Sep
16
2014

Piles of Purple Martins on the Lower San Pedro

By Jennie MacFarland, Arizona IBA Program Biologist, Tucson Audubon

Purplemartins4_smaller

Purple Martins on the Lower San Pedro by David Bygott

As someone who lives in Tucson, how much do you really think about Purple Martins? Purple Martins are those birds who live in big white apartment style bird houses right? I think I once saw a really cool one for sale in Sky Mall. For most of the United States this is likely how they think of Purple Martins, as large swallows that live in their yard and cannot survive without a friendly hand from humanity. I did once see in print that Purple Martins can no longer survive without human created artificial nesting structures. As condescending as this is, it also turns out to be completely false, especially in SE Arizona. The Purple Martins we have nesting in SE Arizona are special and amazing, so much so that they are their own sub-species known as the “Desert Nesting” Purple Martin. These bad-boy martins shun human created “martin condos” and raise their young in saguaro cavities created by woodpeckers. They especially favor areas where saguaros lie near riparian zones where they stalk their insect prey. An excellent example of where these two habitats meet is the Lower San Pedro Global Important Bird Area.

Purple Martins on Wire and Saguaro by David Bygott

Purple Martins on Wire and Saguaro by David Bygott

 This past summer the Important Bird Areas team had a chance to partner with Kevin Frasier of York University, a scientist who specializes in Purple Martins. With the goal of studying this little known sub-species of Purple Martins he and his crew traveled all the way to Tucson from Canada with the hope of capturing a number of these amazing martins and outfitting them with satellite trackers so their migration path and winter home could be discovered. Surprisingly, no one knows precisely where these martins go, they are on a completely different migration schedule than the other Purple Martins.

The pond along the Lower San Pedro that the Purple Martins love

The pond along the Lower San Pedro that the Purple Martins love

The Arizona IBA crew had a great time working with Kevin when he was here in June and he did get a gps marker on one female Purple Martin. Many DNA samples were also collected from individuals caught in a mist net stretched out near the large pond near the river. The DNA will help determine how genetically different our Purple Martins are from the main group. The large vegetated pond on the east side of the Lower San Pedro near San Manuel had become a remarkable gathering place for these Purple Martins in the evenings. We went out there three separate evenings and watched the martins gather in huge flocks to drink and bathe. Then on an unknown cue they would all take off and fly in synchronized patterns like Starlings. Just before darkness completely descended there would be another unknown cue and they would all funnel down to a few large cottonwoods near the river to communally roost for the night. It was an amazing thing to see. Kevin and his crew are returning next summer to conduct more extensive studies on these little martins and I will be giving a full account of the work done this last summer at the upcoming AZFO meeting in Globe on October 4, 2014. Hope to see you there.

Oct
28
2013

Eastern “Azure” Bluebird Blitz a Success!

Male Azure Bluebird by Lois Manowitz

Male Azure Bluebird by Lois Manowitz

For the first time the Arizona IBA program held an “all bluebird” survey of an area we have surveyed quite a bit, the Patagonia Mountains on Saturday October 26, 2013. Our target bird, the charming Eastern Bluebird, has an interesting background here in SE Arizona. The population here in some of our SE AZ “sky islands” is part of the sub species of Eastern Bluebird known both as Azure Bluebird and Mexican Bluebird (Sialia sialis fulva). Its range finds its northern limits here in the Huachuca Mountains, the Patagonia Mountains and adjoining areas such as the San Rafael Grasslands. Their range is larger than this area and extends south into Mexico in the Sierra Madre Occidental, a chain of Sky Islands that extends across the international border much like the Sky Islands we are familiar with here in Arizona. This is a special little bird that is actually not very well studied or understood. It has some range and behavioral difference from the main population of Eastern Bluebirds, it doesn’t migrate and notably, there are some physical differences as well. This fulva subspecies, here after called Azure Bluebirds, is overall a paler version of “normal” Eastern Bluebirds.”

Beautiful habitat of the Patagonia Mountains by Kate Reynolds

Beautiful habitat of the Patagonia Mountains by Kate Reynolds

Not much is known about this species and getting a recording of an Azure Bluebird proved impossible. What we mainly observed in the field was a musical, rising “chur-lee” with a “tu-a-wee” being the alternate description.

Azure Bluebird in nest hole by Richard Thompson

Azure Bluebird in nest hole by Richard Thompson

When it came to correctly identifying the Azure Bluebirds, the big things to note here is the extent of the blue on the head (Eastern and Azure have reddish cheeks and Westerns have all blue heads) and the fact that Azure (and Eastern) Bluebirds have white tummies (this is also clear in females) and Western Bluebirds have gray tummies. Also this time of year Westerns tend to flock and Azures not so much.

Volunteers at Spirit Tree Inn watching Azure Bluebirds by Richard Thompson

Volunteers at Spirit Tree Inn watching Azure Bluebirds by Richard Thompson

The protocol for this survey was relaxed and easy. Each team had a section of road assigned to them and spent the morning driving down that section and pulling off anytime the habitat looks good and getting out and looking around. The biggest things we recorded were the time and how many Azure Bluebirds were observed (with male, female etc. if you can tell) and any notes about what they are doing. Each team also kept a species list of all birds they encountered and were able to identify.

