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Day 6 (Wednesday, 21st May)

Map of Nogales area

Kino Springs

Say's Phoebe

Kino Springs entrance

Say's Phoebe

It only took us 10 minutes to arrive at Kino Springs from the Nogales motel, and we ticked off Say’s Phoebe as soon as we passed the entrance to the track leading to the golf club area. This was an immature bird, which was being attended by one of its parents. Not only was this predicted by the Lane guide (the species and not the family setup), but the other bird he made note of was also here – singing Varied Bunting on the other side of the dried up river bed, perched at the apex of one of the line of bushes. Scoping the bird revealed the expected – black overall, with slightly lighter edges to the wing feathers, not the more vivid colours which can be occasionally seen in better light. With Phainopepla and Lucy’s Warbler evident, we decided to park up and start our day’s birding here. Parking off track was a good idea, since some cars and vans were already out and about, and weren’t taking any prisoners with their speed. Most of the birds were on the bush covered hill side of the track to the West, with Phainopepla the predominant species by number and activity. We had the strange sight of an Ash-throated Flycatcher mobbing a female Lesser Goldfinch all the way down to the ground. The first Hummingbird of the day was a superb male Costa’s, at the top of a bare tree half way up the hillside, proudly displaying the rather ridiculous “Speedy Gonzales” moustache. Shortly after, a male Vermilion Flycatcher flew in from the dry river bed, displaying in flight all the way over to the hillside.

The first pond of Kino Springs is only about half a mile along this dirt track. The dry pond certainly didn’t stop some good birding at an interesting site. Even from the parked car we had singing Song Sparrow and Yellow-breasted Chat in the open, Cassin’s Kingbird overhead, and various types of bird song from all directions. The centre and rear of the pond, to the East, was even better. As we walked around here, there were numerous Brown-crested Flycatchers, Summer Tanagers, and Curve-billed Thrasher, with Yellow and Wilson’s Warblers overhead. Approaching the rear of the pond found “Yellow-breasted Chat city”, with 6 birds in view at one particular time. Warbling Vireos were setting up singing territories here, along with many Lucy’s Warblers, and busy Bewick’s Wrens foraging in and out of the basement vegetation. The mesquite and low thorn scrub that we found to the rear of the pond continued to be alive with birdlife, with more Lucy’s & Wilson’s Warblers, and Yellow-breasted Chats. We were easily fooled by the exotic drooping song of a Northern Cardinal, which sounded novel until the bird put in an appearance. Red-eyed Vireo is supposed to be very difficult to see on this side of the States, but we found a second at this location. The track was followed to the dry river bed – it’s hard to imagine this ever containing water, never mind enough to form banks about 30 metres apart. Growing plants along the bed aided the dry argument, but there were one or two darker patches which may have indicated more recent water presence. Slightly different birds here were Canyon Towhees, and Ladder-backed Woodpecker over, which then landed briefly on a dead tree. The most abundant bird was Lucy’s Warbler, the vast majority of which seemed grey all over, with little if any distinguishing marks.

First Pond

First Pond

First pond

Thornbush behind first pond

Yellow-breasted Chat

Curve-billed Thrasher

Yellow-breasted Chat

Curve-billed Thrasher

Bewick's Wren

Lucy's Warbler

Bewick's Wren

Lucy's Warbler

The purpose of the track was to lead to Kino Springs, which is a golf course, restaurant, and country club. As usual with this type of development in desert areas, it provides a more open and lush oasis for the wildlife, although we had apparently arrived during an unusually dry spell. A Gilded Flicker was the first bird seen, preceding the numerous Cassin’s Kingbirds, Starlings, Brown-headed Cowbirds, Barn & Cliff Swallows. The second pool is directly to the front of the restaurant, the nearest edge being dry, and stagnant water to the far end. The trees in the drier part were supporting a Grey Hawk’s nest, as well as Vermilion Flycatchers. The water was quiet for birds, apart from a single Great Blue Heron which flew in. More Brown-crested Flycatchers and Cassin’s Kingbirds were watched here, before we located the nest of Vermilion Flycatcher – the female incubating while the male watched on. The putting greens and lawns around the clubhouse were good for Sparrows, with small collections of White-crowned, single Rufous-crowned, and a pair of Lark Sparrows in conifers.

