I was joined by Gary, Pat and Sherry for a warm but rewarding Tucson Audubon field trip this morning. Our original plan was to go to San Pedro House, but after their mandatory evacuation yesterday we switched to the St David area.
Just after 6:00 a.m. we were watching our first MISSISSIPPI KITES. We saw five adults together, in the same area I found them last year. We viewed from highway 80 on the northwest side of St David, milepost 299 near N Chihaverty Trail. From under the tall, shady cottonwoods on the south side of the road, we watched the kites wheeling around gracefully, interacting with one another, and up to four at a time perched in a dead tree at the back of the field.
This area was incredibly productive early morning. We added GRAY HAWK, a distant ZONE-TAILED HAWK and a close pair of SWAINSON’S HAWK, as well as BULLOCK’S ORIOLE, BRONZED COWBIRD and much more. We noted at least 14 different species in just one bare tree over the course of an hour, from YELLOW and LUCY’S WARBLER to . A few MEXICAN MALLARDS and two WHITE-FACED IBIS flew over, and a continual stream of TURKEY VULTURES were leaving a roost somewhere to the northeast. It was really good summer birding in the SE Arizona lowlands.
We eventually moved on to the monastery to the south of St David. The trails here gave us some more good sightings: NORTHERN BEARDLESS TYRANNULET, BLUE GROSBEAK, SUMMER and WESTERN TANAGERS, HOODED ORIOLE, several VERMILION and BROWN-CRESTED FLYCATCHERS and YELLOW-BREASTED CHATS and a day-flying LESSER NIGHTHAWK. Both COMMON-GROUND DOVE and INCA DOVE were heard cooing for a six dove day.
It was interesting to watch a CASSIN’S KINGBIRD catch and then manipulate a cicada for several minutes before eventually consuming it. We found a Desert Grassland Whiptail lizard which had caught a large grub and also found a tiny amphibian which I think will grow up to be a fine Woodhouse’s Toad.
Many thanks to Gary, Pat and Sherry for a wonderful morning!