Berylline Hummingbird and Common Crane Have Arizona on My Mind

Back on August 23rd I checked the airlines to see how expensive it would be to go to Arizona in early September.  First I went to the Air Canada site and the cheapest flight was $700 and I would have to spend a week.  Next I checked with United Airlines and found a seat left for $265 US ($345 Cdn), so I just had to book it.  This was a bargain considering what I have paid for other birding trips.  A long staying Berylline Hummingbird and a Common Crane were two birds I have wanted to see and photograph for a long time.

So off I went for a last minute 4 day trip.  After landing at 11 p.m.,  I picked up my car for the 4 hour drive to Portal, Arizona.  After 2 hours of driving I knew I would never be able to stay awake, so I pulled off at a truck stop and slept for three hours.

I arrived at the Berylline Hummingbird stakeout at 9 a.m., after a brief breakfast at the Portal Peak Lodge, Store and Café.  I wasn’t sure which way to go on the trail, so of course I went the wrong way.  After 15 minutes of walking I figured it out so turned around and finally found the single feeder.  Sure enough within 5 minutes the Berylline showed up for a few seconds but was immediately chased off by a Blue-throated Mountain Gem.

I spent the next few hours getting glimpses of the Berrylline as it tried to get a sip at the feeder with people coming and going during my time there.  A group came back to tell us that another feeder had been placed near the parking area and the Berylline was now coming to that feeder constantly.  I went over to that feeder and the hummingbird would even buzz us coming to within two feet, taking a look and then going on to the feeder.

This was the first Beryliine I had seen since I visited Portal in May 1992 but at that time I wasn’t taking photos or birding as seriously or even keeping a list.  I didn’t even have it on my life list then, but it is on there now.

I then drove back to the Southwestern Research Station and while having a coffee struck up a conversation with retired Professor Brock Fenton and his wife who were in the area to photograph nectar feeding bats.  They invited me back to join them that evening. While talking to them some I saw a couple walking towards me and recognized them right away as Mike and Libby Chamberlain, who I’ve run into many times in the last few years.  If there is a rare bird they are usually going for it.

Killed a bit of time photographing Hummingbirds coming to feeders, waiting for evening.

Blue-throated Hummingbird

Female Broad-tailed Hummingbird

Female Rivoli’s Hummingbird

Female Black-chinned Hummingbird

Male Blue-throated Mountain Gem

Violet-Crowned Hummingbird

The odd land birds came to the area of the feeders too

Blue Grosbeak

Yellow-eyed Junco

Yellow Warbler but not sure?

The evening was spent with the Fentons and Chamberlains watching these bats come in to feed.  This was a new experience that I would like to try again and I even managed a few photos once I learned the procedure.

Mexican Long-Tongued Bat

I also learned something else.  Even though it is nighttime you should always put insect repellant on your shoes when standing in grass.  Chiggers did a good job on my ankles and sadly I didn’t feel anything until the next day.  Talk about horrible itching!

I stayed at the Cave Creek Ranch a birder friendly resort with plenty of feeders, Reed Peters really works to get the birds and birders together.  These are just a sampling of the birds I saw in the morning.

Male Broad-billed Hummingbird

Acorn Woodpecker

Black-headed Grosbeak

Female Western Tanager

Mexican Jay

Female Cardinal

White-winged Dove

Juvenile Gambel’s Quail

Brilliant House Finch

One of my favourite trip photos…

Brown Creeper

Leaving Cave Creek, I went up to Rustler Park to pick up a few year birds and look for insects.

Springwater Dancer

Yarrow’s Spiny Lizard

Emma’s Dancer

Arizona Sister Butterfly

Hutton’s Vireo

Black-throated Gray Warbler

Spotted Towhee

For the rest of the day, I had two choices.  I could go for the local White-eared Hummingbird or head over to Ash Canyon B & B, where they had seen a White-eared Humming bird and where I would also get to see other species including the Lucifer Hummingbird.  I chose the latter so headed along the road to Douglas and then to Hereford. Along the way there are always great birds to see.

Grasshopper Sparrow with what else a grasshopper

Lark Bunting

Greater Roadrunner

There were many birds at Ash Canyon but unfortunately the White-eared was a no show but did have a great variety of birds.

