Wednesday, February 9, 2011

February in Madera Canyon

After the recent cold spell and snow fall, Madera creek is rushing with chilly snow melt from Mnt Wrightston and Mnt Hopkins. Under these conditions bird watching is still much more rewarding than bug hunting.

A flash of red greets me at the feeders of Madera canyon Lodge: a Hepatic Tananger. This male sports a lively orange-red front while his flanks, back and wings are olive green-gray. Nice! I've mostly seen Summer Tanangers in Arizona, and this time I even get a good look at the yellow-green female at the Kabo B&B further up the road.

Chipping Sparrow

Pine Siskin

I miss theYellow-eyed Juncos. Instead there are Chipping Sparrows and Pine Siskins on the ground.

 Swarms of Lesser Goldfinches visit the feeders. Some of them have nearly black backs. None of those wants to pose for  photo, though.

The clownish, very social Acorn Woodpeckers are always all over the feeders. Their breeding cavities and thousands of acorn smithies in the wooden telephone poles show that the gang stays around year round. 

My favorite Woopecker

Acorn smithy holes
 The Arizona Woodpecker, recognizable by his plain brown back, is a southeast Arizona specialty. Usually I catch glimpses of this bird in summer on Duquesne Rd close to the Mexican border or south of Pena Blanca Lake. It was a nice surprise to find on at the suet block at the lodge where it seemed undisturbed by my struggle with my new little view finder less camera.

The characteristic brown back

Places where birders come together function as information exchanges. A field guide is hardly needed if one has keen ears and doesn't hesitate to ask questions. So in exchange for my introduction of the woodpecker, I get the tip that 'the' Trogon has taken residence at the Kabo B&B.

I find the promised berry-covered  bush that had attracted the sole wintering Trogon across the street from the B&B, too far from the road to see whether it is an introduced Pyracantha or a native Madrone. The birds don't seem to care. The Trogon soon swoops down from one of the Sycamores to join a Robin, some Siskins and a pair of Dark-eyed Juncos. 

Too bad that he is too intent on those berries to pose for a better photo! But at least all the field marks are clearly visible.

 Lois Manowitz, a great bird photographer from Tucson, graciously allowed me to use one of her Trogon photos here. It was taken during the breeding season at Madera Canyon. I am not sure whether male Trogons help incubating the eggs, but those disheveled feathers seem to indicate that he might have brood patches. 

'Madera Canyon Birds' watercolor of my first Trogon encounter in 1994


  1. Find me a Dipper! Saw one there February 15, 1985.

    Wonderful post. Madera Canyon is one of my most favorite spots on Mother Earth.

  2. 1 - I'm way jealous about the trogon. How exciting.

    2 - Fabulous watercolor, seriously.

  3. Wonderfully birdy! I thought I was keeping a year list of birds in 2011, but it hasn't quite gotten started yet...

  4. I love the watercolor! Do you have any prints of it? Thanks

  5. Thanks for your interest in the watercolor. Yes, I have prints and greeting cards. You can contact me at for more info