This morning I was in the van just before 5 AM to begin my first field trip of the festival. There were two vans, with 1 leader and 6 participants in each for this trip. There were other vans taking people to various locations, but the one these two vans were taking us to is a place called the California Gulch. We left on Highway 19 and headed towards Mexico. About 30 miles this side of the border, we turned off onto a back road. Just my kind of trip. It was a steep, rocky, narrow road that twisted and turned, went up and down and clung to the side of some pretty steep hills. Mountains were all around us.
It took us through some old, old mining territory. Extremely scenic. We saw about 4 tarantulas and 1 turtle (Box) crossing the road. We also saw a Mule Deer and a family of White-tailed Deer along the way.
Birds were everywhere. We saw both Black and Turkey Vultures, Gray (exceptional look perched right at the side of the road) and Red-tailed Hawks. We saw 5 species of Doves, two Yellow-billed Cuckoos and at least 6 Greater Roadrunners. I saw 3 species of woodpecker. The Arizona Woodpecker was a life bird for me. We tallied 11 species of flycatchers – 3 of which were life birds for me: Brown-crested Flycatcher, Cassin’s Kingbird and Thick-billed Kingbird. There were 3 species of vireos. 5 species of swallows. A Bridled Titmouse. A Verdin. 4 western wrens: Rock, Canyon, Bewick’s and Cactus. We saw all three gnatcatcher species together in one area, of which the Black-capped Gnatcatcher was a life bird for me. A Phainopepla. 7 warbler species. 10 sparrow species. Botteri’s, Cassin’s and Five-striped Sparrows were life birds for me. Of the cardinals grosbeaks and allies, we counted 9 species, of which the Varied Bunting was a life bird. And we saw 5 species of blackbirds and orioles.
We got back to the Inn at 4 PM. Pretty exhausted. But I had time to rest just a bit before the Welcome Banquet at 6:30. The meal was excellent. And the keynote speaker was Robert Mesta. Mr. Mesta is a champion of endangered species restoration. He spoke about the Bald Eagle, the Peregrine Falcon, the California Condor and the Masked Bobwhite. Very good presentation.
I am now going to get myself organized for tomorrow. Again, I have to be sitting in a van at 5 AM. A group of us will be heading up into the Huachuca Mountains for another full day of birding.