Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Arizona in Early March

By Cory Ritter

Although it would possibly seem as though Luke and I went to Madera Canyon together, that is not the case. This is the second part of my trip from California to Michigan in early March. Last I left you, I was on my way to Bill Williams NWR near Lake Havasu, Arizona. I was short on time for my trip to Michigan, and the part that suffered the most was my time in Arizona. I knew there were two main stops I wanted to make. First, to try my luck at the Nutting's Flycatcher that had been seen for quite some time at Bill Williams National Wildlife Refuge, and second, to try to find as many lifers as possible at Madera Canyon--just south of Tuscon. The problem was that I had only budgeted one day for Arizona (far too little, I know). And with these two locations being six hours apart, I didn't have much time to waste.

I arrived at Planet Ranch Road, where the Nutting's Flycatcher had been reported, to find a couple groups of birders already looking for the bird. One group told me that they had been hearing it call from the roadside, so I joined the group in searching. We waited around for a while, often hearing but not seeing our target bird. Meanwhile, there was a busy Canyon Wren tending to its nest across the road. Although I had heard a Canyon Wren in Colorado the previous summer, this was my first visual! Additionally, I was treated to a Blue-gray GnatcatcherPhainopepla, and my lifer Gila Woodpecker while waiting around! Not a bad consolation prize if I am not to see this Nutting's Flycatcher, I thought to myself. But with a little persistence, the Nutting's Flycatcher finally showed itself. It flew out and perched in a relatively distant tree. I was able to get an adequate view of the bird in my scope before it flew off once again. Although distance wouldn't have allowed for any good photographs of the Nutting's Flycatcher, an untimely lens error kept me from getting any photos at this location. Reluctantly, I moved on to my next destination of Madera Canyon.

I arrived at Madera Canyon without much time to spare. I had some intel on some good spots, but it was a combination of too early in the season and too late in the day to find the birds I was hoping for--most notably, Painted Redstart. However, I was able to get some good looks at lifers Mexican Jay, Bridled Titmouse, Verdin, and Arizona Woodpecker in addition to Acorn Woodpecker, Lesser Goldfinch, Chipping Sparrow, White-breasted Nuthatch, and Northern Cardinal.
Acorn Woodpecker, Madera Canyon, AZ
Bridled Titmouse, Madera Canyon, AZ
Lesser Goldfinch, Madera Canyon, AZ
I was losing daylight quickly, and wanted to make the most of it. So, I birded along the road as I left Madera Canyon. I was hoping for Cactus Wren and/or Greater Roadrunner, but was unable to find either. I was, however, lucky enough to find my year Black-throated Sparrow, and Green-tailed Towhee among the succulents on the roadside.

So, while I was unable to spend as much time in Arizona as I would have liked and I missed out on some target species at Madera Canyon, I did pick up the Nutting's Flycatcher among some other awesome life birds. The way I look at it is that I'm leaving some lifers for my next trip to Arizona.


  1. Madera is a fickle can be facemelting, or it can be DEAD. Glad you got to check it out though, and congrats on the Nutting's.

    1. Thanks. Next time, I'll stay a little bit longer. But, I was glad to be able to see the birds I did. The detour was definitely worth it.