Friday, September 28, 2012

September Volunteer Shout-Out

Looking at the volunteers behind our programs

by Kara Kaczmarzyk
In the last issue of the Vermilion Flycatcher, Olga Harbour’s smiling face graced multiple pages. It’s indicative of her volunteer spirit; she cheerfully helps in so many places! From volunteering at tabling events like Wings Over Willcox, to being a crew member (the mailing crew, that is), to recently working with Sherry Massie to prepare the new Tucson Audubon library, Olga is always eager to assist. Well, unless she’s traveling, and she does this quite a bit with her husband Bob.  The most recent camping trip I can recall was Big Bend, but she loves visiting Colorado too and I’m sure she’s traveled since then. Olga also volunteers at the Desert Museum, in their digital library among other areas. See photo credits in Olga’s name at this link! She is a highly skilled, avid birder who got her start in New Jersey, but is also active on the online birding community, with a presence on and BirdChat. Come to say hi to Olga and her husband Bob at an upcoming Birds and Beer night.  

Judy Calvert, like Olga, has volunteered all over Tucson Audubon. A few years ago, she held a weekly shift in our Nature Shop, but now prefers new faces and new places. Both she gets through the many tabling events that she does through the year. She was the first contact for many incoming Tucson Bird and Wildlife Festival attendees, as she staffed the registration room multiple days. If you’ve visited Wings Over Willcox, the Tucson Festival of Books, or the Santa Cruz Nature and Heritage Festival, she was there too! It’s clear that Judy knows her stuff, and is always connecting with birders about the latest and greatest birding spots. Tucson Audubon Society is only one of her many interests.  She also has a passion for gardening, and has been part of the Tucson Cactus and Succulent Society, The Gardeners of Tucson, and more. I hear she has a stunning personal garden, check out the coverage in the archives of Tucson Citizen at this link. Pick a seat next to Judy at an upcoming Living with Nature lecture.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Chiricahua Mountains IBA Survey Expedition

by Jennie MacFarland, IBA Conservation Biologist

The weekend of September 7-9, 2012 the Important Bird Area crew headed to the Chiricahua Mountains to survey this famous birding area. This area became an IBA early in the program and due to this area’s good numbers of nesting Mexican Spotted Owls, this is a Global IBA, one of eight in the state. 
The view from Sunny Flats Campground
The infamous fires of two summers ago had in the minds of many birders taken this area out of commission as a birding destination. I had not been to the Chiricahuas since those devastating fires and was personally expecting a moonscape. Much to my surprise and delight, this was not the situation at all! We camped at Sunny Flats which was gorgeous and under populated by other campers. 
South Fork (M Griffiths)
Hummingbirds at Southwest Research Station
The first morning of surveying we stayed in the lower elevations and South Fork produced lots of good birds including a single, silent Elegant Trogon (a lifer for a member of the crew!). Herb Martyr trail and Cave Creek were also pretty birdy considering the rainy weather. These lower elevations were largely unscathed by the fires so this wasn’t much of a surprise.
Turkey Creek (M Griffiths)
Rustler Park
The real surprise came on Sunday morning when we did the higher elevations. Turkey Creek had definitely been altered, not only by the fire but also by the flooding that occurred directly after. This creek was much deeper and pretty badly eroded. However, the birds didn’t seem to mind and many migrating warblers were detected. 
Rustler Park showing some living trees
Barfoot Park looked impacted, but nearly as much as I had imagined. You could tell a fire had come through, but the majority of the trees were healthy looking and all of the bird species one would have hoped for in the past were present.
The location that I dreaded seeing, Rustler Park, also had some hopeful surprises. This area had clearly been severely burned, but far more trees than I had expected survived. With a more open understory there was also a breathtaking amount of beautiful flowers everywhere. Our survey route began at the closed campground and headed downhill along the road. This area was shockingly birdy. There are patches of large ponderosa pines that survived, some are singed on the edges but appear healthy. Not only did we find prized rarities of the range such as Mexican Chickadee, we had a roving flock of Red Cross-bills and mixed flocks of warblers, juncos and Chipping Sparrows. 
Spiney Lizard using burned tree
This was an amazing experience, some of the best birding I had done in some time. Overall this was a successful survey and I certainly am glad that I saw for myself how this area is still important for birds. 
Black Bear spotted on drive out
"Cochise's Face"
 Special thanks to the amazing IBA crew that made this survey possible: Scott Wilbor, Tim Helentjaris, Matt Griffiths, Matt Brooks, Larry Brooks, Jack Ruggirello and Linda Stitzer. It was awesome to hang out with you guys, you were a terrific camping group and not only did we gather great data because of your amazing skills, I had a terrific time! Thank you!!!
The crew relaxing around the campfire (J Ruggirello)

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Urban Birds - Roy P. Drachman Agua Caliente Park

By Kendall Kroesen
From the Vermilion Vaults
Originally appeared: October 2005 issue

Its name says most of what you need to know about Agua Caliente Park—“hot water.” A warm spring surfaces here and runs down a creek to feed three ponds. The ponds are great places to see waterfowl, and there are plenty of other birds to search for in the park.

The park has been a ranch and a health resort. Now it is a county park with lots of places to watch birds, hike, and have picnics. In fall, look for the arrival of ducks such as American Wigeon, Northern Shoveler, Ruddy Duck, and Wood Duck. Migrating Western Grebes, Pied-billed Grebes, and Spotted Sandpipers might also be spotted around the ponds. Migrant songbirds like Orange-crowned and Nashville Warblers, and Lazuli Buntings may turn up in trees and bushes. A walk on the trail past the north end of the first pond is a particularly good way to look for these migrants.

Many of the ducks stay for the winter. Other birds also spend the winter here, such as Yellow-rumped Warblers, White-crowned Sparrows, Red-naped Sapsuckers and Ruby-crowned Kinglets. Look for wintering Marsh Wrens hiding in the cattails around the edge of the ponds.

In the spring, many species return to the park to build nests and find a mate. In the trees north of the ranch buildings look for brilliant Vermilion Flycatchers as they make sorties to catch insects on the wing. The park is also known as a prime site for Northern Beardless-Tyrannulets, a bird best found by following its loud voice.

Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet by Jim Prudente

Pima County Natural Resources, Parks and Recreation sponsors many education events at the park, including beginnin bird walks on Tuesdays (Wake Up With the Birds, now THURSDAYS, call 615-7855 for more information). Be sure and visit the new Tucson Audubon Nature Shop located at the park (760-7881).

To get there from Tucson, go east on Tanque Verde Road and north (left) on Soldier Trail. Turn right (east) on Roger Road and look for the entrance to the park on your left.