- Southeast Arizona Birding Guide, Richard Fray - https://www.arizonabirder.com -

Elfrida CBC

Staying at the Stronghold made getting to Elfrida by 7am considerably easier than usual. I was partnered with two previous CBC friends, Frank Baker and Lainie Epstein, and we were allocated the southeastern quadrant of the count. The day started brightly with lots of Sandhill Cranes and a small group of Snow Geese, including one blue phase bird, passing over the meeting point, and before long we were in our area and counting sparrows.

The southeastern quadrant of the count circle, it transpires, is entirely one habitat – desert grassland. So, no ponds, no agricultural fields and few houses or gardens, curtailing our species diversity somewhat. But there was still plenty to see in this amazing habitat. Birds of the day were definitely Vesper Sparrow, which was ever-present, and Loggerhead Shrike, of which we found an impressive total of 28.

We’d logged three thrashers – Curve-billed, Bendire’s and Crissal – by 9am, and four falcons – American Kestrel, Prairie Falcon, Peregrine and a gorgeous little blue male Merlin of the prairie form richardsonii – before midday. In fact it was one of the best raptor days I’ve ever had in the valley, despite no eagles being found.

Best bird of the day probably went to a very pale, gray Grasshopper Sparrow, and the most incongruous sight was surely the pair of Ring-billed Gulls soaring over a sea of grassland, desperately looking for something wet (and at least heading towards Whitewater Draw a mile or two to the south). The dove mix would have been shocking ten years ago, but not unexpected now. Without doubt, miss of the day was not seeing a single quail of any species – almost inconceivable in the Sulphur Springs Valley!

No photos today, but here’s the full list:

Sandhill Crane present (thousands over the valley) but not counted – AZ Game & Fish conducts the full crane count
Northern Harrier 22
Sharp-shinned Hawk 1
Cooper’s Hawk 1
Red-tailed Hawk 25
Ferruginous Hawk 2
American Kestrel 8
Peregrine Falcon 1
Prairie Falcon 2
Green-tailed Towhee 1
Brewer’s Sparrow 125
Vesper Sparrow 207
Black-throated Sparrow 4
Lark Bunting 336
Savannah Sparrow 5
Grasshopper Sparrow 1
White-crowned Sparrow 66
Red-winged Blackbird 492
Eastern Meadowlark 7
Western Meadowlark 6
Meadowlark sp. 5
Yellow-headed Blackbird 290
Brewer’s Blackbird 102
Ring-billed Gull 2
Eurasian Collared Dove 126
Mourning Dove 428
White-winged Dove 11
Loggerhead Shrike 28
Chihuahuan Raven 4
Horned Lark 51
Cactus Wren 5
Greater Roadrunner 4
Black Phoebe 1
Say’s Phoebe 18
Black-tailed Gnatcatcher 1
Northern Mockingbird 1
Bendire’s Thrasher 1
Curve-billed Thrasher 4
Crissal Thrasher 1
Yellow-rumped Warbler 3
Brown-headed Cowbird 30
House Finch 27
Lesser Goldfinch 4
House Sparrow 6