Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Quebec City and Cap Tourmente

October 9-12, 2009
October 9, 2009

I had to work Friday morning and it was close to lunch time before we were able to get away from Toronto. The weather was dull, overcast, with periods of heavy rain at times. The drive along Highway 401 was fairly uneventful, but as soon as we arrived on the outskirts of Montreal we encountered stoppages and delays due to road construction and repairs, and progress was slow indeed. Realizing that we would not make it to Quebec at a reasonable hour we decided to spend the night in Montreal and leave early the next morning.
We were able to get a room at the P.-E. Trudeau Travelodge, but it turned out to be a sad choice. Our room was facing the highway and next to the vending machines. Sleep was an elusive commodity that night as the constant whine of traffic battled with the clank of cans hitting the bottom of the pop machines and the inebriated conversation of latecomers all night long.
Dinner was taken at a nearby Thai restaurant and was both excellent and reasonable.
Accomodation: Travelodge - Aeroport Montreal, 1010 Ch. Herron Dorval, QC H9S 1B3
Price: $89.90 plus taxes. Rating: 2 stars only; a room at the back might have rated higher.
October 10, 2009

Continental breakfast was included in the fee for the room and we ate at 06:30h. Mediocre would best describe the fare. No fruit, no yoghurt, mostly sickly pastries and donuts, with some cereal. I had a bagel and cream cheese, Miriam had hot oatmeal and we were on the road by 07:00h. We arrived at the Pont Mercier by 07:12h and despite it being reduced to one lane made good time across. A Great Blue Heron was the highlight from a birding perspective.
It was raining, sometimes with great intensity, and we were feeling a little gloomy given the awful weather. The closer we got to Quebec, however, the more the sky cleared and by the time we crossed the Pierre LaPorte Bridge from the south shore the sun was peeking through.
We called the B & B where we had reserved accommodation and were told that our room was ready and that we could park the car there and set off to explore Quebec City on foot. Since the B & B was centrally located we elected to do this.
The weather got progressively better and we had a marvellous time exploring old Quebec and had quite good birding in the parks in the old city and on the Plains of Abraham. There were many White-throated Sparrows, a Brown Creeper, Dark-eyed Juncos and a very confiding Hairy Woodpecker at arm’s length.
Our biggest disappointment was lunch. We ate at a bistro in the Vieux Quartier of Quebec and decided on those two most quintessential of Quebec dishes Soupe aux Pois and Poutine. The soup was awful, obviously from a can and heated in a microwave oven since it was scalding in places and cold in others. Poutine is an arterial nightmare, but not to be missed on a visit to Quebec. Sadly, this was everything that Poutine should not be. The fries, instead of being robust and crisp, able to withstand the onslaught of the gravy, becoming only coated and not absorbing the liquid, were instead drowned rather than fried and absorbed the gravy rendering everything a soggy mess. Furthermore, instead of traditional cheese curd they used cubes of cheese which promptly melted into the gravy forming a gelatinous goop. It was not vintage Poutine!
We returned to our B & B at around 17:00h and enjoyed a glass of Fuzion Shiraz before going out to dinner. The rue Cartier is an easy walk from the B & B and has no less than twenty-three restaurants. We selected an Indian restaurant called Garam Massala and enjoyed an excellent meal of Pappadum, Tandoori Chicken, Shrimp Korma, Aloo Peas, Rice Palao, Nan Bread and a fruit dessert. Service was good and we were well satisfied. It was delightful to walk back to the B & B where we retired to a good night’s sleep which was very welcome after the debacle the previous night at Dorval. Everything was quiet, we quickly fell asleep and didn’t waken until almost 06:00h the following morning.
Accommodation: Gite du Parc, 345, rue Fraser, Quebec, QC G1S1R2 Price: $115.00/night, all taxes included. Cash only. Rating: 4.5 stars.
October 11, 2009

Breakfast was a fine affair. Firstly (and most importantly) the coffee was very good! We were served orange juice, fruit and yoghurt, a three cheese omelette with ham, hot toast, and after we thought we had finished we were tempted by a little chocolate cake and pure, light, delicious Quebec maple syrup. How decadent is that?
Everything was prepared as each guest came in by Rene, the proprietor, and another convivial fellow who did most of the cooking. We were joined by a delightful young couple from Saskatchewan, Egan and Natasha, and two couples from France.
Right after breakfast we left for Ile d’Orleans in miserably cold, wet weather with the odd snowflake mixed in with the rain. We made a brief tour of the western part of the island, but the weather remained inclement and our birding opportunities were limited. There were only a few Ring-billed Gulls on the water, in an area where I have seen strays such as Black-legged Kittiwake in the past. We saw about a half dozen Great Blue Herons, all hunched over and looking dejected (anthropomorphism, I know) and a Golden-crowned Kinglet, as small highlights in a relatively birdless experience.
As we were leaving across the bridge we started to see a break in the dark sky and with the sun poking through, we drove to Cap Tourmente in high spirits. By the time we arrived there we had full sunshine and it was a pleasant day.
Cap Tourmente was the destination we had looked forward to the most. It is the first Ramsar Site in North America and is famed for the concentration of Snow Geese which stop there on their way farther south. Today we were in luck. We were advised at the gate that 38,000 Snow Geese were present. Many people had decided to visit, but most were non-birders without scopes or binoculars. We made our way to the viewing area and were enthralled with the activity taking place. Many geese were feeding but others were arriving and still others flushed and swirled in the sky, only to land again shortly afterwards. We never detected any falcon or other raptor that might have panicked them. We also saw only White morph geese; nary a Blue morph anywhere. What a marvellous spectacle it was and we enjoyed it for over an hour. Such spectacles of nature are truly heart-pounding events to be savoured and remembered. We were able to help others by explaining the reason for the geese being there, a little of their breeding biology etc. and everyone seemed appreciative, especially to look through our scope. If ever there was a time I was happy to speak fluent French that was it. Miriam panned the geese and locked onto a single Great Black-backed Gull and a flock of about twenty Buff-bellied (American) Pipits flew right over our heads.
We took our lunch by purchasing a steaming bowl of creamed carrot soup and eating it outside in front of a battery of bird feeders. How the weather had changed for the better from the morning! The feeders were very active and we saw Dark-eyed Junco, White-crowned Sparrow, White-throated Sparrow, Black-capped Chickadee and White-breasted Nuthatch. It should have been a decent day for raptor migration but, other than numerous Turkey Vultures, only a single Rough-legged Buzzard passed overhead.
On the way back to Quebec we stopped at Sainte-Anne de Beaupre and toured parts of the basilica and a couple of the other chapels. What an impressive location, rivalling many similar sites in Europe, ancient testaments to faith. We noticed an elderly woman prostrate at a station of the cross, only to follow the same procedure at the next station. Faith indeed. I doubt that her exultation could have been any greater than our joy at the Snow Geese, but she no doubt felt that she was securing a place in another realm.
Miriam had a hankering for a French pastry and coffee so we found a place on rue Cartier where she enjoyed a Moulin de Fruit and I a Baileys Cheese pastry. Oh how good they were!
We returned to our B & B and settled in for a glass of Chilean Carmen Merlot. Suddenly the wind picked up and for about ten minutes or so it was quite violent and rain and snow were whipped around. We had doubts about walking over for dinner, but it subsided as quickly as it had arisen and we strolled over to Graffiti, an elegant restaurant. We had promised ourselves one night of fine dining in Quebec and this was to be it. We shared a dish of duck prepared three ways, Miriam had a veal shank and I had an Angus steak. All was prepared and presented perfectly and was very tasty indeed. It was a little expensive but we were well satisfied and were very happy as we meandered back to the Gite du Parc. We chatted for a while and went to bed before 22:00h.
October 12, 2009

Breakfast was again quite fabulous. It started with the same fruit and yoghurt, delicious cold orange juice and hot, steaming coffee. This was followed by French toast with maple syrup. Again after we thought we were finished we succumbed to Rene’s offer of blueberry cake with yoghurt!
We bade farewell to our Saskatoon friends and went to collect our belongings to hit the road. We encountered numerous delays and what should have been an eight hour drive turned into an eleven hour grind. Autumnal extravagance was flaunted at every turn, the colours being stunning in bright sunshine. Skeins of geese were often high overhead. We arrived home safe and sound, none the worse for wear, and felt that we had enjoyed a very pleasant weekend indeed. If we do this again we’ll be sure to add an extra day.

