Trogon Trip: The Trogon!

March 27, 2019 6 By Audrey

We tried again for the trogon the next morning. This time we arrived earlier but it didn’t matter because it wasn’t there. Was it tired of the crowds? Did it move downstream permanently? There was no way of knowing. The only thing we could do was bird on. And so we did. There was more of SE Arizona to explore.

We went to a Green Valley residential neighborhood full of Saguaro cactus in hopes of finding a Gilded Flicker (a fancy flicker with yellow underwings and a brown head). These woodpeckers nest in Saguaros. It didn’t take us long to find the cactus and not far behind were ubiquitous Gila Woodpeckers who also nest in the cactus.


They make smaller nesting holes than the flickers.

Then we heard a flicker calling and Max spotted it way across the neighborhood! Gilded Flicker!

We got out to scope the bird, when Max noticed hawks circling overhead. A kettle of Common Black Hawks! We had better scope views than photos of this unexpected lifer. The single white band is just barely visible in my photos.

Things were looking up and we were feeling great again. We headed to the De Anza Tubac Trail next, a popular birding trail that had recent sightings of an early Rose-throated Becard, extra incentive to check it out.

But we ended up on the wrong path and found warblers on bug-covered willows instead. We saw Yellow, Orange-crowned, Black-throated Gray, and Sarah spotted a new warbler, Lucy’s Warbler! My photos turned out terrible, so here’s one that I saw later in better light right outside our Airbnb. Note the red cap on its head.

We left De Anza becardless but in good spirits as we contemplated our next move. It was late afternoon, usually a slow time for birding, so (by routine now) I checked for any trogon sightings. There had been one! Right next to the Proctor Trail in the area we’d been in that morning. It would take us an hour to get there and the report was already 2-hours stale. We decided to go for it anyways.

The strategy for finding an Elegant Trogon, we were told, was to check eBird reports frequently and talk to everyone along the trail. We barely got out of the car in the parking lot this time when two teenagers in a jeep yelled asking if we were there for “the bird.” Yes, yes we were! It was still there along the trail! We ran fast and hard, Sarah and I gasped for air, while Max, who runs half marathons, felt great. We eventually caught our breath and opened our eyes. There it was!!! Elegant Trogon!!!

So unreal. The bird was big, between a robin and a crow size, with a splendidly long tail. It was curious and observant. It tilted its head left and right and slowly looked around observing its surroundings (we heard it ate a lizard earlier!).

Elegant lizard-destroyer

It glided to another branch and we watched it preen for 20 minutes.

Before it flew deeper into the shrubs and the crowd continued to gather around.

Trogon troopers

We said goodbye to the trogon feeling grateful for the views we had. Through trial and error, good and bad luck, we’d made it happen! We felt exhilarated, and yes, relief. It only took us two days! We were free for more birding, and we had two more birding days to go.

But that’s not where this part ends. Returning on the trail by a stream clearing we came across a bat flapping around in the daylight!

Probably Myotis sp. Probably not rabid.

Sarah and Max took off, while I laughed as I tried to get a photo, until the bat changed direction toward me and I took off running too. We decided it must have been spooked from its roost because we saw it land on a trunk and calm down later.

Good little bat

There’s not many places where you can run to a trogon and immediately after run away from a bat. And later that night? A pack of Javelina kept me awake rooting around the yard.

This place is wild.

Tweets and trogons,