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February 15th, 2016
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Catalina State Park, Santa Cruz Flats

A successful day of birding and photography with one of my favorite clients, at a couple of super winter birding sites.

Catalina State Park:

A CRISSAL THRASHER singing at dawn was welcome, especially as it showed itself briefly.

Crissal Thrasher

The RUFOUS-BACKED ROBIN was located in its usual hackberry thicket, hunting for fallen hackberries in the long grass.

Rufous-backed Robin

Rufous-backed Robin

Rufous-backed Robin

Several BLACK-CHINNED SPARROWS were coming down to drink, including this male which showed signs of spring with a little bit of black coming through on the face and chin. Another sign of spring was hearing a Black-chinned Sparrow singing nearby.

Black-chinned Sparrow

We couldn’t locate a Lawrence’s Goldfinch today, but while we were looking around the start of the birding trail, we did find a good local rarity, a DARK-EYED JUNCO of the ‘SLATE-COLORED’ form, most unusual in SE Arizona.

'Slate-colored' Dar-eyed Junco

Also in the park, the continuing NORTHERN BEARDLESS-TYRANNULET, good looks at RUFOUS-WINGED SPARROW, and a couple of WHITE-THROATED SPARROWS.

Black-throated Sparrow

Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet

Rufous-winged Sparrow

Rufous-winged Sparrow

White-throated Sparrow

This GRAY FLYCATCHER was busily feeding as the first insects of the day became airborne.

Gray Flycatcher

Can you spot the fly that it’s after? Eyes on the prize!

Gray Flycatcher

Santa Cruz Flats:

It took a while but we found the 45-strong MOUNTAIN PLOVER flock on the sod farms to the south of the more usual location. I’ve seen them here this winter more often than the traditional spot. When we found them they were hunkered down, avoiding the sprinklers that were watering the sod. As soon as the water stopped, the plovers began running around and feeding.

Mountain Plovers

Mountain Plovers

BURROWING OWL were found at a few burrows. There was something going on at one of them, with a lot of activity and birds flying back and forth. It’s pure speculation on my part, but I wonder if this was the adults deciding it was time for last year’s juveniles to leave the nest and strike out on their own. Either way, it was fun to watch and photograph.

Burrowing Owl

Burrowing Owl

Burrowing Owl

Burrowing Owl

Burrowing Owl

Burrowing Owl

Burrowing Owl

Burrowing Owl

Burrowing Owl

Burrowing Owl

Burrowing Owl

Burrowing Owl

We enjoyed excellent views of SAGEBRUSH SPARROWS in the usual location north of Harmon Rd. A BENDIRE’S THRASHER was also singing here.

Sagebrush Sparrow

Sagebrush Sparrow

Elsewhere in the flats we found PRAIRIE FALCON and CRESTED CARACARA to end a really great day. Thanks Jim!

Crested Caracara

 

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