And on the Second Day the Starthroat Came

Saturday July 16, 2011 written at 8:00 PM

And on the second day the starthroat came……at 4:17 PM.  The Plain-capped Starthroat has a certain air about it that makes it one of the most coveted hummingbirds in North America.  True it’s a casual vagrant from Mexico to Southeast Arizona but there’s more than that to the mystique.  It’s not very showy, that’s for sure. Plain gray/green with a white flight patch that usually can’t be seen and a red gorget that seldom shows any color at all. What makes it so desired is its unique habits. The starthroat doesn’t sell itself to the first humming bird feeder that comes along.  Usually its content to fly catch for insects away from feeders.  If it does come to a feeder it may only be once or twice a day. It’s been number one on my wish list since I saw the South Dakota Ivory Gull in 2009.

Yesterday I sat at private residence near Sierra Vista from 6:30 AM till 4:00 PM in hopes of seeing one.  Just to gain the opportunity to try for it involved getting a friend of a friend to grease the skids. All very hush-hush for which I’m grateful. I sat, and sat, and sat some more.  Maderan Alligator Lizard was nice to add to the Quest for a Thousand list.

Maderan Alligator Lizard (Photo by John Vanderpoel)

Plenty of hummingbirds and other bird species, but no starthroat.  I left to drive to Tucson to pick Linda up from the Tucson Airport.  This morning I decided to bird Madera Canyon.  The Berylline Hummingbird was making appearances at the Kubo B & B feeders like a sugar addict to a candy store.

Berylline Hummingbird at Kubo B & B in Madera Canyon (Photo by John Vanderpoel)

A handsome bird from Mexico and I’m happy to add it to my year-list, but please…..can you at least wait 10 minutes before you run back to the sugar?  Yes it was an important bird to get, but I felt  an added sadness on the side of having missed the starthroat yesterday. I also saw a pair of Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher-new to my year-list.  By 10:30 AM I decided to return to Tucson to wake up Linda.  I was driving north on I-19 when I received the call from my friend.  The starthroat had returned.  The wheels of my  mind began to crank.  I hesitated for perhaps twenty seconds.  Then realized that this was my best chance.  I’d grab Linda, head back to Sierra Vista and have her drop me off at the private residence.  As a concession , we stopped at El Guero Canelo, a Mexican hotdog place on 12th street.  Tasted good ,but wholly cow they were slow. Come on there’s a starthroat waiting.

Anyway I arrived at 2:30 PM only to be told that it had returned from 1:30 till just before 2:00 PM. We were too late.  But I was determined to wait till it returned until dark if necessary.  At 4:17 PM it did return.  My nemesis had finally allowed me to see it in it’s plainness.  Never had plain tasted so sweet!

Plain-capped Starthroat (Photo by John Vanderpoel)

Plain-capped Starthroat (Photo by John Vanderpoel)

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10 Responses to And on the Second Day the Starthroat Came

  1. Nancy Magnusson says:

    Congratulations, John! I am enjoying your Big Year tremendously! Thanks for letting us be flies on the wall during your trek.

  2. Fred Urie says:

    ” Never had plain tasted so sweet. ” Great line, John.

  3. Alison Quinn says:

    Wow! What great photos and finds! A very successful venture!

  4. Alison Quinn says:

    And! It’s good that Linda made sure that you kept up your strength by getting that hotdog.

  5. John says:

    Did you add the lizard to your Quest for One Thousand(tm) total?

  6. Jim Vanderpoel says:

    Where is the picture of the nocturnal lizard? The alligator lizard is awesome!

  7. John says:

    Now what’s on top of your most wanted list?

  8. Jim Vanderpoel says:


    My top snakes would be Massassuaga Rattler and Smooth Green Snake in Illinois, Indigo Snake, Sidewinder and California Kingsnake nationwide. My top lizards would be Maderan Alligator Lizard, Desert Iguana and a clean look at a Gila Monster.

  9. John says:

    But what’s your most wanted bird now — big year or otherwise?

    BTW, I ran over the only Gila Monster I’ve ever seen. But it emerged unscathed. I was doing 60+ southbound on highway 90, headed to Sierra Vista, when I noticed an orange and black thing in the road. It was in the middle of the lane and went right between my tires, thankfully, though I have no idea if it survived the entire crossing.

  10. John says:

    Oops, I see that snake and lizard comment was from Jim and not John. My bad.

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