Tucson, Arizona, 2023

Rich variety of song birds, hummingbirds, raptors, and water fowl.

Starting with the humble sparrow: there were lots of them including some not found in the Northeast. Here we have the Rufus-crowned, and the Black and White sparrows. (That was actually the color of the original shot – grey sky, bare branch, and black and white bird!)

The Phainopepla is often seen in town and in the desert. They eat mistletoe and, in so doing, helps spread the seeds far and wide in the desert. The female isn’t anywhere near as striking, but she retains that red eye!

Other blackbirds in the Tucson area are the Great-tailed Grackle which is quite aptly named, the tail length being its most prominent attribute, and the Brewer’s Blackbird which, in comparison, has proportions more typical for a blackbird in the Northeast.

Getting back to the colorful birds, this Verdin, a small, very active little bird, was building or cleaning out a nest – unclear – but definitely busy around its nest.

Verdins were also spotted in many other locations – in my brother’s front yard, for instance.

Also in the trees in my brother’s yard that morning was a pair of Lesser Goldfinches with the same brilliant coloration as their larger relatives – just pint-sized.

Here are two birds whose relatives we see in the Northeast – the Curve-billed Thrasher and the Albert’s Towhee. I think the Brown Thrasher and the Eastern Towhee are more beautiful, but that is just my personal preference.

There were lots of Cooper’s Hawks. I saw them every day.

Leaving birds for a moment, another fun critter seen daily were the prairie dogs. As a kid, enjoying Laura Ingalls Wilder books, I always wanted to see prairie dogs in real life! I still love seeing them!

The California ground squirrel is different from our grey squirrels. It has speckled fur and a different coloration on the head.

The Gila Woodpeckers were omnipresent. These (or other) females were up on the wires every morning.

Another couple of interesting birds on our walks were this sweet Say’s Phoebe and a roosting pigeon .

But all this is merely a preamble to meeting the Vermillion Fly Catcher! My sister-in-law (a great bird spotter!) pointed out this little guy on a metal railing. I wished for a more “natural” setting but the evening light made him look very beautiful in this humble setting.

Luckily there were many more sightings: next day – oh no, more rails!

But hold on, actually in a tree – whew!

How sweet are these little guys! You can get an idea of their size when seen on the basket ball net.

But wait, there’s more! Flying into the dry river bed.

And then there is the Quail. Some day I’ll visit when the babies are tagging along, with those little nobs on their heads!

I would never have seen this Black-capped Gnat Catcher if it hadn’t been for 2 women who were looking for him in the desert area of the Tohono Chul park. They pointed out the general vicinity and sure enough, there it was, deep in the underbrush mostly. The same day I ran into another Curve-billed thrasher and some more Verdins as well as a very red House Finch.

And then there were the many wonderful hummingbirds. Here is a female Anna’s Hummingbird enjoying the aloe plants in my brother’s garden.

The Costa Hummingbird alway looks a bit out of sorts to me.

In poor light, the male Anna’s Hummingbird appears to have a totally black head. Watch what happens as he turn a bit on that twig! It is quite astonishing.

A less common hummingbird is the Broad-billed which is stunning with its blue/green coloration and its broad, red and black bill.

The last hummingbird moment was with this little lady working on her nest.

We saw many beautiful butterflies. This swallowtail had me going for at least 10 minutes, never once lighting anywhere so I could get a nice shot. When it finally did land, it was practically on the ground in difficult light, but there it was, laying eggs. If you look carefully you can see no egg yet but one just emerging from her in the first picture, 1 tiny yellow one one the back of the leaf in the second and finally 2 in the 3rd shot, and then she was off again.

On my last day there, we went to a conservation area near a water treatment plant where there was a lot of water and many beautiful ducks. One I had never seen before was this beautiful Cinnamon Teal.

There were also Shovelers and several Coots close by.

Overhead was a Common Black hawk which I had only seen in Costa Rica till then.

By and large, that was my trip to Tucson in March, at least from the perspective of nature enjoyment.

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