Arizona 2015: Welcome to Madera Canyon

Santa Rita Lodge Madera Canyon

Madera Canyon. Wow.  What a thrill it was to be on the hallowed birding ground of which I’ve only read about in books and blog posts.  Tommy DeBardeleben and Gordon Karre had brought me here after an already successful morning of 18 life birds accumulated at stops on Mt. Lemmon and at Florida Canyon.  Yet, my number one target was still not in the bag; the Elegant Trogon, or lack thereof, was now a pressing weight on us all.  Despite this, we had about an hour’s worth of time before Tommy and Gordon would bring me to my Green Valley hotel.  That time would be spent picking up miscellaneous lifers so that the next morning would strictly be all about the Trogon.

Again my stomach bug was preventing me from enjoying every second, but I kept dragging myself out of the car and taking pictures of birds, knowing that I’d be able to enjoy it all later.  The first place we stopped were the feeders at Santa Rita Lodge.  The first life bird was a Mexican Jay.

IMG_2772The Broad-billed Hummingbirds were as thick as flies around the feeding station. I am not sorry I am forcing you to look at another Broad-billed shot.  Drink it in.  It will be the last Broad-billed you see on this blog in 2015.

Broad-billed Hummingbird

Acorn Woodpeckers were a little more down to earth at the Santa Rita Lodge.  This guy and a buddy were clowning around, practicing their dismembered wing illusion for all the Santa Rita guests.  Well-fed birds must occupy their surplus of time somehow after all.

Acorn Woodpecker

The second lifer of Madera Canyon was a Red-naped Sapsucker.  I am impressed with this bird’s limited range and rarity, but I have to say our Yellow-bellied Sapsucker variety back home has it beat, mostly because its name has better potential for insulting someone.

Red-naped Sapsucker

The third Madera lifer that Tommy and Gordon found me was a pair of nesting Canyon Wrens hanging out on the Santa Rita Lodge owner’s personal house and fence.  As compensation for free lodging, the Canyon Wrens provide home security.

Canyon Wren

Tommy and Gordon were right–Canyon Wren is the best Wren.

Canyon Wren

Not long after this I was able to lifer on Bridled Titmouse.  It was frustrating that these birds didn’t give better looks because this was a bird I had really wanted to see well.  That brought the lifer total for Madera Canyon up to four, but Tommy and Gordon had gotten over that number since we shattered it at Florida Canyon.

After 20 minutes or so at the Santa Rita Lodge, we ventured further up Madera Canyon to the feeders at Kubo Bed&Breakfast.  There were a few Hummingbirds around.  One stuck out as it dwarfed the rest.  It was my magnificent Magnificent Hummingbird lifer.

Magnificent Hummingbird

By this point my strength and time were completely gone.  My stomach was churning and my head was spinning with a massive 23 life birds accumulated in about 7 hours.  I didn’t even know my number then, though Tommy always knew what my tally was.  Tommy and Gordon delivered me to my hotel at precisely 3:00, so I could join my family for vacation within a vacation in Green Valley.

The Elegant Trogon search would have to begin in earnest the next morning.  I parted company with these two fine birders that afternoon under a certain level of anxiety and indecision.  Their stress of finding the Trogon the next day for me was palpable despite my assurances that I’d already had a fantastic trip,Trogon or not.  They were taking this way more serious than me.  I know the risks in birding.  Dipping is a big part of it, and I was mentally prepared for it (mostly because I know there will be more AZ trips in my future).

Indecision for the next day’s plan of attack was also clouding everything.  Tommy was torn between Patagonia Lake State Park and Madera Canyon.  A very easy Trogon had been seen all winter at Patagonia, but now in late March/early April, that bird would likely move to higher elevations any day.  Madera Canyon, on the other hand, was the proper elevation, but its birds had not been as easy to locate.  Decisions, decisions….  What would we do?  At the moment, I couldn’t focus on the tough calls.  I just wanted to stop being aware of my stomach 100% of the time.  What would happen? How would this all end? Only the next day would hold the answers.

The 2015 Arizona series has eight chapters: 1) Maricopa Birds, 2) Mt. Lemmon, 3) Florida Canyon, 4) Madera Canyon Part 1, 5) Madera Canyon Part 2, 6) Evan’s Big Discovery, 7) Owling at Coon Bluff on the Salt River, and 8) Evan’s Nemesis.

6 thoughts on “Arizona 2015: Welcome to Madera Canyon

  1. Well written and a great time, (probably a better time for Tommy and I). When I think back on that day, I can now see the signs of your temporary ailments, but at the time we had no clue and you were very focused on everything and every bird you got. Congrats on a first day, and an impressive 23 lifers!

    • I’m staying in the game Coach! My eyeballs still worked and that’s all one needs to enjoy the birds of SE AZ. Don’t let my whining fool you–I still had a fantastic day! Thanks for the heap o’ lifers!

  2. Whew! Madera Canyon is always a fine finish to a day’s tour!

    Point taken about the Sapsucker name, though I have to insist that Red-naped is the better looking bird (and concede that both look like trash compared to Red-breasted).
    Canyon Wren is the best Wren. This is known.

    You sure are dangling that Trogon in front of us man (or, not)!

    • You might be splitting hairs, as in the infinitesimal red nape feathers of a “Red”-naped, in judging it superior on looks. I’ve had an easier time differentiating identical twins. No doubt on Red-breasted.

      You are well-read in the bird blogosphere and have already skipped ahead to the last page of the Trogon saga. Still, I have something that may even surprise the Laurence in the next chapter.

  3. Awesome Josh! Great post!

    You know it says a lot about you that you are a hardcore birder because you didn’t say anything at all about being sick until it was all said and done for the day! I can’t say I would do the same. Michael Jordon scored 60+ points in a game once while having a similar diagnosis, which was one of the best in his career. Gordon and I can say we saw Josh lifer 23 times (Jordan’s number) while having the same thing. J-Wall, a superstar birder.

    • I knew that the 6’6″ measuring poster on my childhood bedroom wall of Jordan holding a basketball would inspire me to glory someday! Somehow, I don’t think a 5’8″ poster of JWall holding binos would do the same for…anybody. Still, thanks for the optimistic compliment and super day of birding!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *