Marcee Sherrill, Kim Tompkins, Jenise Porter and Ed Tobin joined me for the 2011 Fun Birding Workshop shorebird special. Last year we found 13 species. It wasn’t so easy this year…
As we left Tucson, three breeding-plumaged male LARK BUNTINGS flew by and several RUFOUS-WINGED SPARROWS were singing at the carpooling site just north of I-10 and Houghton Rd. The Lark Buntings are quite early, returning for the winter in what distinctly feels like the middle of summer.
We arrived at Willcox Twin Lakes full of anticipation. The golf course pond remains flooded and out of bounds, but there were no other access problems. Unfortunately, Lake Cochise had no gulls, no terns, relatively few shorebirds and very few ducks. With some effort we recorded ten shorebird species: a few KILLDEER, one SEMIPALMATED PLOVER, c.20 BLACK-NECKED STILTS, a single AMERICAN AVOCET, two SOLITARY SANDPIPERS on a seasonal flood, two WESTERN SANDPIPERS, c.20 LEAST SANDPIPERS, a juvenile BAIRD’S SANDPIPER which dropped in calling and left again a minute later, two LONG-BILLED DOWITCHERS (including a near breeding-plumaged adult) and c.300 WILSON’S PHALAROPES.
The only ducks were a few each of Mexican MALLARD, BLUE-WINGED TEAL and CINNAMON TEAL, the latter two on seasonal pools. Also present, five swallow species (TREE, VIOLET-GREEN, NORTHERN ROUGH-WINGED, CLIFF and BARN), BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT-HERON, LOGGERHEAD SHRIKE, a couple of LARK SPARROWS, lots of showy CASSIN’S SPARROWS, several EASTERN MEADOWLARKS and, rather amusingly, a PIED-BILLED GREBE trying to hide on a shallow seasonal pool.
It wasn’t just birds, we saw some other interesting creatures including North America’s smallest butterfly and a lizard which I still can’t decide the identity of (please let me know if you have any ideas).
We ate lunch on the shady porch of the Twin Lakes golf club shop. They welcome birders to visit and buy cold drinks, etc. At least eight active BARN SWALLOW nests were under the eaves of the buildings, well cared for by the golf course.
St. David produced GRAY HAWK, COMMON GROUND-DOVE, SUMMER TANAGER, YELLOW-BREASTED CHAT, BLUE GROSBEAK, good views of SWAINSON’S HAWK and a vocal pair of NORTHERN BEARDLESS TYRANNULETS, but the kites eluded us in the early afternoon heat.
We added shorebird number eleven at Benson WTP, a spotty SPOTTED SANDPIPER. Also there, lots of WILSON’S PHALAROPES and a distant Plegadis ibis (presumably WHITE-FACED). On the way back to Tucson we saw a PRAIRIE FALCON perched on a roadside pole just west of Benson.
Despite the general lack of shorebird activity, we found seven out of the ten on our list and 11 species in total, which wasn’t a bad return. My thanks to the participants for a great day out.