Total Species

Snow Goose
Canada Goose
Duck sp.
Great Blue Heron
Double-crested Cormorant
Turkey Vulture
Red-tailed Hawk
Rough-legged Buzzard
Ring-billed Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Common Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
American Crow
Northern Raven
Black-capped Chickadee
Golden-crowned Kinglet
White-breasted Nuthatch
Brown Creeper
Common Starling
House Sparrow
Buff-bellied Pipit
White-crowned Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco

Monday, September 07, 2009

West Perth Community Wetland

West Perth Community Wetland
Mitchell, ON
September 6, 2009
We arrived at 09:30h in bright sunshine with hardly a breath of wind and were anxious to see what shorebirds had populated the ponds on their southbound migration.
In the first pond the water level was quite high and there were small numbers of shorebirds, mainly countless Killdeer and a number of Lesser Yellowlegs. A Great Blue Heron was stalking in the shallows and given the volume of Leopard Frogs jumping everywhere around us, we were sure it was feeding well.
Upon rounding the end of the first pond Miriam looked back and saw a breeding-plumaged Grey Plover on a sandbar. Either we had missed this species when first scoping the area or it had just arrived. What a truly handsome bird! We agreed it was the bird of the day.
There were lots of American Goldfinches flitting around with an abundance of thistle seeds for them to feed on. There were also Savannah and Song Sparrows with American Crows moving noisily overhead and a Belted Kingfisher zipped by. Not a swallow was to be seen. I guess they have all departed for the year and it will be next spring before we see them again.
Upon reaching the second pond we were surprised to find that some of kind of dredging operation appears to be underway. There was heavy equipment on the shore and a tractor had buried itself in the mud and slime. There was quite a bit of exposed mud in this cell and there were Least and Semipalmated Sandpipers feeding there, as well as a couple of Semipalmated Plovers. In the pond where we normally encounter huge rafts of waterfowl there were none, save for a single female Northern Shoveler. In the pond opposite was a sizeable flotilla of Mallards, but other than ubiquitous Canada Geese they were the only waterfowl we saw. We did, however, see three Greater Yellowlegs and on several occasions they cooperatively fed alongside Lesser Yellowlegs giving us an interesting juxtaposition of the two related species.
A Ruby-throated Hummingbird was feeding on a miscellany of flowering plants at the water’s edge - another migrant which will be leaving us shortly. A couple of Turkey Vultures were quite high overhead but given the lack of wind and minimal convective activity they were flapping constantly.
On the way back to the parking area we carefully examined every bit of mud and were rewarded with four Pectoral Sandpipers. Two Eastern Phoebes were flycatching from the fence and a couple of Mourning Doves seemed to be picking at midges on a mud flat.
Not having seen any gulls up to this point we were fascinated to see a flight of Ring-billed Gulls with two American Herring Gulls land on a sandbar and line up like well-behaved children at school assembly.
We left almost exactly three hours after we had arrived having enjoyed a fine morning of birding. No doubt, shorebird species and numbers will be changing constantly so we'll try to get back again next weekend to see what’s new.

All species
Great Blue Heron
Canada Goose
Northern Shoveler
Turkey Vulture
Grey Plover
Semipalmated Plover
Greater Yellowlegs
Lesser Yellowlegs
Semipalmated Sandpiper
Least Sandpiper
Pectoral Sandpiper
Ring-billed Gull
American Herring Gull
Mourning Dove
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Belted Kingfisher
Eastern Phoebe
American Crow
European Starling
American Goldfinch
Savannah Sparrow
Song Sparrow

Friday, May 29, 2009

Arizona May 8-22, 2009

Trip Report
May 8 - May 22, 2009

May 8, 2009
We left home at 04:50h with a chorus of American Robins already in full voice.
Progress along Highway 401 was swift and uneventful at that early hour and we were at the airport by 06:10h. For the first time in our travels we were obliged to pay a fee of $15.00 each to check one bag on the flight. That quickly adds $60.00 to the cost of the trip. It seems that more passengers are endeavouring to take only carry-on luggage to circumvent this usury, so the overhead bins filled up very quickly once we embarked.
The flight to Denver was two hours and twenty minutes in duration and we experienced sufficient turbulence that the pilot descended to a lower altitude to try to avoid it.
Our arrival in Denver was slightly delayed but following a brisk walk across the airport to our departure gate we had time to get a sandwich each before boarding our onward flight to Tucson. The sandwiches (Santa Fe chicken)were purchased from an outlet called Sarah Lee and were very tasty indeed and reasonably priced.
We were at the gate in Tucson at 11:20h local time, retrieved our luggage expeditiously, picked up our rental car from Avis and left to visit the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum. I have been here three times before but it was a first experience for Miriam. It provides a first rate introduction to the life forms of the south western desert and there is ample opportunity to observe many wild birds in their natural habitat.
Delightful Cactus Wrens abounded, and Miriam quickly got her life Gila Woodpecker, Gilded Flicker and Black-headed Grosbeak. We shared the exhilaration of a Green-tailed Towhee, a bird which had long eluded me, and a joint lifer. It seems that I had always been at the right place at the wrong time for this species, and I had not expected to find it here.
We scoured every corner of the Desert Museum under piercing blue sky and a temperature of 103 F. Welcome to Arizona!
By 16:00h we were feeling a little tired, given our early departure and the withering heat, so we left for our hotel for the night. On the way we picked up a bottle of California Cabernet Sauvignon called "Barefoot," new to us but allegedly the Gold Medal Winner in a 2007 world wine competition. In any event it turned out to be very palatable.
We were staying at the Best Western, Las Brisas ($89.99 plus taxes) airport hotel, but there was little in the way of eateries anywhere close, so we bought a couple of Subway sandwiches to eat in our room.
The room was very acceptable but of typical hotel chain sterility. We noticed that other rooms had balconies or patios but ours had neither so we vowed to ask for such a room when we returned there on the following Wednesday.
We turned in early following a long and tiring day.

All species May 8, 2009
Turkey Vulture, Gambel’s Quail, Mourning Dove, White-winged Dove, Gila Woodpecker, Gilded Flicker, Say’s Phoebe, Cactus Wren, Curve-billed Thrasher, Verdin, European Starling, House Sparrow, Yellow Warbler, Green-tailed Towhee, Northern Cardinal, Pyrrhuloxia, Black-headed Grosbeak, Great-tailed Grackle, Hooded Oriole.

May 9, 2009
We went down for breakfast at 06:00h and were presented with the choice of a Belgian waffle or a made-to -order omelette. We both opted for the omelette, mine with biscuits and gravy, Miriam chose biscuits and marmalade. It was very tasty; alas, even though the food was prepared in the setting of a standard restaurant everything was served on disposable items. There was not a single item of regular cutlery or serving dish or plate - styrofoam, styrofoam, plastic and more styrofoam. Perhaps one day these hotel chains will see the light and cease using landfill fodder. I will be the first to choose the chain that eschews their use.
Our original plan for this trip had been to spend the first five days in Yecora, Mexico, but given the drug wars at the border and the issue of Swine Flu we modified our journey. By 07:15h we were on the road heading north on Interstate 10. There was a good deal of road construction involving overpasses and we were delighted with the beautiful architectural details and the south western imagery incorporated into the supports and walls. Never was driving through a construction zone so interesting! Flowering shrubs filled the medians and it was a glorious, clear day. As we left Tucson there were mountain views in every direction. A car passed us with a large banner across the back window stating "Impeach Obama." Hmmm...
At around 08:15h we stopped at a rest stop just south of Phoenix and Miriam purchased a couple of necklaces from a Pima Indian woman, one of haematite with a dream catcher, the other abalone shell hearts with tiger-eye beads, both very attractive.
At 11:00h we arrived at Montezuma Castle National Monument near Cottonwood. What a wonderfully interesting visit and an exploration of the life of the Sinagua Indians who constructed their dwellings high in the rock face as far back as the 14th century. The musical trill of Canyon Wrens descended down the canyon walls and Phainopeplas flitted all around.
We left at 12:15h and proceeded to a limestone sinkhole now known as Montezuma Well. Equally fascinating from a historical and archeological perspective, the highlight of this visit, however, was to find a pair on Canyon Wrens nesting on the canyon wall. How close we were able to approach this beautiful species and see them ferrying food to their brood. When we were standing below the nest we could hear the cries of the nestlings as they sensed their parents’ approach. Obviously the constant procession of people did nothing to perturb the wrens. Ironically, it appeared that most visitors were unaware of the wrens and passed them without so much as a glance.
At 13:40 our stomachs told us that it was time for lunch and we checked out a Mexican restaurant we had seen earlier. On close examination it appeared to be less that amenable and the parking lot hosted only one car - hardly a resounding endorsement of the food. We went to a Sonic where Miriam had a grilled chicken salad and I a Santa Fe chicken salad. Given that one is not expecting gourmet fare from a Sonic fast food establishment, it really wasn’t bad. It was cold and refreshing, as were the sodas and it was nice to be inside for a while away from the hundred degree plus heat.
At 14:15h we headed for Tuzigoot National Moument, a further location of Sinagua Indian dwellings. This is another historical treasure where Rock Wrens obligingly posed for pictures, and after the thrill of finding Canyons Wrens at their nest, we were rewarded with a Rock Wren nest also.
We departed at 15:30 to head for Prescott where we had reserved a room at a B & B for the night. In Prescott Valley we patronized a Safeway Store to pick up dinner - Mediterranean Orzo Salad, Broccoli Salad and cold pulled pork. Our wine selection was a Fetzer Vineyards Valley Oak Merlot. The label proudly proclaimed the vineyard a "nine-time winner Winery of the Year."
We did not see a single person in the store using cloth bags which really seemed unusual given the almost universal practice of taking one’s own bags to the store in Canada.
We found our destination in Prescott due to Miriam’s skilful navigation through town and took a glass of wine out onto the patio where we were entertained by Spotted Towhees, House Finches and other common species. We were soon joined by a couple from the Phoenix area who had been married there a year earlier and we spent an interesting hour or so chatting with them.
Following this pleasant interlude we went inside, had dinner and read for a while before going to bed for the night.

