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Friday, August 31, 2012

Tucson Arizona: The Hummers & Hawks

We woke up early this morning and grabbed an awesome buffet breakfast. It took us a little while to get all our luggage in the car so we could also fit the gear we would be needed all day easily. Think the game of Tetris only lifesize and much harder than just moving your thumbs. Anyways we finally with several modifications found a system that worked and we were off.

I sat in the backseat for the entire trip and although I would have loved to sit up front I made the best of being in the back. After all I had much more room to sprawl out with all of my stuff.

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We had three major stops that we wanted to accomplish before dinner with the last stop having several points of interest that we needed to fit in. Since Mr. & Mrs. Owlbait have been here so often they knew all the locations and also knew how long we needed at each place. We first stopped at two different houses that were famous for their hummingbird feeders. Hummingbirds are generally difficult to see however these houses provide them a refuge, and for a fee a birder can swing by the house and sit in comfort while viewing several different kinds of hummers.

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WE STOPPED AT TWO HOUSES THAT ARE FAMOUS FOR THEIR HUMMINGBIRD FEEDERS

Most of the hummingbirds we saw during this entire trip were at these two houses. All in all I saw over 500 hummers, most of the species I got to see were new. In fact I got to see 9 different species of hummingbird and 7 of those species were birds I had never seen before. Officially for my Nerdy Birdy List I was able to cross off five hummingbirds from my list; FIVE in less than four days. It was a great indicator for how this trip was going to pan out for me.

Right before we left for this trip Mrs. Owlbait was watching the rare bird alerts and found out that a very rare bird, a Start Throat Hummingbird was going at one of the hummingbird houses we were planning on visiting today. Without any guarantees that it would be there we were totally ESTATIC to find out that not only was the bird still there but that it was showing itself relatively often. In the three hours we were there we got to see the bird four times. I got one clear shot that came out great. I was super happy!

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STAR THROAT HUMMINGBIRD

While we were waiting for the rarity to show up I was focused on trying to get photos of all the new hummingbirds. Everything was a rarity to me. Both Mr. & Mrs. Owlbait worked with me to help me identify the birds. I have to say seeing all these hummingbirds in one location really helped. I was able to tell certain birds just by their size or the length of their bill because I had other species to compare it too. Because the birds were so used to people watching closely while they fed I was able to get so many fantastic photos of hummingbirds. Probably some of the best I have ever taken. Although it was difficult with them darting all over the place so quickly I tried to get most of them not actually by or landing on the feeders. A bird in its natural environment always make a better photograph in my opinion.

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BROAD BILLED HUMMINGBIRD

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BROAD BILLED HUMMINGBIRD

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IMMATURE BROAD BILLED HUMMINGBIRD

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MAGNIFICIENT HUMMINGBIRD

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MAGNIFICIENT HUMMINGBIRD FEMALE

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BLUE THROATED HUMMINGBIRD

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BLUE THROATED HUMMINGBIRD FEMALE

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BROAD TAILED HUMMINGBIRD

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LUCIFER HUMMINGBIRD

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VIOLET CROWNED HUMMINGBIRD

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VIOLET CROWNED HUMMINGBIRD

And two species of hummers that are pretty common in LALA land I almost wasn’t going to post but the photos were just too beautiful. I just had to share.

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ANNA’S HUMMINGIBRD

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ALLEN’S HUMMINGBIRD

While driving between all the locations everyone made sure to point out every single raptor to the rest of the car. Most often they were Turkey Vultures or Red Tailed Hawks but even flying with these birds could be other interesting Hawks. Over the course of the trip we spotted three raptors. The first was a Swainson’s Hawk, which I have seen once before. This bird was flying with some Turkey Vultures but this bird is easy to distinguish from most other raptors with its unique pattern.

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SWAINSON’S HAWK

The next hawk we saw on the trip we almost missed. The Zone Tailed Hawk is pretty dark so if you don’t look closely at that stripped tail you may just think it was another Turkey Vulture. We were stopped to photograph another bird when one of the Owlbaits called out the bird. Thankfully he was pretty cooperative and circled overhead a few times before taking off. This is a new hawk to cross off my Nerdy Birdy List!!!!

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ZONE TAILED HAWK

The last cool bird of prey we found was the Grey Hawk. They are pretty rare and found only sometimes in Southern Arizona. We happened upon him while driving and although I did get photos he was pretty skittish. We kept creeping closer and he kept flying further away. Finally he took off up a huge hill and we could follow no further.

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GREY HAWK

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GREY HAWK

I cannot state it enough that I was totally shocked by Arizona. I always thought it would be more like Joshua Tree, rugged and desert like… you know more BROWN. However I guess this is such a great time to come to Arizona because now is its second spring, aka monsoon season. So aside from the fact that it was raining every single day in the desert which was weird enough, the vegetation was also abnormally green. I just had a hard time reconciling my version of Arizona and the reality.

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Oh and on a happier note, I do love love love me some great big beautiful clouds. With all the rain I had all the clouds a cloud loving girl could ask for. Clouds really make landscape photos that much more fantastic. LOVE LOVE LOVE!!!!

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We had now been birding for 12 hours straight and it was time to get some dinner. One of the best things about traveling with the Owlbaits is how much I can learn. They seem to know so MUCH and I am just trying to suck it up like a sponge. Mrs. Owlbait’s favorite restaurant was near and she had made reservations. CafĂ© Roka was super fabulous; small and intimate and oh so super yummy. I opted for the lasagna, I figured with all the hiking and carrying around that big lens I deserved the extra calories, and my oh my it was heavenly!

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After dinner it was time for owling; what the Owlbait’s know best. Mrs. Owlbait had had success before at a location about an hour away. Although driving around at night can get you in trouble with border patrol we decided to chance it. We weren’t really sure if we would get owls this late in the season. It is pretty easy to bring in owls in the springtime, even the summer it is possible, but generally in the fall and winter owls will ignore you. Mrs. Owlbait tried to play the call of the Elf Owl first because that would be a new bird for me. We played the tape and we crossed our fingers. Imagine our great happy surprise that within minutes we had a little guy calling right back to us. Another new bird to cross off my Nerdy Birdy List.

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ELF OWL

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ELF OWL

After a while we took a walk leaving the Elf Owl to go back to its hunting. Mrs. Owlbait decided next to try for a Whiskered Screech Owl, cousin to the Western Screech Owl near LALA land. Again we gasped when not a few minutes later Mrs. Owlbait was able to pull in a Whiskered Screech Owl! This guy seemed less shy about checking us out and we were able to get some fantastic photos. Even though it was a new bird for me this one wasn’t on my list however it was such a treat, we were so lucky to see both of the target owls in this area!

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WHISKERED SCREECH OWL

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WHISKERED SCREECH OWL

We didn’t get to our next hotel until 12:30 in the morning. With about 16 hours of birding under our belt and getting 11 new birds, 7 of which I can cross off my Nerdy Birdy List, it was officially a fantastic first day. Only 3 more fun packed days left.

3 comments:

Jess said...

They are soooo pretty! Gorgeous Hummies! The iridescent colors are lovely.

paul peggy zeus said...

So many hummingbirds here I've not yet seen. And I'm in Love with the Elf Owl! Such big eyes you have. . .

Jennifer Arens said...

I never knew/heard of different species of hummingbirds. The broad billed was definitely my fave(the 2nd shot). How fun to find people that enjoy a hobby MORE than you! I wonder if there are owl optometrists.....

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