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July 1st, 2009
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Late again

Not for the first time I missed a major Arizona rarity by not getting in gear quickly enough. The bird in question was a Pacific Golden Plover, which had been recorded in the state only once before. It had been present at Willcox Lake for two days – but was nowhere to be seen on the morning I finally got out there. There were still a few interesting birds on view though, including three Lesser Yellowlegs, a 2nd-summer California Gull and a Long-billed Curlew amongst the more usual fare.

Having dipped out on the plover, I still had a couple more opportunities to add to my Arizona list, but I didn’t hold out much hope. It had been more than a week since anyone had reported the Hooded Warbler and Yellow-throated Vireo at Empire Gulch, but I thought I’d give it another go.

Empire Gulch is a great little place for wildlife. Set in the sea of grassland that is Las Cienegas, the gulch comprises several hundred yards of giant cottonwoods along flowing and standing water. I took my time, birding the area up to the point where both birds had been seen previously. Blue Grosbeak, Yellow-breasted Chat, Lucy’s Warbler and Yellow Warbler were in abundance, Gray Hawks were calling in the treetops and several Indigo Buntings were in full song. I finally arrived at the spot where both rarities had been seen, and within a few moments the stunning male Hooded Warbler appeared. I got a few record shots but the light was terrible (for June in Arizona) – it was darkly overcast and raining, and the warbler stayed deep in the brush.

I’m fairly certain I heard the Yellow-throated Vireo singing from the top of the tallest cottonwood, but I couldn’t find it. But no matter – the day had been saved to some extent and the Hooded Warbler made it onto my Arizona list as number 351.

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