Accomodation: Prescott Pines Inn. Rating: Five Stars. Price: $161.42 including taxes.

All species May 9, 2009
Mallard, Turkey Vulture, Common Pigeon, Mourning Dove, White-winged Dove, Black-chinned Hummingbird, Gila Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Say’s Phoebe, Violet-green Swallow, Phainopepla, Rock Wren, Canyon Wren, American Robin, Common Raven, European Starling, House Sparrow, House Finch, Lesser Goldfinch, American Goldfinch, Yellow Warbler, Spotted Towhee, Northern Cardinal, Red-winged Blackbird, Great-tailed Grackle, Brown-headed Cowbird.

May 10,2009

After a good night’s sleep we awoke at 05:30h well refreshed. We made a pot of coffee, showered and then went out for a walk, since there appeared to be a fair amount of birdy habitat nearby.
In short order Miriam located two lifers for herself - a stunning male Lazuli Bunting and the first of many Mexican Jays. There were many other species to entertain us including Spotted Towhee, Steller’s Jay and Anna’s Hummingbird. We encountered what for us was a first - an enclave of lovely homes with extensive bird-friendly plantings, but the streets were designated as private and there was a stern admonition that trespassers in the area would be prosecuted. We were incredulous that we could not so much as stroll along the streets, but we chose to obey the sign, fearing that our binoculars might inspire a call to the police from residents who are obviously not inclined to tolerate strangers in their midst.
Our breakfast sitting at 08:00h was a fine affair, shared with a couple from the Phoenix area and a couple recently arrived from Indiana. We started with home-made granola and low fat vanilla yoghurt, followed by a plate loaded with an egg dish (sort of crustless quiche), bacon, sausage and fresh fruit. All of this was accompanied by steaming, delicious coffee.
We left the B & B at about 09:00h to drive to Cottonwood to bird the Dead Horse Ranch State Park. Great, great birding area! Lifers abounded for Miriam and we revelled in our second joint lifer of the trip, a very cooperative McGillivray’s Warbler. A Yellow-breasted Chat perched on the edge of a bush facing us and sang for all he was worth. What better way to get a lifer for Miriam? Apart from the birds, the walk alongside a stream was very agreeable indeed.
We exited the park at 13:30h and went into Cottonwood to have lunch at Brandi’s kitchen where we both enjoyed a fine Cobb Salad with copious quantities of iced water.
The drive up Highway 89A was spectacular, nowhere more so on the stretch from south of Sedona into Flagstaff. We stopped at a scenic lookout, but there was a new picture waiting to be taken at every curve in the highway. The town of Sedona has changed greatly since I was last there about twenty years ago. The downtown area is nothing short of a giant emporium for tee shirts and hats. We did not tarry!
We found our B & B on the north side of Flagstaff, which would be our home for three nights, at 16:15h, and were welcomed by Lauren, our very congenial host. When we had located the B & B on line we had reserved the Ponderosa Room with its view of the mountains, but Lauren, knowing that we are birders, had very thoughtfully reasoned that we might prefer the Nantucket Room at the back of the establishment, since it looks out onto Ponderosa pines, trembling aspens and a field abutting a ravine with Ponderosa pine forest on the other side. Both rooms were quite splendid but we chose the Nantucket room.
Every room is decorated to reflect Lauren’s favourite places and the Nantucket room featured countless ways to evoke a salty New England atmosphere. Everything about it was very tasteful, reflecting a great deal of attention to detail and pride in seeing a job well done. There was a package of home-made cookies in the room, and throughout our stay delicate touches such as this would give us great pleasure.
Lauren had chilled a bottle of white wine in the fridge and invited us to have a glass or two. We sat out on our patio looking at the birds, sipping wine and decided that we wouldn’t bother going out for dinner. We had a few snacks and Miriam made a batch of microwave popcorn supplied by Lauren. It was very pleasant indeed.
Of the birds we saw from our patio vantage point we were surprised by a constant entourage of Eurasian Collared Dove. We had no idea that they had progressed so far west and at 8,000 feet to so high an elevation. We also had Band-tailed Pigeons as regular visitors during our stay, with sometimes as many as twenty at a time.

Accomodation: Conifer House Bed and Breakfast. Rating: Five Stars plus many bonus stars. Price: $139.00 plus taxes.

I must say more about this B & B. It is one of the very best that we have ever stayed in. Everything is delicately done from start to finish and a sense of cultivated excellence pervades. We were very happy with our choice and can only speak very highly of Lauren as a caring and sensitive host. If you go to Flagstaff this is your choice!

All species May 10, 2009Great Blue Heron, Turkey Vulture, Red-tailed Hawk, Common Pigeon, Eurasian Collared Dove, Mourning Dove, Black-chinned Hummingbird, Northern Flicker, Western Wood Pewee, Black Phoebe, Ash-throated Flycatcher, Violet-green Swallow, Northern Rough-winged Swallow, Phainopepla, Bewick’s Wren, American Robin, Black-tailed Gnatcatcher, Steller’s Jay, American Crow, Common Raven, European Starling, House Sparrow, House Finch, Lesser Goldfinch, American Goldfinch, Yellow Warbler, MacGillivray’s Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, Wilson’s Warbler, Yellow-breasted Chat, Summer Tanager, Western Tanager, Canyon Towhee, Abert’s Towhee, Song Sparrow, Northern Cardinal, Black-headed Grosbeak, Lazuli Bunting, Red-winged Blackbird, Great-tailed Grackle, Brown-headed Cowbird, Bullock’s Oriole.

May 11, 2009
Our day began at around 05:30h when we got out of bed to shower and dress. It was very pleasant to walk around outside and observe the bird life. A couple of Mountain Chickadees provided a great early morning diversion.
We were unable to figure out how to use the self-service coffee maker in the guest services room, but by about 07:30h Lauren had hot coffee ready in the dining room and we enjoyed a couple of mugs each while sitting on our patio.
Breakfast was an exercise in fine dining. Our table looked so attractive with a floral tablecloth and coordinating fabric napkins in a dragonfly napkin ring. Fresh flowers were on the table and our granola and yoghurt was served in a footed glass bowl lined with sliced strawberries and topped with strawberry halves and mint leaves. There was a carafe of fruit juice with a bamboo stir stick. Following this wonderful start we were served apple cinnamon French toast with crisp bacon. This was served on delicate white plates with a sprinkling of cinnamon and icing sugar. Every detail reminded one of elegance and sophistication.
The only down side was that we had emptied the carafe of coffee, but as soon as Lauren realized this she vowed to make a larger quantity the next morning.
By 08:40h we were on the road again heading towards the Grand Canyon.
At 09:10h we stopped at a local trail about thirty minutes north of Flagstaff. It was designated as a "watchable wildlife trail" and formed a one and a half mile loop. It was a great walk through Ponderosa pines and trembling aspens where we hoped that we might find Williamson’s Sapsucker, especially given the presence of fire damaged snags, a situation known to be exploited by this species. It was not to be, but we did see a number of Western Bluebirds and it was especially fascinating to see a Mountain Chickadee plucking the soft material from the pellets of a Great Horned Owl. We searched in vain for the Great Horned Owl by the way!
We arrived at Grand Canyon National Park around noon and payed what we thought to be a fairly steep $25.00 fee to enter. The park was crowded and it took us quite a while to get a parking spot. A couple of other drivers almost came to blows and exchanged a stream of vituperative when one driver alleged that the other had stolen his parking spot.
The Grand Canyon is unique and spectacular. Regardless of how many films or photographs you may see nothing quite prepares you for the sheer grandeur of it all. Our dearest wish was granted when a California Condor sailed past us on outspread wings.
Numerous Common Ravens were riding the thermals and Violet-green Swallows seemed to be everywhere. It was a great thrill when a Peregrine Falcon launched itself from a crag and caused considerable consternation in the air. It seemed disinterested in hunting, however.
Lunch, consisting of chef’s salad and a bottle of water, was taken at the Yavapai Lodge Cafeteria. We drove up and down the lip of the canyon for a while making numerous stops and finally exited the park at 14:00h, seeing a couple of elk on the way out.
Before heading to our B & B we stopped at a Basha’s grocery store to get a bottle of California Merlot produced by Stone Cellars by Beringer. We also picked up cheese, crackers, grapes and bananas to enjoy as our dinner on the patio.
By 21:00h we were in bed.

All species May 11, 2009Turkey Vulture, California Condor, Red-tailed Hawk, Peregrine Falcon, Common Pigeon, Band-tailed Pigeon, Eurasian Collared Dove, Mourning Dove, Black-chinned Hummingbird, Northern Flicker, Violet-green Swallow, Phainopepla, Winter Wren, House Wren, Western Bluebird, American Robin, Mountain Chickadee, White-breasted Nuthatch, Steller’s Jay, American Crow, Common Raven, House Sparrow, House Finch, MacGillivray’s Warbler, Dark-eyed Junco, Black-headed Grosbeak, Brewer’s Blackbird, Great-tailed Grackle.

May 12, 2009
We awoke early and went out for a walk around the property. The Eurasian Collared Doves were in high courtship mode and copulations were occurring everywhere. We were surprised at the number of Band-tailed Pigeons that came to perch on the wires behind the B & B, certainly not a bird in my experience that I associate with backyards. Perhaps the proximity of extensive tracts of Ponderosa Pines has something to do with it.
At the rear of the field where there are numerous low shrubs and other dense vegetation we were very happy to find a pair of MacGillivray’s Warbler.
We partook of coffee on the patio until breakfast was served at 08:15h. How appealing it looked and how delicious it tasted. On the table was an orange/hazelnut tea bread baked in a mini bundt pan, as well as an oval dish filled with fresh fruit - whole strawberries, sliced bananas, kiwis, canteloupe and pineapple chunks, all arranged in an eye-pleasing presentation. Lauren then served us an egg dish with several different cheeses and herbs baked in oval ramekins. There was fresh juice and coffee. How delicious!
At 09:00h we left for the West Fork Trail in Oak Creek Canyon, close to Sedona. The birding was very good at the trail head, but bird life was sparse indeed as we moved along. There were many hikers and considerable chatter was a permanent feature of this walk; no doubt this contributed to the paucity of birds. We did locate our first Painted Redstart, however. It’s a beautiful walk in exceptionally scenic country and we enjoyed the experience very much.
On the return, hot and dusty, we took off our shoes and socks and paddled in a cool mountain stream like erstwhile children. I doubt that cool water ever felt so good and conductive cooling refreshed our entire bodies.
We sat on a rock to put our socks and shoes back on, giggling like happy youngsters.
At 13:00h we left to return to Flagstaff and stopped for lunch at Garcia’s Mexican Restaurant. Miriam had a tortilla soup and a taco salad, I had a combination plate. We both thought the food was basically ho hum, definitely not authentic Mexican flavours, perhaps toned down for the gringos!
About an hour later we moved on to the Arboretum, a planned stop on our birding itinerary. We caught the end of a raptor show and found it quite entertaining. Certainly for the general public, unfamiliar with birds of prey, much useful knowledge was provided.
Avian highlights were Miriam’s life Plumbeous Vireo, several Evening Grosbeaks, a Yellow-rumped Warbler gathering nesting material, a Wilson’s Warbler and about ten House Wrens. Our target bird here was Pinyon Jay but we failed to find one anywhere.
We stopped at Basha’s Supermarket on the way back to the B & B and picked up sushi for dinner, as well as some bananas. We enjoyed this on our patio with a glass of cold Chardonnay courtesy of Lauren, did our bird list and were in bed by 21:00h.
In another one of the delightful touches at Conifer House B & B Lauren had placed two chocolates on a small tray on our pillow, with a note wishing us sweet dreams.

All species May 12, 2009
Mallard, Turkey Vulture, Common Pigeon, Band-tailed Pigeon. Eurasian Collared Dove. Black-chinned Hummingbird, Acorn Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Violet-green Swallow, House Wren, American Robin, Mountain Chickadee, White-breasted Nuthatch, Steller’s Jay, American Crow, Common Raven, Plumbeous Vireo, Warbling Vireo, House Finch, Evening Grosbeak, Wilson’s Warbler, Painted Redstart, Western Tanager, Spotted Towhee, Chipping Sparrow, Black-headed Grosbeak, Bullock’s Oriole.

May 13, 2009
We were out of bed by 05:15h, dressed right away and headed out for the "watchable wildlife trail" which we now noticed is also referred to as Walker Lake Trail Head.
We had a great early morning walk, but we still were unable to find a Williamson’s Sapsucker, despite the presence of mixed stands of trembling aspen and pine/fir forest which are its preferred habitat. This was, and remains still, the only North American picid I have not seen. In addition to the species found on our previous amble through this area we located two Mountain Bluebirds, resplendent in bright early sunlight. This completed a sweep of the three North American bluebirds, since we had several sightings of Eastern Bluebird before leaving on our Arizona adventure.
By 07:35 we were back on the road to our B & B spotting several White-tailed Deer en route and our only American Kestrel of the trip.
Breakfast consisted of a tall glass of strawberry/kiwi fruit smoothie, with a little banana and raspberry added. The glass was embellished with a fresh strawberry and a slice of kiwi fruit. The drinking straws were colour coordinated to the fruit! This fabulous starter was followed up with a waffle and sausages.
We chatted to Lauren for a while before saying goodbye and leaving this exceptional B & B.
On the way south we decided to revisit Montezuma Well to look at the Canyon Wrens again. On this visit we walked down the steps to the water’s edge where we had a whole new perspective on the cliff dwellings. We were very pleased that we had done so.
In the sky above four Common Black Hawks put on quite a show.
Lunch was taken at Joe’s Barbecue Heaven in Rimrock. I had smoked brisket with cole slaw and Joe’s home-made beans; Miriam had pulled pork on a kaiser roll with cole slaw on the side.
This food, in this little out of the way place, was truly fabulous. Everything was prepared to perfection; it was tender, succulent, just a nice hint of smokiness and very tasty. The baked beans were, I think, the best I have ever tasted.
Miriam had a tall, cold lemonade and I had iced tea. Almost before you finished the first glass a refill was served right up.
The price was very reasonable and we even had a visit from Joe himself. I would highly recommend this restaurant to any birder visiting the area. And remember, Common Black Hawks are reported to nest in the vicinity of Montezuma Well, so it’s worth a stop to locate a species which is not always easy to find.
I should add that Joe’s Barbecue Heaven was spotlessly clean, the staff friendly and even the washrooms were a welcoming place with a wicker table and flowers.
The drive to Tucson was uneventful although the time going through Phoenix seemed long. There were also numerous ramp closures in Tucson to contend with.
We picked up a sandwich at Subway for dinner; we didn’t need much since we were still full from lunch, and checked into the Best Western, Las Brisas a little before 17:00h. We did not have a bottle of wine, so we obtained one at the bar. Great wine - Kenwood, Jack London Vineyard, Sonoma Valley 2005 Merlot, but a hefty price -$42.00 for the bottle. We won’t do that again!
As mentioned earlier we had requested a room with a balcony. There was an upcharge of $10.00 to have the balcony, but we were still thwarted somewhat. We had the balcony, but it faced directly on to the roof of the restaurant below, so we still had no view, and since it faced directly into the sun no shade either. With the temperature over 100 F and the heat trapped in the small enclosure it was impossible to sit out until late into the evening. Right across from us were rooms with shaded balconies behind leafy vegetation and we determined that we would request one of them on the night we would return before flying home.

General comments on B & Bs
When given the choice we always prefer a B & B over a motel/hotel. Apart from anything else, one generally gets to meet other interesting people and sometimes even form lasting friendships.
The one drawback we find is that breakfast is generally not available until at least 08:00h, which for a birder is half way through the morning! There are areas, of course, where the B & B specifically caters to birders and breakfast is served at 06:00h and then it works out fine. Such was not the case at either of the two B & Bs we used on this trip.

All species May 13, 2009
Great Blue Heron, Mallard, Turkey Vulture, Common Black Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk, American Kestrel, Gambel’s Quail, Common Pigeon, Band-tailed Pigeon, Eurasian Collared Dove, White-throated Swift, Black-chinned Hummingbird, Northern Flicker, Western Kingbird, Violet-green Swallow, Phainopepla, Rock Wren, Canyon Wren, Bewick’s Wren, Winter Wren, Northern Mockingbird, Western Bluebird, Mountain Bluebird, American Robin, Mountain Chickadee, Steller’s Jay, American Crow, Common Raven, European Starling, House Sparrow, House Finch, Chipping Sparrow, Dark-eyed Junco, Black-headed Grosbeak, Great-tailed Grackle.

