Happy Independence Day

by Dan Weisz

In honor of Independence Day, I’ll begin with a red-white-and-blue photo and then add a few others that may not be “independent” but are unique in their own ways.

A Vermilion Flycatcher on the white roof of the Reid Park Rose Garden ramada against a blue sky!

It’s not the Liberty Bell, but a Bell’s Vireo on her nest in Agua Caliente Park.  There was at least one little bird in the nest but it wasn’t big enough to shot itself yet.

Montezuma was the Aztec Emperor who ruled at the time that Columbus “discovered” America.  The Montezuma Quail is a Mexican species that lives in pine-oak forests and high grasslands and is present in parts of states along the Mexican Border.  The photo is not the clearest, but it’s the best I got of this secretive bird (seen in Carr Canyon in the Huachucas).  Montezuma Quail are known for remaining hidden, crouching in the grass when danger threatens.  It then explodes into flight and disappears again quickly.  It’s previous name was Harlequin Quail, after its patterning.

On the 4th of July, we see images of the symbol of America, the Bald Eagle.  The Zone-tailed hawk below is not an eagle, but it’s the best raptor shot I’ve taken recently.  Zone-tails  look similar in size, plumage, and flight style to Turkey Vultures.  It is thought that by looking like a vulture and flying with vultures, this raptor fools its prey into becoming complacent and allows the hawk to swoop in sneakily.  This was one of a pair we saw flying over Carr Canyon.

The final Carr Canyon shot is of a bird’s nest that had fallen out of a tree.  Made out of grass and about 5 inches wide, it was lined with black and grey hairs.

Although it doesn’t sing patriotic songs, the Ash-Throated Flycatcher has a distinctive and pleasant song.  This bird was seen near Fifth Street and Wilmot.

A very similar looking bird, this Brown-Crested Flycatcher shows up in Arizona only during breeding season.  Other than southern Texas, it is not found anywhere else in the United States.  The Ash-throated Flycatcher above breeds throughout most of the Western United States.  Note the much larger bill of the Brown-Crested.  This is one of a pair that is frequenting my back yard. They come by in the morning and then before sunset for some water.

In this photo, the flycatcher is not smiling or talking, it is likely trying to get rid of some of this oppressive summer heat.  Can you see those whisker-like things at the base of its beak?  Those are not hairs or whiskers (this is a bird, not a mammal), but are a type of feather called a "Rictal Bristle".  For more info on these, see https://jensbirds.wordpress.com/2008/07/30/rictal-what/ 

Wishing you and your family an enjoyable Independence Day.