Thursday, September 30, 2010

Arizona IBA Team Visits Patagonia Mountains

By Jennie MacFarland
On September 17th, the intrepid Important Bird Area team headed out once more to survey birds. This time we ventured into the exotic wilderness of the Patagonia Mountains. As we cruised up Harshaw Road, higher and higher into the mountains, we were pleasantly surprised by an amazing drop in the temperature. Everything was going well and spirits were high and then we hit our first road block. The road was literally blocked by a huge fallen tree. After we all got out of the car and had a look, we decided to try to drive around it. This involved moving some rocks and trying to kick out a small pine stump. Once we had successfully cleared this obstacle we had to ford a small stream, which involved moving more rocks. After successfully thwarting all of these obstacles, we reached our campsite and set up.

After dinner we conducted some nocturnal bird surveys as darkness fell. We heard several Common Poorwills calling from different directions and also what sounded like a sleepy frog croaking out a ‘good night.’ We then walked down the road to conduct our next survey and hit paydirt! There was another Common Poorwill calling and then the sharp-eyed Matt Griffiths spotted a small owl which turned out to be a Whiskered Screech owl once we shined a light on it. As we were leaving the area, we noticed a funny shaped silhouette at the top of a tree that turned out to be a turkey vulture that we had awakened! We also heard one Great Horned Owl and several Elf Owls, including one right in our campsite that had not quite mastered his call. What a good night for raptors!
Bright and early the next morning, the two teams conducted their surveys. Jim Hays and Jennie MacFarland surveyed Mowry Wash, a beautiful stream area. There were many interesting birds to be found here. Dusky-capped Flycatchers were singing all over and several Arizona Woodpeckers were both seen and heard. A large snag was filled with arguing Chipping Sparrows who were constantly chasing each other. We also saw migrants such as Black-throated Gray Warbler and Orange-crowned Warbler.

The other intrepid team of surveyors consisting of Scott Wilbor and Matt Griffiths explored Finley and Adams Canyon in pursuit of feathered friends. They spotted many cool birds including Peregrine Falcon, Band-tailed Pigeon, Hutton’s Vireo and two Western Wood-Pewees. All in all, it was a beautiful morning to be birding in the Patagonia Mountains. This was a terrific back-country adventure in the pursuit of avian data to help the Important Bird Area program. If you are interested in putting your birding skills to use in helping to protect birds while having a great time in beautiful locations, contact the Tucson Audubon Society IBA office at 629-0510 x7004 or x7005 or visit our website at We have several events coming up, including a training workshop on November 20 and December 4 as well as the fun Bird Blitz for Conservation on November 13; this is the perfect time to get involved in this great program. Let’s go birding together!

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