Beatnik Birding: Madera Canyon, AZ
by Bryce W. Robinson
It’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.
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.
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.
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!