May 14, 2009
We were up by 06:15h and back in our room after breakfast by 07:00h. We ate exactly the same breakfast as we had on our previous stay. It was cool and refreshing at this time of morning so we sat out on our balcony for a while.
By 07:35h we were on our way to Tohono Chul Park. After a couple of minor directional challenges in busy traffic in an unfamiliar city we arrived at 08:25h.
What a delightful location this is. We did not actually enter the park, but contented ourselves with birding the perimeter of the parking lot and the edges of the gardens. We quickly located a couple of Costa’s Hummingbirds and a variety of other species.
At 09:25h we continued farther north to Catalina State Park where our first bird was a Greater Roadrunner with a large lizard dangling from its bill. True to its name it sped quickly across the desert scrub into the shade of a small mesquite. Quickly it was joined by what we took to be a young bird but we didn’t see the adult actually deliver the lizard to the fledgling since they both moved off deeper into the vegetation. Before leaving the park we would see no less than five roadrunners. A Prairie Falcon which was perched atop a Saguaro cactus obligingly stayed for quite a while. We also had the great pleasure of watching a pair of Bell’s Vireos building a nest.
It was hot as Hades but we walked the Birding Trail and saw a variety of other species, including another Green-tailed Towhee. We had hoped to find Crissal Thrasher here but were unsuccessful. There was suitable habitat but I think we were just a little later in the day than might have been desirable. No doubt an early morning foray would have yielded better results.
By noon we decided that we needed a break from the unrelenting heat and we left the park to find a place to eat lunch.
Before deciding on a restaurant we stopped for gas and went through quite a procedure to get it. I inserted my credit card into the slot at the pump but the machine asked for my Zip Code. I assume that this is some kind of security measure to verify ownership of the card. Since I do not reside in the United States I don’t have a Zip Code. I went up to the cashier and was told that I would either have to leave my card with them or prepay in cash. I was a little uneasy about leaving a credit card so I prepaid in cash. I went back to the pump and filled up but it was less than I had prepaid, so I had to go back into the station to obtain my change. I was left longing for the simplicity of gas stations at home where you insert your card or simply pump your gas and go in to pay afterwards in any way you choose.
Lunch was taken at El Paso Grill and BBQ where they featured $5.00 hot sandwiches. I had brisket with a salad and Miriam had pulled pork with sweet potato fries. We also indulged ourselves in a $3.00 frozen Margarita which we sipped on slowly. After the morning of birding in intense heat and the hassle with the gas it went down well! The food was quite good, but nowhere near as tasty as Joe’s.
We left the restaurant at13:35h and headed down I-10. The pace of travel was slow due to volume of traffic and the fact that numerous ramps were closed.
When we got onto I-19 to Green Valley we picked up speed and we went into a Safeway store in to purchase provisions for our stay at Santa Rita Lodge. There was a noticeable increase in the number of Border Patrol vehicles and we passed a couple of them at the side of the road with several forlorn individuals handcuffed and roped together.
The office was closed when we arrived at Santa Rita Lodge at 15:15h but there was a notice on the door telling us that our casita was ready and that the keys were on the bed.
While moving our luggage and groceries into the room we saw a Dusky-capped Flycatcher from the window and a White-tailed doe with two fawns.
We rested for a while in our room, then took a drive through Madera Canyon and birded the White House Picnic Area.
Upon arrival back at our lodging we sat outside on the deck and watched the comings and goings at the feeders. A group of Wild Turkeys were strutting up and down with toms in full courtship mode. They had their tails erect, their wattles engorged and slapped their wings against their thighs to create a noise. It was all quite spectacular.
Miriam got a very easy lifer when a Bridled Titmouse landed on a branch right in front of her.
We went inside, opened a bottle of Searidge Chardonnay from California and enjoyed it with our dinner of cold chicken, broccoli salad and coleslaw - all very pleasant indeed.
At dusk we joined a throng of birders both staying at Santa Rita Lodge and also visiting from elsewhere to watch what has to be the easiest Elf Owl sighting in the world. Right on cue at 19:25h the male emerged from its hole in the utility pole and with so many scopes set up in advance everyone had a great look. Numerous Lesser Nighthawks were also flying by now.
We returned to our room and were in bed by 21:00h.

Accomodation: Santa Rita Lodge Rating: Five Stars Price: $95.00 plus taxes
When I last stayed here some fifteen years ago the cabins were riddled with acorns stuffed there by the ubiquitous Acorn Woodpeckers. The facilities have obviously been renovated since then and the cabins are rustically delightful. For us, self-catering is a decided advantage.

All species May 14, 2009Turkey Vulture, Prairie Falcon, Wild Turkey, Gambel’s Quail, Common Pigeon, Mourning Dove, White-winged Dove, Greater Roadrunner, Elf Owl, Lesser Nighthawk, Broad-billed Hummingbird, Blue-thoated Hummingbird, Black-chinned Hummingbird, Costa’s Hummingbird, Acorn Woodpecker, Gilded Flicker, Vermilion Flycatcher, Western Kingbird, Dusky-capped Flycatcher, Brown-crested Flycatcher, Phainopepla, Northern Mockingbird, American Robin, Bushtit, Bridled Titmouse, White-breasted Nuthatch, Verdin, Mexican Jay, Common Raven, European Starling, House Sparrow, Bell’s Vireo, Plumbeous Vireo, House Finch, Pine Siskin, Lesser Goldfinch, Yellow Warbler, Wilson’s Warbler, Green-tailed Towhee, Rufous-winged Sparrow, Northern Cardinal, Pyrrhuloxia, Black-headed Grosbeak, Great-tailed Grackle, Brown-headed Cowbird.

May 15, 2009We were up early, at around 05:30h. Miriam made coffee and we had almond poppy seed and blueberry muffins for breakfast.
Our birding started at about 07:00h when we started out along the road and then moved onto the trail through the wood behind our casita. We had a nice variety of birds but nothing exceptional. This was about to change!
We left the trail and returned to the road to walk up to a lodge that we had seen on our drive yesterday. I forget the name, but I know that it begins with the letter "K." There are many feeders and a wide range of birds were taking advantage of the various kinds of food on offer. Here are our "best" birds at these feeders - Arizona Woodpecker, White-eared Hummingbird and Flame-coloured Tanager, the latter a wonderful lifer for both of us.
Returning to our casita for lunch we ate splendidly on last night’s left-over chicken and salads, plus a delicious Boursin cheese with an Artisan Sea Salt Filone bread, accompanied by a tall, cold glass of iced tea.
After lunch, we drove down to Proctor Road and cautiously ventured along it, bumpy, stony and heavily rutted though it was. The highlight of this side trip was a trio of Black-throated Sparrows.
At Florida Wash we found several Lucy’s Warbler, another lifer for Miriam. We also witnessed a caterpillar being attacked by ants. It was twisting and writhing to no avail; it met its fate.
Back at Santa Rita Lodge we saw Lark Sparrow, quite unexpected at so high an elevation.
For dinner we ate a sushi platter that we had bought at Safeway and found it very tasty. We drank a glass of Wolf Blass YellowTail as an accompaniment.
Along with myriad others we stationed ourselves at the Elf Owl pole and waited for it to put in its nightly appearance. It did so right on cue around 19:30h and sat on the lip of the hole before going back in. It repeated this performance a couple of times and at one time the owl in the hole came out and sat on the wire.
Lesser Nighthawks were chasing insects too.
We returned to our room at around 19:50h and discussed the day’s events and plans for tomorrow before turning in for the night.

All species May 15, 2009Turkey Vulture, Wild Turkey, Mourning Dove, White-winged Dove, Elf Owl, Whip-poor-will (calling throughout the night), White-throated Swift, Broad-billed Hummingbird, White-eared Hummingbird, Magnificent Hummingbird, Black-chinned Hummingbird, Acorn Woodpecker, Arizona Woodpecker, Western Kingbird, Dusky-capped Flycatcher, Violet-green Swallow, Phainopepla, American Robin, Blue-grey Gnatcatcher, Bridled Titmouse, White-breasted Nuthatch, Mexican Jay, Common Raven, Plumbeous Vireo, Hutton’s Vireo, House Finch, Pine Siskin, Lesser Goldfinch, Lucy’s Warbler, Yellow Warbler, Black-throated Grey Warbler, Townsend’s Warbler, Wilson’s Warbler, Hepatic Tanager, Flame-coloured Tanager, Canyon Towhee, Lark Sparrow, Black-throated Sparrow, Black-headed Grosbeak, Blue Grosbeak, Lazuli Bunting, Brown-headed Cowbird.

May 16, 2009Breakfast consisted of coffee and muffins and we were on the road by 08:00h.
Travelling down I-19 we detoured at Tubac to visit this quaint little town recommended to us by Miriam’s sister, Janice. It is indeed charming, filled with artisans and galleries, with an interesting presidio to visit. Very little was open at the early hour that we arrived, but it was pleasant to drive around to see the sights and do a little birding too.
Further south we took the time to visit the mission at Tumacacori, renowned for its founder Father Kino whose name is synonymous with the settlement and the evangelisation of this region of the southwest. As was so typical of the conversion of native tribes nothing ever occurred in their favour. They succumbed to measles, smallpox and other western diseases and were never accorded equal status with the European invaders. It was a very interesting and worthwhile visit and we enjoyed it very much. The most common bird was Vermilion Flycatcher, but who can ever get their fill of them?
Along Highway 82 to Patagonia we stopped at a rest stop not far from the rest stop and chatted to two other birders. We did get a quick glimpse of Thick-billed Kingbird, but each of the other two birders commented on the paucity of birds. We all moved on to the famous Patagonia Rest Stop but were in for huge disappointment. Silence and the absence of birds were the order of the day. Not a trace of the becards, not a Green Kingfisher in sight, only the colony of White-throated Swifts across the highway but even these birds were flying very, very high.
At the Paton’s yard in Patagonia there was a decent variety of hummingbirds and Miriam got her life Violet-crowned. Here we also found Scott’s Oriole, Blue Grosbeak and a very cooperative and visible Yellow-breasted Chat.
We moved on to the Sonoita Nature Conservancy and enjoyed a walk through part of the two-and-a-half mile trail. The absolute highlight was finding a couple of Great Horned Owl "branchers" spending the daylight hours in a huge sycamore tree.
We arrived at the Comfort Inn at Sierra Vista at 15:30h and took a shower and changed. We had just made a cup of tea when we heard cries from the hall - "David, David." Our friends Rick and Leslie from San Diego had arrived! They had left San Diego, CA that morning and had driven all the way to Sierra Vista. It was wonderful to see them again (actually Rick for the first time). They had a room on the same floor as us and invited us over for wine and cheese - a fabulous New Zealand White and two very tasty cheeses.
After catching up on all the news we went out for dinner at La Casita and were served a fine meal. I had a chili releno and Miriam had a combination plate. We were the last customers when we left at 21:30h.
Arriving back at the motel we said goodnight to Rick and Leslie and were in bed shortly afterwards.

