Date: 8/12/17 6:47 am
From: Tim Helentjaris <tnhelentjaris...>
Subject: [AZNMbirds] Rock Corral Canyon and Tumacacori Becards
Finally got a bit of a break from cuckoo surveys this week and was leading one of the field trips for Tucson Audubon’s Birding Festival. Someone had named this “Secluded Canyon Adventure” and by the time we had driven into Rock Corral Canyon, participants understood both the “Secluded” and “Adventure” in the name. Road in isn’t any worse driving than before, at least to the usual parking area at the camp spot near the corral, but it does still clearly require a high clearance vehicle. Right off the bat, got a YELLOW-BILLED CUCKOO calling here and folks got a great look at this neat bird. We then got to walking up the old road but quickly ran into a bit more adventure, water across the road/trail. It was tricky getting around it with dry shoes, a problem that was repeated over and over again. At one point, about 3/4’s of a mile in, the road itself is much more severely eroded and I doubt that vehicles will be able to get past this point, a hubcap wedged into the rocks emphasizing this point! I have never seen this much water in this drainage before and it eventually caused us to truncate our expectations about how far up the canyon we could go, as it required a lot of careful stepping and diversions into the mesquite and catclaw. However we did get a number of neat birds along the way. Great views of numerous VARIED BUNTINGS, both in the shadows and then popping up into the light to reveal their colorful plumage. Participants also got a great opportunity to compare three tanagers along this trail. WESTERN TANAGERS were seen a few times, as they seem to be moving through our area in number just recently and at one point, we watched as one engaged a brilliant male SUMMER TANAGER. We also saw a couple of HEPATIC TANAGERS about a mile in where the oaks begin, pointing out the dark bill in particular but also the difference in call notes of the three tanagers in contrast to their similar songs. Had to turn back at about a mile, due to water and folks beginning to run out of gas after all of the tough walking, so we weren’t able to look for the Five-striped Sparrows found this winter a bit farther up. On the way back, though we found both BLACK-TAILED and BLACK-CAPPED GNATCATCHERS in proximity, so folks with keen ears might have heard the difference in their calls, noted habitat preferences, and the under tail appearance.

After getting back to the cars and driving out, we headed back across the freeway and over to the Tumacacori Mission area, starting at the trailhead and walking the path towards the river. Birding was starting to slow down a bit and we headed towards the new nest the ROSE-THROATED BECARDS are building. Wow, a lot of flood waters have recently come through here and you have to pick your way through the detritus that has washed into the trail area. As we got closer to the coordinates that Pete Bengtson had provided me, the huge nest became obvious higher up in the canopy, this now third nest is back on the west side of the river. We watched as the female flew out of the nest and later saw the male fly in a couple of times. While there, a couple of park rangers walked up, Bob and Eric, and we talked for a while. I had called them last week, alerted them to the new nest, and they agreed they would flag and sign the area. So, now as you are walking along the path to the river, you will note after getting to the open area just before the river, some red flagging denoting the trail to walk north to the nest. If folks could make an effort to stay on the trail, that will keep too many new trails from being carved into the vegetation. Bob also placed a very nice sign for a great vantage point for the nest, asking folks to quietly observe from this point. It’s still very close to the nest and with the sun behind you, should make for good viewing of these birds and their impressive nest. Hopefully we’ll get so see some more young fledge yet this season!

Tim

Tim Helentjaris
Tucson, AZ

"Why the dinosaurs died out is not known, but it is supposed to be because they had minute brains and devoted themselves to the growth of weapons of offense in the shape of numerous horns.”
- Bertrand Russell




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