Winter Walks at Whitewater

The Sandhill Cranes are back at Whitewater Draw Wildlife Area and SABO’s winter activities are on the calendar. We’ve fixed a glitch on the website to now allow online registration for our Sunday morning walks at Whitewater followed by crane watching from the viewing platform. Come join us for one of the area’s best wildlife viewing opportunities.sh3

Ruby-throated Hummingbird in Bisbee!

Arizona's first documented Ruby-throated Hummingbird, banded in Tucson in January 2005 by SABO Director Sheri Williamson.

Arizona’s first documented Ruby-throated Hummingbird, banded in Tucson in January 2005 by SABO Director Sheri Williamson.

Though it’s the hummingbird most familiar to most Americans, the Ruby-throated is the third rarest of Arizona’s 18 recorded hummingbird species. Despite generations of intense observation by some of America’s most experienced birders and ornithologists, it wasn’t until January 2005 that a possible female Ruby-throated was discovered wintering in the Tucson yard of a professional birding guide. At the request of the host, this bird was banded by SABO Director Sheri Williamson and confirmed by measurements and plumage characteristics as Arizona’s first known Ruby-throated and 18th hummingbird species.

Sightings of an adult male at the Paton feeders in Patagonia in September-October 2007 and September-October 2008 almost certainly represent a single bird. It was a long wait for the fourth record/third individual, another adult male in late September 2015 at the home of another birding guide in the northern Chiricahua Mountains.

A juvenile male Ruby-throated appeared in the Bisbee yard of SABO Directors Tom Wood and Sheri Williamson on October 27, 2015.

On October 26, 2015, this juvenile male Ruby-throated appeared in the Bisbee yard of SABO Directors Tom Wood and Sheri Williamson.

Though SABO’s hummingbird banding team is always alert for the possibility of a migrating Ruby-throated among the hundreds of Black-chinneds at our banding stations along the San Pedro River, Arizona’s fifth record/fourth individual, a juvenile male, turned up after the end of this year’s banding season in the Bisbee yard of SABO Directors Tom Wood and Sheri Williamson. This handsome and fierce little bird is now the second member of its species to be banded in Arizona.

It seems likely that Arizona’s scant handful of Ruby-throated Hummingbirds came from the western part of the species range in southern Alberta and extreme eastern British Columbia, but we’re hoping that this newly banded individual will be re-encountered someday somewhere, shedding a bit more light on this familiar yet mysterious bird.

SABO’s ongoing hummingbird research is supported by the generosity of our members and donors. If you’d like to help, we hope you’ll consider making a tax-deductible donation or “adopting” a banded hummingbird for yourself, a family member, friend, or colleague.

Arizona's fourth documented Ruby-throated Hummingbird poses for his "mug shot" after receiving a band. This is only the second member of this species to be banded in Arizona.

Arizona’s fourth documented Ruby-throated Hummingbird poses for his “mug shot” after receiving a band. This is only the second member of this species to be banded in Arizona.

Final hummingbird banding session of the season

A young female Black-chinned Hummingbird shows off her new band before taking off.

A young female Black-chinned Hummingbird shows off her new band before taking off.

Tomorrow (Saturday, October 3) at the San Pedro House will be our final hummingbird banding session for 2015 and the end of SABO’s 20th season of monitoring hummingbirds on the San Pedro River.

The celebration will start at 3 p.m. with a short presentation by SABO Director Tom Wood on what we’ve learned so far, followed by banding from 3:30 to 5:30 and recognition of our volunteers (with cake!) from 5:30 to 6 p.m.

No reservations are required and there is no fee to attend, but donations to help SABO continue the project are gratefully accepted. The San Pedro House is on the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area, approximately 7 miles east of Sierra Vista on S.R. 90. The entrance is on the south side of the highway and the west side of the river.

Countdown to 6K hummingbirds!

A young female Black-chinned Hummingbird shows off her new band before taking off.

