[Tweeters] Southeast Arizona trip report

heapbigdoc at netscape.net heapbigdoc at netscape.net
Mon Feb 16 21:40:48 PST 2015

Hi Tweets -
This is a little off topic, but I have to tell somebody.

We just got back from a too-short trip to Southeast Arizona. Five days of birding, 105 species including 30 new lifers (106 and 31 if you count Archaeopteryx siemensii. The Thermopolis specimen was on temporary display in Tucson). The weather was perfect, which may have accounted for some unexpectedly early arrivals.

Highlights were:

Phainopeplas - common, but you gotta love that Big Hair.

Pyrrhuloxia - besides being impossible to spell, how can a non-psittacine look so much like a cockatiel?

Magnificent and Blue-throated hummingbirds. Hummingbirds are always cool, but these two are so large that they sound like distant helicopters and you can actually see their wings beating.

Scott's Oriole - which gives Regent Bowerbird a run for the title of "World's Most Spectacular Yellow and Black Bird".

Painted Redstart - a red, white, and black warbler that is too wow to be real.

And finally, presenting the Most Entertaining Bird Behavior in the History of the Universe, the Montezuma Quail!

We encountered a covey of six crossing Herb Martyr Road in the Chiricahuas a little after noon. They were moving in single file, and as advertised, they froze instead of dashing away. Or did they? I looked away for a moment to find the camera, and when I looked back there were only four in the road, still crouching, apparently motionless. Did the other two fly?

Nope. Closer inspection revealed that "frozen" Montezuma Quail are actually like glaciers. They are in constant motion, but the motion is almost too slow to see. A foot is lifted, moved forward with agonizing slowness, and placed. The weight is shifted imperceptibly, and then the next foot begins to move. Each time you blink or look away and then look back, they are a little further along, without ever seeming to move, until the whole covey has disappeared into the roadside weeds.

We encountered another covey further up the road and the performance was repeated. The most fun I have ever had birding.

If you ever get the chance, go to Southeast Arizona.

- Roy Myers, Electric City, WA

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