Azure Bluebirds showing breeding behavior very late in the season by Richard Thompson

Azure Bluebirds showing breeding behavior very late in the season by Richard Thompson

Results

We did quite well on this survey – we recorded a total of 42 Eastern “Azure” Bluebirds and some in areas they had not been previously reported. One team found a group of 5 Azure Bluebirds at Spirit Tree B&B that were showing breeding behavior! They were entering a cavity entrance in a telephone pole carrying insects, at one point both the male and the female were in the cavity together! The second team (Harshaw Road to Mowry Wash) did quite well with several small groups and pairs nicely distributed throughout the route with a large group of both Azure and Western Bluebirds using the excellent habitat at Guajalote Flat. We conservatively counted 10 Azure Bluebirds and 18 Westerns at this one spot alone. This route had a total of 22 Azure Bluebirds. The third team covered the San Rafael Valley Road and Corral Canyon. They did quite well with 15 Azure Bluebirds recorded and 9 of these were at the entrance to Corral Canyon. Here they spotted an unexpected and exceedingly rare bird, a Blue Jay! You know, the Blue Jay of the Eastern US! An incredible find and they also got terrific photos which can be seen here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/loismanow/10501611594/

Special thanks to the amazing volunteers who made this survey possible: Tim Helentjaris, Kate Reynolds, Virginia Reynolds, Richard Thompson, Katrina Mangin, Paul Suchanek, Nancy Rivera, John Reuland, Lois Manowitz, John Hoffman. Also a big thank you to Gathering Grounds Cafe in Patagonia for opening early for us.

Sep
24
2013

Lower San Pedro Summer Season Summary

Purple Martins along the Lower San Pedro

Purple Martins along the Lower San Pedro

As this summer’s heat fades into fragrant fall with migration just around the corner there is a twinge of sadness that the Important Bird Area field season is winding down. It is also incredibly gratifying to look back over the last several months and review some of the amazing observations the Arizona IBA crew had this summer. Much of the summer survey work happened along the Lower San Pedro River north of Tucson near San Manuel. This portion of the San Pedro River is stunningly beautiful and ecologically rich with thick riparian vegetation and lots of birds and wildlife. This summer was the second year we conducted Yellow-billed Cuckoo surveys in this area and found even more breeding occurrences than last year.

Lower San Pedro running very high this summer

Lower San Pedro running very high this summer

Our western subspecies of this bird is of very high conservation concern due to severe habitat loss and we found them on each of our three survey mornings along the Lower San Pedro. These birds are notoriously shy and often avoid detection during an all-bird survey. To get an accurate picture of how many cuckoos are using this habitat to nest we used a call-back protocol where we played to call of a Yellow-billed Cuckoo over small speakers and waited for the territorial birds to respond. They are so good at hiding that sometimes we would hear them right over us, calling loudly but couldn’t see them, an amazing feat for a 10-12 inch long bird in a cottonwood! This season we found at least 10 separate breeding territories along 5 km of this excellent riparian habitat. This is an excellent result and if further proof of the importance of the Lower San Pedro River Global IBA to native birds.

Box Turtle along Lower San Pedro

Box Turtle along Lower San Pedro

Our summer time season along the San Pedro was characterized by many amazing encounters including fresh Black Bear tracks, a troop of White-nosed Coatis, Box Turtle and numerous rattlesnakes, both Mohave and Western Diamond Back. There were also many adventures including a survey where the river was so high that most roads were impassable (though one team did get their car stuck in the mud but managed to free themselves!) and two separate owl/nightjar surveys where an alarming and mysterious sound was heard. One team though it was a mountain lion or bob cat while the other team later in the season swore it sounded like a black bear snuffling very close by. Both teams ended up finishing that nocturnal point count from inside the car with the windows open!

Coati on the Lower San Pedro

Coati on the Lower San Pedro

With all of the amazing sights and sounds our team encountered this summer, one of the most amazing was the Purple Martins. The Purple Martins here in SE Arizona are quite different from those that live in the Eastern U.S. with a different way of going about nesting. They don’t live in large “bird hotels” put up by people, they prefer to nest in saguaro cavities that occur near riparian areas where they can hunt for insects.The Lower San Pedro River is perfect for these desert nesting Purple Martins as there are extensive saguaro uplands that come quite close to the lush riparian zone. We would occasionally see them on our other surveys soaring over the river emitting their strange static-like call and this was the first year we tried to get a sense of how many are nesting in the area. The results were nothing short of staggering, especially during the June survey. We drove River Road north and east of the San Pedro in the evening and within 5 miles of driving counted well over one thousand Purple Martins sitting on telephone wires and soaring over the saguaro uplands. This road runs parallel to the river right where the mesquite bosque ends and the desert uplands begin so is ideal for counting these birds. To see this relatively rare subspecies in such large numbers was surprising, we will definitely be investigating this more closely next year.

Northern Beardless Tyrannulet with nest in a tent caterpillar web

Northern Beardless Tyrannulet with nest in a tent caterpillar web

Sep
23
2013

Bendire’s Thrasher Survey at Chicken Springs Report

Thrasher nest in cholla by J. MacFarland

Thrasher nest in cholla by J. MacFarland

This past April the Arizona IBA crew and Arizona Field Ornithologists co-led an expedition to an area west of Wikieup near Lake Havasu called the Chicken Springs Allotment, an area managed by BLM. We were there to inventory all birds with transects and nocturnal surveys but our main target was Bendier’s Thrasher. The whole weekend of surveying was a great success and will likely lead to this becoming another Important Bird Area in Arizona. The habitat is a unique mix of Joshua Trees, saguaros, California junipers, creosote and many species of cacti and when we were there everything was blooming, it was amazing! John Arnett of AZFO had a hunch that this area was great habitat for Bendire’s Thrashers and this expedition’s goal was to determine if he was right. He was! We found over 30 individual Bendire’s Thrashers on the site and 10 confirmed pairs, this should qualify this site as a Global IBA in the future!

Here are some highlights of what else we encountered:

 

For the Nocturnals, we found 56 Elf Owls, 17 Western Screech-Owls, 5 Great-horned Owls, 31 Lesser Nighthawks and 19 Common Poorwills.

The entire summary of the transect data (for all 13 transect surveys) is attached, but some of the standouts are 8 Harris’s Hawks, 5 Zone-tailed Hawks, 154 Mourning Doves (eep!), 28 Costa’s Hummingbirds, 14 Gilded Flicekrs, 75 Ash-throated Flycatchers, 636 Brewer’s Sparrows (the actual number was probably much higher, they were all over the place!) and 197 Black-throated Sparrows.

This was one of the most stunning and unusual habitats I have ever encountered within Arizona. Truly worth a visit!

Bendire's or Bust! by Matt Griffiths

Bendire’s or Bust! by Matt Griffiths

 

Complete Summary of birds and other animals recorded.

Gambel’s Quail     32

Stunning Scenery on Chicken Springs by Jennie MacFarland

Stunning Scenery on Chicken Springs by Jennie MacFarland

Turkey Vulture     29

Cooper’s Hawk    1

Harris’s Hawk       8

Zone-tailed Hawk               5

Red-tailed Hawk    3

American Kestrel    9

White-winged Dove             8

Mourning Dove    154

Lesser Nighthawk                3

Common Poorwill               1

Sunrise over the Joshua Trees by J. MacFarland

Sunrise over the Joshua Trees by J. MacFarland

Black-chinned Hummingbird           1

Anna’s Hummingbird         1

Costa’s Hummingbird         28

Gila Woodpecker    4

Ladder-backed Woodpecker            20

Northern Flicker   1

Gilded Flicker       14

Unidentified Flicker sp.       5

Unidentified Woodpecker  1

Western Wood-Pewee         1

Matt Griffiths conducting Bendire's  Thrasher call back survey by J. MacFarland

Matt Griffiths conducting Bendire’s Thrasher call back survey by J. MacFarland

Hammond’s Flycatcher      1

Gray Flycatcher   13

Unidentified Empidonax   5

Ash-throated Flycatcher    75

Brown-crested Flycatcher  1

Cassin’s Kingbird     9

Western Kingbird      21

Loggerhead Shrike              4

Plumbeous Vireo           1

Unidentified Vireo               2

Western Scrub-Jay              10

Common Raven  15

Northern Rough-winged Swallow     2

Bridled Titmouse       1

Juniper Titmouse        25

Unidentified Titmouse        1

Verdin    38

Huge Joshua Tree by Matt Griffiths

Huge Joshua Tree by Matt Griffiths

Bushtit   3

Cactus Wren         78

Bewick’s Wren      19

Unidentified Wren               1

Ruby-crowned Kinglet       2

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher       2

Black-tailed Gnatcatcher   27

Unidentified Gnatcatcher   2

Northern Mockingbird        58

Bendire’s Thrasher               10

Curve-billed Thrasher         16

Bendire's Thrasher Survey Base Camp by Matt Griffiths

Bendire’s Thrasher Survey Base Camp by Matt Griffiths

Crissal Thrasher   7

Phainopepla         76

Virginia’s Warbler                1

Lucy’s Warbler     53

Yellow-rumped Warbler     2

Wilson’s Warbler  6

Summer Tanager        1

Western Tanager         2

Green-tailed Towhee           9

Spotted Towhee   1

Canyon Towhee  5

Rufous-crowned Sparrow  2

Chipping Sparrow                54

Brewer’s Sparrow    636

Black-chinned Sparrow      3

Beaver Tail Prickly Pear Cactus by Matt Griffiths

Beaver Tail Prickly Pear Cactus by Matt Griffiths

Lark Sparrow       8

Black-throated Sparrow     197

White-crowned Sparrow     17

Lazuli Bunting     3

Unidentified Bunting          1

Brown-headed Cowbird     12

Hooded Oriole      7

Bullock’s Oriole    3

Scott’s Oriole         17

House Finch         79

Lesser Goldfinch     10

House Sparrow    1

Black-tailed Jack Rabbit     2

Cottontail Species               3

Mule Deer             1


Sep
23
2013

Elegant Trogon Survey Results 2013

2013 Summary of Arizona Elegant Trogon Census Results
by Rick Taylor, Count CompilerElegant Trogon

On the weekends of June 1-2 and June 8-9, 2013 some 79 volunteers turned out to census Elegant Trogons in all 5 border ranges in Southeastern Arizona where they are known to occur. Counters recorded all visual and audio observations in their territories from 6-11 a.m. By comparing times and locations of observations I was able to deduce the minimum number of Elegant Trogons present. Altogether 86 Elegant Trogons were documented: 49 males, 22 females, and 15 unknowns not assigned to gender because they were heard but not seen. All females were in proximity to males with whom they were assumed to be paired, yielding a total of 22 probable pairs. Eighty-six (86) represents the minimum known population of Elegant Trogons in the border mountains of Southeastern Arizona as of June 9, 2013.

These results probably do not fully account for all female trogons present. At this time of year many female trogons are incubating eggs or brooding chicks for most of the morning. Based the behaviors of male trogons during the census, as well as incidental observations just prior to the counts in the respective mountain areas, an additional 11 trogons that were neither seen nor heard by the counters were thought to be present. These birds that escaped detection during the actual census are shown in parentheses in the table below.

2013 Elegant Trogons Totals in Arizona:

Santa Rita Mountains: 10 males. 6 females, 1 unknown (+2 probables) = 17 (=19)
Atascosa Mountains: 8 males, 3 females, 0 unknown (+2 probables) = 11 (=13)
Patagonia Mountains: 8 males, 2 females, 5 unknown (+0 probables) = 15 (=15)
Huachuca Mountains: 17 males, 9 females, 8 unknown (+4 probables) = 34 (=38)
Chiricahua Mountains: 6 males, 2 females, 1 unknown (+3 probables) = 9 (=12)

Totals: 49 males, 22 females, 15 unknowns, (+11 probables) = 86 (=97)

Elegant Trogon, female, by Bob Wenrick

Elegant Trogon, female, by Bob Wenrick

The areas selected for this count were canyons from which Elegant Trogons are historically known. It is important to note, however, that with only 79 volunteer counters, a few canyons where trogons are either known or are suspected to have occurred in all five mountains were not surveyed for Elegant Trogons this June. All of these canyons are thought to be peripheral areas where probably no more than 1 pair—or conceivably 2 pairs—could be present. In the majority of these canyons probably none are present. Obviously more volunteer counters would be desirable to improve coverage of potential Elegant Trogon habitat in the future.

Santa Rita Mountains. Conducting research for the US Forest Service, I personally estimated 8-12 birds were using Madera Canyon in the late 1970s and early 1980s, as well as 1 pair in Cave Canyon, 1 pair in Garden Canyon, and 2-3 pairs in Josephine Canyon. These results largely agree with those of Linnea S. Hall (unpublished dissertation, U. of Arizona, 1996), who also found Elegant Trogons in Temporal Gulch in 1993 and 1994, and using Big Casa Blanca Canyon in 1994 and 1995. This June count teams recorded 11 Elegant Trogons using Madera Canyon, as well as additional birds in Cave Canyon (1 pair) and Temporal Gulch (2 pairs). Although no trogons were detected in Josephine Canyon on the actual survey, 2 trogons were found there on 5/29/2013. It appears that Elegant Trogon populations in the Santa Rita Mountains are stable.

Atascosa Mountains. My research in Sycamore Canyon in the Atascosa Mountains showed a minimum of 8 and a maximum of 12 Elegant Trogons in that canyon from 1978-1983. Hall found 6 Elegant Trogons in Sycamore Canyon in 1994, the only year she conducted research there. A pair and a seemingly unattached male in Pena Blanca Canyon during the census on June 9 this year seems to represent a new breeding location, although trogons have previously—albeit not consistently—been found in this canyon during the Atascosa Highlands Christmas Bird Count. Elegant Trogon populations in the Atascosa Mountains appear to be stable

Patagonia Mountains. Hall surveyed for Elegant Trogons in 4 canyons in the Patagonia Mountains in 1994 and 1995 and found only 1 male. Several sources have reported trogons using the Patagonia Mountains since then (Matt Brown, pers. comm., Jennie MacFarland, pers. comm., and Helen Snyder, pers. comm.), but numbers for the mountain range as a whole were not known. Although no nests were discovered in the survey, having counters document 15 Elegant Trogons on June 9 this year may mean the Patagonia Mountains have become an important Arizona breeding area for the species.

Huachuca Mountains. On June 10, 1980 in a census similar to the one volunteers completed on June 1, 2013, counters found 33 Elegant Trogons in the Huachuca Mountains. In work spanning from mid-April to late June, Linnea Hall and 4-5 assistants recorded 37 trogons for the Huachuca Mountains in 1993. In 1994 she and her team found 76 trogons in this range, the greatest number ever recorded for a single mountain range within Arizona. This year the survey team documented 34 birds in the Huachuca Mountains, and—based on behaviors the counters observed—probably there were at least 38 Elegant Trogons present. Excluding 1994 when record numbers of birds were recorded by Hall, the population of Elegant Trogons in the Huachuca Mountains appears to be stable.

Elegant Trogon by Dominic Sherony

Elegant Trogon by Dominic Sherony

Chiricahua Mountains. In the Chiricahua Mountains where I conducted most of my Elegant Trogon research from 1977-1984, I found numbers in the S. Fork-Cave Creek Canyon complex were remarkably consistent. The low count of 20 adults was in 1979 and the high count of 23 adults occurred in 1978. Using the same methods, annual June S. Fork-Cave Creek trogon counts sponsored by the US Forest Service were conducted from 1991 through 2001. The peak number was 1994 when 30 volunteer observers found 22 trogons in the S. Fork-Cave Creek Canyon complex. The lowest number recorded was 1999 when 28 observers found just 12 adult Elegant Trogons. The lowest number ever found in the S. Fork-Cave Creek Canyon census was June 26, 2011 when only 7 trogons were detected. This was the same day the 223,000 Horseshoe II Fire was officially declared 100% contained. Eight (8) Elegant Trogons were found in this area in 2012, and this year 26 volunteers documented 6 trogons in the S. Fork-Cave Creek Canyon complex. Based on behaviors exhibited by the males and an observation 3 days earlier, it seems likely that 3 additional females were present—or 9 adult trogons altogether. Working in Rucker Canyon, a survey team discovered 3 other trogons, including a pair, but teams in 3 other Chiricahua canyons failed to find any. Therefore in 2013 the total number of known Elegant Trogons in the Chiricahua Mountains was 9, and there were probably 12 individuals altogether.

Directly through habitat destruction, or indirectly through watershed degradation, fuel reduction activities, actual fire suppression, or a combination of these and other factors, the 2011 Horseshoe Two Fire apparently continues to have a negative impact on Elegant Trogon populations in the S. Fork-Cave Creek Canyon complex of the Chiricahua Mountains. At present the S. Fork-Cave Creek area appears to be the only canyon system within its U.S. range where Elegant Trogons have suffered a clear and significant decline.

Sep
13
2013

Six New Global Designations for Arizona IBAs

National Audubon Society Important Bird Areas science committee approved six Arizona IBAs for global significance. The total Global Important Bird Areas is now 14 of the Arizona 43 IBAs. Five IBAs were recognized as Continentally significant for the endangered Yuma clapper rail on the lower Colorado River. Bill Williams River National Wildlife Refuge had another globally qualifying criteria added; concentrations of Clark’s grebe.

Global Criteria Triggers

Continental Criteria Triggers

A1

B1

Site Name
Linked to Site Reports
key: IUCN Red List, Species,   Number, Season Status1, Units, Year, [Threshold] key: Species, (Number,   Season Status1, Units, Year, [Threshold]
Cibola   National Wildlife Refuge Yuma Clapper Rail 82 Breeding pairs in 2005 [10prs]
Grand   Canyon NP; Lipan and Yaki Points Raptor Migration C California Condor – 2 Breeding   pairs in 2012 [1pr/1indiv]
N Spotted Owl – 12 Breeding   pairs in 2006 [10prs/30indiv]
V Pinyon Jay – 132 NB individuals   in 2011 [90 indiv]
Havasu   National Wildlife Refuge Yuma Clapper Rail 102 Breeding pairs in 2009 [10prs]
Imperial   National Wildlife Refuge N Black Rail 12 Breeding   pairs in 2006 [10prs/30 indiv]
Yuma Clapper Rail 43 Breeding   pairs in 2009 [10prs]
Imperial
Reservoir
N Black Rail 30 Breeding   pairs in 2009 [10prs/30indiv]
Yuma Clapper Rail 41 Breeding   pairs in 2006 [10prs]
Mittry Lake   Wildlife Area N Black Rail 30 Breeding   pairs in 2009 [10prs/30indiv]
Yuma Clapper Rail 62 Breeding   pairs in 2009 [10prs]
San Pedro   Riparian National Conservation Area N Bell’s Vireo 90 Breeding individuals   in 2012 [30prs/90indiv]
San Rafael   Grasslands N Chestnut-collared Longspur   833 wintering individuals in 2012 [240 indiv]

May
01
2013

eBird Blitz of the Rincon, Catalina and Tucson Mountains

We are trying to make a new Important Bird Area around Tucson and need your help! The Sky Islands around Tucson and the excellent Sonoran Desert the connect them are excellent habitats for our native birds. The Arizona IBA Program is working to get this area recognized as an Important Bird Area and we need your help gathering data.

Catalina Mountains by Jennie MacFarland

Catalina Mountains, one of the Sky Islands around Tucson

How this works is simple! Starting April 22 (Earth Day) and ending May 31 we need birders to visit these areas of interest and enter what they see into eBird.org and then share their list with the username ArizonaIBA (no space!). Your observations will then be used as direct data for the IBA nomination. All birders who share a list with us will be recognized for their efforts and entered into a drawing for a prize!

***It is also extremely helpful to share any existing eBird lists you may have in your account from the past in these areas with the ArizonaIBA username.***

Many birders already do utilize the amazing and free services of www.ebird.org but for those who don’t, I personally recommend that you check it out. The way it tracks your life list on every level you can think of (year, month, county, state, etc.) and lets you see what everyone else has reported is amazing. And best of all, it’s free!Sabino Canyon by Roger Smith

For a list of areas and species that we especially need covered, please see below:

Oracle State Park – This beautiful state park is a favorite of many birders and we especially need information on: Lucy’s Warbler, Rufous-crowned Sparrow, Loggerhead Shrike and

The Catalinas – with an emphasis on areas that are not Catalina State Park (though we would love information from this area as well!) and the key species we especially need information on are: Bell’s Vireo, Lucy’s Warbler, Rufous-winged Sparrow, Rufous-crowned Sparrow, Costas and Broad-billed Hummingbird, Gilded Flicker and Elf Owl.  For the higher elevations: Red-faced Warbler, Olive Warbler, Grace’s Warbler, Black-throated Gray Warbler, Buff-breasted Flycatcher, Greater Peewee, Whiskered Screech-owl, Mexican Whip-poor-will and Spotted Owl.

The Rincon Mountains – bird data is especially thin on the ground here as access can be difficult. This is an area that we especially need help with in gathering data. Species to really watch out for include: Olive Warbler, Red-faced Warbler, Grace’s Warbler, all Hummingbirds, Mexican Spotted Owl,

Saguaro National Park (East and West) – This beautiful Sonoran Desert habitat that connects Tucson’s Sky Islands is important for several key species: Gilded Flicker, Elf Owl, Costa’s Hummingbird, Loggerhead Shrike, Rufous-winged Sparrow, Rufous-crowned Sparrow and the desert nesting Purple Martin.

Making eBird even more effective for this effort

When you submit a list of what birds you have seen into eBird.org, it asks you a few questions. How you answer these questions has a huge effect on the usefulness of the data. The two key ones are: 1) How long did you bird for the list you are submitting and 2) How far did you travel (in miles). If you accurately answer these questions your observations will make very robust data.

Split up those lists!

This used to seem like such a chore to me, but now I actually find it much easier to manage my bird observations if I create a new eBird list at each location I stop to bird. For example, if you spend a morning birding on Mt. Lemmon it is better to create several lists for all the places you get out and bird (a list for Incinerator Ridge and another for Bear Wallow etc.) rather than one list for the whole morning on the mountain. On the other hand, if you spend all morning hiking one trail, then one eBird list is probably best. There is an app available for both iPhone and Droid that makes this much easier to do in the field, BirdLog by BirdsEye. This is a great investment! I use mine all the time on my iPod Touch and it makes it so much easier to use eBird.

Putting Numbers with Names

Most birders are excellent at recording all the species they encounter in an area and it is especially great when they are careful to make sure that the common species are captured as well as the rare. What makes your eBird data especially useful to science is when you attach numbers to the species. It is possible to mark an “X” on a species, indicating that it was present. I strongly discourage this practice! Even your wildest guess at how many Bridled Titmice there were on your two mile hike on Mt. Lemmon is infinitely more useful than an “X” which could mean anything from 1 to 1 million. Go with your experience and instincts and give your best estimate.

Tucson Sky Islands and Sonoran Uplands Proposed IBA - ownership

Tucson Sky Islands and Sonoran Uplands Proposed IBA – ownership

Tucson Sky Islands and Sonoran Uplands Proposed IBA - imagery

Tucson Sky Islands and Sonoran Uplands Proposed IBA – imagery

Apr
02
2013

Elegant Trogon Surveys, bigger than ever before! Now 4 Sky Islands!

June 1-2 and June 8-9. Many of you may have heard of (or even helped with!) the annual Elegant Trogon Census in

Elegant Trogon by Dominic Sherony

Elegant Trogon by Dominic Sherony

the Chiricahua Mountains and Huachuca Mountains organized by Huchuca Audubon and Rick Taylor of Borderland Tours. This year, Arizona IBA and Tucson Audubon are partnering up with this effort and expanding the search to include the Santa Rita Mountains, Patagonia Mountains and Atascosa Highlands.

June 1-2 will be the Chiricahua Mountains and Huachuca Mountains surveys

  • June 1:  HuachucaMountains
  • June 2: Chiricahua Mountains

June 8-9 will be the Santa Rita Mountains and Patagonia Mountains/Atascosa Highlands surveys

  • June 8: Santa Rita Mountains
  • June 9: Santa Rita Mountains and Atascosa Highlands

Elegant TrogonBirders of all skill levels are invited to join these surveys, if you are interested in helping please contact Jennie at jmacfarland@tucsonaudubon.org

Basic Surveyor info

For each of the 4 survey days, there is a designated meeting time/place before hand to review the survey protocol and a designated drop-off point for data sheets. If you have participated in these surveys in the past and would prefer to not come to the meeting, please let us know and we will get your datasheets and location info to you via email.

  • June 1 – Huachucas – The May 31 meeting will be at 6pm at the Fairfield Inn & Suites Sierra Vista 3855 El Mercado Loop, Sierra Vista, AZ Located on the Southwest corner of Highway 92 & Avenida Cochise (by The Mall at Sierra Vista).  Map here Also, this hotel is offering a special rate for Trogon Counters of $89 plus tax!
    This will also be the drop off location for completed data forms (Right at the front counter) the next day, please try to have your data forms in by noon. If you are running late please call us as soon as you have a phone signal so we know you are safe.
  • June 2 – Chiricahuas – The June 1 meeting will be at 6pm at the US Forest Service Portal Visitor Information Station, located about 3 miles above the Portal Store in Cave Creek Canyon. This will also be the drop off location for completed data forms the next day, please try to have your data forms in by noon. If you are running late please call us as soon as you have a phone signal so we know you are safe.
  • June 8 – Santa Rita Mountains – The June 7th meeting (joint meeting for both Santa Ritas Count and Patagonia Mountains/Atascosa Highlands Count) will be held at the Tucson Audubon Society in the Historic YWCA on University Blvd west of 4th Ave (map here). Parking can be a bit tricky here, here is a parking map. The meeting for BOTH Santa Ritas and Patagonias/Atascosas will be held at 6pm on June 7th. The drop off location for the Santa Ritas (NEW!) will be the Santa Rita Lodge, Jennie will be there as soon as possible to collect forms but if you get there before her please leave them with the great people in their nature shop. Please try to have your data forms in by noon. If you are running late please call us as soon as you have a phone signal so we know you are safe.
  • June 9th – Patagonia Mountains/Atascosa Highlands – The organizational meeting will be held at Tucson Audubon, 6pm June 7th in conjunction with the Santa Rita Mountains meeting (see above). The drop off point for data forms for volunteers in the Patagonias will be Gathering Grounds Cafe in the town of Patagonia (map here). Please try to have your data forms to us by noon, if you are running late please call us as soon as you have a phone signal so we know you are safe. Elegant Trogon in Madera Canyon by Marcel Holyoak
  • For the teams in the Atascosa Highlands, Richard Fray has kindly offered his house in Rio Rico as the drop off point for data.Directions to Richard’s house from I-19: From the Palo Parado exit (25) head east, cross the new Palo Parado bridge and continue to Pendleton Drive (just under a mile) Turn left on Pendleton and continue for just over a mile until you see Avenida Pastor on the right. Turn right onto Avenida Pastor and continue up the hill for just over a mile. My house is on the left just after the pavement ends, number 72, opposite Faro Ct. I’ll leave a box next to the driveway entrance “72” sign.  People can check out my feeders when they drop by, if it’s still light. I’ve got a pair of Ash-throated Flycatchers nesting in a bluebird box, and have had a male Blue Grosbeak coming in the last few days, as well as the usual Black-throated and Rufous-winged Sparrows, Curve-billed Thrashers, Cactus Wrens, Canyon Towhees, Broad-billed and Black-chinned Hummingbirds, Gambel’s Quail, etc. There was a regular male Varied Bunting coming to the feeders last June.

There will be two types of survey protocols being used for these surveys.

1) The first is a transect method where you are assigned a linear area to walk in the morning playing an Elegant Trogon call every 1/2 mile and recording any responses you get.Please note that we will NOT be playing calls where it is prohibited such as Madera Canyon and South Fork! You will also be keeping a species list of all bird species you encounter.

2) The second is a stationary method where we will space individuals or teams up a canyon and ask you to stay stationary in the center of “your territory” from 6-9am and record all trogon calls you hear and whether they were down-canyon or up-canyon from your center position. After 9am you will able to roam around “your territory” and try to find the individuals you have been hearing and hopefully locate a nest site! You will also be keeping a list of all other bird species you encounter. We will be using this method mainly in Madera Canyon and South Fork.

When you come to the information meeting for your area you will receive detailed protocols, data sheets and information on the location of your survey area. We will also talk about the different types of vocalizations that Elegant Trogons make and what that indicates. If you know what to listen for you can tell the difference between paired and unpaired males and females also have their own way of vocalizing. If you have participated in these surveys in the past and would prefer to not come to the meeting, please let us know and we will get your datasheets and location info to you via email.

The main contacts for these surveys are:

Rick Taylor of Borderland Tours

Contact: rtaylor AT borderland-tours.com (replace the At with an @)

and Jennie MacFarland of the Tucson Audubon Society

Contact: jmacfarland AT tucsonaudbon.org (replace the At with an @) cell phone: (520) 360-2213

Feb
12
2013

Willcox Playa/Cochise Lakes Global IBA Dedication

Willcox Playa/Cochise Lakes Important Bird Area (IBA) was awarded Global IBA status recently and on January 17, 2013 the community came together to celebrate this large IBA. There are only eight Global level IBAs in Arizona and this one was singled out for the huge numbers of Sandhill Cranes that spend their winters here every year.

ribbon cutting ceremony

Paul Green of Tucson Audubon speaking about the importance of Important Bird Areas

This IBA celebration was part of the 2013 Wings Over Willcox Festival that emphasizes the Sandhill Cranes but celebrates all the native birds that winter in this scenic and remote area. The Important Bird Area is over 47 thousand acres and includes the entire Willcox Playa and the Cochise Lakes near the town of Willcox. The actual event was held at the Cochise Lakes consisted of a ribbon cutting of a new viewing deck that looks onto one of the lakes. This lovely viewing deck was built with Wings Over Willcox festival funds and is a great addition to this area and makes it much easier to see into the water over the cattails.

Sunset Over Cochise lakes

Sunset Over Cochise Lakes

The ribbon cutting and IBA dedication ceremony was very well attended despite the wind and cold temperatures. Homer Hansen of Wings Over Willcox, Paul Green of Tucson Audubon, Raul Vega of Arizona Game and Fish, Kenn Kaufman and others gave very nice remarks about the importance of both birding festivals and Important Bird Areas. This was a very nice event and the two parts complimented each other perfectly. One of the most important aspects of the IBA program is its outreach potential and birding festivals really fit right into that goal. Many people attending this event were hearing about IBA for the first time, it was great that they were introduced to the program at one of its Global IBAs!

Oct
12
2012

Chiricahua Mountains IBA Survey Expedition

The weekend of September 7-9, 2012 the Important Bird Area crew headed to the Chiricahua Mountains to survey this famous birding area. This area became an IBA early in the program and due to this area’s good numbers of nesting Mexican Spotted Owls, this is a Global IBA, one of eight in the state.

Chiricahua Mountains

The view from Sunny Flats Campground

The infamous fires of two summers ago had in the minds of many birders taken this area out of commission as a birding destination. I had not been to the Chiricahuas since those devastating fires and was personally expecting a moonscape. Much to my surprise and delight, this was not the situation at all! We camped at Sunny Flats which was gorgeous and under populated by other campers.

Chiricahua Mountians South Fork

South Fork (M Griffiths)

Hummingbirds at Southwest Research Station Chiricahua Mountains

Hummingbirds at Southwest Research Station

The first morning of surveying we stayed in the lower elevations and South Fork produced lots of good birds including a single, silent Elegant Trogon (a lifer for a member of the crew!). Herb Martyr trail and Cave Creek were also pretty birdy considering the rainy weather. These lower elevations were largely unscathed by the fires so this wasn’t much of a surprise.

Turkey Creek Chiricahua Mountains

Turkey Creek (M Griffiths)

Rustler park, burned with wildflowers Chiricahua Moutains

Rustler Park

The real surprise came on Sunday morning when we did the higher elevations. Turkey Creek had definitely been altered, not only by the fire but also by the flooding that occurred directly after. This creek was much deeper and pretty badly eroded. However, the birds didn’t seem to mind and many migrating warblers were detected.

Rustler Park showing some living trees Chiricahua Mountains

Rustler Park showing some living trees

Barfoot Park looked impacted, but nearly as much as I had imagined. You could tell a fire had come through, but the majority of the trees were healthy looking and all of the bird species one would have hoped for in the past were present.
The location that I dreaded seeing, Rustler Park, also had some hopeful surprises. This area had clearly been severely burned, but far more trees than I had expected survived. With a more open understory there was also a breathtaking amount of beautiful flowers everywhere. Our survey route began at the closed campground and headed downhill along the road. This area was shockingly birdy. There are patches of large ponderosa pines that survived, some are singed on the edges but appear healthy. Not only did we find prized rarities of the range such as Mexican Chickadee, we had a roving flock of Red Cross-bills and mixed flocks of warblers, juncos and Chipping Sparrows.

Spiney Lizard using burned tree Chiricahua Mountains

Spiney Lizard using burned tree

This was an amazing experience, some of the best birding I had done in some time. Overall this was a successful survey and I certainly am glad that I saw for myself how this area is still important for birds.

Black Bear spotted on drive out od Chiricahua Mountains

Black Bear spotted on drive out

"Cochise's Face" Chiricahua Mountains

“Cochise’s Face”

Special thanks to the amazing IBA crew that made this survey possible: Scott Wilbor, Tim Helentjaris, Matt Griffiths, Matt Brooks, Larry Brooks, Jack Ruggirello and Linda Stitzer. It was awesome to hang out with you guys, you were a terrific camping group and not only did we gather great data because of your amazing skills, I had a terrific time! Thank you!!!

The crew relaxing around the campfire Chiricahua Mountains

The crew relaxing around the campfire (J Ruggirello)

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