Lifers Denoted by Bold
Our first stop on day 10 was at the Patagonia-Sonoita Creek Reserve. However, we got our first good bird of the day on the entrance road to the preserve before we had even reached the preserve itself. It was a thick-billed kingbird sitting on an exposed branch that unfortunately could only be seen well from one angle. However, we all were able to get good looks at this lifer-for-many through a scope. Another highlight on the way in was a covey of peccary spotted by the first van in the thick underbrush along the road. I was however in the second van and the peccary had moved on by the time we got there, leaving us with nothing but some tracks to prove they were actually there.
We didn’t spend much time at the preserve itself, nor did we see too much, save for an indigo bunting, some Wilson’s warblers, a vermillion flycatcher, and a singing rufous-winged sparrow.
We next drove to the fabled Patagonia Rest Area and the famous picnic table that is found there. A couple more kingbirds were present there as well as a magnificent varied bunting. We also had some nice looks at canyon wrens, a species which hadn’t been the most cooperative during the trip.
On our way back to the vans, someone spotted an odd looking cowbird atop of a dead snag. However, it took off before many of us could get a good look at it. While it was very likely a bronzed cowbird, it would have been a lifer for many and so we were unwilling to call it such. However, it did get us excited to many see this bird for sure later in the day. We had another interesting unidentified bird as we got to the vans, a “western” flycatcher. Pacific-slope occurs in the Patagonia area so there was a chance that it would have been that but without hearing it call we were forced to leave it unidentified. We also had another heard-only grey hawk although we were assured that we would see them before too long.
That assurance proved correct as my life grey hawk was spotted just down the road from the rest area! Unfortunately we were unable to stop although we were promised that we would if one was closer to the road.
Our next spot was a few ponds along Rio Rico Dr. As soon as we arrived, our attention was drawn to a flock of black-bellied whistling-ducks sitting around the ponds. Our first tropical kingbirds of the trip were also very welcome to see.
As we drove on past the ponds, we were finally treated to the cooperative grey hawk we had been hoping for. Unfortunately, I was unable to get any good photos as I was on the opposite side of the van from the bird.
We then headed back to Patagonia to lunch.
As we pulled into Patagonia and drove by the park that runs through the center of the town, we spotted a handful of cowbirds in the grass. Closer inspection revealed that they were indeed bronzed cowbirds, a lifer for many.
After lunch, we birded around the park in Patagonia for a few minutes to see how many species we could record (we ended up with 29) before heading to the famed Patton’s Feeders outside the town. This is a great property that has always been very supportive and welcoming of birders and is now in the process of being purchased by the ABC. It’s also one of the best spots in the ABA Area for violet-crowned hummingbirds. In our time at the canopyed sitting area by the feeders, we were treated to great looks at a good many birds. The violet-crowned hummingbirds didn’t fail us and we were treated to great looks at an individual visiting the feeders.
We also briefly spotted a rather brightly-coloured Virginia’s warbler as well as a local rarity in the form of an American goldfinch mixing inconspicuously with the lessers. Eventually however, a thunderstorm moved in, breaking the tranquility of the yard, and encouraging us to head back to Patagonia.
That night, we headed up to Harshaw Creek Road to look for some nocturnal birds. We all got out of the vans and began to listen. Within a few minutes, two elf owls began to call down the road. Walking towards where the elf owl was calling from, we heard a whiskered screech-owl far in the distance. Then an elf owl appeared in front of us, giving us brief looks. When all was quiet again, we decided to move on. However, as we were about to leave, a car passed us, making us all realize how weird we must have looked to them, a bunch of teenagers and three adults standing on the side of a rural road in the middle of the night.
At a bit lower elevation, we stopped the vans again and got out to listen for more nightbirds. Once again, we were not letdown for we quickly heard two common poorwill giving their haunting calls in the distant brush. While they were distant and we never saw them, it was a lovely way to end what had been one of the best days of camp so far.