Lesser Goldfinch

White-breasted Nuthatch

Anna’s Hummingbird

Broad-billed Hummingbird

Juvenile Black-billed Hummingbird

Lucifer Hummingbird

Violet-crowned head shot

Anna’s Hummingbird coming in for a look

Bewicks Wren

Lesser Goldfinch

Lucifer Hummingbird Close-up

Gambel’s Quail overseeing his domain

I left that area and went to Green Valley and where I would bird the Florida, Madera and Box Canyons the next day.  That night I was out like a light…

The next morning, while driving the road into the area, I was happy to see that many birds were out.

Phainopepla

Verdin

Black-throated Sparrow

Curve-billed Thrasher

Cactus Wren

Orange Variant House Sparrow

Cactus Wren

Rufous-winged Sparrow

Botteri’s Sparrow

Cacti were in full bloom

Fishhook Barrel Cactus

Cane Cholla

My first stop was Florida Canyon which is a leisurely walk of 30 minutes to get up to the Rufous-capped Warbler area.  I had seen the warbler before but wanted to get a better photo.  Unfortunately, this was not to be today but I did see a few good birds, including a brief glance at the warbler, and also many insects were coming to the water.

White-Lined Sphinx Moth

Horse’s Paper Wasp

Pygmy Grasshopper paratetti

Western Red-Bellied Tiger Beetle

Very Tiny Spider

Western Honey Bee

Bordered Patch

Queen Butterfly

Giant Agave Bug

NO idea Yet!

I then headed to Box Canyon to look for a Five-striped Sparrow but after an hour gave up.

My next stop was at the feeders at Madera Canyon’s Santa Rita Lodge and Madera Kubo B & B, where I spent the afternoon.  This was not because it was so great but the local police had closed the road out because of a bicycle and auto accident,  which unfortunately must have been serious as measurements and photos were being taken.

Cassin’s Kingbird

Black-chinned Hummingbird

Broad-billed Hummingbird

Female Broad-billed?

Rufous Hummingbird

Hepatic Tanager

Rufous-crowned Sparrow

Wild Turkey

After leaving Madera which is one of my favourite places to bird, I drove up to Red Rock along the highway and while there weren’t many birds, there were insects, reptiles and mammals to keep me entertained.

Red-tailed Hawk

Great-tailed Grackle

Zebra-tailed Lizard

Round-tailed Ground Squirrel

Thistle Down Velvet Ant

After that it was time to get the lead out and head to Mormon Lake up near Flagstaff to look for another lifer, the Common Crane.  Arriving by 11 p.m. at the spot, pitch black outside and having no idea what the area looked like, I checked my GPS and phone and found the nearest hotel was miles away, so the “Hotel Du Enterprise Rent-a-Car” would have to be my room for the night.  It was comfortable enough but damn did it turn cold.  I woke up at 3 a.m. and it was a chilly 45 F with me in shorts and a tee shirt.  I had to dig into my suitcase and put on jeans and a hoodie and then slept until morning.

When I woke up I realized how hard it was going to be to spot the crane as I was looking out over a meadow of about 3 miles by 8 miles where even the elk looked like dots.

After glassing what felt like forever I finally found the bird but it was impossible to get a photo from my location.  After driving around to the other side of the spot I did manage to get within a half kilometer of the bird, allowing me to get photos but nothing great.

The rest of the day was spent killing time before my flight left that night, visiting Costco and a Drug Store to buy a new pair of shoes (threw the old ones out because I kept getting new bites) and anti itch medication for my itchy feet.

Great trip, lots of good birds and photos.

Until the next time, Ciao for now.

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A Trip for the Book – Adak Pelagic – 2019

I left Ottawa June 7th at 6:30am for my flight to Anchorage (via a milk run of Edmonton, Vancouver) with Air Canada, arriving at 4:30pm in Anchorage.
Irented my car and went off in search of the Falcated Duck at Potter’s Marsh, thinking of how easy a tick for my list this would be.  Boy, was I wrong. Over the next 7 hours many people, including myself, had 2 very brief looks and a 5 second look through our scopes at 9:30pm. The duck just never came out in the open, allowing any of us a chance of a photo that day.  Many other good birds to see made up for it.

4-Spot Skimmer

Orange-crowned Warbler

Aleutian Cackling Goose

Tree Swallow

Gadwall

Trumpeter Swan’s

Arctic Terns

Boardwalk

Potter’s Marsh

Red-necked Grebe Family

Arctic Tern

Ring-necked Duck

Hudsonian Whiteface

Lesser Canada’s

Red-necked Grebe

I also met up with a Edie (one of our Adak Pelagic group member), who moments before I arrived took this lovely photo of the duck in the first pond at about 40 feet. Back of camera copy.

Back to the hotel I went, for a much needed sleep and I was back at Potter’s Marsh the next morning, the duck again managed to evade may eyes and after 5 hours, I had to leave in order to make my flight to Adak.

Fast forward to that afternoon, after a 3 hour flight, with great scenery from the windows.

We landed in Adak at 5:15pm and were met by our tour operator John Puschock, who runs Zugunruhe (german compund word meaning “anxious behavior in migratory animals, especially bird”) Birding Tours. He offers many fine tours at:

http://www.zbirdtours.com

As we were arriving at the airport, I had a few moments to chat with friends Chris Feeney who was birding Adak for a week and Herb Fechter, Barb Dewitt and John Weigel, who is doing a big year for the ABA, and they had just returned from the Attu.

We  met up with our tour guides Neil Hayward and Christian Hagenlocher, tour memebers Edie, John, Jason, Miles, John and Bill.

We headed out with two vehicles and birded Adak for 3 hours before boarding the boat for our trip out.

Juvenile Bald Eagle

The Adak National Forest

Seawatch

 

Harbour Entrance

Pigeon Guillemot

Clam Lagoon

Common Teal

A nice surprise was seeing Common Snipe a life bird for me, also Lapland Longspurs and Gray-crowned Rosy-finch (griseonucha sub-species).

Common Snipe

Female Lapland Longspur

Gray-crowned Rosy-finch

Parasitic Jaeger

Male Lapland Longspur

We were ferried out to the boat, the Pu-kuk (photo from website) a lovely 72-foot boat built by the Captain Bill.

Met by Captain Billy Choate, Mr. Happy.

The crew, Max and Zandra.

We stowed our gear, had a wonderful supper and then the task of trying on our survival suits.

The suit fittings were fun and we had a few laughs but I am sure everyone aboard hoped we’d never have to use them.

The boat left the harbour, early the next morning and headed out for3 days of birding on the water, with the soothing sounds of the diesal engine, I got a few more minutes of sleep but was soon on deck, scanning the sea for birds. The birds did not disappoint over the course of the trip we had:

Laysan Albatross – 260+

Black-footed Albatross – 50+

Whiskered Auklet – 1,000’s

Northern Fulmar – 25,000+

Short-tailed Shearwater – 1,000’s

Crested Auklet – 100’s

Ancient Murrelet – 1,000’s

Parakeet Auklet – 100’s

Cassin’s Auklet – 100’s

Glaucous-winged Gulls – 1,000’s

Long-tailed Jaegers – 3

Thick-billed Murre’s – many

Both Horned and Tufted Puffins -100’s

Killer Whales- 50+

The food was awesome and aplenty, the crew were fantastic and they did everything to make our stay aboard, as pleasant as possible.

Lots of great scenery during this pelagic.

 

 

Both Neil and Christian were great spotters and we all tried to find a Short-tailed Albatross, which was called out on the horizon and the boat turned in that direction for quite a while but the bird never showed again.  Enough for me to say I think I saw the bird they called but not enough to count it for my life list.

The Pu-kuk was extremely stable due to it’s advanced electronic-hydraulic stabilization system which enables the boat to ride more comfortably in rough weather but if you are prone to motion sickness, take your medication, your trip will be much more enjoyable. I thought I’d be tough and not take anything and my stomach got a bit touchy one day but that was my fault.  There were two heads equipped with showers aboard and sleeping quarters for all.

We arrived back at Adak the morning of the 12th and Neil and Christian took us out for a mini tour of the island, picking up a lovely family of Gyrfalcon and local birds.

Aleutian Terns

Common Eider

Gyrfalcon

Harlequin Duck

Kittlitz Murrelet

Marbled Murrelet

Many Sea Otter’s

The wild flowers were starting to grow..

Nootka Lupine

Western Dwarf Dogwood

Western Buttercup

Some form of Daisy

Not Sure

The sun did poke its head out a few times over the course of the trip which really helped with the photography. I recommend nothing less than a 400mm lens and a fast shooting camera body. My D850 (full frame) and 500mm worked well and had it been sunnier, I’d probably have used my 1.4 teleconverter.

I like to thank John Puschock of Zugunrehe Tours for making it possible to get out in these waters, and I will get back out to Adak some day to bird the island.

I managed to see two birds that I needed to photograph for my Golden Guide Project, The Laysan Albatross and Whiskered Auklet.

Only 12 more birds to go.

Ciao for now.

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