Three cheers for local knowledge! Although Arizona is a birder’s paradise, it is a challenge to find birds you want to see even if there is a guide to show you the way. So we rediscovered the importance of chatting with birders in the areas where we hoped to observe birds we had never seen before.
Our visit to Gerry Grant and Sue Carroll, who live almost in Madera Canyon, was rewarding. We did not even have to leave the Carroll/Grant house to see magnificent and broad-billed hummingbirds. They were kind enough to show up while we were drinking our tea and coffee! We birded several different trails in the canyon and found one or two new birds on our own, but when we spoke to birders along the trails we were able to locate most of the birds we had missed.
On the Proctor Trail at Madera Canyon we found a flock of raucous Mexican jays and a female hepatic tanager. A birding couple from Tucson that we met along this trail suggested we go to the gift shop and feeders along the road up the canyon. We did just that and found bridled titmice, acorn and Arizona woodpeckers and our favorite bird of the area, the electric red and black painted redstart. The feeder that gave us the Arizona woodpecker also provided us with information on a hawk lift-off. An expression we had never heard of, it is a spot somewhat akin to Hawk Mountain where birders go to watch hawk migration.
We left Madera Canyon and went to Tubac, Arizona for the hawk lift-off. We arrived late in the morning as we took a wrong turn, but as a dividend, a group of hawk watchers had just heard about a Lewis’ woodpecker that was seen nearby and they were headed that way. Did we want to follow! Does an owl live in a tree? We climbed into the Bird Buggy and followed the two carloads of birders onto a golf course. We parked and started walking. Flip and I spotted the woodpecker before the others and they were so thankful our reward was suggestions of several other areas to find interesting Arizona birds.
Off to Patagonia Lake State Park on the suggestion of many an Arizona birder. We had missed the elegant trogon at Madera Canyon, so were hoping to find this beautiful creature at Patagonia. It took four treks along the creek that a birding trail parallels before we finally found the elegant trogon and again it was with the help of local birders. When we first arrived at the area where we were told the trogon was sitting, all we could see was an emerald green head, back and tail tipped with black. We waited patiently and eventually the bird turned around to show us his emerald green throat and velvet red belly! Wow, was that worth the wait and work. Yes indeed, three cheers for local knowledge. Can’t wait to try Ramsey Canyon — our next adventure.
The winds must have been perfect on March 17 as there was a huge influx of ospreys arriving or flying over the Vineyard. Suzan Bellincampi reported an osprey flying over Felix Neck on Sunday, Joe Jims sent a photo of several specimens in the sky over the Oak Bluffs Fire Station that were ospreys, and Michael Ditchfield photographed an osprey on a nest pole at Katama Point. Lee Dumont spotted an osprey at Katama the same day, which may have been the same bird Michael photographed. Rob Bierregaard sent the following email: “Osprey migration update — four of my seven satellite-tagged birds are heading home. Our Vineyard bird, Belle, hasn’t started moving yet. She was tagged at Tashmoo in 2010 and will be making her second trip north sometime in April (probably). She spent a lot of time at Deep Bottom last summer before heading over to the Cape for about a month before heading south. Where will she settle down this year?”
If you visit Rob’s website you will see what is happening to Snowy, the Vineyard’s other tagged osprey. Visit bioweb.uncc.edu/bierregaard/migration13.htm.
Rob also forwarded a note from Carlene Gatting that she had seen an osprey on the Cow Bay osprey pole in the middle of a snow squall on March 15.
There are other spring arrivals to report. Sammi Shaves found the first American oystercatcher at Little Beach, Edgartown on March 14. The oystercatcher was in the company of a willet. Lee Dumont counted six American oystercatchers on Sengekontacket on March 19. Scott Stephens spotted an American oystercatcher at the Lagoon in Tisbury on March 18. I received an email from Cookie Perry who spotted a killdeer on Bay Road at Katama on March 13. Martha Moore spotted a horned grebe on Middle Point Cove of Tisbury Great Pond on March 13 and 14.
John Nelson did a survey on March 13 from Oak Bluffs to Edgartown along the coast and reports there are no diving ducks to be seen. Perhaps he thought the southerly winds gave these waterfowl the boost they needed to head north to their nesting grounds.
Megen Ottens Sargent reported hearing the cooing of whip-poor-wills in Aquinnah on March 17.
Janet Norton, Happy Spongberg and Dickie Brown all reported hooded mergansers on March 16 — Dickie’s was on Edgartown Great Pond and Janet’s in her duck pond near Morning Glory Farm. Janet added that this was the first time in years she had hooded mergansers in her pond. Happy found her pair of hooded mergansers at Duarte Pond along with five male and two female ring-necked ducks.
Andrea Hartman reports an increase from one to three pairs of red-breasted nuthatches on March 19 at her Panhandle Road, West Tisbury home. Happy Spongberg mentioned that they still have three pairs of red-breasted nuthatches at her feeder as well as three male red-winged blackbirds.
Lee Dumont had a Baltimore oriole at her Pease’s Point Way home in Edgartown on March 19.
Andrew Fischer sent me a photo of a dead razorbill from the Squibnocket Beach. Vineyarders have been asked to send photos or information about sick or dead birds to the Wildlife Health Event Reporter (whmn.org/wher). This is the tool they are trying to encourage people to use so they can capture all these reports in one, easily accessible place.
Please report your bird sightings to the Martha’s Vineyard Bird Hotline at 508-645-2913 or email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Susan B. Whiting is the coauthor of Vineyard Birds and Vineyard Birds II. Her website is vineyardbirds2.com.