Owl), migrants were good (we could have lucked into Pacific-slope Flycatcher, Olive-sided Flycatcher, or Nashville Warbler, but got lucky with things like Green-tailed Towhee, MacGillivray’s Warbler, and Swainson’s Thrush). But had the Snowy and Cattle Egrets at Amado been there, the Great Egret at Sweetwater, and then just perhaps a Ring-necked Duck or Gadwall and a couple of sandpipers such as Long-billed Dowitcher and Western Sandpiper, we would have nailed our goal. But 169 wasn’t so shabby, and with such satisfying views of Flammulated Owl and Flame-colored Tanager, and the knowledge that we helped Tucson Audubon Society in its most important fundraiser of the year, we had a fantastic day of birding.

Bird List

1 Black-bellied Whistling-Duck
2 Mallard
3 Blue-winged Teal
4 Northern Shoveler
5 Green-winged Teal
6 Ruddy Duck
7 Wild Turkey
8 Gambel's Quail
9 Montezuma Quail
10 Eared Grebe
11 Neotropic Cormorant
12 Double-crested Cormorant
13 Great Blue Heron
14 Black-crowned Night-Heron
15 White-faced Ibis
16 Black Vulture
17 Turkey Vulture
18 Cooper's Hawk
19 Gray Hawk
20 Harris's Hawk
21 Swainson's Hawk
22 Zone-tailed Hawk
23 Red-tailed Hawk
24 American Kestrel
25 Sora
26 Common Moorhen
27 American Coot
28 Killdeer
29 Black-necked Stilt
30 American Avocet
31 Spotted Sandpiper
32 Least Sandpiper
33 Wilson's Phalarope
34 Rock Pigeon
35 Eurasian Collared-Dove
36 White-winged Dove
37 Mourning Dove
38 Inca Dove
39 Greater Roadrunner
40 Flammulated Owl
41 Western Screech-Owl
42 Whiskered Screech-Owl
43 Great Horned Owl
44 Northern Pygmy-Owl
45 Elf Owl
46 Burrowing Owl
47 Spotted Owl
48 Lesser Nighthawk
49 Common Poorwill
50 Whip-poor-will
51 White-throated Swift
52 Broad-billed Hummingbird
53 Violet-crowned Hummingbird
54 Magnificent Hummingbird
55 Black-chinned Hummingbird
56 Anna's Hummingbird
57 Costa's Hummingbird
58 Broad-tailed Hummingbird
59 Acorn Woodpecker
60 Gila Woodpecker
61 Ladder-backed Woodpecker
62 Hairy Woodpecker
63 Arizona Woodpecker
64 Northern Flicker
65 Gilded Flicker
66 Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet
67 Western Wood-Pewee
68 Hammond’s Flycatcher
69 Cordilleran Flycatcher
70 Black Phoebe
71 Say's Phoebe
72 Vermilion Flycatcher
73 Dusky-capped Flycatcher
74 Ash-throated Flycatcher
75 Brown-crested Flycatcher
76 Cassin's Kingbird
77 Thick-billed Kingbird
78 Western Kingbird
79 Bell's Vireo
80 Plumbeous Vireo
81 Cassin's Vireo
82 Hutton's Vireo
83 Warbling Vireo
84 Steller's Jay
85 Mexican Jay
86 Chihuahuan Raven
87 Common Raven
88 Violet-green Swallow
89 Northern Rough-winged Swallow
90 Bank Swallow
91 Cliff Swallow
92 Barn Swallow
93 Mountain Chickadee
94 Bridled Titmouse
95 Verdin
96 Bushtit
97 Red-breasted Nuthatch
98 White-breasted Nuthatch
99 Pygmy Nuthatch
100 Brown Creeper
101 Cactus Wren
102 Rock Wren
103 Canyon Wren
104 Bewick's Wren
105 House Wren
106 Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
107 Black-tailed Gnatcatcher
108 Western Bluebird
109 Swainson's Thrush
110 Hermit Thrush
111 American Robin
112 Northern Mockingbird
113 Curve-billed Thrasher
114 Crissal Thrasher
115 European Starling
116 Cedar Waxwing
117 Phainopepla
118 Olive Warbler
119 Orange-crowned Warbler
120 Lucy's Warbler
121 Yellow Warbler
122 Yellow-rumped Warbler
123 Black-throated Gray Warbler
124 Townsend's Warbler
125 Hermit Warbler
126 Grace's Warbler
127 MacGillivray's Warbler
128 Common Yellowthroat
129 Wilson's Warbler
130 Red-faced Warbler
131 Painted Redstart
132 Yellow-breasted Chat
133 Hepatic Tanager
134 Summer Tanager
135 Western Tanager
136 Flame-colored Tanager
137 Green-tailed Towhee
138 Spotted Towhee
139 Canyon Towhee
140 Abert's Towhee
141 Rufous-winged Sparrow
142 Botteri's Sparrow
143 Rufous-crowned Sparrow
144 Lark Sparrow
145 Black-throated Sparrow
146 Lark Bunting
147 Grasshopper Sparrow
148 Song Sparrow
149 White-crowned Sparrow
150 Yellow-eyed Junco
151 Northern Cardinal
152 Pyrrhuloxia
153 Black-headed Grosbeak
154 Blue Grosbeak
155 Lazuli Bunting
156 Indigo Bunting
157 Red-winged Blackbird
158 Eastern Meadowlark
159 Great-tailed Grackle
160 Bronzed Cowbird
161 Brown-headed Cowbird
162 Hooded Oriole
163 Bullock's Oriole
164 Scott's Oriole
165 House Finch
166 Red Crossbill
167 Pine Siskin
168 Lesser Goldfinch
169 House Sparrow

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