Accomodation: Comfort Inn Rating: Four stars Price: +/- $130.00 plus taxes. (I lost the receipt).

All species May 16, 2009
Turkey Vulture, Red-tailed Hawk, Wild Turkey, Mourning Dove, White-winged Dove, Great Horned Owl, Lesser Nighthawk, White-throated Swift, Broad-billed Hummingbird, Violet-crowned Hummingbird, Black-chinned Hummingbird, Acorn Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Vermilion Flycatcher, Thick-billed Kingbird, Western Kingbird, Dusky-capped Flycatcher, Northern Rough-winged Swallow, Barn Swallow, Phainopepla, Bewick’s Wren, Bridled Titmouse, White-breasted Nuthatch, Mexican Jay, Common Raven, European Starling, House Sparrow, House Finch, Lesser Goldfinch, Yellow Warbler, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, Wilson’s Warbler, Yellow-breasted Chat, Canyon Towhee, Song Sparrow, Northen Cardinal, Black-headed Grosbeak, Blue Grosbeak, Brown-headed Cowbird, Scott’s Oriole.

May 17, 2009
We met Rick and Leslie for breakfast at 06:30h. It was a quite extensive buffet with considerable choice. Miriam and I both had sausage, biscuits and gravy and a sort of mini omelette.
By 07:20h we were loaded in Rick and Leslie’s 4 x 4 vehicle and we left for Ramsay Canyon. We arrived there twenty minutes later but found that it does not open until 09:00h. To our surprise the renowned B & B there is for sale.
Choosing not to tarry, we headed out to Miller Canyon where we had received several reports of an easy-to-find Spotted Owl. The Beatty B & B located just before the start of the trail had numerous hummingbird feeders for us to enjoy and all were quite active with a nice variety of species.
We each paid $5.00 to enter the Controlled Access Site (CAS) on the Beatty property and were able to sit and enjoy even more hummingbird feeders and soon had sterling views of the White-eared Hummingbird that had been reported. In total we had eight species of hummingbird on the grounds of the Beatty hostelry.
We obtained the code to the combination lock to open the gate to the start of the trail up into Miller Canyon and began the ascent. Along the way we heard a few Red-faced Warblers but try as we might, with four pairs of eyes searching, we could not get a glimpse of one. In April they had been common and easily found, as close as a couple of metres from the observer - perhaps we were a month later than optimum viewing time.
When we arrived at the site where the Spotted Owl had been found quite regularly, it was not there. There was a chance that it might be at another favoured roost about a mile farther into the canyon, but given the heat and the steep incline we chose not to go there, not knowing, of course, whether we would have success in any event.
By 11:30h we had returned to the vehicle and departed for Ash Canyon. The B & B there charged $5.00 per person to sit at their hummingbird feeders but feeling there was slight chance for additional species we declined to participate.
Leslie suggested that we go to the Coronado National Memorial for lunch and we were able to find a shaded picnic table adjacent to a dry river bed. Rick had made a delicious tuna salad with a very interesting variety of ingredients and we enjoyed it on a poppy seed bun. He also brought along a macaroni salad and a variety of berries. It was a fine meal taken in the company of Mexican Jays and a ground squirrel who gorged himself and then stretched out flat in the sand under our table.
Our next stop was at the Hereford Bridge along the San Pedro River. We had great birding there with Several Abert’s Towhee and numerous Vermilion Flycatchers. We had great looks at a Varied Bunting, a lifer for Miriam, and only the second one I had ever seen.
We went to the San Pedro House where there was a great variety of birds at their feeders and we also walked a trail down to the river.
It was very enjoyable indeed and for the first time during our stay in Arizona we had a little cloud and at one point it actually threatened rain.
We left at about 17:00h to return to the motel. We showered and changed and joined Rick and Leslie for a cold beer before leaving for dinner.
Dinner was taken at Delio’s Italian restaurant, where the bulk of items on the menu were not Italian, but I had a mediocre lasagna which had obviously been microwaved and Miriam tried Chicken Marsala. We all shared a bottle of California Merlot as this "Italian" restaurant had not a single offering of Italian wine.
Once again we had the "pleasure" of being the last customers to leave at 21:00h! We chuckled to think that many restaurants are just getting into high gear at that hour.
It was back to the Comfort Inn and a good night’s sleep.

All species May 17, 2009Great Blue Heron, Mallard, Turkey Vulture, Swainson’s Hawk, Mourning Dove, White-winged Dove, White-throated Swift, Broad-billed Hummingbird, White-eared Hummingbird, Blue-throated Hummingbird, Magnificent Hummingbird, Black-chinned Hummingbird, Anna’s Hummingbird, Costa’s Hummingbird, Broad-tailed Hummingbird, Gila Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Say’s Phoebe, Vermilion Flycatcher, Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher, Cassin’s Kingbird, Dusy-capped Flycatcher, Ash-throated Flycatcher, Bewicks’ Wren, Curve-billed Thrasher, Hermit Thrush, American Robin, Bushtit, Mountain Chickadee, Bridled Titmouse, White-breasted Nuthatch, Mexican Jay, Common Raven, House Sparrow, Bell’s Vireo, Hutton’s Vireo, House Finch, Lesser Goldfinch, Yellow Warbler, Black-throated Grey Warbler, Wilson’s Warbler, Red-faced Warbler (heard), Hepatic Tanager, Western Tanager, Spotted Towhee, Abert’s Towhee, Song Sparrow, White-crowned Sparrow, Northern cardinal, Black-headed Grosbeak, Blue Grosbeak, Varied Bunting, Great-tailed Grackle, Brown-headed Cowbird.

May 18, 2009
We enjoyed breakfast at the buffet, but Miriam was more virtuous today and ate a banana, an orange and yoghurt. I was just as sinful as yesterday.
Unfortunately we had to bid farewell to Rick and Leslie who had to leave for home in San Diego. It had been a great visit and were sorry to see them go. What a joy that they were willing to drive eight hours each way to spend just one full day together.
We determined to try one more time for the Spotted Owl so we hiked back up Miller Canyon, but again no luck. We were a little uneasy at times. We met a person who was carrying side arms, a sight we were to see several times. As people who are totally unaccustomed to this behaviour we wondered to ourselves what exactly he needed a gun for, and we weren’t entirely happy that he was behind us carrying a weapon and that we were the only people on the trail. The fact that his vehicle was emblazoned with anti-liberal stickers didn’t do anything to assuage our unease.
We had really hoped to get a look at Spotted Owl. This is one of only two owl species I have not seen in North America. Initially we planned to hire Stuart Healey for a day and go to Scheelite Canyon, but since non-Americans cannot gain access to Fort Huachuca those plans had to be abandoned.
We struck our for the Chiricahuas at 10:30h planning to stop in Douglas to pick up provisions for our stay at Cave Creek Ranch. A nice lunch was enjoyed at the Grand Café, where Marilyn Monroe was their theme. I had a chili releno plate and Miriam had a chili releno and a taco. Perhaps being right on the border had something to do with it, but the food was excellent and authentic Mexican fare.
A local Safeway store enabled us to acquire all the groceries we would need for a three-day self catering stay at Cave Creek Ranch.
On leaving town we saw a group of several illegal immigrants (we assume) secured together and sitting against a fence, guarded by the Border Patrol.
Bird life was sparse passing through New Mexico and we arrived at Cave Creek Ranch at 15:00h
What a difference from the last time I was here fifteen years or so ago. Reed Peters , the owner, even told us that back then it was often referred to as The Caved-in Ranch! It was beat up, scruffy, poorly taken care of and managed by people who reflected the surroundings.
Now, what was formerly the tiny office where they dealt with you through the door, has been converted along with their residence into a spacious common room with a fireplace, books, comfortable places to sit, a copy of J.J. Audubon’s work, a gift store and an office. The wall is furbished with Lear prints. Everything is done very tastefully, reflecting Reed’s attention to detail and his pride of ownership.
Our casita was delightful and contained everything we needed, including a large container of sunflower seeds to fill up the feeding tray outside our door. What a thoughtful touch.
One always delighted in sitting at the Spoffords’ feeders when visiting Cave Creek, but Reed has successfully provided an array of feeders of every variety to make this location equally spectacular. We had intended to go off to South Fork that afternoon, but after a long drive we were very happy to simply sit at the feeders and be entertained by myriad species, including to our great surprise a male Rose-breasted Grosbeak, certainly a bird we had not expected to encounter in Arizona.
Several Coue’s White-tailed deer visited the feeders and Reed put out food for them It was impressive that he knew the different family groups and could recognize each animal individually.
Dinner consisted of sandwiches we had obtained at Safeway and a glass of Yellow Tail Cabernet Merlot.
For anyone who stayed at Cave Creek Ranch in the past and experienced mediocrity in the extreme, we would highly recommend a return visit. You will be astonished at the difference.

