Adrenaline pumping, I quickly traversed down the steep and narrow trail back to my rental car. After patrolling the “stake-out” area for three hours, I was certain I had just captured an image of the distant target bird. As I examined the photo in the shade of the front seat, my heart sank. There was white in the wings. Ugh. I had seen the common Painted Redstart rather than the code 4 rarity…Slate-throated Redstart.
I had traveled to SE Arizona for an encounter with this Mexican specialty. It had been seen daily but sporadically for a couple of weeks. I re-read the recent e-bird postings describing the habits of this small warbler and headed back up the ravine. Sunset was my only deadline.
I sat at the end of the 200 yard trail by a little waterfall and waited. Within minutes two birds caught my eye as they darted among the conifers and oak trees, mimicking each other’s moves. I had a good look at the lead bird….male Painted Redstart again. Prior birders had mentioned that the male Painted and the female Slate-throated appeared to be exhibiting courtship behavior. This pair continued their coordinated but randomly-patterned flight dance. I struggled to focus my binoculars on the second bird. Finally they took a break and perched in a viewable spot 20 yards away. I had my SLATE-THROATED REDSTART!