A classic day of winter birding in SE Arizona, touring the Sulphur Springs Valley, with many memorable highlights.
Willcox Twin Lakes:
Starting early at Lake Cochise, we saw our first SANDHILL CRANES of the day heading over. The lake was quiet only a few ducks, including CINNAMON TEAL and RING-NECKED DUCK, but more was to be found around the edges. A handful of CHESTNUT-COLLARED LONGSPURS and HORNED LARKS flew back and forth, and a singing WHITE-WINGED DOVE was a sign of the coming spring, as were courting VERMILION FLYCATCHERS.
The nearby community compost site gave us good views of SCALED QUAIL, as usual.
We were treated to excellent close views of one of the regular FERRUGINOUS HAWKS.
Even better, a huge number of SANDHILL CRANES were feeding distantly in the fields. As we watched, they began to take off, swarming above us, befor heading off towards the roost at Whitewater Draw. It was an incredible spectacle.
We also saw CHIHUAHUAN RAVEN here, and had great views of a friendly GREATER ROADRUNNER.
We found a BARN OWL roosting in an abandoned cotton gin, and were delighted to get brief views of a BOBCAT nearby.
We couldn’t find any Sagebrush Sparrows today along Grants Rd, but a SAGE THRASHER was good compensation. A few BLACK-TAILED JACKRABBITS sped through the sagebrush.
The SANDHILL CRANES had arrived from the fields and put on another show.
We also found GREAT EGRET, BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT-HERON, several GREATER YELLOWLEGS, plenty of stunning VERMILION FLYCATCHERS, and a few early TREE SWALLOWS.
The same female MERLIN as a couple of days ago was going back and forth to the same tree with a succession of sparrow snacks. As dusk approached we watched the YELLOW-HEADED BLACKBIRD flock build up, and a GREAT HORNED OWL appear and hoot its approval of the coming night. We reluctantly departed, delighted with our fabulous day in the valley.