Accomodation: Cave Creek Ranch Rating: Five Stars Price: $90.00 (Casita No. 1).

All species May 18, 2009
Turkey Vulture, Swainson’s Hawk, Band-tailed Pigeon, White-winged Dove, Lesser Nighthawk, Broad-billed Hummingbird, Blue-throated Hummingbird, Magnificent Hummingbird, Black-chinned Hummingbird, Acorn Woodpecker, Arizona Woodpecker, Western Kingbird, Violet-green Swallow, Barn Swallow, Bewick’s Wren, Northern Mockingbird, Curve-billed Thrasher, Bridled Titmouse, White-breasted Nuthatch, Mexican Jay, Common Raven,
House Sparrow, Hutton’s Vireo, House Finch, Lesser Goldfinch, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Western Tanager, Northern Cardinal, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Black-headed Grosbeak, Bronzed Cowbird, Scott’s Oriole.

May 19, 2009We ate breakfast comprising cereal and coffee, showered and got ready for the day. At least three javelinas were feeding outside our door.
At 07:00h we left to drive along a rough, winding mountain road to Rustler Park. It was cloudy and cool at this high elevation and though there were many birds flitting around high in the top of the giant conifers, they were hard to see and identify. We didn’t see or hear, however, a Greater Pewee as I had expected. Yellow-eyed Juncos were easy to find and were numerous, and we were able to observe a single Brown Creeper which kept dropping to the ground to feed on what appeared to be butterflies. Our only Olive Warbler of the trip was seen at this location. Miriam unfortunately was doing something with her camera and missed it.
Every single location now has a parking fee of $5.00 which is valid only for the location and day purchased. So if, for example, one visits five different locations in one day, that’s twenty-five bucks for parking. A little exorbitant, we thought. We headed over to Barfoot where we met a couple of other birders who told us that they had had little success there so we opted not to park and pay another five dollars. This couple also told us that in two days at high elevation they had not encountered a single Greater Pewee.
We left Barfoot at 10:40h to drive down to South Fork (another $5.00 parking fee) to search for an Elegant Trogon. We arrived at 11:30h and even though trogons had been reported as abundant we struck out.
We returned to Cave Creek Ranch to eat lunch - sandwiches of roasted turkey, honey baked ham, avocado and pepper jack cheese, accompanied by fresh cantaloupe and a cup of tea; all very enjoyable and eaten outside on our patio watching the birds at our feeder.
Following a nap after lunch we decided to drive into Portal and along Paradise Road to search for arid habitat species, but there was little to be seen and it started to rain. Thunder was heard in the distance.
We returned to South Fork and walked a little farther than we had earlier and heard a trogon but couldn’t locate it. The rain was getting heavier and we left at 16:45h to return to our casita. We sat on the porch where we were sheltered and had wine and cheese, followed by dinner which consisted of teriyaki chicken wings, cole slaw and an artichoke medley.
We thought that we might be able to induce a response from a Common Poorwill if we played its call along Paradise Road but we had no success at all.
The rain was getting heavier and so we returned and relaxed for the evening, reading before going to bed.

All species May 19, 2009
Turkey Vulture, Cooper’s Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk, Gamberl’s Quail, White-winged Dove, Lesser Nighthawk, White-throated Swift, Blue-throated Hummingbird, Black-chinned Hummingbird, Elegant Trogon (heard), Acorn Woodpecker, Arizona Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Western Wood Pewee, Cassin’s Kingbird, Western Kingbird, Cactus Wren, Vanyon Wren, Curve-billed Thrasher, Hermit Thrush, American Robin, Bridled Titmouse, White-breasted Nuthatch, Brown Creeper, Steller’s Jay, Mexican Jay, Chihuahuan Raven, House Finch, Lesser Goldfinch, Olive Warbler, Black-throated Grey Warbler, Painted Redstart, Western Tanager, Yellow-eyed Junco, Northern cardinal, Black-headed Grosbeak, Bullock’s Oriole.

May 20, 2009At 06:00 we were eating cereal and drinking coffee to a whole chorus of birds just beyond our kitchen. Two Gambel’s Quail and two javelinas were feeding right outside the door. Much to our surprise it was still raining, something we didn’t expect at this time of year. I have little doubt, however, that it was welcomed by many since the forests were tinder dry and the risk of fire was categorized as "very high."
We left at 07:05h to return to South Fork (another $5.00 to park) to try again for Elegant Trogon. We heard one calling almost as soon as we ventured onto the trail and in very short order spotted the bird sitting on a branch giving us an excellent line of sight. We saw the bird well from both back and front and could see its throat moving as it continued to call. It was a very satisfying lifer for Miriam. Several Sulphur-bellied Flycatchers were singing and we finally had one in clear view. It was already an excellent morning!
We returned to Cave Creek Ranch and enjoyed a coffee with a hard-boiled egg. At 10:15h we drove into Rodeo, NM to buy gas. It was still raining, if anything getting heavier. Gas was $2.79 per gallon in Rodeo compared with $2.20 or so we had been paying elsewhere. I guess you know when you’re the only game in town!
On the way back to Cave Creek we turned down a road marked "New Mexico Birding Trail" and almost immediately spotted a Greater Roadrunner and an antelope jack rabbit.
We were back at our casita by noon and made a sandwich which we ate outside. It was still raining but we took some grapes and a cup of tea over to the feeders nonetheless and sat there for a while.
One report had been made of a Red-faced Warbler at Pinery Campground so we struck out for there, back up the winding mountain road. Unfortunately we went to the wrong place. We ended up in Pine Canyon Campground. The birding was quite good but not the slightest hint of a Red-faced Warbler.
We were back at Cave Creek Ranch by 16:00h and relaxed on the porch with wine and cheese. Following another stint at the feeders we returned to our room for dinner, which was the same as last night.
Rain was now continuous and we read before turning in for the night. By then the rain was heavy and remained so through the night.

All species May 20, 2009Turkey Vulture, Gambel’s Quail, Mourning Dove, White-winged Dove, White-throated Swift, Broad-billed Hummingbird, Blue-throated Hummingbird, Magnificent Hummingbird, Black-chinned Hummingbird, Elegant Trogon, Acorn Woodpecker, Arizona Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Western Wood Pewee, Cassin’s Kingbird, Western Kingbird, Violet-green Swallow, Barn Swallow, Cactus Wren, Bewick’s Wren, House Wren, Curve-billed Thrasher, Crissal Thrasher, Hermit Thrush, American Robin, Blue-grey Gnatcatcher, Bridled Titmouse, White-breasted Nuthatch, Mexican Jay, Chihuahuan Raven, Common Raven, House Sparrow, House Finch, Lesser Goldfinch, Black-throated Grey Warbler, Painted Redstart, Western Tanager, Canyon Towhee, Northen Cardinal, Black-headed Grosbeak, Bullock’s Oriole, Scott’s Oriole.

May 21, 2009We breakfasted once again on cereal and coffee then packed our belongings and were on the road at 07:10 after bidding farewell to Reed.
It was still very overcast, but at least the heavy rain we had overnight had stopped.
We drove back into New Mexico and took Highway 80 north to Interstate 10 west back into Arizona. Rain had started to fall again and at times it was quite heavy. It had been our intention to bird in Wilcox but when we drove into town off the highway the streets were flooded and in places the water was midway up the wheels of cars. It was only 61 degrees F at 09:00h. Contemplating what the sandy parking area at the lake would be like, we decided not to risk getting mired in soft mud. In any event the rain was still falling incessantly, hardly conducive to pleasant birding.
Instead, given that we had lots of time, we decided to go into Tombstone and act like tourists! Times must be tough in Tombstone during this recession for there were very few tourists in town. You could have shot the proverbial cannon down the main street and not hit anyone.
We had no difficulty parking and meandered around for a while. In addition to the fake cowboys with their six guns, we once again saw regular citizens with side arms.
I’m afraid that other than for an excellent Mexican lunch at the Longhorn Restaurant, we didn’t spend a dime in Tombstone.
Right after lunch we were back on the road to Tucson, having decided that we would return to Tohono Chul Park and do some birding there. We arrived at about 13:30h, the sky was still grey but the rain had stopped except for a light shower for a brief period. We found the park very appealing and we had great birding there. We were glad that we had returned and actually entered the park rather than just birding in the parking lot. The only downside is that there is a constant hum of traffic noise but given the park’s location it cannot be avoided. We saw one Greater Roadrunner, a White-winged Dove on a nest in the crotch of a saguaro and just before leaving a Lesser Nighthawk was already flying. All in all there was a great cross section of desert species.
We left around 15:30h to wend our way through the city back to the Best Western Las Brisas for our final night.
At last we got the room we wanted with a nice balcony shaded by trees facing the pools. Third time lucky! It was a shame that the temperature was a mere 68 degrees F with overcast skies. We ate a Subway sandwich for dinner with a glass of Merlot and retreated back into the room at 18:15h because it was getting decidedly chilly.
We updated our bird lists and read for a while before going to sleep.

