Arizona: Boyce Thompson ArboretumBy
With the move to New Jersey just days away now, Alison and I have been seizing every scarce opportunity to get away from the packing and enjoy monsoon here in Arizona. We were delighted to be asked to lead a “sit” at Boyce Thompson Arboretum this past weekend–especially since a Tufted Flycatcher had appeared there last week.
No cute little orange tyrannids for us, but our Friday evening stroll was a delight. Visiting firemen like us are assigned a neat little apartment on the grounds the night before a tour, giving us the whole beautiful park to ourselves from closing time Friday to meeting time Saturday.
Alison and Gellert and I wandered around in the cooling evening, pausing to watch Lucy’s and Yellow Warblers and Hooded Orioles at the water features and admiring the beautiful plants, native and not.
Moving from shady spot to shady spot, we were serenaded by the hoots and hollers of Yellow-breasted Chats and the whooping whistles of Phainopeplas. A silent Yellow-billed Cuckoo was a nice sight, the first of the species either of us had seen this year. Big shadows alerted us to the arrival of three Common Ravens, which had somehow surprised an adult Zone-tailed Hawk and were chasing the poor bird low over the trees, nearly striking it a few times.
The next morning dawned bright and warm, and we were very happy to get to spend a few minutes chatting with Carl. A Varied Bunting was jangling from the wash, and Inca Doves rattled away from us as we crossed the parking lot to meet up with the assembled group.
The birding was good and the company great for the next two and a half hours. We made our way slowly to the hummingbird garden, where Broad-billed Hummingbirds were firmly in command of the feeders, tails atremble every time they landed to suck down the sugarwater. Yellow-breasted Chats, constantly audible as usual, gave us the first of many good views we would enjoy of that sometimes elusive hyper-warbler, and families of Phainopeplas, the young still goofy-gaped, fluttered and flopped through the hackberries.
After a while we moved on to the Woodland Garden, where the tiny waterfall was gushing and birds were moving through at a steady but not an overwhelming pace. One of the great things about a sit is the chance to talk to everyone individually–none of this jockeying for position close to the front of the line–and to answer (and ask!) questions and help out with identifications. We had plenty of opportunity to talk about geographic variation in Yellow Warbler, with gray juveniles following their pale, lightly marked parents in to drink. Hooded Orioles played around in the eucalyptus branches above us, and Abert’s Towhees scratched and screeched from the dense vegetation. My favorite sighting of the day was certainly the male Summer Tanager that perched for all to see through the scope; it’s hard to think of anything more beautifully tropical!
Soon enough it was 9:00, and as the day warmed up and the birds dispersed, so did we–some of us to continue exploring the park and some of us, like Alison and me, to get on with a day filled with other tasks, tasks made easier by a fine morning of birding behind us.