I love east coast birding. Central Park and the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, especially, are my backyards. But twice a year I get to visit my daughter Lara and son-in-law Ed in Tucson, Arizona. I have amazing birding buddies out there, chief of whom is my great friend John. He’s not young, either, so we bird every other day and rest in between. We got to nine of east Arizona’s best birding places, including the canyons of Fort Huachuca, Mount Lemmon, Empire Ranch’s grasslands and riparian Area, Lakes Patagonia and Pena Blanca, and the Wilcox Playa. I was there for most of July, and the shorebird display at Wilcox on the 22nd was the perfect birthday gift – 15 species, including my state Red Knot (a good bird in Arizona), Pectoral Sandpiper (a good bird in July), and Long-billed Curlew just because I like them.
Warblers were all too scarce in the mountains this year. Flycatchers were abundant everywhere and most were feeding newly-fledged young. My friend Kim spotted a Scissor-tailed Flycatcher near the road to the Arivaca Cienega, a really good bird in Arizona. I also got eight life butterflies, mainly in Garden and Huachuca Canyons, including Ares Metalmark, and Huachuca Giant-Skipper, plus four life dragonflies including Red-tailed Pennant and Riffle Darner, and two life damsel flies, including Blue-ringed Dancer.
One morning at dawn we had two Collared Peccaries (wild pigs) in the grassland. Many herps scampered across our paths. Vacations just aren’t long enough, are they? By the way, if you heading for southeast Arizona, there are two excellent books on birding sites there. Just visit the Tucson Audubon Society Nature Shop and get either Finding Birds in Southeast Arizona, published by them, or Richard Cachor Taylor’s A Birder’s Guide to Southeastern Arizona, which is equally good.
I found a really good bird that probably isn’t. At the entrance to the riparian part of Empire Ranch, I spotted an all-gray bird with a longish tail. It looked familiar, but not from this country. I finally realized it was a Slate-colored Solitaire, a bird of Mexican cloud forest. I was thrilled. However, any of you who have traveled to Mexico will have seen small cages with landbirds in them for sale in front of any grocery store. The origin of the bird I found cannot be proved one way or the other. At any rate, I wish that bird a good life. See you in the Park!