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Canyon Notes

The 2005 Madera Canyon Christmas Bird Count

By George C. West


The Christmas Bird Count program sponsored by the National Audubon Society has been held for close to 100 years in some parts of the United States. It is a quasi-scientific program designed to get “a feel” for changes in the variety and numbers of birds in as many areas of North America as possible. Teams of bird watchers, some professional ornithologists, some rank amateurs, but most highly motivated and interested birders, are assigned areas within a “count circle” to explore and cover as thoroughly as possible to count every individual bird they see or hear.
Over the years, more and more “count circles” have been added so now the annual count extends from Alaska and Hawaii to Mexico and virtually to every state in the Union.

The Madera Canyon count is only one part of the greater Green Valley count circle. The coordinator for this year’s Green Valley count was Reid Freeman who provided the data on birds seen and counted and those who did the counting on December 28, 2005.  The Madera Canyon portion of the count is like a slice of pie within the 15-mile diameter count circle; however, it is the slice of the most favored by Green Valley bird watchers. Eighteen birders turned out to walk the trails and roads from below the Proctor parking lot up to Josephine Saddle. They found 65 species of birds and counted a total of 1,798 individual birds during the 24-hour count period as shown in the following table.

Species Number
Wild Turkey 3
Montezuma Quail 2
Red-tailed Hawk 2
Golden Eagle 2
American Kestrel 2
Mourning Dove 74
Greater Roadrunner 1
Magnificent Hummingbird 4
Elegant Trogon 3
Acorn Woodpecker 113
Gila Woodpecker 2
Red-naped Sapsucker 9
Ladder-backed Woodpecker  3
Arizona Woodpecker 15
Northern Flicker 5
Hammond's Flycatcher 1
Gray Flycatcher 1
Dusky Flycatcher 1
Say's Phoebe 8
Ash-throated Flycatcher 1
Cassin's Vireo 3
Hutton's Vireo 4
Mexican Jay 101
Common Raven 9
Bridled Titmouse 89
Verdin 22
Bushtit 1
White-breasted Nuthatch 27
Brown Creeper 3
Cactus Wren 1
Rock Wren 8
Bewick's Wren 6
House Wren 4
Winter Wren 1
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 80
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 9
Eastern Bluebird 2
Western Bluebird 2
Hermit Thrush 13
American Robin 3
Cedar Waxwing 35
Phainopepla 1
Olive Warbler 1
Black-throated Gray Warbler 1
Townsend's Warbler 2
Painted Redstart 10
Green-tailed Towhee 41
Canyon Towhee 16
Rufous-winged Sparrow 12
Rufous-crowned Sparrow 8
Chipping Sparrow 342
Brewer's Sparrow 87
Black-chinned Sparrow 1
Vesper Sparrow 17
Black-throated Sparrow 17
Song Sparrow 4
Lincoln's Sparrow 10
White-crowned Sparrow 151
Dark-eyed Junco 138
Yellow-eyed Junco 10
Northern Cardinal 3
Scott's Oriole 1
House Finch 62
Pine Siskin 108
Lesser Goldfinch 80

As you look at this list, you might be surprised from your own personal experience that there are that many birds in the Canyon. But with 18 people looking all at the same time and all on different trails and locations, perhaps the number is understandable. Of interest is the presence of some species that you might not expect in the Canyon. Wild Turkeys were introduced to the Canyon some years ago, but have not multiplied since. This year, one new turkey was brought in to keep company with the one female that has been present around the Madera Kubo cabin area. Where did the third bird come from? Montezuma Quail are rare in the Canyon and in general, are very hard to find because of their secretive nature. The Ash-throated Flycatcher would not normally be in the Canyon in winter, but like many other birds, the warm winter weather has encouraged them to remain. This would also apply to Cassin’s Vireo, Townsend’s Warbler, and Scott’s Oriole. Three Elegant Trogons was a surprise but in recent years, at least one has been seen there all winter as long as berries are present for them to eat.

It was surprising not to have found many hummingbirds on the count day as usually several Magnificent Hummingbirds remain there during winter along with some Blue-throated, and more rarely Anna’s Hummingbirds. No owls were counted this year, although we know that there are several species of owl in the Canyon that remain over winter. The large number of Mourning Doves in the Canyon is part of a nationwide trend towards an increase in this very adaptable and highly successful breeder in the United States.

Some birders have called this winter a “sparrow year” as there are thousands of sparrows in the weedy fields and hedge rows throughout southeastern Arizona. The species that are here are expected, but the numbers are very high – even for those in the Canyon. Most of them were probably found in the lower part of the Canyon and in the grasslands below Proctor.

The following birders spent time counting birds for the official Christmas Bird Count in Madera Canyon: Denny and Nancy Baker, Luis Calvo, Graham Harrington, Susie Husband, Dorothy Jackson, Anna and George Jones, Eric Nelso-Melby, Jack and Carol Murray, Connie and Rick Stevens, Maureen Sunn, Roger Tess, Jenni Tobias, Bonnie and Al Tozier.


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