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February 20th, 2011
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Sulphur Springs Valley

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I was birding today with Evelyn and Craig Gutowski from Ontario, Canada.

We started at Benson WTP which was largely uneventful. The two juvenile SNOW GEESE continued, as did a few BUFFLEHEADS. Next we checked out Arzberger Rd north of Kansas Settlement and eventually found the ROUGH-LEGGED HAWK hunkered down six inches from the ground at the edge of the usual field. The Faria Farms pond had the continuing ROSS’S GOOSE, four CANADA GEESE, a COMMON MERGANSER and 50 or so TREE SWALLOWS passing through in a few minutes. There were more TREE SWALLOWS hawking over fields around the valley.

North of Elfrida, an impressive seven FERRUGINOUS HAWKS were with two RED-TAILS in a field to the east of 191, north of Sheep Tr. Another FERRUGINOUS HAWK, a dark phase, was on Kansas Settlement Road just north of Kansas Settlement. That’s my second dark phase in two days, surprisingly. A PRAIRIE FALCON was along 191 south of Sunizona. A BENDIRE’S THRASHER was found along Jefferson Rd east of Elfrida. Lots of LARK BUNTINGS were scattered throughout. What I assumed to be a partial albino/leucistic RED-WINGED BLACKBIRD (mainly because it was with a load of other Red-winged Blackbirds) had a mostly white head and an interesting, assymetrical arrangement of white on its mantle, wings and tail.

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Whitewater Draw didn’t provide the SANDHILL CRANE spectacle that it has of late. Only about 3,000 had arrived by 3:00 pm and they remained distant. We were lucky to meet Sheri Williamson who directed us to the white crane. Shorebirds included a GREATER YELLOWLEGS, two WILSON’S SNIPE and five LONG-BILLED DOWITCHERS. Sheri told us of a surprise Western Sandpiper with the Least flock, but we didn’t find them. We did have better luck by watching the sheltered near shore of the first pond (another of Sheri’s tips – thanks!) which gave us nice views of a SWAMP SPARROW as well as good looks at MARSH WREN and COMMON YELLOWTHROAT and calls from at least three each of SORA and VIRGINIA RAIL.

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A GREAT HORNED OWL was sheltering in the barn on a very windy day, until it was scared away by a young boy kicking a soccer ball at the wall right underneath it. I wonder if Arizona Game & Fish Dept. would consider roping off the far end of the barn? That would greatly reduce the disturbance. Another GREAT HORNED OWL was near Sunsites.

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Not a bad day, considering the windy conditions.

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