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March 9th, 2015
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Tubac Hawk Watch, Pena Blanca Lake, California Gulch

A really nice day in the Santa Cruz Valley and Atascosa Highlands, with 70 species, although the target birds dried up a bit in the afternoon.

Continental:
The Santa Cruz River along S. Abrego Dr. had the usual ABERT’S TOWHEES and RUFOUS-WINGED SPARROWS, and singing LARK and BREWER’S SPARROWS. A flock of cormorants flew south, comprising eight NEOTROPIC and two DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANTS.

Lark Sparrow

Rufous-winged Sparrow

Ron Morriss Park, Tubac:
We picked a good time to be at the hawk watch, between 9:00 and 10:30, with nice views of COMMON BLACK HAWK, GOLDEN EAGLE, TURKEY and BLACK VULTURES, and my personal highlight, a juvenile HARRIS’S HAWK, which is rare in Santa Cruz County and was a new county bird for me. It was also great to see lots of friends. Many thanks to Pete Collins for his tremendous hard work as ‘the keeper of the hawks’!

Harris's Hawk

Common Black Hawk

Common Black Hawk

Common Black Hawk

Black Vulture

Turkey Vulture

Common Raven

Common Raven

Santa Gertrudis Lane, Tumacacori:
My first LUCY’S WARBLER of the year, plus a ‘MYRTLE’ YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLER, and a nice flock of CEDAR WAXWINGS.

Santa Cruz River at Santa Gertrudis Lane

Water bugs

Pena Blanca Lake:
We gave it a really good try, but we couldn’t locate the Rufous-capped Warbler in the cove on the western side of the lake, accessed by a small trail (steep and rocky in a few places) which leads north from the parking lot at the end of the road. It was early afternoon, though, so not the best time to look – maybe it was having a siesta on the hillside. On my last two visits I’ve encountered birders who were on their way back from looking for the warbler, but hadn’t gone far enough to get to the right spot.

So, when you get to this point (below), you still have a way to go. The warbler has not been in the area before the big rock island (as far as I know), you have to continue to the end of the cove which heads off behind and to the left of the island.

Pena Blanca Lake

This is looking back from the very end of the cove.

Pena Blanca Lake

And looking back from the northern shore of the cove. I’ve seen the Rufous-capped Warbler in the reeds on the left a few times, as well as the ones on the other side of the cove, center right.

Pena Blanca Lake

Presumably the same WHITE-THROATED SPARROW continues on the southern slope of the cove.
Also there, several ‘MEXICAN’ MALLARDS, COMMON GALLINULE, BROAD-BILLED HUMMINGBIRD, VIOLET-GREEN and NORTHERN ROUGH-WINGED SWALLOWS, BUSHTIT, a bright male WILSON’S WARBLER, and a few PINE SISKINS.

Bushtit

Ruby Road near Sycamore Canyon:
Several ‘AZURE’ EASTERN BLUEBIRDS by the roadside near Yank’s Canyon, which is a little east of Sycamore Canyon. This is a reliable spot for this interesting subspecies. Here’s a horrible phone-scoped photo of one in the distance, and yet another photo of my favorite view.

Azure Eastern Bluebird

Atascosa Peak

California Gulch Dam:
I was disappointed not to find any Least Grebes on the pond just down canyon from the dam, but I can’t be certain they weren’t there. There’s even more water in the pond than last summer when I originally found the grebes, meaning there are even more hiding places under the overhanging trees around the pond. When we arrived there were eight RING-NECKED DUCKS, a PIED-BILLED GREBE, and several AMERICAN COOTS visible. Seven of the ducks flew off, while everything else swam straight under the trees and became invisible. We sat quietly for about 30 minutes until everything came back out, but alas, no Least Grebes. However, we did hear another two Pied-billed Grebes calling before we left, which remained hidden throughout, so a pair of Least Grebes could have easily hunkered down, out of sight.
Also there, a few GRAY FLYCATCHERS, a few HERMIT THRUSHES, and a pair of HEPATIC TANAGERS. We didn’t go on further to the Five-striped Sparrow site. The high water at the pond was reflected by quite big puddles on the road in, but not nearly as deep as they were in the summer and fairly easy to negotiate.

Hepatic Tanager

Hepatic Tanager

California Gulch Dam Pond

 

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