“8 lifers, chiggers, and bear……oh my!”

Three days in the Santa Rita mountains south of Tucson, Arizona produced EIGHT lifers! Without the enthusiastic, expert guidance of local birding professional Brian Gibbons, my trip would have been a bust. Brian and I hiked miles and miles of canyon trails…at elevations greater than 5,000 feet, in pursuit of rarities that only frequent North America by way of southern Arizona, in the summer. These specialties are basically Mexican birds.

Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher (Madera Canyon, Arizona)

Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher (Madera Canyon)

Black-capped Gnatcatcher (female in Montosa Canyon)

Black-capped Gnatcatcher (female in Montosa Canyon)

White-eared Hummingbird (Miller's Canyon, Arizona)

White-eared Hummingbird (Miller’s Canyon)

Violet-crowned Hummingbird (Patagonia, Arizona)

Violet-crowned Hummingbird (Patagonia, Arizona)

We were not the only birders on the trail up Miller’s Canyon in search of the White-eared Hummingbird. About a mile up the very steep slope I recognized 82 year old Sandy Komito….the guy who holds “The Big Year” record; you know…the character portrayed by Owen Wilson in the not-so-famous 2011 movie of the same name. We talked briefly and I gave him my business card. I’ll let you know if he chooses to correspond with me.

As I write this post in the Phoenix airport waiting for my red-eye flight to Philly, I am distracted by the incredibly itchy welts around my waist caused by chiggers. I have no idea how I hosted these microbes…but I blame the bear we encountered yesterday. His sudden appearance on our hike up Madera Canyon dropped me in my tracks and left me sitting in some strange vegetation, as I attempted to take a memorable photograph.

A brown Black bear in Madera Canyon

A brown, Black Bear in Madera Canyon

About George C. Wood

A birder since age ten, but not necessarily an avid "lister", I am closing in on 700 (*800!) species seen in North America.....hoping to capture each sighting with my camera.
This entry was posted in Quest for 700 (*800!). Bookmark the permalink.

18 Responses to “8 lifers, chiggers, and bear……oh my!”

  1. Thomas S. McIlwain says:

    Pretty exciting week!


  2. Joe Knowles says:

    Beautiful birds — and some wonderful photos. Amazing that you could get that hummingbird shot…

    Although that bear looks a little miffed!

  3. Marv Weisbord says:

    Thanks, George, for this vicarious trip up the canyons! I spent a year and half in ARizona in the 1940’s and can’t recall a single bird. Just cacti. What a lot I missed.

  4. Anne Wood says:

    Sandy Komito HAS to respond if you told him about JEFF SHAW I didn’t know there was a real person involved

  5. burkebiz says:

    Wow! A bear encounter with a Brown bear can be very dangerous. 8 new ones is awesome. Congrats. Guess there are no new ones to be had that are closer to Philly. This sounds like a very expensive hobby!

    Sent from my iPhone KJB

  6. fleur says:

    outstanding effort! Without wishing to sound ignorant, did you take all the bird photos? So impressed with your commitment. xx fleur

  7. Dorothy Weisbord says:

    Wonderful. I enjoy all your birding adventure stories. I was a child south of Tucson and have enduring love of those mountains. DBW

  8. Julie Foster says:

    The bear would have scared me to death! I didn’t know there were any “not dangerous” bears.

  9. Matthew Holmes says:

    That bird is giving you a look of amazement as u squatt in poison oak:)

    Sent from my iPhone

  10. Jeff says:

    I haven’t been to Madera Canyon but it looks great.

  11. David Simpson says:

    Awesome news!

    Sent from my iPhone

  12. chasscrew says:

    Awesome! 🙂

    Sent from my iPhone

  13. Martin, Lisa says:

    Congrats George!!! Loved the bear and also the violet-crowned hummingbird (my favorite of your recent post!)

    On Sat, Aug 10, 2013 at 3:08 AM, birdtalesblog

  14. Mark Horton says:

    George –
    I think I saw three of these birds in our backyard, a day or two after you left here. Maybe not, but they sure looked about the same… Small, grayish and brownish, with wings on both sides… Sort of a “tweet” call… Maybe not, but I think so…
    Thanks for checking on them in AZ… I started to get worried about them after I didn’t see them for a few days…

  15. Tom Mason says:

    Way to go, George! Mexican specialties = hardcore birding in my book!

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