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October 11th, 2008
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From Vegas to the Sulphur Springs Valley and Dragoon Mountains in Southeast Arizona… from the ridiculous to the sublime? Or the other way round? I don’t know.

Anyway, I headed out on my own, leaving Melanie and Val to meet me later. I started at Sweetwater Wetlands again and amazingly connected with my target bird immediately – my first Northern Parula in Arizona, which I saw for about ten seconds before it buggered off, never to be seen again. There was a lot of migrant activity, with seven warbler species in all.

The biggest surprise was a flock of at least 25, and probably 30 Cattle Egrets, with a few Snowy mixed in. I’d only ever seen Cattle Egret in SE AZ once before, a single bird. There were a number of butterflies which I initially took for Hackberry Empreror. I did wonder if this was something different, being in a different habitat to the Hackberry Empreors I’d seen before, and so it turned out – this is Empress Leilia.

From there I took a similar route to my day out a couple of weeks ago. Benson WTP had a couple more Cattle Egrets. Lake Cochise in Willcox was covered in birds. Plenty of shorebirds still, including single Stilt Sandpipers and Red-necked Phalaropes as well as good numbers of Least, Western and Baird’s Sandpipers and 73 American Avocets.

As is often the case these days, the reptiles stole the show. On my first lap of Lake Cochise I encountered a tortoise, which I’ve now identified as Ornate Box Turtle, a new one for me. Just before the golf course pond I found another one, a smart red male. I was surprised to have found two so close together – on checking the Horned Lark puddle I was amazed to find a third!

The American White Pelican was still at the Faria Farms pond. When I arrived it was asleep on the shore but moved as soon as I appeared. It’s banded (ringed) – unless I hear otherwise it’s staying on my list though.

I tried to look for snakes again, and once more it paid off, although getting decent shots proved tricky. Nothing on Coffman Road on the way in to Whitewater Draw, but I did find a nice little Common Kingsnake of the Desert Kingsnake variety in the grass at the Draw, and then another Mohave Rattler on the road on the way back. This time the Mohave was smaller and immediately slithered away looking a bit agitated. There was also a freshly dead Sonoran Gophersnake on the road.

I got a clear shot of one of the little black and white skippers that frequent the mallows, and I’m pretty sure it’s a White Checkered-Skipper. Horse Lubbers were here and there, and a nice big stick insect (I can’t get used to calling them walking sticks, it’s just silly!) crossed the road. There were still a few tarantulas about as well.

Satisfied with my lot, I headed into the mountains to meet Melanie and Val at the best B&B in Arizona, Cochise Stronghold B&B.

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