All species May 21, 2009
Turkey Vulture, Cooper’s Hawk, Gambel’s Quail, Common Pigeon, Mourning Dove, White-winged Dove, Greater Roadrunner, Lesser Nighthawk, Black-chinned Hummingbird, Costa’s Hummingbird, Acorn Woodpecker, Gilded Flicker, Brown-crested Flycatcher, Violet-green Swallow, Cactus Wren, Curve-billed Thrasher, Black-tailed Gnatcatcher, Bushtit, White-breasted Nuthatch, Verdin, Mexican Jay, Common Raven, House Sparrow, House Finch, Lesser Goldfinch, Northern Cardinal, Black-headed Grosbeak, Great-tailed Grackle, Bronzed Cowbird.

May 22, 2009
Breakfast was identical to the previous fare in the hotel restaurant.
By 07:00h we were on our way to the airport, turned in our rental car and were at the gate by 07:40h.
Our flight to Los Angeles left at 10:16h and was just over one hour in duration. We took the shuttle to Terminal 2 to connect with our Air Canada Flight home. Lunch was taken at Wolfgang Puck’s Food Counter. Miriam had a spicy chicken pizza and I chose a chicken caesar salad. Miriam’s pizza was quite good but my salad was mediocre.
We left Los Angeles on time and had an uneventful flight home. By the time we cleared customs and immigration, retrieved our bags and took the shuttle to get our car it was about midnight local time.
Traffic was moving well and we were in our house by about 01:15h. Had a cup of herbal tea and then went to bed.

AcknowledgementsThe following people provided help in various ways, all of which was very much appreciated.

Marcia Balestri provided details of her trips to the Cottonwood and Verde Valley areas of Arizona.
Dana Fox-Duxbury suggested that I contact Stuart Healey to try for a Spotted Owl sighting and made recommendations regarding accomodation.
Olga Harbour did a fantastic amount of research on our behalf and furnished a steady flow of information that really helped us with our trip. It was she who provided directions to the Spotted Owl that was seen for so long in Miller Canyon. I think that Olga became as involved in our trip as we were ourselves!
Leslie McCollum, our dear friend from San Diego, gave us much information and brought even more with her. She contacted a friend in Sedona to try to pinpoint a Williamson’s Sapsucker site for us.
Norm Murr gave us a great deal of information on his last visit to Arizona, including all of his sightings, and provided a link on the internet to Arizona bird songs.
Steve Rowe sent us cds of bird songs of Arizona and Northern Mexico.
Rick Wright’s regular postings on BirdChat were very helpful indeed. Without them we would not have visited Tohono Chul or Catalina State Park.

Bird ListA separate PDF file can be emailed to anyone interested. The format I have used for this list does not format on the blog. Please contact me at

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Paletta Park, Bronte Harbour, Shell Park, La Salle Park May 3, 2009

North Shore of Lake Ontario
Paletta Park, Bronte Harbour, Shell Park and La Salle Park
May 3, 2009

We left home at 08:30h on a beautiful sunny morning. The temperature was around 8 degrees C with a predicted high of 18 degrees C. Spring migration is now far advanced and we looked forward to a glorious day of migrants. How grand it is to be a birder!

Paletta Park, Burlington

Situated just west of Appleby Line along Lakeshore Boulevard in Burlington, this restored 19th century mansion on the shore of the lake, is a migrant magnet at this time of the year. There is a small wood lot with a creek running through it, as well as manicured lawns and other ornamental plantings. Since it is right on the lake, it is an ideal location for waterfowl, gulls and terns. It is also a welcome spot, especially for a mixed group of birders, for it has clean, warm washrooms!
Immediately upon arriving, we located a couple of Yellow Warblers and at least three Blue-grey Gnatcatchers, a species not so many years ago considered quite rare. We had hoped for more warblers and vireos but we could find none. A birder we encountered at the head of the trail advised that he had seen Chestnut-sided Warbler, Warbling Vireo and Philadelphia Vireo, but we neither heard nor saw any of these species and conversations with other birders revealed that they didn’t either. However, it was very pleasant to be there and we were charmed by a female Mallard with eleven young. There were lots of Red-winged Blackbirds and Northern Cardinals and numerous other common species.

Bronte Harbour, Oakville

Bronte Harbour always merits a visit for the variety of waterfowl and gulls often found there, but especially so in recent years for the Red-necked Grebes that have nested on tires in the inner harbour. I believe that every year but one they have successfully raised young. There were two tires anchored in the water and one was occupied by a sitting grebe. As far as we could tell, the second tire had not been used.
Traditionally the walls of the Lighthouse Restaurant hosted a large number of Cliff Swallow nests, but the ones that have not been sealed off by wire mesh have been entirely expropriated by House Sparrows. We saw many Barn Swallows but there was not a Cliff Swallow in sight.
Three Caspian Terns were fishing outside the breakwater and when one dived and came up with a fish it was harassed by the others, but finally succeeded in swallowing the fish while in flight.
It was pleasant to see so many people out and about taking in a fine spring day. People walked their dogs, children were pushed on swings, young lovers clung to each other as they promenaded around the harbour, kites were flown. It was invigorating to be close to the water.

Shell Park, Oakville

Over the years Shell Park has produced several rarities, but regardless of the success or failure of a day’s birding, it is always a pleasant place to visit. We enjoyed a great hour and a half there, the highlight being two Brown Thrashers. We also saw a couple of Ruby-crowned Kinglets. I doubt that we have ever seen so many Northern Cardinals in one area, and their song constantly filled the air.
We had lunch at Shell Park and a fine repast it was. Before leaving I had made sandwiches of a superior French ham with a fine Gruyere cheese, layered together on a crusty toasted garlic bread lightly coated with Dijon mustard. How wonderful! We also had a quantity of fresh blueberries. The trees are all coming into leaf, tulips were resplendent in the gardens, birds were singing and the sun was warm and inviting. What could be better?

La Salle Park and Marina, Burlington
The road to the park was closed due to the boats that had been stored all winter being deposited by crane into the water, so we parked on a nearby road and walked down.
We saw both Barn Swallow and Northern Rough-winged Swallow, as well as a variety of waterfowl including both Mute and Trumpeter Swans.
People thronged the area. We saw everything from ancient citizens with walkers and canes to youngsters barely able to keep their balance enjoying the weather. Even non- birders seemed to enjoy the plentiful waterfowl and despite injunctions not to feed the birds, many were doing so. I am sure that some inner need to connect with nature is satisfied by so doing.
Had we been able to drive right into the parking area at the marina, we would have missed the highlights of the visit to La Salle. On the way out we heard and then located a Carolina Wren lustily singing for all its worth and in the same tree both Northern and Orchard Orioles. What a fine farewell to a delightful day of birding.

Our backyard, Waterloo
We made for the patio as soon as we had unloaded the car. How lucky we were to see a glorious adult White-throated Sparrow in full courtship plumage, several Pine Siskins, an abundance of American Goldfinches, Chipping Sparrows, American Robins bathing in the bird bath, House Sparrows, Black-capped Chickadees, a male Downy Woodpecker and others. We decided to dine al fresco, so we had a fine French Roquefort cheese aged in caves in the Pyrenees slathered on crusty bread and an oriental salad, accompanied by a superb bottle of Masi Campofiorin. A mixture of ethnicities no doubt, but a wonderful repast nonetheless.
Once again, birding and its attendant delights had provided us with a day of rich pleasure.

All Species

Red-necked Grebe
Double-crested Cormorant
Great Blue Heron
Canada Goose
Mute Swan
Trumpeter Swan
Lesser Scaup
Long-tailed Duck
Common Goldeneye
Red-breasted Merganser
Turkey Vulture
Red-tailed Hawk
Ring-billed Gull
American Herring Gull
Caspian Tern
Common Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Chimney Swift
Belted Kingfisher
Downy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Barn Swallow
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Carolina Wren
Brown Thrasher
American Robin
Blue-grey Gnatcatcher
Black-capped Chickadee
Blue Jay
American Crow
European Starling
House Sparrow
Pine Siskin
American Goldfinch
Yellow Warbler
Chipping Sparrow
Song Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
Northern Cardinal
Red-winged Blackbird
Common Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
Orchard Oriole
Baltimore Oriole

Land Acknowledgement

We acknowledge that the land on which we are situated are the lands traditionally used by the Haudenosaunee, Anishinaabe, and Neutral People. We also acknowledge the enduring presence and deep traditional knowledge, laws, and philosophies of the Indigenous Peoples with whom we share this land today. We are all treaty people with a responsibility to honour all our relations.