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Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The Game is Afoot!

Male Black-chinned Hummingbird
Not a Plain Cap, but lovely just the same
Um... more like 'the Game is Awing', the game being chasing rare birds, a potentially ignoble sport. My excuse is that last year, just after I left southeastern Arizona, just when I was patting myself on the back for a successful birding trip, a contingent of Plain-capped Starthroat Hummingbirds alighted in many of the places I'd just vacated. It was as if I left a vacuum the little birds decided must be filled on my departure. Little %&#ers. Annoyed as hell, I swore, when the Plain-capped Starthroats returned in 2015, I would race down, on-the-spot to see them.

A year passed. I have waited patiently. Finally, earlier this month one singular Plain-cap showed up at Madera Canyon, a canyon magnificently bereft of anyone named Claire. So yesterday I spent much of yesterday flying from Sacto to Los Angeles where my flight was inexplicably held up 2 hours. UGH! Finally I arrived, tired and slightly cranky in Tucson. I rented a car and sped over to Madera Canyon where I took possession of a little rented Casita room at the famous birder's venue, the Santa Rita Lodge. The lodge is famous for having a seating area set up for birders where they can sit and watch umpteen species of hummingbirds and other local flora and fauna feed. V. convenient arrangement all around.

Canyon Wren that flew in for a look-see
Dropping my gear in my room, I raced to the Lodge's bird feeding area where, so help me, a very nice lady informed me that the Plain-capped Starthroat had arrived. Then it had flown away. This, only twenty minutes prior to the arrival of a birder with the name, Claire. %#^$~!!!! It instantly dawned on me, if my flight hadn't been delayed 2 hours, I would have been in place to see the Plain-cap.  Still, not giving up hope for a glimpse of my target, I sat down and stayed put until sundown. Alas, no Plain-Capped Starthroat.  I keep telling myself, 'Maybe tomorrow?' Uh.. no such luck for today at least. But meanwhile there are scads of other birds to gawk at and capture on digital.
No matter how many feeders are put in there will be squabbles
Male Broad-billed Hummingbirds in a face off
Male Hepatic Tanager on Suet Feeder
A girlie Hepatic Tanager - as yellow as the male was red - flew in for some suet too
'Yeah, I'm pretty damned cute' muses a cheeky Broad-billed Hummer
Arizona Woodpecker - a girlie as she hasn't a red patch on her noggin
Unexpected mad eyed devil; a male Bronzed Cowbird
I love my birdies of course, but don't think I turn my nose up at mammals. I spotted quite a few of these handsome rodents darting about, also enjoying the bird seed and grain. I asked around but no one knew what they were. I later looked them up on my iPhone Audubon Mammal app. Yay! My first Yellow-nosed Cotton Rat, a new mammal for me.
Yellow-nosed Cotton Rat
Cool! Oh, and the drive in and out of Madera Canyon can't be done without seeing at least one or two Coues White-tail Deer.

Shy Coues White-tail Doe
Now, there were loads of birds I saw at Santa Rita Lodge that I didn't mention, solely because I can see them at home in California, like Acorn Woodpeckers, House Wrens, Lesser Goldfinches, House Finches. Black-headed and Blue Grosbeaks. There are also birds that while not normally found in California, they are so common here in Arizona that after a while my brain stops recording them, such as the numerous White-winged Doves. I'll show pictures of some of the above mentioned when/if I get nice shots of them.

Midday I drove to the bottom on Madera Canyon where it is warmer than at the top of the canyon. I became enchanted by the numerous butterflies there, all of which are new to me and had to be looked up on line. Butterflies are even more difficult to photograph than birds sometimes as some of them never seem to sit down and hold-the-hell still.

Arizona Metalmark
Reakirt's Blues
left, a Leda's Ministreak, on the right, uh...
None of my butterfly shots are too sharp as I never have the depth of field focus adjusted to the situation. *sigh* Which is why I am hold the duel title of world's laziest birder & world's laziest butterfly watcher.

After sundown I again went to the bottom of Madera Canyon and there spotted a couple of Lesser Nighthawks out for a wing around the desert. The shots I got were rather dark but I intend to get a better picture or two by Monday, when I leave Arizona. This is only a short visit, and there really ought not have been a visit in the first place, but had to have a try at seeing a Plain-capped Starthroat. This is probably the guiltiest last second birding trip for me ever. Oh well. People fly to Las Vegas for less noble reasons, wrote the judgmental woman.

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