Golf course

Golf course

Golf course clubhouse

Fairways in front of clubhouse

Gilded Flicker

Grey Hawk

Gilded Flicker

Grey Hawk

Vermilion Flycatcher

Vermilion Flycatcher

Male Vermilion Flycatcher

Female Vermilion Flycatcher

Lake

Lake

Lake from Eastern shore

Reeded Eastern shore of lake

Trail

Trail

Trail through thornbush

Wooded part of trail

We went here more in the hope of catching up with Empidonax flycatchers than aquatic species. It was even something of a surprise to see a body of water – the lake stretches for 2-3 miles, and is fringed along most of the shore by trees, with reeds at the upper East end. A mix of 18 Double-crested & Neotropic Cormorants were perched towards the centre of the lake here. Only one of these – a Double-crested – was in full breeding plumage, although one of the Neotropics sported white ear tufts, and the difference in size was obvious. The car was parked at the beginning of the Trailhead Walk, which progressed for about half a mile towards the reeded East of the lake. It was here that we had the initial look at the Cormorants. The first 100 metres or so was through low thorn scrub – this was very hot and quiet. It then descended to shaded woodland. First find was our second Verdin nest, with the birds actively building, with singing Warbling Vireo nearby. Lucy’s Warblers were also here, naturally. We continued on through the trees, where the track opened slightly to horse pasture, and crossed a small stream. There proved to be many Flycatchers around, but all were a mix of adult and juvenile Vermilion. A single Woodpecker landing nearby was Ladder-backed. A Green Heron frequented the stream. Overhead, amongst the circling Turkey Vultures, was a lone Grey Hawk.

The edge of the reed beds were reached via a precarious arrangement of logs across acrid mud (thankfully mainly dry). It was a worthwhile balancing act, resulting in close White-faced Ibis, Spotted Sandpiper, pairs of Redhead & Ruddy Duck, and numerous American Coots. The Cormorant collection was very much closer. Hot and aching feet would have welcomed a dip in the cooling waters of the lake, but one look at the slime and smelly mud at the edges was more than a put off. It had to wait to later (and did!).

Redhead

Cormorants

Redhead

Neotropic & Double-crested Cormorants

American Coot

Great-tailed Grackle

American Coot

Great-tailed Grackle

Patons feeders

Patons seating

Feeding area to rear of the Paton's home

Viewing fo the feeders

On to Patagonia, where we drove straight past the 4th Avenue turn for The Patons garden, but ended right outside the Nature Shop after completing our U-turn. We just had to have a look inside! Not only were there good books, but the owner was also very helpful.

We again aimed for The Patons garden, but were stopped half way along California Avenue by a couple of birders, who kindly pointed out a Thick-billed Kingbird in the large bare tree opposite. This is quite an impressive flycatcher, being much more thickset in the body and bill than the kingird species already seen. It does have a hint of yellow on the belly, and the bill is reminiscent of Couch’s Kingbird of Central America, although it is even longer and thicker.

We eventually pulled up at the renowned and much anticipated Patons home, and it was everything that we expected. It was typical of the birding hospitality that we had already received, that the Patons set up their own back yard with ummingbird feeders at the rear of the property, and seed feeders at either end of the garden. They had erected “Birders Welcome” signs, and even a sun canopy with three rows of seats, and ID books provided. The garden is mainly famous as one of the best sites in the country for Violet-crowned Hummingbird, as well as the rarities that make occasional appearances, rather than the variety and numbers of birds (this tends to increase with altitude). The Beatty’s home was the place for the latter, yet this was again hummingbird watching par excellence. The species we saw here were Violet-crowned, Broad-billed, & Black-chinned. The former was represented by at least 2 individuals, which show variation in plumage, one being more drab than the other, and they favoured one or two particular feeders. The garden was also good for many other birds: a bold, strutting Bronzed Cowbird was parading among the more common Brown-headed; Sparrows were White-crowned, Rufous-crowned & Lark; Inca & Common Ground-dove; Black-headed Grosbeak, and Bewick’s Wren, which may well have been nesting in one of the nest boxes. On the large tree between the feeders, we also had Gila Woodpecker and White-breasted Nuthatch. Unbelievably, our first Acorn Woodpecker of the day was at the far end of the garden. Another pleasant surprise was that we were the only birders here for most of the afternoon. We stayed until late in the afternoon, when the crowds started to appear.

Broad-billed Hummingbird

Violet-crowned Hummingbird

Broad-billed Hummingbird

Violet-crowned Hummingbird

Bronzed Cowbird

Lesser Goldfinch

Bronzed Cowbird

Lesser Goldfinch

White-beasted Nuthatch

Gila Woodpecker

White-breasted Nuthatch

Gila Woodpecker

Inca Dove

Lark Sparrow

Inca Dove

Lark Sparrow

The Patagonia Roadside rest was visited briefly on the way back to the hotel, more in hope than expectation at this time of the day. Yet we did find our first, and last, Cedar Waxwings of the trip, and one or two other species as we walked. We dug up male and female Broad-billed Hummingbird, and probably the brightest male Western Tanager so far. It’s surprising how such a colourful bird can disappear in small bushes. Other birds at this time were Lucy’s Warbler, Warbling Vireo, and American Kestrel overhead. As luck would have it, we were just about to get into the car to leave, when a Rock Wren appeared a little way down the lay-by. This was also to be the first and last of the trip!

Home

Paintings gallery

Video clips

Images

DVD

Contact

Site map

Links

Content

Introduction

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4

Day 5

Day 6

Day 7

Species list

Text only