Trogon Trip: Madera Canyon

Madera Canyon is one of the prettiest places I’ve been to. Maybe because it was spring and the sun was shining but temperatures were still cool and comfortable. And Madera Creek was running high thanks to the recent snow in the Santa Rita Mountains. Our search began at the Proctor Road Nature Trail.

We had a big mission: find an Elegant Trogon. It wasn’t going to be easy. We looked at the last place it was seen with no luck. Our instincts then led us to a Pyracantha bush near Whitehouse Picnic Area another place it frequented but there were no signs of a trogon here either. The “bush of despair” let us down, because later we learned the trogon was back at the original spot before it “flew far away downstream” to an inaccessible part of the canyon. Unbelievably we’d missed the bird by ten minutes. A trogon tragedy.

Thankfully, there were many other birds to look at. And some of them life birds. Santa Rita Lodge located in the canyon has cabins, a gift shop, and bird feeder stations set up outside. Whenever we needed a recharge we’d sit here and everything would be better.

See the turkeys?

How can you be disappointed when there’s two lifer hummingbirds buzzing around?

Rivoli’s Hummingbirds (formerly called Magnificent) are huge (relatively).

They’re over an inch longer (5″) than Anna’s Hummingbirds (3.8″) and the other lifer hummingbird seen here, Broad-billed Hummingbird (3.8″).

Foraging on the ground below were all the juncos. And by “all” I mean three subspecies of Dark-eyed Junco.

And my most anticipated new junco, a species all of its own, Yellow-eyed Junco!

I was really excited to see these guys and they did not disappoint. The best crazy-eyes.

Another fun new bird here was Bridled Titmouse! Their crest defies all logic.

In the treetops shier birds like the Arizona Woodpecker would sneak in for a snack.

And another time a brilliantly colored Hepatic Tanager paid a visit!

Hepatic” means liver-colored, in this case brownish-red. Gross but true. If these birds weren’t enough there were White-breasted Nuthatch, Acorn Woodpeckers, and another noisy life bird, Mexican Jay.

They reminded us of Pinyon Jays in eastern Oregon.

Tienes un cacahuete?

After we checked for and missed the trogon a few more times we left for a break to look for a reported Rufous-capped Warbler along the Florida Trail (pronounced “Flo-ree’-da,” the Spanish word for flowered). This involved a gorgeous desert hike.

With several (tenuous) stream crossings.

You got this

The best part about this hike was not the warblers we couldn’t find, but a quick distant look at a lifer Painted Redstart! The views were so far, so here’s a another from the Santa Rita feeders that we saw later. So pretty.

Especially when you can see their red tummy.

By now you’re wondering where the heck is the trogon on this trip? So were we.

I can’t believe this is a real thing. “Almost!”

We’d had an entire birding day and hadn’t found it. Before the trip, we said we’d look for it every day if we had to, but then the reality of that statement sunk in. Would we forgo all other plans for one bird? Yes. No. Maybe.

Thankfully there was pizza and beer at Velvet Elvis Pizza in Patagonia where we could distract ourselves and celebrate all the birds we’d seen so far.

Tweets and chirps,


5MR Snow Daze

It snowed in Portland! It wasn’t much. And it was gone in about 24-hours, but it was a fun time. Because the roads were slick, I didn’t go far. Perfect for 5-mile radius birding. I started at Whitaker Ponds Nature Park where I found a Great Egret nicely camouflaged against the snow.


I went along the loop trail passing Hooded Mergansers in the slough.

Then I heard a Black Phoebe calling so I ran over to check it out.

Nearby was a Yellow-rumped Warbler at the water’s edge.

I checked for Great Horned Owls and finally after going in circles around the cedars I found an angry face that made me back off pretty quickly.

So effective.

In the back ponds I snuck up on an egret and inadvertently flushed three Wilson’s Snipe! I returned later to the spot to find a couple of them “hiding” behind snow.

Nice try.
Not even close.

It was so nice finally seeing them without flushing them, they’re such interesting birds!

Back on the trail I noticed a handful of Dark-eyed Juncos feeding on grass seeds in the snow, so I sat down to watch for a while.

Minutes later a nicely streaky sparrow hopped right out.