A young female Black-chinned Hummingbird shows off her new band before taking off.

With this week’s surge in migration, we’re rapidly approaching a major milestone in SABO’s 20-year study of the hummingbirds of the San Pedro River: 6000 hummingbirds banded at our main banding station at the San Pedro House.

We expect to reach this milestone at our next banding session, so we invite you to join us at the San Pedro House next Sunday, September 6, from 4 to 6 p.m. to help us celebrate and learn more about what these amazing birds have taught us. You might be the lucky visitor who gets to launch (and/or adopt) #6K!

Hummingbird banding report, August 30

Migration is finally in full swing! This week’s banding session at Casa De San Pedro B & B was by far the most exciting of the fall migration, with 20 new birds of six species. Highlights included three impossibly tiny Calliopes (a stunning adult male and two juveniles), adult male and juvenile male Broad-tailed, and two adult Black-chinned with “gray hairs,” giving the adult female the appearance of having some junco in her family tree. (Click the photos below to see a larger version.)

BTLH HYM 30Aug15

Broad-tailed juvenile male

CAHU male 30 Aug 15

Calliope adult male

BCHU x junco tail

Black-chinned adult female with abnormal white feathers

Our banding team was fortunate to be able to share the diversity and majesty of these “little big birds” with the B&B’s guests and a few visitors.

Banding session continue through the first weekend in October. The public is always welcome at banding sessions at the San Pedro House; reservations may be required for sessions at Casa de San Pedro. “Adoptions” of banded birds will be available for a $25 contribution to SABO.

Hummingbird banding report

A juvenile male Broad-billed Hummingbird with a shiny new band takes a look around before returning to the wild. Photo by SABO volunteer Lynne Zaninelli.

SABO’s hummingbird banding team has been busy on the San Pedro River! Over the last four banding sessions (two at each site), we’ve caught 32 “new” (unbanded) birds (25 Black-chinneds, 7 Broad-billeds) and recaptured 8 previously banded birds (all Black-chinneds). Captures at Casa de San Pedro Bed & Breakfast (27) have been running significantly ahead of those at our original site at the San Pedro House (13), and young birds (27) greatly outnumber adults (13).

One recent recapture at the San Pedro House is E64396, named “Anna” by her sponsors. She was banded as an adult in April 2008; at a minimum age of 8 years, she’s among the oldest individuals in our study. This was her seventh recapture in total and her fourth this year! Her abdomen was swollen indicating a developing egg; if the nest is successful, the young should fledge in late August.

Another important recapture at the San Pedro House was P44518, a female Black-chinned banded by our team 27 months earlier and almost 10 miles farther south at Casa de San Pedro. She had an egg in development at the time of her original capture but no sign of breeding on her recapture. Since this was her first recapture, it’s hard to say whether she is now part of the population near the San Pedro House or just a post-breeding visitor.

A celebration marking the 20th year of the San Pedro Hummingbird Project is tentatively scheduled for Saturday, September 26 October 3. Stay tuned for details! We’re also counting down to our 6000th hummingbird banded at the San Pedro House. With just 48 new birds to go, we expect to reach 6K before the end of the season.

There are only 18 sessions left in the 2015 banding season, 9 at each site. If you’d like to join us, please check the Calendar of Events for upcoming dates. If you’d like to help us keep the project going, please consider making a donation or “adopting” a banded hummingbird for yourself or as a gift. Thank you for your support!

Huachuca Canyon reopens

We received the following news this afternoon from Mrs. Angela Camara
Public Affairs Officer at Fort Huachuca:

Fort Huachuca officials have reopened Huachuca Canyon to recreational users during daylight hours.

The nuisance bear was located and, in coordination with Arizona Game and Fish experts, the bear was put down humanely due to its aggressive nature and lack of fear towards humans. The bear was considered a Category 1 nuisance bear.

