Clayton Surratt joined me for a really fun day of birding in the Santa Cruz Flats and Sweetwater Wetlands, with 59 species in all. Clayton’s wife, Mary-Sue, had surprised him with a wonderful gift, a brand new Swarovski spotting scope, and we were both excited to try it out. I was able to get a few phone-scoped images during the day, a big improvement on the photos I can get through my ancient Kowa scope.
We started by checking out the blackbirds and cowbirds at the Red Rock Feedlot, then took a quick look at the Santa Cruz River on Sasco Rd, which produced a surprise DUSKY FLYCATCHER and a couple of ABERT’S TOWHEES.
Moving on, we had excellent views of a fine FERRUGINOUS HAWK along Baumgartner Rd, both perched an in flight.
Looking along the road, we found a nice PRAIRIE FALCON on another pole.
We checked a patch of tamarisks for roosting owls, and, following a trail of whitewash, picked out a well-hidden GREAT HORNED OWL, snoozing peacefully.
BENDIRE’S THRASHER was next up, and we easily found a showy pair before we even stopped the car, at my faithful site along Pretzer Road.
After this initial success, we hit a bit of a wall, failing to find Mountain Plover, Crested Caracara, Barn Owl and Sagebrush Sparrow in the usual areas. But we still enjoyed good birding, with close views of AMERICAN PIPIT, HORNED LARK and LEAST SANDPIPER, among others.
Heading back south, we briefly visited Sweetwater Wetlands – which is currently Sweetwater Drylands, the water supply having been temporarily cut off as the nearby Roger Rd Treatment Plant is decommissioned. A SORA was showing well, feeding along a muddy shoreline in plain view, next to a COMMON GALLINULE. There were very few ducks and no shorebirds, and the pick of the passerines were a couple of excited ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLERS.