Sunday, February 28, 2010

Song Sparrow

Sparrows are always difficult to identify in the west as there are 30 different variations in the Song Sparrow alone. There were a few of these guys working very hard at finding food along the stream bed. Learn about Song Sparrows here:
In our three hours at Sweetwater Wetlands we identified approximately 33 different species including: Spotted Sandpiper, Tree Swallow, Yellow Warbler, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Gadwall, Double Crested Cormorant, Sora, Black-Crowned Night Heron, Bufflehead, Northern Shoveler, Pied-billed Grebe, Widgeon, Green Winged Teal, Ruddy Duck, Mallard, American Coot, Common Moorhen, Gambel's Quail, Great Egret, Harris's Hawk, Canyon Towhee, Song Sparrow, White Crowned Sparrow, Verdin, Anna's Hummingbird, Costa's Hummingbird, Curved Billed Thrasher, Mockingbird, Ruby Crowned Kinglet, Great-tailed Grackle. Tri-colored Blackbird, Pyrrhuloxia, and Black Phoebe.

Yellow-rumped Warbler

This Yellow-rumped Warbler was feeding on flying insects that I could not even see but it would fly up grab something and return to the perch over and over again. It is identified by the yellow patch on it's rump as well as other yellow markings.
Learn more about the Yellow-rump here:

The Secretive Sora

One of the many birds that we observed on our three hour walk at Sweetwater Wetlands on Saturday morning. Described as a small secretive bird of fresh water marshes by allaboutbirds we were treated to approximately a 15 minute up close observation. You can read more about the Sora here at:

Sunday, February 21, 2010


Learn more about this beautiful cat at

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Madera Canyon-Windy and Cold

As we were preparing to leave for Madera Canyon the wind was already starting to blow. It was only 45 degrees when we arrived and there were very few birds out and about but we decided to hike out to check out the stream and get a little exercise.
The wind at this point was ragging and it was cold with very little sun. We walked out more than half a mile and enjoyed the views and the water.
Check out
We decided to go down lower in the canyon to see if we could get out of the wind. At this point we were still not seeing many birds so I decided to play with the camera and hike a few trails for the exercise.

It was warmer so the hiking was more pleasant and I climbed two trails that headed upward. I walked out seven tenths of a mile and then back on each one

On the way down we stopped at the Lodge to see if there was any activity at their feeders. There was a large contingent of Yellow Eyed Juncos which also had a few Dark Eyed Juncos (Oregon).
We also saw Wild Turkey, Goldfinches, Mexican Jays, Acorn Woodpecker, White Breasted Nuthatches, and a Hairy Woodpecker.
On one trail I talked with another birder who told me that a Red Eyed Verio had been photographed further down the road but we did not see it.
Elephant Rock

Evidence of past glacial activity?
This is a nice little hike that loops around and is accessible for wheelchairs.
All in all a good day and we left for home just before it started to rain.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Saguaro National Park-East

We took a ride out to Saguaro National Park on the east side of Tucson to do a little hiking and of course picture taking. The snow in the background is in the Santa Catalina Mountains where we spend many a hot summer day as it is usually a great deal cooler there than it is in the valley.
The iconic saguaro is what attracts most visitors but there is so much more to see here. There are many hiking trails and picnic areas to help you enjoy your visit.

An unusually wet winter has turned many dry washes into streams. In 4+ years here I have never seen water running like it is today at Saguaro.
Saguaro Forest.

We encountered quite a few Black Throated Sparrows at one of the picnic areas.

The Arizona state bird is the Cactus Wren which is quite entertaining to watch.
Northern Cardinal

Canyon Towhees are everywhere we go lately. I had never seen one before this year.

This Curved Billed Thrasher was quite comical.
Phainopepla's are extremely hard to get a good picture of so I am very happy with this shot. They are more abundant here than the Cardinal.
Melted snow coming down the mountain and all the recent rain is really greening the desert up quite a bit.
This Red Tailed Hawk met up with it's mate who seemed to have an injured leg which did not prevent the mating behavior seen below. They were very vocal and touched in mid air as you can see. Red Tails are also known to grab onto each other and fall spiraling downward up to 2000 feet during their mating ritual, letting go only when they get too close to the ground.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Masked Bobwhite Quail On The Brink

Efforts to save the endangered Masked Bobwhite Quail consist of a captive breeding program which has more than 900 birds and the habitat restoration program at Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge.

Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge which consists of 118,000 acres of ungrazed savannah grassland in the Altar Valley in southern Arizona near the Mexican border is the only place in the United States where the Masked Bobwhite Quail can be found. I have heard estimates of between 100 and 500 individuals in the wild which makes it an extremely rare bird.

Male Masked Bobwhite Quail.
Without the captive breeding program it is likely that the Masked Bobwhite would have vanished altogether. Offspring from the program are released annually into the wild at BANWR. Although the captive breeding program has maintained the small population at BANWR the single most important issue facing the recovery effort is habitat restoration.

Female Masked Bobwhite Quail.
These are really beautiful birds that were brought to the brink of extinction by cattle grazing which destroyed their habitat. This is a program that interests me a great deal and I intend to learn more about it and hopefully I can arrange a visit to the captive breeding facility and report on it here at Sonoran Connection. Information on Buenos Aires can be found here:

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Northern Cardinal

The Northern Cardinal is a year round resident here in some parts of Arizona. I always associate the Cardinal with Christmas and snow because in New England where I grew up they were really prevalent during the winter months. More about the Northern Cardinal can be found at: