Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Coues Deer

The diminutive Coues Deer (Odocoileus virginianus couesi) found down here in the south-western US mountains is a subspecies of White-tailed Deer.  

A buck stands about 30" high at the shoulder and measures 56" head to tail, making it one of the smallest deer in North America.

On average bucks weigh 100 lbs. and does about 75 lbs.

I was at the Visitor's Center at Coronado National Park when this group of Coues stopped for a drink at the spring just outside the viewing window. There was one buck, two does and two last year fawns.

They prefer woodlands of chaparral, oak, and pine, with interspersed clearings and range in terrain elevations from 3,000 to 10,000 feet, with the greatest densities of deer concentrated within the 3,500 to 5,500 feet elevation.

They are named for Elliott Coues, who, among many other things, was  a founder of the American Ornithologists' Union, and edited its organ, The Auk, and several other ornithological periodicals.

 In 1872 he published his Key to North American Birds, which, revised and rewritten in 1884 and 1901, did much to promote the systematic study of ornithology in America. His work was instrumental in establishing the currently accepted standards of trinomial nomenclature - the taxonomic classification of subspecies - in ornithology, and ultimately the whole of zoology. 

In addition to ornithology he did valuable work in mammalogy; his book Fur-Bearing Animals (1877) being distinguished by the accuracy and completeness of its description of species, several of which were already becoming rare.

Information from:

Monday, March 19, 2012

Bridled Titmouse

Well honestly, a Bridled Titmouse (Baeolophus wollweberi) is as hard to photograph as butterflies and kittens.  I didn't get any really good photos after days of enjoying these perky birds while in the Huachuca Mountains and other places in SEAZ

This particular titmouse was in Coronado National Park (south of Sierra Vista).

Thirty-five shots and these were the best four!  All are fuzzy, bah.  Busy, busy little birds, foraging in trees and on the ground.  They eat insects, especially caterpillars, but also seeds, nuts and berries. They will store food for later use (Wikipedia) or not (All About Birds). 

These little birds are found in oak-juniper mountain forests and some mixed wood riparian habitats in Mexico, Arizona and New Mexico.

They are about the same size as a Black-capped Chickadee (4.25"). 

WhatBird.com tells us that a group of titmice are collectively known as a "banditry" and a "dissimulation" of titmice.

For more Information on Bridled Titmouse, go to:

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Saguaro National Park

Early morning birding at Saguaro National Park (West side).

Sun's just coming up over the mountain

A male Gambel's Quail in a twisted tree

An expanse of Englemann Prickly Pear (Opuntia engelmannii)

Teddybear Cholla (choy'-ya)  (Culindropuntia bigelovii or Opuntia bigelovii).  Nothing soft and fuzzy about these plants.  The spines easily imbed in skin, shoes, clothing and need a comb or pliers to be removed.  Packrats pile up detached joints around their nests for protection.  The joints will root when in contact with soil.

Another male Gambel's Quail

A Northern Mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos)

A pretty poor, fuzzy photos of a Black-throated Sparrow(Amphispiza bilineata) sitting beside a prickly pear that was probably munched on by a javalina.

Can't get enough photos of saguaro

And, my Lifer Phainopeplas (Phainopepla nitens) - the female of the pair.  After this initial sighting, I saw these birds everywhere!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Another Walk in the Desert

Photos from an early morning desert walk

Some birds will be nesting in here again soon.

Saguaro and ocitillo

Very pretty up on the mountain

Young saguaros grow best in shelter of larger desert trees and other types of cactus.

And a very old and totally wonky saguaro....the one on the right I mean.  The other old guy is my bro-in-law, Gene.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Spring Training

We went to a Spring Training baseball game this afternoon.  The Mariners vs The Brewers. 

This is Felix Hernandez pitching for the Mariners; Gene was surprised he was playing today.

And another pitch


A Brewers hopeful #96 Davis scooping up a base hit

Don't know who this is.

And Michael Saunders trying to bring home #13 Ackley

Nice day for a ball game.  Very hot sitting in the sun.  This was my first major league game! 

UPDATE:  Mariners won 6-1.  This was Tucson's first Spring Training game in about 3 years.  The city built the new Kino stadium/sports complex (and it is nice) then the teams that had been training here moved to Phoenix.  There are three Spring Training games scheduled for this year.  One tomorrow, and another next week. 

Hernandez was the 2010 Cy Young winner and is a two-time All-Star.  Yesterday he threw 80 pitches - 50 for strikes.  Eh, not bad!

Greater Roadrunner

The Greater Roadrunner (Geococcyx californianus) is a ground-cuckoo of the Mojave, Chichuahuan and southern Great Basin deserts in the Southwestern US  and Mexico.  In Spanish, it is called "El Correcaminos".   

This bird can reach running speeds of 30 km/hr (18.6 mi/hr).  When running at top speed, it holds its head and tail flat and parallel to the ground, using the long tail as a rudder to keep balance.   Beep Beep!

The Greater Roadrunner is the state bird of New Mexico.  Officially adopted March 16, 1949 under the name "Chaparral Bird".

John James Audubon did not know of its existence and it was not included in the 1840 edition of Birds of America.

I came across this particular bird near a one-lane bridge spanning the San Pedro
River. It was much more intent on searching for a meal than it was about my proximity. I don't think these birds are afraid of much.

The roadrunner diet includes venomous prey items, such as scorpions, spiders, and rattlesnakes. Two birds may cooperate to kill a large snake.  Generally, they eat anything smallish that moves.  Roadrunners will invade feeder areas and grab small birds.  One was observed to leap up from hiding in a dry riverbed and knock down a low-flying White-throated Swift.

Roadrunners are 10-12" high; about 20-24" long; weigh in from 8-24 oz and live 7-8 years.

To warm up after a cold desert night, a roadrunner will turn its back to the sun, fluff its back feathers, and expose skin along its back. This skin is black in order to absorb more solar energy.

The desert-dwelling roadrunner uses salt glands in front of its eyes to excrete excess salt from its blood. Such glands are common in ocean-going birds that can drink seawater. The roadrunner is able to get along without drinking water if it eats food with high enough water content, but it will drink readily if water is available.

Yes,  there is a Lesser Roadrunner - in Mexico.  Visit this site to see it and a photo of a roadrunner running.  http://www.backyardnature.net/mexnat/roadrunn.htm

Information about the Greater Roadrunner from:

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Pipevine Swallowtail

I've been driving around South-eastern Arizona for the past few days.  From time to time, large black butterflies fluttered across my path.

Today I managed a quick photo.

Pipevine Swallowtail  (Battus philenor)

Wikipedia says this:
The Pipevine Swallowtail (Battus philenor) is a swallowtail butterfly found in North and Central America. The butterflies are black with iridescent blue hind wings. They are found in many different habitats, but are most commonly found in forests. The black or red caterpillars feed on Aristolochia species, making them poisonous as both larvae and adults, while the adults feed on the nectar of a variety of flowers.
 More info at:


Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Paton House

Yesterday morning I visited Paton House at Patagonia, Arizona. 

Many years ago, Wally & Marion Paton set up feeders to attract more and more of the many bird species they saw at their Patagonia home.  They also welcomed visiting birders into their yard to view.  Both Patons have since passed away, but their home and bird feeders are still going strong, welcoming birds and birders alike.  The place is managed by Larry Morgan, Ambassador to the Birds. 

A bright red Northern Cardinal male was singing in the trees at the entrance to Paton House.  There is parking for a few vehicles at the gate, I pulled into the last open spot and wandered over to the feeder area behind the house.  Larry was there to issue a warm, friendly welcome.  Several other birders and photographers were sitting under the sun-canopy - many benches and chairs are set out - waiting for the small birds to return after a Cooper's Hawk had flown through and cleared the area.

Pretty soon there was the familiar buzz of a hummingbird flying close. 

Paton House is the best place in the US to see the Violet-crowned Hummingbird  (Amazilia violiceps).   While I have seen this species in Costa Rica; this is my first North American sighting! 

Larry filled up the many seed feeders and the birds flocked in.....Abert's Towhee (a Lifer for me), Green-tailed Towhee, Pyrrhuloxia, White-winged Doves, a Lazuli Bunting female, Lincoln's Sparrow, White-crowned Sparrow, Am. Tree Sparrow, and many Lesser Goldfinches (Spinus psaltria) (below)

And more Gambel's Quail (Callipepla gambelii).  I just love these birds and can't pass up a photo opportunity.

Or two.

There were Rufous Hummingbirds (pair) and also a Broad-billed Hummingbird  (Cynanthus latirostris) (pair).  This is the male Broad-billed.

Patagonia is a tiny place and full of character.  Several art and artisan galleries with a sort of, oh, let's say a back-to-the-earth hippy air about it.  I liked it.  I'm planning to stop in again on my way back to Tucson.   The Patagonia-Sonoita Creek Preserve (a Nature Conservancy property) wasn't open (closed on Monday & Tuesday).  So, I'll return, perhaps make another try at the Elegant Trogon at Patagonia Lake as well. 

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Curve-billed Thrasher

There is a pair of Curve-billed Thrashers (Toxostoma curvirostre) frequently hanging around the patio feeders here at my sister & brother-in-law's place in Tucson. 
This is the most adaptable, and thus most widespread thrasher. (Last year, there was a much-photographed Curve-billed Thrasher in Saskatoon, SK, Canada.)  (Update:  how to tell I'm getting old...the years are flying by and I'm getting them all mixed up...I am advised the Curve-billed Thrasher in the Saskatoon area, nicknamed Conrad, wasn't there last year or even the year before that!  No, it was in 2006.  Really?).

From Wikipedia:
It is commonly found throughout the deserts and brush-filled areas of the south-western United States, from about the Sonoran Desert of Arizona and across New Mexico to west Texas, as well as most of Mexico, from the Sonoran-Chihuahuan Deserts and south through the Mexican Plateau to regions south of the Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt in south-central Mexico.

The Curve-billed Thrasher feeds on ground-dwelling insects, as well as seeds, and berries. It often pushes out Cactus Wrens in its area. This thrasher's voice is a sharp, liquid, whistle wit-WEET!, or wit-WEET-wit, as well as a warbling, squeaky, hurried song.

This thrasher often roosts in a tall tree or spiny vegetation, preferring a cactus. The nest is a loosely woven cup made of thorny twigs. The female lays 2 to 4 eggs, which are bluish-green and speckled with brown. The eggs are incubated by both sexes, and hatch after about thirteen days. The young will leave the nest after 14 to 18 days after hatching.
More information at All About Birds

Above quotes and more info from Wikipedia at:

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

More Desert

The Sonoran Desert is a beautiful place.

An assortment of cacti and other vegetation.  Every saguaro seems to have a bird or two perched on top in the early morning sun.

A closer look at the top of one particular saguaro....yes, a Gilded Flicker pair  (Colaptes chrysoides)

The trail ahead....

More photos to come.

Info about Gilded Flickers at