Mt. Lemmon Adventure, July 2014
by Henry Detwiler

A weekend of bird photography in the Santa Catalina Mountains with Suzanne

86 species seen  Click here for bird checklist

Yellow-eyed Junco

Our first stop out of Yuma was at the Aztec Feed Lot where we were happy to find good numbers of shorebirds, including a single (of course) Solitary Sandpiper and a Baird's Sandpiper. Not much else except one of the resident Burrowing Owls and squadrons of Turkey Vultures. Maybe next time we'll Santa Rita Mountainsget that Black Vulture!


We made it to Bear Canyon on Mt. Lemmon by lunchtime, and ate our sandwiches under the watchful eye of Mexican Jays. Our primary goal for this trip was warbler photographs, so we drove up to Summerhaven in search of VIrginia's Warbler. Along E. Bowie St we twice glimpsed these brush-loving birds, but they were woo quick for us to get snapshots. A good number of feeders attracted hordes of birds like Lesser Goldfinch, Pine Siskin, Broad-tailed Hummingbird, Pygmy and White-breasted Nuthatches, and Yellow-eyed Junco.



Red-faced warbler



Black-headed GrosbeakGiven the excellent weather forecast for the afternoon and evening, we decided to camp along Mt. Bigelow Road, up at 8300'. Imagine our surprise when we were raked with howling winds at 10:00 p.m., assaulted by lightning and thunder at 11:00 p.m., and pummeled by sheets of rain at midnight. No owling on this trip!


Five-striped Sparrow




Sunday morning was cool (54 F) and beautiful. After breakfast we decided we'd drive down to Molino Basin and work our way up the mountain. Bell's Vireo, Phainopepla, and Black-headed Grosbeak were some of the low-elevation birds. A nice hike up into Bear Canyon turned up three vireo species, Canyon Wren, Black-throated Gray Warbler, and a beautiful Red-faced Warbler captured by Suzanne.

Cowbird & Gnatcatcher




Magnificent Hummingbird

Back up at Summerhaven we tried again to photograph the Virginia's Warblers; once again we were left with photos of twigs where they'd just been! But the bird activity was high, and we got great looks at Magnificent Hummingbird, House Wren, and a parade of finches. After a tasty lunch at the Iron Door we birded Rose Canyon, and then drove back down into the desert to visit Agua Caliente Regional Park. Gone were the breezy 70-degree forests; now it was 105 and humid. Fortunately, Vermilion Flycatchers, Gila Woodpeckers, and Abert's Towhees entertained us before we called it a day.


Gila Monster

On Monday morning we spent a couple of hours at Sabino Canyon Recreation Area before it got too hot.



It was interesting but somewhat sad to see a pair of Black-tailed Gnatcatchers feverishly catching insects to feed a comparatively huge Brown-headed Cowbird fledgling. The best find of our visit, though, was a large, non-avian, Gila Monster.

Can't wait to return!

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