David McDonald Photography
November 10, 2008
Bulletin #56 – Southeast Arizona #1
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.
There are 3 species of woodpeckers that are almost unique to Arizona. One doesn’t occur in the Patagonia area (Gilded Flicker). We didn’t find the Arizona Woodpecker despite diligent searching high in the mountains, but we easily located the Gila Woodpecker (Melanerpes uropygialis). It has the typical zebra-backed stripes like the Red-bellied Woodpecker. The male has only a small round red skull cap like patch on his head and the female has no red at all. They also have a bright yellow belly – a field mark not shown in the books, but very noticeable. Here are a photo of the male and the then the female in a hackberry tree.
http://www.pbase.com/image/105787838 click ‘next’ once
We located 2 birds in the chickadee family. Both are very local to the area and both were life birds for me.
The Mexican Chickadee (Poecile gambeli) lives only in the Chiricahua Mountains of SE Arizona along the New Mexico border. As they are not migratory, you have to go there to find them. It is like most chickadees with a black cap and throat. What is different about this bird is the throat patch extends down onto the chest and the flanks are gray.
The Bridled Titmouse (Baeolophus wollweberi) has a unique black and white striped facial pattern – unmistakable.
The only wren that I had not photographed was the Rock Wren (Salpinctes obsoletus) and we found it easily. It is a rather drab gray wren.
Lastly, what made the trip memorable was looking for owls. I had specifically asked the guide to help me photograph some owls. We succeeded in spades. All 3 owls photographed were life birds.
The most exciting was finding the endangered Spotted Owl (Strix occidentalis) in daylight, as Matt had located a pair in a canyon that required only a ¼ mile hike from the end of the road.
The other 2 were smaller screech owls. The Whiskered Screech-Owl (Otus trichopsis) is a small (7.25”) Mexican species that just barely makes its range into the mountains of southeast Arizona. He has vertical black stripes with some horizontal cross hatches on the breast. Compare this to the other owl below.
The last one was the slightly larger (8.5”) Western Screech-Owl (Otus kennicottii). This owl occurs all across western North America. He perched nicely on a bare branch for his photo. Notice he just has faint vertical stripes but no cross hatching.
All comments and suggestions are welcomed and appreciated.
Happy birding and photography,
photos copyright 2006 - 2008 David McDonald