An epic day starting in Green Valley and ending as latecomers to Birds and Beer in Tucson, via Sweetwater Wetlands and the Santa Cruz Flats. Winter birding in SE Arizona at its very best, with 88 species.
The LEWIS’S WOODPECKER continues at Playground of the Pecans, the park on N Campbell Ave in Madera Highlands.
Also there, a CASSIN’S KINGBIRD, and a close flyby of a GREAT HORNED OWL which was inadvertently flushed by a couple of kids playing before the school bus arrived.
A quick visit failed to turn up any Lawrence’s Goldfinches, but it was nice to get close views of BREWER’S BLACKBIRDS.
The long-staying and often elusive BALTIMORE ORIOLE was pointed out to us by a generous birder, a new state bird for me, having never chased one in the last 12 years. More embarrassingly, it was also an ABA lifer, as the only ones I’d seen previously were in Mexico and as an extremely rare vagrant in England. It was high in a cottonwood and often out of sight, just popping up here and there. It was in one of the cottonwoods on the left after you pass the Ramada when heading from the bridge, between the East Settling Basin (12) and Island Pond (5) on this map . We were viewing a little distantly from the other side of the Island Pond, a little way east of the Keyhole Pond viewing platform, but others were standing under the cottonwood and looking straight up.
There has been a recent clear-out of ducks, but there are still plenty around, of nine species.
An impressive four swallow species: a single CLIFF, four TREE, a NORTHERN ROUGH-WINGED and a surprise couple of BANK SWALLOWS, all heading north except the Bank Swallows, which were heading east (go figure).
Also there, NEOTROPIC CORMORANT, SNOWY EGRET, BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT-HERON, SORA, an impressive total of nine COMMON GALLINULES, SPOTTED and LEAST SANDPIPERS, and BLACK-THROATED GRAY WARBLER. Others saw one of the Black-and-white Warblers near the oriole. The conditions for photography were good.
Santa Cruz Flats:
I mentioned recently how it was funny that we can see very different birds to other birders who visit the same site on the same day. That happened again today.
We checked nine field cells for Sprague’s Pipit (second to fourth up, first three across) but came up short. We should have moved one over, like Peter did.
But Peter’s missing SAGEBRUSH SPARROWS were in abundance north of Harmon Rd, a mile east of Sunland Gin Rd. We found at least eight within a few minutes. A BENDIRE’S THRASHER was singing there, as, to my surprise, was an apparent Crissal Thrasher. On tracking down the source, we found a sassy NORTHERN MOCKINGBIRD doing a very good impression. We hadn’t heard the thrasher, but the mockingbird clearly had.
The BLACK-THROATED BLUE WARBLER duly showed for a moment in the well-documented pomegranate tree at Baumgartner/Wheeler, after about one lucky minute of dedicated searching. But we used up all our luck on that, and didn’t see the redstart or tanager. We did find a ‘MYRTLE’ YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLER there.
Having tried all afternoon, we finally located a flock of exactly 40 MOUNTAIN PLOVERS, which flew in to the yellow grass in the very NW corner of Evergreen Sod just before dusk, viewable from Hotts Rd, west of Tweedy.
Also in the flats, a kettle of nine BLACK VULTURES over Harmon Rd, HARRIS’S HAWK on Cripple Creek Road, a splendid dark morph FERRUGINOUS HAWK over the Pretzer/Tweedy intersection, GREATER YELLOWLEGS, LEAST SANDPIPER, a couple of COMMON GROUND-DOVES, BURROWING OWLS in a couple of spots, just the one CRESTED CARACARA flying over Fast Track Rd, PRAIRIE FALCON, BLACK-TAILED GNATCATCHER, a couple of big flocks of AMERICAN PIPITS (100+ and 200+), and a sprinkling of LARK BUNTINGS.