Hot Birds in a Hot Desert

                                                                Red-faced Warbler on Mt. Lemmon

The end of May and most of June are hot hot months.  They also tend to be some of the best months to go birding in Southeastern Arizona.  So many people come from all over to chase our specialties.  I was one of them once.  Not anymore. Birding begins VERY early in the morning and can be comfortable until 9 or 10 AM.  Then it becomes an infierno.  For people searching for their lifers, they forget to stop and drink water.  And the heat can suck the life out of you as the sun strengthens in the desert sky.  Temps begin to climb above 100 degrees.  Local birders run back to their air conditioned homes. Meanwhile, the visiting birders are suffering from headaches and heatstroke because they didn't drink enough water or wear enough sunscreen. We remind them, buuuuuut the thrill of finding a lifer overrides their logic and common sense.  

For this birder, you'll rarely find me out birding in May or June anymore.  I don't want skin cancer which is a serious thing here.  I hate the mornings especially because the sun rises so early and I want my morning to relax and sip my coffee.  To get my birding done for the day, I fill my feeders the night before, make my coffee and crack my windows open to hear the dawn song in our garden. That's as far as the birding goes. 

                                                                    Arizona Bell's Vireo

Generally, if I do go birding, I do so in the evenings when birds get active one last time before the sun sets.  OR!  I drive up to Mt. Lemmon and bird there the whole day.  The cool temps on the top are great and I'm thankful we have places like these Sky Islands to bird. It's surprising how our local birds can thrive in this heat.  In my garden, I help out by leaving a drip on during these driest months. Lizards, birds, mammals and bugs are all very thankful for the extra help.  It's the least I can do for taking the water from their natural habitat.  We leave dishes around for the critters.  A fun thing to do is have a camera on the water dishes and see who comes in for a drink.  

Currently there are MANY young birds flying around my yard. My Broad-billed Hummingbirds successfully fledged and have found my feeders in the shade.  That was really great to observe.  In fact, the bird activity is pretty exciting from my dining room window:)  We have baby Lucy's Warblers moving about the tree tops.  I have MANY White-winged Doves on nests.  I joke that I've created a sanctuary for these birds.  It's important to note where you step in your gardens this time of year.  Fledglings are often on the ground learning to fly.  So be careful to not step on them. I only say this because my neighbor stepped on one of my baby Lesser Goldfinches.  That was not a happy discovery. 

                                                                      Greater Roadrunner

We watched this Greater Roadrunner carry dinner to their little ones. If you see a bird, check to see if they are eating the food on the spot or carrying it.  If they carry the food, they are most likely feeding their young. 

As monsoon begins to sneak into our state, you'll find the most gorgeous sunsets and cloud formations. That's probably one of the best things to observe this time of year. It's the hope that rain will be coming soon. 

But during the day, you'll find most Tucsonans doing this during the day(⏬).  At night, we come out like the vampires that we are!

The evenings are gorgeous and generally tend to be breezy as the cool air from Mt. Lemmon sinks and flows down into the city via the dry washes. It's also the time when I go out and fill the feeders etc. 

 So, why is the hottest month of the year, the best time to come and visit?  How about some of these rarities from Mexico?  White-tipped Dove, Yellow Grosbeak, active Green Kingfishers, Rose-throated Becards, Least Grebe, Nutting's Flycatcher, Pine Flycatcher(only in AZ), Tufted Flycatcher, Buff-collared Nightjar, Clay-colored Thrush, Berylline Hummingbird, White-eared Hummingbird, etc. All of these birds are Mexican breeders or visitors in their furthest northern ranges!  Half of them are only found in Arizona right now.  Sure, you could go to Texas for the other half, but it wouldn't be as scenic:)  And it's also hot down there. For all these rarities and more, check out Andrew Core's RARE BIRD ALERT each week.  I'll be back next month with reports from Central and Western Mexico as I explore some areas around Puebla, Tlaxcala, Jalisco and Nayarit. Stay tuned for more.....


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