Fort recreational users should remain alert to the possibility of bear activity in the canyon. If you see a bear, remain calm. Keep your distance from the bear and move slowly and deliberately away from it. Let the bear know you’re there by making noise. Keep children and pets close to you.

Once you are safely away from the bear, call the Fort Huachuca military police desk at (520) 533-3000 and report the encounter.

SABO’s Huachuca Canyon field trip for Fiesta de las Aves is a go for Saturday morning, May 2. There’s still space if you’d like to join us for a guided tour of this very special area.

Access update: Huachuca Canyon CLOSED

We’ve recently received notification from Fort Huachuca’s Public Affairs Office (520-533-1850) that Huachuca Canyon has been closed in the interests of public safety in response to reports of Black Bear and Mountain Lion activity. According to Fort Huachuca’s Facebook page, a bear is reported to have “followed and charged hikers and later chuffed at cyclists in the canyon.” A previous notice announced the reinstatement of a policy that recreational visitors to Huachuca Canyon must check in and out at the Military Police Station at 22336 Christy Avenue (520-533-3000), on the road into Huachuca Canyon.

It is currently unclear how long this this closure will last and whether it will affect SABO’s Huachuca Canyon field trip on May 2, but we will notify registered participants as soon as we know more. Thanks for your patience.

How To Watch Eared Quetzals

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An adult male Eared Quetzal near Madera, Chihuahua.

An Eared Quetzal, one of the most mysterious and frustrating rarities in southeastern Arizona, was sighted around midday on April 17 in Gardner Canyon, a rugged and infrequently birded canyon on the east side of the Santa Rita Mountains. Tucson birders Patty Tersey and Keith Kamper found the bird and reported details of their encounter to the Arizona-New Mexico listserv.

Good Birders Don't<br />
Wear White: 50 Tips From North America's Top BirdersEared Quetzals are infamous as the species that raised awareness of how the colors we wear while birding may affect the birds themselves and therefore birding success, as summarized in the essay “Good Birders Don’t Wear White.”

Based on our extensive experience with Eared Quetzals in both Mexico and Arizona, we offer the following tips that may make the difference between success and failure for would-be quetzal watchers:

  • Dress in muted, natural colors from your hat right down to your boots and socks. Browns, mid-tone grays, tans, and natural greens are all okay, but avoid white and very light pastels, bright colors, and light blues such as faded denim. If your wardrobe doesn’t include any camo, muted plaids and checks dominated by shades of green, brown, tan, and/or gray are the next best thing.
  • Eared Quetzals are more often heard than seen, so prepare by studying recordings of the bird’s calls ahead of time. The most commonly heard calls from both sexesthe squeal-chuck and the flight cackleare signs of alarm. If you hear either of these calls, the bird has probably seen you and/or another observer and is in evasive mode. Chasing a frightened quetzal is counterproductive. The best strategy is to freeze in place until it calms down.
  • A stationary quetzal giving the tremolo call is advertising to prospective mates and/or rivals and provides the best opportunity for stealthy approach. This call is heard most often from males during the summer breeding season.
  • When approaching an area where the bird has been sighted, move slowly and as little as possible, stay in the shadows, and keep noise to a minimum. Eared Quetzals are extremely stealthy for their size and can fly in quite close to you without you realizing it, so any sudden moves or sounds may result in lost viewing opportunities for yourself and others.
  • Eared Quetzals are rare globally and extremely rare in the United States, and their continuing presence in Arizona may depend in large part on how we behave toward them. Use of playback in an attempt to attract Eared Quetzals is contrary to the American Birding Association’s Principles of Birding Ethics, which recommends the following:

If you witness unethical birding behavior, assess the situation, and intervene if you think it prudent. When interceding, inform the person(s) of the inappropriate action, and attempt, within reason, to have it stopped. If the behavior continues, document it, and notify appropriate individuals or organizations.

(This post is adapted from posts to the BirdChat listserv in December 1999, the Arizona-New Mexico listserv in 2005, and the Birders on the Border blog in January 2011.)