Friday, May 3, 2013

Birdathon Big Week, What a Week it Was!


Last week, over 150 species were spotted during an incredible Birdathon Big Week! This year's Birdathoners came from all over to celebrate birds and conservation. They had a great time, too, as you can see from the excerpts of a couple of very different Big Day reports here...

Gila Woodpeckers

HI, I'M A EIGHT-YEAR-OLD TRYING TO RAISE MONEY TO HELP BIRDS AND THE TUCSON AUDUBON SOCIETY BECAUSE I THINK THAT WE NEED TO SUPPORT THEM.  BIRDS ARE A VERY IMPORTANT PART OF THE ECOSYSTEM BECAUSE SOME ARE OMNIVORES, SOME ARE PREDATORS, AND SOME ARE VEGETARIAN SO THEY HELP BALANCE THE FOOD CHAIN.  I ALSO LIKE BIRDS BECAUSE THEY ARE VERY FUN TO LOOK AT AND I THINK PEOPLE SHOULD CARE MORE ABOUT THEM BECAUSE THEY ARE ALIVE AND THEY ARE NATURE. PLEASE HELP ME TO RAISE MONEY FOR THE TUCSON AUDUBON SOCIETY BY SPONSORING MY TEAM IN THE BIRDATHON.  PLEASE PLEDGE $1.00 FOR EVERY BIRD SPECIES I CAN FIND ON APRIL 20TH.  I HOPE TO FIND ABOUT 20.   THANK YOU!

Update from Mom: On April 20th (Earth Day) my daughter woke up early and joined our friend and her birdathon team mate, Sandy Elers, at  Sweetwater.  There, she and Sandy found 22 bird species.  Later in the day they went out again to do a little "backyard" birding near Pima Wash.   There, they found another 10 species - 32 species total!  Highlights of the day included finding a Great Horned Owl on its nest.  Also, it was the end of the day and she and Sandy were lamenting that they hadn't found a Gila Woodpecker - their team mascot!  On cue, a Gila flew up onto the top of a nearby saguaro.  It was the last species they found.  My daughter thought it was saying, "good job!"  It was a great experience for her and doing it for Tucson Audubon was a special treat.  She surpassed her own expectations and learned a little bit about the bird diversity of our region.  Thanks to Sandy, all those who have supported her, and Tucson Audubon!

Tyrannulets, by Kendall Kroesen

(part 5 of 6)...Loosing Precious Hours to… Sleep 
We could have continued to search through the mountains and maybe find one of the owls we hadn’t seen: spotted owl, northern pygmy-owl or northern saw-whet owl. But that’s a relatively small number of species and we thought the better part of valor was to get some sleep and be strong for the following day.  
At least that’s what Janine and I thought, especially considering that it was about 11:45 p.m. and morning birds would start singing no later than 5 a.m. But I think Brian might have preferred to stay up. The last thing I remember as I got into my sleeping bag was Brian playing a recording of a northern saw-whet owl.  
The next thing I remember was Brian standing over me in the softest, earliest light of morning asking me if I had heard a wild turkey. It was not the kind of Wild Turkey conversation one normally has during a camping trip. It was a few minutes after 5 a.m.  
As I folded up my gear Brian was hearing a spotted towhee. As I poured my coffee Janine and Brian were identifying a Steller’s jay. The coffee was still warm. 
When I was ready to roll we walked up the road toward Mt. Bigelow, past some of the most beautiful pines and firs on the mountain. We probably kept this up too long, hurting our chances elsewhere later in the day. But it was a beautiful walk filled with the sounds and sights of redfaced warblers, hermit thrushes, golden-crowned kinglets, black-headed grosbeaks, red-breasted nuthatches, brown creepers, broad-tailed hummingbirds, yellow-eyed juncos and many more.
Early morning is really the best time of day. We drove up the road to the picnic area at Syke’s Knob where we have been able increase our count in the past. Pretty quickly we saw a blue-gray gnatcatcher, western bluebird, violet-green swallow, pygmy nuthatch and zone-tailed hawk.  
On the way back down the mountain we got magnificent hummingbird at the feeder at the ranger station. At Rose Canyon we saw six additional species that were new to our list, including our first Cooper’s hawk and a beautiful Grace’s warbler.  
At Bear Canyon we picked up a few more mountain birds, including the attractive black-throated gray warbler and the melodious Scott’s oriole. 
The pickin’s were getting slim and we talked about what to do next. It was mid morning and we would have to start driving now to get to any other area with a new set of birds. We settled on driving straight to the town of Patagonia, Arizona. There would be riparian forests, oak forests, Patagonia Lake and the famed Paton home, where for decades birders have been welcome to come into a back yard full of bird feeders. 
It was getting dark as we drove across town toward the Mt. Lemmon Highway. The idea was to go up into the Santa Catalina Mountains and listen for birds active at night and then look for mountain birds in the morning.  

Before going up we stopped at a couple places on the east side of Tucson for owls found at lower elevations. We already had found burrowing owl and great horned owl, so we were now listening for barn owl, western screech-owl and elf owl. Barn owl was a little unlikely since they don’t vocalize a lot and we didn’t have any prior knowledge of where one might be nesting. (If we had time we would have done some scouting trips and asked around.)...


To donate to support this year's outstanding Birdathoners today, click here. To share your Big Day report, email kkaczmarzyk@tucsonaudubon.org.

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