Birding Blog Archives

January 28th, 2015
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Sprague's Pipit, Trumpeter Swans

A really memorable day at the Santa Cruz Flats and Sweetwater Wetlands, with 70 species and two massive high points for me on a personal level.

Santa Cruz Flats:
A Sprague’s Pipit has been reported for the past few weeks in the same area at the corner of Pretzer and Tweedy Roads, an incredibly hard bird to see and one that is rarely found in SE Arizona. I’ve never seen one anywhere in the world, so naturally I was looking forward to getting my chance. Our main target was Mountain Plover (which we didn’t find today) so we had to go to the pipit spot anyway. Others have reported spending many hours over multiple visits looking for this bird without success, so I didn’t hold out much hope. But we were there, and not looking for the pipit would have been rude, even though my clients had seen one before, so it was just for my benefit. We just gave it a few minutes as we ate our sandwiches.

After about 15 minutes of digesting lunch and walking empty fields, we started heading back, when Glenn spotted a bird that dropped out of the sky and landed in the middle of the field of short grass, immediately disappearing. This looked promising, so we headed straight for the bird, and flushed a pipit, which gave one distinct call, and landed at the edge of the field in partial view. That’s it – that’s the SPRAGUE’S PIPIT! I feel guilty to have gotten nice views of this difficult life bird in just 15 minutes. This is a bird I’ve long wanted to get to grips with, so I was delighted, especially as I got a few record shots.

Sprague's Pipit

Sprague's Pipit

Sprague's Pipit

Sprague's Pipit

Several CRESTED CARACARAS were along Wheeler Rd, north of Baumgartner.
A few SAGEBRUSH SPARROWS reluctantly showed in one of their traditional spots, north of Harmon Rd, a mile east of Sunland Gin Rd.
Also in the area, a few CANVASBACKS on one of the tanks, a lone TURKEY VULTURE, the regular HARRIS’S HAWKS, a small flock of GREATER YELLOWLEGS and LEAST SANDPIPERS in a wet field, GREATER ROADRUNNER, a couple of GREAT HORNED and several showy BURROWING OWLS, a nice PRAIRIE FALCON, several VERMILION FLYCATCHERS, HORNED LARKS, a lowland wintering ROCK WREN, a slightly surprising HOUSE WREN, BLACK-TAILED GNATCATCHERS, AMERICAN PIPITS, ABERT’S TOWHEES, a few LARK BUNTINGS, and large numbers of blackbirds around the Red Rock Feedlot, including YELLOW-HEADED BLACKBIRD and BROWN-HEADED COWBIRD.

Burrowing Owl

Burrowing Owls

Crested Caracaras

Prairie Falcon

Sagebrush Sparrow

Vermilion Flycatcher

Jacob’s Park, Tucson:
We were running late, and arrived just before dusk. We found INCA and WHITE-WINGED DOVES, several VERMILION FLYCATCHERS, a MERLIN, and a few CEDAR WAXWINGS, but no sign of our target, the wintering Lewis’s Woodpecker.

Sweetwater Wetlands:
While we were at the flats, I checked the listserv and learnt about a pair of apparrent Trumpeter Swans at Sweetwater Wetlands. This soon turned into confirmation, two Trumpeter Swans at Sweetwater, an extremely rare bird in SE Arizona. My clients had seen plenty of Trumpter Swans, so I could ask them to dash straight there. However, as the sun went down, we left Jacob’s Park and were only a few minytes from Sweetwater. Go on, then, my clients kindly said, let’s see the swans. We ran up in the last few moments of light, and there they were, two beautiful TRUMPETER SWANS, my second world lifer of the day! It’s amazing to do this once, seeing new birds in places I’ve birded hundreds of times, but twice in one day is something I’ll surely never manage again, as long as I live and bird in Arizona. Remarkable.

Trumpeter Swans

Trumpeter Swans

Also at Sweetwater, I vaguely noticed a good selection of ducks, NEOTROPIC CORMORANT, LEAST SANDPIPERS, BLUE-GRAY GNATCATCHER, and ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLER.

Great day! Many thanks to Glenn and Kennedy for sharing it with me, and allowing me to see my two lifers, despite neither of them being new for them. This is a day that will go down in birding legend as far as I’m concerned.


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