Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Searching For Madera's Scarlet Tanager

On Sunday, June 17, Dave Quesenberry found a singing male Scarlet Tanager on a remote trail in SE Arizona's Madera Canyon. If you're not at all into birds, this is like spotting Paul McCartney in a Boise JC Penney. While that's apparently not such a big deal in a Tucson Circle K – nor would seeing a Scarlet Tanager in any old Tennessee forest patch – such an out-of-range discovery is quite spectacular. So this hugely unexpected sighting was followed by the birding paparazzi ascending the Kent Springs Trail in the next days, and every lister and photographer nailed this bird on their Arizona lists.

I would have been there as well, as I have never seen Scarlet Tanager in Arizona, but at that precise moment, I was enjoying an amazing mixed group of Brown Capuchins, White-nosed Bearded Saki and White-cheeked Spider Monkeys with my friend Doug Futuyma at Cristalino Jungle Lodge in Mato Grosso, Brazil. My friend and co-worker Gavin Bieber was guiding in Nome, Alaska.

Luckily for me and Gavin, this bird was totally delusional and had established a territory for the summer. So this past week, after both Gavin and I had had a chance to settle in at home and get immediate stuff done, we headed up to Madera Canyon. I had staked out a route from the Super Trail that saved us a mile of hiking. The scenery from the steep slope was stunning.

The bird didn't show for a while. So we busied ourselves with patrolling the section of trail where the bird was known to be and spotted some other cool things. Short-tailed Skippers (with the coolest scientific name, Zestusa doris) were seeking minerals in the shady ravine.

These moths were quite abundant, the apparently very little known Tetraclonia dyari, family Zygaenidae. The hind wing pattern is a good feature to see.

I don't know who's mimicking whom, but this net-winged beetle, Lycus arizonensis, is a pretty good match.

I was pretty thrilled to finally see flowers of a most bizarre woodsorrel, Oxalis decaphylla. The flowers are totally typical for the genus (and family), but the leaves are totally nonconformist.

After a couple of hours of pacing up and down the canyon, Gavin and I, joined by our friend Diane, decided to try staking out a little puddle where one birder had reported seeing the tanager.

Diane gave up eventually, wandered down the canyon, and found the bird. She came to get us, and after a few tense moments we refound it right where she had left it. Success!

Here are two happy birders, Gavin and Diane.

On our way out, Gavin and I were taken aback by these stunning green beetles flying near the trail. I recognized them as flower chafers in the subfamily Cetoniinae, family Scarabaeidae, but had to look  up the species – Emerald Euphoria, Euphoria fulgida.

1 comment:

  1. P.S. I have no idea why Blogger is randomly highlighting some text white – I can't manually fix it either.