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Saturday, June 11, 2016

Montezuma Quail and Other Delights from Southeastern Arizona

[April 2016. Tucson Area]

Some birds are encountered so rarely, not on account of their scarcity but due to their near-mythical elusiveness; so much so, that many birders, this blogger not excepted, are resigned for their lifer sighting to also, tragically, be their last.

Such indeed is the category of that most secretive of landfowl species in the US -- the Montezuma Quail. The blogger's lifer sighting of this stunning species was through a fortuitous and enchanting encounter in Texas on April 17th, 2015 at Davis Mountains State Park. 

Unlike many of our chaseable birds, Montezuma Quail is a species that defies the chase -- rather, the birder must acquiesce to the quail's initiative in any rendezvous; and, in the rare event of success, while numb in awe, celebrate the observation and, simultaneously, mourn the hopelessness of a repeat sighting.

And yet, miraculously, exactly a year later on April 17th, 2016, in Arizona, the Montezuma Quail reappeared to deliver an unparalleled repeat observation. Small wonder, then, that the quail highlights this list of iconic species observed in Spring during an April visit to Southeast Arizona: 
  • Montezuma Quail
  • Pyrrhuloxia
  • Sparrows: Black-throated and Chipping
  • Woodpeckers: Arizona and Acorn
  • Mexican Jay
  • Western Bluebird
  • Summer Tanager
  • House Wren
  • Hummers: Anna's and Costa's
We start with the quail:

This blogger was returning from Mt. Lemmon after a spectacularly fruitless search for Red-faced Warbler at Marshall Gulch. A covey of small birds were spied crossing the road; with Gambel's Quail ruled out (not seen in montane habitat); that left only one possibility: Montezuma Quail.

Having hurriedly parked the worthy rental at the Aspen Vista pullout, this blogger catapulted himself down the slopes, going off piste in order to catch a glimpse of these fabled landfowl as they hurried into the woods. And, a few short pauses by these striking quail were savored in full and captured digitally as seen above.

After this tour de force, no other species could offer even a fraction of the euphoria that the Montezuma Quail excited; yet, we are compelled to proceed in profiling the remaining species of this post whose impact, it must be acknowledged, is much dwarfed in comparison:

The Pyrrhuloxia -- seen at Sabino Canyon:

 Black-throated Sparrow also seen at Sabino Canyon:

Chipping Sparrow (Madera Canyon):

Arizona Woodpecker (Madera Canyon):

Acorn Woodpecker (Madera Canyon):

Mexican Jay (Madera Canyon):

Western Bluebird (Rose Canyon):

Summer Tanager (Madera Canyon):

House Wren (Madera Canyon):

Anna's Hummingbird (Molino Basin):

Costa's Hummingbird (Molino Basin):

Southeastern Arizona is renowned for its many specialties; none, however, surpasses the Montezuma Quail -- which is verily the crown of our landfowl species -- a fact that only a small fraction of the birding population will experience in appreciating due to the Quail's highly secretive nature.


France Paulsen said...

You always provide me with great views of bird species that I've yet to see and probably never will - so thanks for sharing, the Montezuma Quail is especially special.

Bob Pelkey said...

An exhilarating report, Hemant. Is it possible that you will be in Southwest New Mexico on 17 April 2017 looking for Montezuma Quail?

HK said...

Hi Bob -- no plans as of yet but as that date has proved to be somewhat magical for me, perhaps I should reconsider!