Friday, August 7, 2009

Bulletin #88 – SE Arizona #6

David McDonald Photography
Friendswood Texas
August 7, 2009

Bulletin #88 – SE Arizona #6

Hello friends,

I returned to Tucson AZ for another weekend of birding and photography to try and finish up on the areas birds. They are many summering migrants, which would be lifers for me.

I used my 2 previous guides for this trip.

Matt Brown is in Patagonia AZ. Here is his web site.

Melody Kehl is in Tucson AZ. Here is her web site.

Both guides I recommend highly. I have used them twice each. They know where the birds are and can maximize your time and effort.

I would like to extend a warm welcome to the members of the camera club at The Woodlands (TX) United Methodist Church. I gave a talk on bird photography to their club on August 3rd and about 2 dozen members signed up to receive these bulletins. Thank you!

Here's a tough question. When is a tanager not a tanager? The answer may be when it is in the ABA checklist area. Recently, the AOU has reclassified the genus piranga tanagers to be members of the Cardinalidae family (cardinals, grosbeaks etc). As all the usual ABA birds called tanagers (Scarlet, Summer, Hepatic, Western) and even the rare Flame-colored Tanager are all of the genus piranga, we in the USA and Canada now no longer have any tanager family birds (Thraupidae). I had read about this possibility for the past several years. It is based on DNA examination.

The whole classification of tanagers, finches and cardinals is in flux as DNA evidence is compared among these new world birds. Here is an interesting article by David Ringer discussing these findings.

This is by way of introduction of the next 2 birds - tanagers. The first is the Western Tanager (Piranga ludoviciana). The male is yellow with black wings and wing bars and a red head. In the second photo the bird has a small amount of red on the face and is probably a 1st year male. the female has not red at all.

The other is the rare Flame-colored Tanager (Piranga bidentata). This Mexican species is a regular visitor to Madera Canyon in AZ (at least 7 years) and occasionally to the Big Bend area of Texas (last year). This male has been coming to Madera Canyon for the summer and is usually the only bird of this species in the USA. This year he appears to have paired with a female Western Tanager and they are nesting. He is mostly orange with a dark mask.

Speaking of Cardinalidae birds, I got several of them. Here is a male Indigo Bunting (Passerina cyanea). He is all blue.

Compare this male Blue Grosbeak (Guiraca caerulea) with the bird above. This one has rusty wing bars and the blue is darker. The female in the second photo also has the buffy wing bars and no breast streaking.

The females of both similar grosbeak species were together at the same feeder and allowed a nice side-by-side plumage comparison.
The female Rose-breasted Grosbeak (Pheucticus ludovicianus) has a lot of heavy streaking on the breast. The bill is pale pink.

The female Black-headed Grosbeak (Pheucticus melanocephalus) has just a few fine streaks on the sides. The bill is bicolored with dark above and pale below

The female Bronzed Cowbird (Molothius aeneus) is all gray brown, but the red eye and heavy bill are the ID marks.

Here is White-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis). As you all know, they feed by climbing down tree trunks headfirst, picking insects from the bark. Here is one in the usual upside down posture.

The last bird was a Chihuahuan Raven (Corvus cryptoleucus). I found a group of probable juveniles as I was coming out of Madera Canyon.

The next day I found a nest with 3 large 'babies' in it.

The last photo is a large butterfly, the Giant Swallowtail (Papilo cresphontes). This large (5") butterfly is a common resident of southeastern and southwestern USA. It is often associated with citrus plants. This picture was taken in Madera canyon.

Happy birding and photography,

David McDonaldemail:

photos copyright 2009 David McDonald

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