Lincoln’s Sparrow! 5MR #101! An unexpected sparrow for this park, and a great surprise for me.

I went to Mt Tabor Park next that was surprisingly less snowy.

What it lacked in snow it made up for in American Robins.

There were hundreds feeding on the berries from the Hawthorn trees.

After Tabor I made it to Broughton Beach before sunset because I want to see all my 5MR hotspots in the snow.

I forgot to take a picture of the mountain

It was late in the day, freezing and windy but I couldn’t leave because there were at least a hundred gulls standing out at the sand spit. Many of them identifiable!

Western Gull (clean head, black primaries, dark gray back) (Glaucous-winged in foreground)
Iceland Gull (Thayer’s) (dark primaries, dark eye, splotchy head)
Herring Gull (dark primaries, light gray back, light eye) 5MR #102!
California Gull (behind sleepy Glaucous-winged) (black primaries, red eye ring, dark eye, red and black bill marks)
Ring-billed Gull (ringed bill, dreamy, handsome)

And it took me a while, but I finally identified one Mew Gull in the mix! 5MR #103!

Petite bill, smudgy neck, dark eye

The next day I wanted a new park. Something different, but still within 5 miles. I picked Kelly Butte Natural Area just on the SE edge of my radius. I’ve never gone mostly because I have to go past Mt Tabor to get there and it has a bad reputation. And a crazy history, it was once a prison, military bunker, and underground homeless camp.

But I picked the best day to go. The gate was closed, and the park was empty.

I didn’t see one other person while up there. It was lovely.

And I saw loads of birds. Mostly Steller’s Jays, Varied Thrush, a pair of Downy Woodpeckers, and a Hairy Woodpecker. But I heard the best bird before I saw it. Behind the noisy jays and hawks, in the distance I heard a “zuee-zuee-zuee” so I ran up the trail after the song until I eventually saw it.

Hutton’s Vireo! 5MR #104! Going to the scary park was worth it. As is exploring new places close to home. Since then the snow has turned into rain, rain, and more rain. Winter is over and has just begun again.

And the 5MR continues!

Tweets and chirps,


Fall Mountain Fire Lookout

Staying in a fire lookout is as cool as it sounds. Several lookouts in Oregon are available for rent but are incredibly popular and hard to get into. Tomas and I were lucky enough to snag his coworker’s reservation for Fall Mountain Fire Lookout when he couldn’t go. We happily drove 5 hours east to the Malheur National forest to stay for two nights.

The views were stunning. And the lookout was fully equipped with a stove, fridge, and even a heater.

What more could you ask for?

The surrounding forest was equipped with birds. Regulars were a pair of Mountain Bluebirds.

That would sometimes pick bugs out of the fire pit. We didn’t make a fire so it was okay.

One of the first birds I saw were Cassin’s Finch, one a juvenile begging for food.


It took me forever to I.D. this Dusky Flycatcher as it flicked it’s long tail, and called Chirrit, brrk, chirreet. Not the easiest flycatcher to I.D. but I powered through.

Luckily, there were easier birds, like this Green-tailed Towhee.

Songsters included a Townsend’s Warbler that I never did see, and Yellow-rumped Warblers that were much more conspicuous.

A Hermit Thrush made a brief appearance.

One morning I drove to a burn location to see if I could find some woodpeckers. I found three (!) White-headed Woodpeckers.

Two Black-backed Woodpeckers.

And a pair of Hairy Woodpeckers.

At the burn location was also House Wren feeding young, Chipping Sparrows, Dark-eyed Junco, White-breasted Nuthatch, and a surprise pair of Rufous Hummingbirds.

When it warmed up in the afternoons, I returned to the lookout where Tomas and I would lay in hammocks in the breeze.

It was pretty relaxing, and I could watch birds at the same time, like this pair of Western Tanager.

In the evenings, from the deck we watched Common Nighthawks soar in the sky.

It really was a spectacular show. And even better watching from eye-level.

Despite the distance getting to the lookout, the obnoxious motorcyclists that couldn’t read the “Do Not Disturb the Guests” sign, and those stairs that were scary as hell, it was all totally worth it for the experience.

Especially worth it for the sunsets from bed. Gorgeous stuff!

Tweets and chirps,