Beatnik Birding: Madera Canyon, AZ

by Bryce W. Robinson

IMG_0012It’s no secret that Madera Canyon, AZ is one hell of a spot. What I didn’t expect was to climb out of the desolation of the desert into a cool and lush sky island, full of wildlife. After becoming a bit desert dreary, I felt refreshed entering the high woodlands in search of some new birds. I decided I’d go as high as I could, and start hiking from there.

I’ve become quite entranced by the myths of Trogons that can be seen in this part of the country. I held high hopes for this journey up the canyon, but I came away empty handed. What I did find were a good number of birds that I were firsts for me. Long story short, it was a really great morning in Madera Canyon. The place didn’t disappoint bird-wise.

Yellow-eyed Junco- Junco phaeonotus

Yellow-eyed Junco- Junco phaeonotus

Of the throngs of birds I was able to find, I only photographed a few. One of my favorite new birds was the Yellow-eyed Junco. I found a few small flocks, acting just as any junco species does, picking around the ground through the understory. They would notice me, flit to a nearby perch, and look around nervously. These juncos sound quite different than their dark eyed relatives, so when I initially heard them, I knew I was in for something new and good.

Arizona Woodpecker- Picoides arizonae

Arizona Woodpecker- Picoides arizonae

I was really focused on one bird in particular. I love woodpeckers, and the Arizona Woodpecker is a specialty of these parts that I couldn’t wait to find. I heard the bird first, tippy tapping its way around a small Ponderosa Pine grove. It didn’t take long to locate the brown bird. I think the hikers that passed me wondered why I was elated by this brown woodpecker. I’m sure some understood, but others gave me quizzical glances. I giggled a bit, there’s nothing wrong with that.

Painted Redstart- Myioborus pictus

Painted Redstart- Myioborus pictus

Another bird to delight both my eyes and my ears was the fire chested Painted Redstart. These birds were all over the riparian areas of the canyon. I really paid attention to their song, and I think I may have it down. Maybe the next time I hear this bird, I will be able to know what I am listening to.

I can say that Madera Canyon was more than I hoped for. On my way out, I stopped by some feeders and saw a brilliant crimson bird that I immediately knew, although I had never seen. Hepatic Tanager! That is what I said aloud, again receiving concerned looks from the general tourists.

I have yet to have any truly in depth and interesting human interactions. I am hoping I meet a like minded birdnerd soon. I’m headed over to the Patagonia-Sonoita Creek area next, where I’m sure I will run into some other nut jobs. I’ll be keeping an eye out for the Elegant Trogon in that area. Hope I find it!

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