Thursday, November 27, 2008

Bulletin #58 – Southeast Arizona #3

David McDonald Photography
Friendswood Texas
November 27, 2008

Bulletin #58 – Southeast Arizona #3

Happy Thanksgiving,

Southeast Arizona is one of those unique birding areas in the USA where Mexican species extend their range into the USA. I had birded there once before on my own, but I went back to take photographs of the birds and hired a guide to maximize my time.

The local guide was Matt Brown in Patagonia AZ. His web site is
I highly recommend Matt if you need a guide out there, as he knows the birds and where to locate them.

I got photos of 3 birds with ‘lark’ in their name.

The first is the Horned Lark (Eremophila alpestris). This distinctive bird occurs throughout North America. The black and yellow facial pattern are the ID mark. The horns are just tufts that are only seen if a breeze makes then stand out. The photo is of a male. The female has a less boldly patterned face.

There were several members of the sparrow family – 2 of which were shown in the previous bulletin.

The Lark Sparrow (Chondestes grammacus) has only a black spot on his breast – no streaking. His boldly patterned face is the other field mark.This is a 1st winter bird. The pattern is more muted than the adult. There is buff color in the stripe above and behind the eye. The adult would have the stripe all white.

The Lark Bunting (Calamospiza melanocorys) is a large (7”) sparrow. The breeding male is unique as he is all black with large white wing patches. In winter the male is a dark streaked sparrow with black and white stripes on the wing. Even with his head turned away, you can ID this bird in the first photo. The second shows a first winter male. He has a patterned face resembling the Lark Sparrow above, but has a large bill, and has black on his wings with buff rather than white. click ‘next’ once

The Canyon Towhee (Pipilo fuscus) was a life bird. It is a plain gay brown sparrow with rufous cap and undertail and central black breast spot. click ‘next’ once

We saw several warbler species including this female Black-throated Gray Warbler (Dendroica nigrescens). This was only me second sighting of this bird. The male has a black throat but in the female it is grayer. The unusual marking is the little yellow spot on the face. It can be seen in the first photo. But in the second she has turned to face the camera and the sun caught the 2 spots and lit them up like headlights. click ‘next’ once

I was also lucky to get a photo of this Greater Roadrunner (Geococcyx californianus) perched in a bare tree at the side of the road. I got out of the car and just took the photos with the camera resting on the car for support, so as not to frighten the bird.

One of the more inspiring sights was the large number of wintering Sandhill Cranes (Grus canadensis). At first, there were several groups flying around in the typical V flock.

A short time later, something must have spooked the birds in the valley as literally thousands of cranes rose into the air.

Some of them flew directly over where we were standing.

I also photographed the 2 local squirrel species.

The Arizona Gray Squirrel (Scurius arizonensis) looks like the other Gray squirrels in the USA and lives in trees.

The Rock Squirrel (Spermophilus variegates) is a ground dwelling squirrel that lives in tunnels in the ground. Occasionallly they will climb low trees. I had tried to photo several on the ground, but they always ran out of sight before I could get the caera ready. Well fortunately, we found one in a small bare tree beside the road as we were driving and I got this photo. He has a mottled pattern on his back.

All comments and suggestions are welcomed and appreciated.

Happy birding and photography,

David McDonald

photos copyright 2006 - 2008 David McDonald

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