I spent the day with great company, Karen and Neill Hart from Little Rock, Arkansas. We started at Sweetwater Wetlands in Tucson, where we soon racked up a good list of birds.
Straight away we were into warblers, predominantly Yellow-rumped Warbler. We picked out one Myrtle from the regular Audubon’s. Several Orange-crowned Warblers frequented the lower levels, and a showy Black-throated Gray Warbler was the pick of the bunch. A couple of female Lawrence’s Goldfinch put in a brief appearance by the concrete channel, as did a surprise Loggerhead Shrike amongst others.
We admired the usual wide range of waterfowl, including nice views of Pied-billed grebe, all three teal species, gorgeous Bufflehead and a prolonged, fierce fight between two male Northern Shoveler which made for quite a spectacle. After searching the pond edges and cattail-filled channels all morning I eventually found a Sora in the open, and close as well, but all too briefly.
We spent the afternoon birding along Santa Gertrudis Lane, by the Santa Cruz River at Tumacacori. The fruiting trees and shrubs here have attracted an incredible array of birds and has been just as popular with birders all winter. We started with brief looks at a Rufous-winged Sparrow by the road, a life bird for Karen and Neill.
We were lucky enough to catch up with one of the stars of the show, a Varied Thrush, whilst a couple of Sage Thrashers and a Painted Redstart along the De Anza Trail excelled in the supporting roles and gave Karen & Neill more life birds.
We also had nice close views of Cedar Waxwing, Western Bluebird, Phainopepla, American Robin, Northern Cardinal, Curve-billed Thrasher (I glimpsed a Crissal briefly) and Northern Mockingbird as the competition for fruit reached fever pitch. We didn’t manage to find the Rufous-backed Robin or Rose-throated Becard that have also been around, but it was an action-packed couple of hours in one of the best sites in AZ this winter.
A Cooper’s Hawk landed on a pole right above us to end the day on a high, before we headed back to Tucson.