Rufous-capped Warbler, Sycamore Canyon


SE Arizona - California Gulch, Sycamore Canyon, & Kino Springs
25-26 Mar 2006
by Henry Detwiler

Helga & Al, Suzanne & I, and the girls spent a weekend in Southeast Arizona to look for a few regional rarities & specialties  
species -- bird list is at the bottom of the page
Click on thumbnail pictures for full-sized photos.   

Al & Helga were heading back towards Canada on April 1st, so this was our final trip of the season together.  We decided to try for two life birds for them--  Five-striped Sparrow &  Rufous-capped Warbler.  After spending Friday night in Tucson, we headed out early to California Gulch.  On the way in to the Gulch, we were privileged to see this magnificent Golden Eagle soaring overhead at the dam.

Golden Eagle, California Gulch

Pipevine Swallowtail, California Gulch

Sonoran Whiptail, California Gulch

The road into California Gulch was rocky, steep, and full of curves--if only we had jeeps!  Still, we made it to the top of the gulch in one piece, and hiked down from there.  The canyon was as beautiful as ever, but  much too peaceful, and apparently too early for our sought-after Five-striped Sparrows.  The trickle in the stream provided some nice habitat, and we enjoyed several varieties of butterflies and beautiful flowers.  On the drive out, this large Sonoran Whiptail snake was half-in & half-out of an old well that sat beside the road.
After a quick lunch we drove over to Sycamore Canyon, arriving around 2:00pm.  There was a fair amount of water flowing in the stream, and we hopped from rock to rock as we headed down-canyon.  Just past this wide point, Helga cries out, "What's that bird?"

Rufous-capped Warbler, Sycamore Canyon

Rufous-capped Warbler, Sycamore Canyon

It was our target, of course, a little jewel of a warbler only rarely seen north of the Mexican border.  We watched it flit about, catching insects and occasionally singing, for about fifteen minutes.  At times, it let us approach to within a few yards.  Our final stop for the day was Pena Blanca Lake, where we picked up a few water-loving birds.


The following morning was cool and beautiful!  We headed directly to the clubhouse at the Kino Springs Golf Course, and looked over the sewage lagoons and the ponds across the way.  Ducks aplenty on the water and lots of warblers in the clubhouse pines, including a somewhat out-of-place Lucy's. 

Northern Cardinal, Kino Springs

Black-chinned Sparrow, Kino Springs

Once we moved over to the first, entrance pond, we were treated to a royal sparrow show.  Dozens of White Crowned, Brewer's, Song, Lark, and fewer numbers of Black-chinned and Lincoln's Sparrows all vied for our attention.  Many broke out into song, and was great to both watch and hear them.  And then a Lazuli Bunting brightened up the sparrow affair.

On to Patagonia Lake State Park, where a leisurely walk down to the creek produced many of the expected birds.  A bonus for Al was a Plumbeous Vireo, which we'd managed to miss all his prior winters here in Yuma.  A pair of Neotropic Cormorants was a first of the season for all of us, as was the Zone-tailed Hawk we saw just north of Sonoita.  The Paton's provided the usual hummingbird banquet, with fine looks at the Violet-crowned, Rufous, Black-chinned, and Anna's.  Meanwhile, Gambel's Quail were busy feeding around and drinking from their fountain.

Pyyrhuloxia, Patagonia Lake

Neotropic Cormorants, Patagonia Lake

Wilson's Warbler, Patagonia Lake

Our last stop of the trip was Sweetwater Wetlands in Tucson.  On prior trips the Least Grebe had always eluded Suzanne, but this time we were lucky.  It was nice and close on Pond #9, and we had beautiful views.  Plenty of Pied-billeds made for a nice comparison, too.

Pied-billed Grebe, Sweetwater Ponds

Least Grebe, Sweetwater Ponds

As we were coming back I caught a glimpse of a gull, and called out Ring-billed--fortunately Al decided to take a closer look--he pegged it as a Franklin's.  And in nice breeding plumage, too, sporting a fine pinkish breast.  Blue-winged Teal were outnumbered by the Cinnamon Teal, but this beautiful pair had to be the most photogenic of them all.  And they didn't flush either.  The long drive back didn't yield any additional species, but we did have time to tally up our list.  We'll try it again next spring!


