Birding SE Arizona

Right now I'm in Sierra Vista, AZ at the Southwest Wings Birding Festival. This is one of my favorite places to bird in the entire country. The birds are fantastic and the landscape is absolutely stunning. I managed to do some birding near Tucson yesterday before getting ready for the festival and it was productive to say the least.
Thus far I have seen 8 lifebirds on this trip, and managed to digiscope 4 of them. Pictured above is the only image I was able to get of a Common Blackhawk. Not the cleanest of shots, though enough to identify the species. The Flame-colored Tanager (above) was a great find, as it's normal range is limited to mountain ranges in Mexico. This particular individual in Madera Canyon could very well be the only one currently in the US. A fantastic bird indeed!
I know this looks a lot like a Blue-grey Gnatcatcher but it's actually a female Black-capped Gnatcatcher. It can really only be distinguished by differences in range and a slightly different vocalization. The males are more readily differentiated by a prominent black cap.
The Varied bunting is another one of the new birds I saw. It's found in the same habitat as the Black-capped gnatcatchers, lower elevation desert scrub. One of the factors contributing to the fantastic birding here is the variation in habitat, primarily based on elevation. In the mountains you will find trogons, Olive Warblers, and Montezuma Quail while lower elevations provide habitat for a whole host of other specialty species including Rufous-Winged sparrows, Gnatcatchers, and the Varied Bunting.
Here's the list of new birds for those who care:
  • Common Blackhawk
  • Gilded Flicker
  • Black-Tailed Gnatcatcher
  • Flame-Colored Tanager
  • Black-Tailed Gnatcatcher
  • Hepatic Tanager
  • Varied Bunting
  • Rufous-Winged Sparrow


Kevin said...


Nice list hey the Rufous-Winged Sparrow is very localized, was he vocal?Cool song.

Birdfreak said...

Those Flame-colored Gnatcatchers are hard to find!! :)

Nice meeting you in Rhode Island. I'm now hooked on Digiscoping... just need to get a Swarovski Scope...

~ Birdfreak

Ben Lizdas said...

Hi Kevin. Yeah, the sparrow was perched and signing away. I had some great views. He was too backlit to digiscope though.

Ben Lizdas said...

Thanks for catching that. I try not to make up new species too often!