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.
Female Broad-tailed Hummingbird
Female Rivoli’s Hummingbird
Female Black-chinned Hummingbird
Male Blue-throated Mountain Gem
The odd land birds came to the area of the feeders too
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
Female Western Tanager
Juvenile Gambel’s Quail
Brilliant House Finch
One of my favourite trip photos…
Leaving Cave Creek, I went up to Rustler Park to pick up a few year birds and look for insects.
Yarrow’s Spiny Lizard
Arizona Sister Butterfly
Black-throated Gray Warbler
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
There were many birds at Ash Canyon but unfortunately the White-eared was a no show but did have a great variety of birds.
Juvenile Black-billed Hummingbird
Violet-crowned head shot
Anna’s Hummingbird coming in for a look
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.
Orange Variant House Sparrow
Cacti were in full bloom
Fishhook Barrel Cactus
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
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.
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.
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.
Great photos Paul. Beautiful Gambel’s quail. I’d like to chase them one day.
Love all these photos! What fun it must have been to see and be able to capture so many pics of these beautiful creatures!
Beautiful trip u had. Well worth ur $345. Sorry bout ur feet 😔 U captured so many of the lil beauties plus a bunch of others. Have u found out what the mystery insect was?