Thursday, January 7, 2016

1/7/2015 Birding the bathrooms across the ABA region

Big Year Days 6-7

Big Year Total:  235
Coded birds:  9
Miles driven.  3740
Miles walked 22

I am sitting here at the Phoenix Airport writing this blog waiting 6 hours for a 1 am departure.  I sat here thing of the last 2 days of intense birding.

I went birding with the King of Green Valley, Arizona, which is not his real title.  Laurens Halsey is a local birding guru, guide, philosopher, and all around good guy...and now outhouse expert.  His real nickname is the desert harrier.  With me in tow, we birded around every outhouse, crapper, john, porta potty, latrine, and comfort station we could find.

Stories about birders in the bathroom are legendary, The great Macklin Smith (largest lifelist) has a story with rare bird on Attu coming out of the outhouse.  The is the story in the Big Year movie about seeing a rufous capped warbler on a toilet brush in El Paso, etc.  Well, with that in mind, we decided to see how many rare birds we could see from outhouses.  If I could get the outhouse in the photo, I got extra credit.

We started off at Catalina SP NE of Tucson, it wasn't long before I got a perfect ten...

Rufous-backed Robin a code 3 bird, (left)  next to a northern flicker with the outhouse in the back.  I think the correct word is comfort station here though.

here is a better view of my life bird #718 for me and the 7th coded rarity of the year so far.  I had to flush it, bad pun, into a tree for a more natural photo

we also saw a gray flycatcher:

photogenic pyroloxia

I tallied the ever present house finch, even and we moved on, of course none of the common birds would have anything to do with the outhouse except that flicker.  We had more bathrooms to see.

The rules at Fort Huachuca have changed, and the visitor gate has changed.  After passing my background check we headed into the fort and into the rain.  We found the bathroom and immediately knew, a rare bird was near.

You got to love the inhalation hazzard warning, those ladies at gaseous beings!

Hiding in a hole in tree after I saw the bastard sneaking in the thickest underbrush like a mouse was the code five, Sinaloa wren, the same bird I saw in 2013 without a tail, it had grown back but this time even in the rain, I got a good shot of him.

Two bathrooms, two coded birds, we looked for the Rufous capped warbler but to be honest, there really wasn't a good bathroom to bird anywhere, and we dipped out, so it was then time to run up the score a bit on the bird count.

Hammond Flycatcher

We found a great bird with a Long-eared owl at a secret spot in the middle of nowhere, and it the thickest forest anybody would want to venture in.  This bird was a number 1 worry for me and it was now off the board.

We stumbled on a leucistic Red-tailed hake on a power pole in good light, it was a cool find.

Day 2 south of Tucson involved the trek up Florida Canyon.  The trial is pretty good until the tank and then by the dam, it is a couple steps short of bushwacking and after 1/2 of a mile of thorns etc.  my arms looked like I was having a fight with a cat.  We hiked up prior to a pending storm and pretty much all was silent until we reached as far as we could go...would we find the rufous capped warbler?

Then we went down, then up again and ID'd some sparrows and towhees, lots of sparrows and towhees, then we went down again.  I ran into a follower of mine, a man named Roger from Michigan and juts as we were about to exchange cards, harrier eared Halsey, heard it.

We went down and then up and finally out came a pair of the little rascals.  I even got a pair of good photos of the great code three bird!  It is one of the cutest birds, but in reality, they seem more wren-like than warblers

Wow, I finally got it photographed well.

Then we walked down and found another gorgeous bird...painted redstart but unable to get a good photo we went on.

Here at Florida Canyon, the outhouse is missing some parts, like pretty much the whole outhouse.  So maybe this is a .1 bathroom, 2.1 bathrooms, 3 coded birds.
Very nearby, however, we came across another great outhouse bird, we saw an elegant trogon feeding on the ground very bear the trail head and the toilet seat, they are stunning birds

It is hard to take a good photo sitting on the potty.  Now due to the fact it was a severely damaged outhouse and a code 2 bird, Laurens only gave me one point for this bird.  We did dip out on the black capped gnatcatchers but I will get that in May no concern there.

Up Madera Canyon we found some showy birds

Acorn Woodpecker

Arizona  woodpecker

Bridled Titmouse

Hepatic Tanager

The weather was getting bad so we bailed on the Mountain

snow was coming in.  I bailed and birded to Phoenix, I had plans to bail on Arizona, and fly north to the cold

Laurens was thinking I should name my blog "Birding the Outhouses Big Year"  I will take it under advisement, but I added 47 birds for the two days around Tucson--some of them in the rain.  I was now a week into this and had 235 species and with Sandy Komito posting 360 by February 6th, I had to push it up.  I had to even quicken the pace.  I am nowhere near high enough but all I can do is a coded bird a day and one was teed up for my near where I lived in 1989, Canal Park, Duluth.  It was a red-eye for me and then double back to British Columbia, I would be an exhausting day but one I needed

All I can say about the king...
All Hail Halsey!


Madera Canyon etc

Catilina State Park

190.  Rufous-backed robin (3)
191.  House finch
192.  Gray Flycatcher
193.  Chipping Sparrow
194.  Say's Phoebe
195.  Black-throated sparrow
196.  Rufous-winged sparrow

Ft Huachuca
197.  Hutton's Vireo
198.  Townsend's Warbler
199.  Dark-eyed Junco
****200.*** Sinolea Wren (5)
201.  Hammond's Flycatcher
202.  White-breasted nuthatch

Pena Lake and canyon
203.  Golden Eagle
204.  Rufous Crowned sparrow
205.  mallard
206.  Bufflehead
207.  Ruddy duck
208.  Common merganser
209  marsh wren
210.  White-throated sparrow
211.  Rock wren
212.  Northern Flicker
213.  Mexican Jay
214.  Dusky Flycatcher

South of Green Valley

215.  Long-eared owl
216.  Lesser scaup

Florida Canyon
217.canyon wren
218.  Conyon Towhee
219.  Green-tailed towhee
220.. Spoted towhee
221.  Black chinned sparrow
222.  Painted redstart
223.  Rufous-capped warbler
224.  Elegant trogan

Madera canyon

225.  Pine siskin
226.  Acorn woodpecker
227  Arizona Woodpecker
228.  Yellow-eyed junco
229.  Hepatic Tanager
230.  Bridled titmouse
231.  Phainopepla

Santa Cruz Flats

232:  Brewer's Blackbird
233.  White-winged dove
234.  Eurasian Collared dove


235.  Rosy-faced lovebird


  1. Got a nemesis out of the way. A long time until Feb 6th, lots of birds to get. BC should net a bunch of year birds after your MN detour.

    Keep plugging.

  2. That sparrow wasn't easy
    It was like 70 yards up hill into the light, I even shot a photo of it o make sure and it actually was. My arms are so beat up, was dripping blood on the trail


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