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Monday, April 28, 2014

Triple Bonus

Bonus Gilded Flicker
When I pulled into the Tucson Honda repair shop, I was loaded up with 'toys', i.e., things to do, for a boring half a day or more waiting for my car's a/c condenser to be repaired. Surprise  - shortly after I arrived, the main repair man, tossed me the keys to a shiny silver Honda Accord, saying, "Go have some fun".  That was it; no paperwork, no fuss. just "Go have some fun".  If you insist kind sir!

I headed for the northern district of Saguaro National Park, not too far away, and having the advantage I'd never visited the site before. Soon I was smiling up at a ranger in a kiosk, and driving onto an 8 mile auto loop.
Close up from topmost photo

One of the first things I noticed was a flicker, pecking at Saguaro cacti flowers. I stared at one bird through my binoculars and it occured to me - that's not a Northern Flicker... it's a Guilded Flicker - WHOOO HOOOOO - LIFER BIRD!

I had barely considered the possiblity of seeing a Guilded Flicker on this trip to Arizona so the surprise was real.

There were plenty of other birds as well. I watched a male Gambel's quail calling stubbornly & insistently from a shrub.

For a while I even gave chase to a small group of Pyhroloxia - a sort of cross between a Northern Cardinal and a parrot. I couldn't manage a clear shot of any of them as they stuck to hiding in the mesquite shrubs.

Tiny Verdin - a desert tit (Hey! Stop giggling.)
Later in the morning I drove slowly over a cement dip in the road, that crossed a dry river bed. As I moved I caught sight of bird, hidden in shubbery and managed to get my binoculars on it. I watched as a drab gray bird with white wing bars and white eyebrows (supercillium). The tiny mite was singing its hear out. Rats... I knew, either I was watching a Gray Flycatcher or a gray Bell's Vireo. I could have either grabbed for my camera or my iPhone, but for some reason I went for the later. I tuned into the song of Bell's Vireo - exact match! I was watching a spring Bell's Vireo singing its territorial song. HURRAH: a second unexpected Lifer bird for the day. ID cinched, I grabbed for my camera but the vireo took off. I hunted in the shrubs for a good half hour but never relocated it. Sadly, no photo, but a well cinched ID.

No Bell's Vireo photo, but I did find a Verdin's nest
Happy with two lifer birds, I drove around the rest of the eight mile drive loop. Every time I found a Saguaro Cactus stand, I stubbornly checked each and every knot hole. The holes in the Saguaro are made by the Guilded Flickers who may or may not nest in holes they make. The holes don't go to waste though as many other birds use the cavities for nesting.

I was near the end of the auto loop, when as I raised my binoculars to view yet another knot hole,  I muttered audibly to myself "Why can't I, just for once, look up at an effing hole and see a..."

And there it was!

Look who's home!
 Siting on its little doorstep, was a tiny Elf Owl - a Lifer bird I have looked for over many years and until now never have found.

Close up of cranky looking Elf Owl
What a thrill - the minute Owl really caught me by surprise. I quickly shot several pix of the bird. Then, as I finally watched it again, through my binoculars, the bird took a step backwards, then dropped out of sight, much as if it'd hit the down button on an elevator.

Three lifer birds, and here I thought I was going to be sitting & being bored in a tiny repair shop customer waiting room. No wonder I always say I'm the luckiest birder on the planet.  Oh - and my car's air conditioning? Blowing billows and billows of wonderfully cool air once again, thankyouverymuch Prudence Car Care Honda. I owe you three lifers and a boatload of thanks.   

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