Desk-bound Nature Lover

My Blog: Occasional postings about the joys of birding, hiking, camping, and sightseeing.

My life: I spend most of my days in offices, looking at a computer screen, and waiting for those few weekends when I can get out and enjoy some remnant of our precious natural heritage. But, boy, do I live on those weekends!

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

ENSBC Trip to New Mexico and Arizona – January 21-30, 2011

Offering a temporary escape from the Illinois winter, Dave Johnson organized a trip to New Mexico and Arizona for some southwestern birding. Fourteen people signed up for this trip, including me. Our group tallied 178 species during nearly 10 days of birding, with 93 species in New Mexico and 155 species in Arizona.

The first leg of our trip was in New Mexico. Our guide during this time was an excellent young local birder, Raymond VanBuskirk. Raymond, a student at University of New Mexico, was featured in the May-June, 2010 issue of Audubon Magazine for his work banding and studying the three species of Rosy-finch which winter in the Sandia Mountains just east of Albuquerque. With his help, we had three exciting days in the desert canyons east of Albuquerque, the wetlands of Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, and, best of all, high above Albuquerque in Sandia Crest House where we sat in the comfort of a cafeteria, watching flocks of all three species of Rosy-finch fly in to the feeders and Raymond’s team banding and measuring the birds. Several in our group got to hold and release the Rosy-finches.

On the 4th day of our trip, we drove from Albuquerque to Phoenix. Our remaining days were spent in Arizona.

Our guides in Arizona were Karen Zipser, Diane Touret, and Michael Marsden. We met Karen and Diane near the town of Buckeye, at an otherwise non-descript point in the desert known to have three species of Thrashers: Crissal, Bendire’s and LeConte’s. The LeConte’s is a particularly fine find for Arizona.

From there, we headed south to the Tucson area, and, in an agricultural area called Santa Cruz Flats, we were treated to: a Burrowing Owl peeking out from under a broken irrigation tile; Mountain Plovers foraging with American Pipits and Horned Larks on a sod farm; and a Rufous-backed Robin in a fruit tree, trying to stay out of reach of an aggressive Mockingbird. At some cattle pens nearby, we observed four rare Ruddy Ground-Doves.

Over the next few days, we visited some of the famous hot spots in southeastern Arizona, including the canyons of the Huachuca Mountains, Patagonia Lake, and Madera Canyon in the Santa Rita Mountains. Our time in Madera Canyon got us some spectacular birds, including an Elegant Trogon, a Magnificent Hummingbird, Painted Redstarts, and Hepatic Tanagers.

Near the end of our outing, I paid with blood for my first sight of a Costa’s Hummingbird. I wandered into the brush and encountered a species of cactus known as the Jumping Cholla. It clings to a person at the slightest touch and every move you make puts you into contact with more sharp spines. Fortunately, I had a small pair of pliers with me, and succeeded in removing all the cactus spines by early evening. Such are the things which make travel memorable!


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