You didn’t think I’d trek to SE Arizona in pursuit of only one rarity, did you? Nah. There were TWO birds on my hit list. Only 80 miles from the Slate-throated Redstart, in Ramsey Canyon, a Flame-colored Tanager (code 3) had been seen on and off for about three weeks. This is an area over 6500’ in elevation with a unique cool environment unusual in the desert Southwest. It’s also the nature preserve where I unknowingly had pneumonia and unwisely tracked and photographed a Tufted Flycatcher in March, 2017.
I don’t expect anyone to remember my April, 2013 post about a hybrid Flame-colored x Western Tanager. A YELLOW-orange bird but not “countable” because it is not considered a separate species. Seems odd to me that I couldn’t count it as anything and there it was. Oh well, the birding authorities…..
Anyway, the Flame-colored Tanager (a RED-orange color) was being seen along a 1/2 mile stretch of the Hamburg trail. This rocky path wound through dense stands of conifers, oaks and sycamores. Viewing would be difficult as this medium-sized passerine prefers to glean insects from the foliage in the mid to upper levels of the trees. I arrived at Ramsey Canyon Preserve and happily paid the $6 fee. Daylight was not my limiting factor rather the 5pm closing time imposed by The Nature Conservancy. You did not want to be on the wrong side of the iron gate when the staff locked up.
After three hours of pulse-jumping views of colorful Red-faced Warblers and Hepatic Tanagers, among other not so exciting interruptions by common woodpeckers and jays, I found a spot where I had an unobstructed 90 degree view of the tops of trees in his expansive territory. I estimated I was 30 minutes from the gift shop or put another way, I had 30 minutes to find this bird. It was 4pm in the canyon and the sun was casting long shadows. I stood there beginning to rationalize the Slate-throated Redstart sighting earlier that day as sufficient justification for spending three days (and a bit of money) in Arizona,…when I heard a distant call that sounded like our eastern Scarlet Tanager.
I binoculared the furthest sun-lit tree tops and a bright red figure outlined in coniferous green stood out. I fumbled for my camera, steadied my hand and clicked away…..the magic of zoom lenses and automated digital photography! The Flame-colored Tanager disappeared after only a minute or two.