Franklin's Gull, Sweetwater Ponds

Blue-winged Teal, Sweetwater Ponds


Southeast Arizona, 25-26 Mar 2006
# Species
1 Least Grebe
2 Pied-billed Grebe
3 Neotropic Cormorant
4 Double-crested Cormorant
5 Great Blue Heron
6 Great Egret
7 Cattle Egret
8 Green Heron
9 Gadwall
10 American Wigeon
11 Blue-winged Teal
12 Mallard
13 Cinnamon Teal
14 Northern Shoveler
15 Green-winged Teal
16 Ring-necked Duck
17 Lesser Scaup
18 Ruddy Duck
19 Osprey
20 Sharp-shinned Hawk
21 Harris' Hawk
22 Gray Hawk
23 Zone-tailed Hawk
24 Red-tailed Hawk
25 Golden Eagle
26 American Kestrel
27 Gambel's Quail
28 Sora
29 Common Moorhen
30 American Coot
31 Killdeer
32 Black-necked Stilt
33 Spotted Sandpiper
34 Least Sandpiper
35 Long-billed Dowitcher
36 Wilson's Snipe
37 Turkey Vulture
38 Black Vulture
39 Franklin's Gull
40 Rock Pigeon
41 White-winged Dove
42 Mourning Dove
43 Inca Dove
44 Common Ground-Dove
45 Ruddy Ground-Dove
46 Eurasian Collared Dove
47 Greater Roadrunner
48 Broad-billed Hummingbird
49 Violet-crowned Hummingbrd
50 Black-chinned Hummingbird
51 Anna's Hummingbird
52 Rufous Hummingbird
53 Belted Kingfisher
54 Acorn Woodpecker
55 Gila Woodpecker
56 Red-naped Sapsucker
57 Ladder-backed Woodpecker
58 Northern Flicker
59 Cordilleran Flycatcher
60 Black Phoebe
61 Say's Phoebe
62 Vermilion Flycatcher
63 Ash-throated Flycatcher
64 Western Kingbird
# Species
65 N. Beardless Tyrannulet
66 Loggerhead Shrike
67 Bell's Vireo
68 Plumbeous Vireo
69 Warbling Vireo
70 Mexican Jay
71 Common Raven
72 Chihuahuan Raven
73 Tree Swallow
74 Violet-green Swallow
75 Northern Rough-winged Swallow
76 Cliff Swallow
77 Barn Swallow
78 Bridled Titmouse
79 Verdin
80 Bushtit
81 Cactus Wren
82 Rock Wren
83 Canyon Wren
84 Bewick's Wren
85 Ruby-crowned Kinglet
86 Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
87 Black-tailed Gnatcatcher
88 Hermit Thrush
89 Northern Mockingbird
90 Curve-billed Thrasher
91 Crissal Thrasher
92 European Starling
93 Black-throated Gray Warbler
94 Common Yellowthroat
95 Yellow-rumped Warbler
96 Yellow Warbler
97 Wilson's Warbler
98 Nashville Warbler
99 Lucy's Warbler
100 Rufous-capped Warbler
101 Orange-crowned Warbler
102 Green-tailed Towhee
103 Spotted Towhee
104 Canyon Towhee
105 Abert's Towhee
106 Rufous-crowned Sparrow
107 Chipping Sparrow
108 Brewer's Sparrow
109 Black-chinned Sparrow
110 Vesper Sparrow
111 Lark Sparrow
112 Black-throated Sparrow
113 Song Sparrow
114 Lincoln's Sparrow
115 White-crowned Sparrow
116 Cardinal
117 Pyrrhuloxia
118 Lazuli Bunting
119 Red-winged Blackbird
120 Western Meadowlark
121 Yellow-headed Blackbird
122 Great-tailed Grackle
123 Hooded Oriole
124 Bullock's Oriole
125 House Finch
126 Pine Siskin
127 Lesser Goldfinch
128 American Goldfinch
129 House Sparrow

Photos Henry Detwiler