- Southeast Arizona Birding Guide, Richard Fray - https://arizonabirder.com -

SW Wings Festival: Sierra Vista EOP

I had the pleasure of leading a really nice field trip for the excellent Southwest Wings Birding Festival [1] in Sierra Vista. We visited the Sierra Vista Environmental Operations Park (sewage ponds), Escapule Wash and San Pedro House, finding 75 species.

Sierra Vista EOP:

I was fortunate to be joined by Dutch Nagle, a great all-round naturalist and frequent visitor to the EOP. He showed us the way around this site, which is closed to the public apart from the weekly bird walks that are often led by Dutch. I’d never been inside before, so it was a treat for me to explore for the first time.

Sierra Vista EOP [2]

Sierra Vista EOP [3]

We started well, with BOTTERI’S and CASSIN’S SPARROWS singing along the entrance road. LARK, BLACK-THROATED and SONG SPARROWS were also seen.¬†An immature PEREGRINE FALCON swooped by, sending the blackbirds into a panic, and we were underway.

My personal highlight was the early shorebird migration in evidence, star of which was a SEMIPALMATED PLOVER, joined by SPOTTED, SOLITARY and LEAST SANDPIPERS.

Semipalmated Plover [4]

Spotted Sandpiper [5]

Another highlight was the swallow migration, which is also in its early stages. We picked out five species, TREE, NORTHERN ROUGH-WINGED, CLIFF (both ‘NORTHERN’ and ‘MEXICAN’ side-by-side on a wire for a good comparison), BARN and seven BANK SWALLOWS.

Bank Swallows (with Barn Swallow) [6]

In the northeastern corner of the park, we found a singing ‘female type’ VARIED BUNTING. There aren’t many reliable sites for this species in Cochise County, so another good bird for the list.

Varied Bunting [7]

We also encountered PIED-BILLED GREBE, GREAT BLUE and GREEN HERONS, GREAT EGRET, a small flock of WHITE-FACED IBIS, AMERICAN COOT, GREATER ROADRUNNER, CHIHUAHAN RAVEN, COMMON YELLOWTHROAT, CANYON TOWHEE, quite a lot of splendid YELLOW-HEADED BLACKBIRDS, and BULLOCK’S ORIOLE.

Green Heron [8]

Green Heron [9]

Yellow-headed Blackbird [10]

American Bullfrog [11]

Escapule Wash:

This was my first visit to this site, one I’ve long intended to explore, and it didn’t disappoint. It’s a lovely piece of habitat with a good range of species.

Escapule Wash [12]

Escapule Wash [13]

The highlight here was another singing VARIED BUNTING. The biggest surprise was a flock of 10 BUSHTITS, not a common sight in lowland riparian habitat.

Bushtit [14]

We also found another migrant out of the mountains, a BLUE-GRAY GNATCATCHER, plus NORTHERN BEARDLESS-TYRANNULET, WARBLING VIREO, LUCY’S WARBLER, YELLOW-BREASTED CHAT, SUMMER and WESTERN TANAGERS, BLUE GROSBEAK, and several LAZULI BUNTINGS.

Black-throated Sparrow [15]

Yellow-breasted Chat [16]

San Pedro House:

We ate our lunch and birded around the house, with a brief walk to the Kingfisher Pond, which was surprisingly completely dry.

San Pedro House [17]

San Pedro House [18]

San Pedro House [19]

The highlight here was a prolonged view of a YELLOW-BILLED CUCKOO, high in a cottonwood.

Yellow-billed Cuckoo [20]

Yellow-billed Cuckoo [21]

The INCA and COMMON GROUND-DOVES were popular as ever, and we also noted GRAY and SWAINSON’S HAWKS, LOGGERHEAD SHRIKE, SUMMER and WESTERN TANAGERS, and more BOTTERI’S SPARROWS.

Inca Dove [22]

Inca Dove [23]

Botteri's Sparrow [24]