Thursday, March 31, 2011

Gilded in the Flats

I birded the Santa Cruz Flats NW of Tucson this past Sunday. A nice surprise was this Gilded Flicker, far from any stands of Saguaro, its primary breeding habitat.

Similar to the red-shafted subspecies of Northern Flicker, the male Gilded sports a red moustach. But notice the golden color of the tail shafts (richer than the bright yellow of the yellow-shafted Northern Flicker). And also notice the bright cinnamon crown that contrasts along its entire length with the gray face.

Overall the bird is paler and smaller than Northern Flicker and, perhaps predictibly,  has a slightly higher pitched voice.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Homemade Pizza and Wine Tasting Party

Too much, fun!

People making pizzas, guessing wines, making new friends.

Here were the winning wines:

In 3rd place:

In 2nd Place:

And in 1st Place:
That's Rootstock Syrah, $6.99 at Trader Joe's.

Here's a list of all the wines and how they ranked (1=best, 9=worst):

The first number is the label, the number after the wine name is the rank

#4: Sryah/Rootstock, 2007 (California)    2.63
#3: Malbec/Redwood Creek Mendoza, 2009 (Argentina)    3.06
#6: Cabernet Sauvignon/Redwood Creek, 2009 (California)    3.64
#9: Rhone varietal blend/Michael and David Phillips Incognito, 2005 (California)    4.25
#2: Tempranillo/La Granja, 2009 (Spain)    5.00
#7: Merlot/Bogle, 2009 (California)    5.17
#8: Zinfandel/Ravenswood, 2008 (California)    5.50
#5: Pinot Noir/Rex Goliath, no date (Italy)    6.13
#1: Chianti/Marchese De Petri Il Valore, 2006 (Italy)    6.21

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Arizona's #1 Lucifer Hummingbird Spot Closing Because of Bad Neighbor?

Hi All,

Please read this open letter from my friend Mary Jo. Her feeders have had the most reliable Lucifer Hummingbirds in the history of Arizona birding. She also hosed the first ever Plain-capped Starthroat to return two years in a row, probably the most-seen individual of that species in the history of birding. She's done a lot to put the Hereford area on the birding map.

Following Mary Jo's plea is the letter I wrote in support when she was first having to apply for the special use permit that she was required to get as a result of the first complaint by the neighbor.

From: Mary Jo Ballator
Potential Closure of Ash Canyon B&B Feeding Station

Dear Birders,

Due to a  neighborhood dispute regarding public access over a private road easement, there is a very real possibility that I may have to close my property to birders after nine years of continuous operation with no complaints or opposition.

I have already asked for support from a few of you, and I am very grateful for having received that support.

The opposition has continued to escalate, however, and I am now asking for help from the extended birding community, both with e-mailing letters of support and attendance at the upcoming hearing on April 12 at 10:00 a.m. in Bisbee.  I have been advised to get as many people as possible to show up at the hearing and to speak on behalf of keeping this bird feeding station open.  If you wish to see this place continue, *now* is the critical time to act.

I am hopeful that an overwhelming show of support from the birding community will go a long way toward convincing the Board of Supervisors that my feeding station is a community resource that serves many people even beyond the birding community and helps to generate a sustainable economic base for Cochise County, as well as serving the birds of these Sky Islands and beyond.

Please email if you require additional information, or if you can help.

Letters (via e-mail) should contain a reference to Ash Canyon B&B and my parcel number 104-21-022, and should be written by Friday April 1, as they need time to be compiled and submitted to the decision makers well in advance of the meeting.  Please send me a copy, because some previous letters of support evidently got lost in the ether. Send e-mail to  Mr. Keith Dennis, with a CC to me,

Attend the Board of Supervisors meeting and sign up to speak at the meeting.  Get there a few minutes early so you can fill out a form to speak, briefly, at the meeting.

Board of Supervisors Meeting time/location:

Tuesday, April 12, 10:00 a.m.
1415 Melody Lane
Board of Supervisor Room, Building G
Bisbee, AZ  85603

Thank you for your continued support and consideration.


Mary Jo

Mary Jo Ballator, Host
Ash Canyon Bed & Breakfast
5255 E. Spring Road
Hereford, AZ  85615

Here's a copy of the letter I wrote when this issue first came up 3 months ago.

            January 4, 2010

Mr. Keith Dennis
Cochise County Planning & Zoning Commission
1415 Melody Lane
Bisbee, AZ  85603

Dear Mr. Dennis,

I am writing in support of Mary Jo Ballator's application for a special use permit for the Ash Canyon B&B on parcel 104-21-022. I have been there many times as a private individual as well as a tour leader guiding birders visiting Arizona. The very presence of feeding stations that host range-restricted bird species, such as that at Ash Canyon B&B, are a major draw for birders and ecotourists to Southeast Arizona. The Ash Canyon B&B is a requisite stop on any birding route in SE Arizona, and is presence is certainly a consideration when I make decisions on whether to visit the Hereford area or other parts of southern Arizona or give recommendations to birders who ask for my advice.


           Richard C. Hoyer

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Exotics in Hawaii

This White-rumped Shama, a tropical thrush from Asia, is one of many species established in Hawaii. All of the native songbirds seem to need native forest, while established exotics such as this seem to do fine in the "phony" tropical thickets found at lower elevations, where all of the native forest is gone.

I posted a video at YouTube. At first you hear the rushing of Manoa Falls and the whining of my first cousin-once-removed AJ Smith. Then at the end, you hear his sister TJ saying,"Let's go now!"

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Palila – One of the Rarest Birds in the World

Perhaps the most finch-like survivor of the holocaust that has wiped out most of Hawaii's native avifauna (which began around 800 A.D. when the first Polynesians arrived) is the Palila. It's frustrating to many that we don't have real English names for most of the native Hawaiian birds, but at least this one is easily pronounceable. (We're not forced to call endemic Japanese birds by their Japanese names after all, so....)

In any event, we were fantastically lucky to spot one within 10 minutes of arriving at the preserve in the distinctive, semi-dry Mamane-Naio woodland this bird needs. As we were leaving, a visiting birder from Portland arrived for his fourth attempt to find the bird on his own. Rob Pacheco spotted one within the minute and we got one in the scope for him. Sometimes it does pay to hire a professional. I managed just a couple poor digiscoped images.

In the past 20 years the population of this bird has gone from about 4000 to 1000, despite protection. But it seems that a lot more could be done, with this little preserve surrounded by cattle country. Has any pointed out that there is simply no compelling need to raise even a single cow in the middle of the Pacific Ocean? Yet there are hundreds and thousands of them – and probably even more feral goats, sheep, etc. The annual resources needed to give all these birds a huge help would be a drop in the bucket compared to what we spend on our military each day. Think about it.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The 'Io – Hawaiian Hawk

We spotted this bird along the Keanakolu Road on the west slope of Mauna Kea, Hawaii yesterday. It was eating some small bird, possibly a chick of a Ring-necked Pheasant or a Erckel's Francolin. We watched from the bus window as it finished its meal then repositioned itself to digest while perched on this rock.

The most recent DNA evidence shows that the Hawaiian Hawk's closest relative is the Short-tailed Hawk. You can read more about it and all other Hawaiian birds in the online monograph,
The Birds of the Hawaiian Islands:
Occurrence, History, Distribution, and Status
Robert L. Pyle and Peter Pyle

The Apapane on Kauai

Here's a the only decent shot I managed of an Apapane in Kauai's Koke'e State Park this week. They are a super hyper member of the endemic drepanidinae subfamily of finches, flitting from one flower to the next, eating the nectar. Their primary food source is the Ohi'a Lehua, an endemic tree in the myrtle family found in the highlands.

In this area we also saw Anianiau (tiny and bright yellow) and Kauai Amakihi (a bit larger, a bit more olive, and with a stronger bill), both members of the same subfamily. The other endemic passerine seen here was the Kauai Elepaio, a member of the monarch-flycatcher family.