I spent a very pleasant day birding the Sulphur Springs Valley with Marika Witenko from Phoenix. We started at Willcox Twin Lakes, which had an excellent range of birds. Around Lake Cochise the highlights were a CALIFORNIA GULL with eight RING-BILLED, a WESTERN SANDPIPER with the many LEAST.
SANDHILL CRANES were often overhead and sometimes came quite close.
We headed south and spent a while birding the fields around Kansas Settlement, finding MERLIN and FERRUGINOUS HAWK. We planned to stop at the pond by Faria Dairy for a few minutes but it turned into a much longer visit. This pond is attractive to wildfowl including diving ducks and grebes and often has interesting birds. That was certainly the case today. Straight away I noticed a loon and a quick look through the scope confirmed it as a PACIFIC LOON, a rare bird in SE Arizona. It turned out to be popular with Cochise County birders over the next couple of days before it was seen to depart to the south. Oddly, another was found the next day a few miles north in Benson – maybe it was the same bird and it simply turned round and went north.
There were other interesting birds on the pond, including three species of grebe, PIED-BILLED, EARED and WESTERN. There were good numbers of REDHEAD and RING-NECKED DUCK.
Further south, we found BENDIRE’S THRASHER with many more birds near Elfrida.
We got to Whitewater Draw just before dusk and enjoyed the roosting blackbird spectacle.
We heard SORA and VIRGINIA RAIL but both stayed hidden. There were thousands of cranes on the flood with a few SNOW GEESE mixed. As the sun went down we found a GREAT HORNED OWL silhouetted against the sunset to round off a highly enjoyable day. 65 species in all.