An outstanding day of early spring birding in Santa Cruz County, with an impressive 89 species, easily my best total of the year so far. On the down side, I must have knocked my camera settings early on as my photos came out fuzzy. Please remember, I’m not and will never be a photographer, just a birder with a camera.
We got the day off to a great start when I noticed a thrasher perched up at the side of the road soon after dawn, which proved to be a CRISSAL THRASHER. There were at least two in the thick mesquites between highway 82 and the golf club, the male singing a few times.
Finding a local rarity is always fun… even when it’s a CANADA GOOSE! This was only my second ever record in Santa Cruz County, so it was quite the find.
There was an impressive variety of ducks across the three ponds, including ‘MEXICAN’ MALLARD, CINNAMON TEAL, REDHEAD, RING-NECKED DUCK, LESSER SCAUP, and BUFFLEHEAD. Also in the area, SORA, SPOTTED SANDPIPER, NORTHERN ROUGH-WINGED SWALLOW, COMMON YELLOWTHROAT, ABERT’S TOWHEE, and RUFOUS-WINGED SPARROW.
Ron Morriss Park, Tubac:
Today was clearly one of the big days at the hawk watch, and we had many COMMON BLACK HAWKS streaming overhead. At one point we had six in the air together. They never came particularly close, but it was still quite the spectacle.
This photo is terrible, but it does show six Common Black Hawks together, plus a Red-tailed Hawk at the top.
As with Canada Goose, some birds are considered rarities in Santa Cruz County that you might not expect. A juvenile HARRIS’S HAWK headed north, and was only my second record in the county, the first being another juvenile at the hawk watch on March 9th last year.
GRAY HAWKS have arrived on territory along the Santa Cruz River, and we heard a pair calling frequently, but only got very brief views. A ZONE-TAILED HAWK heading north was my first of the year, and a PEREGRINE FALCON joined in the fun.
Also in the park, calling SORA (always a good one to get on a hawk watch!), ANNA’S HUMMINGBIRD, NORTHERN BEARDLESS-TYRANNULET, VIOLET-GREEN and NORTHERN ROUGH-WINGED SWALLOWS, and a migrant WESTERN MEADOWLARK.
Peña Blanca Canyon:
We found the RUFOUS-CAPPED WARBLERS without too much trouble, although they didn’t give us particularly great views or any photo opps. Also in the canyon, GRAY FLYCATCHER, HUTTON’S VIREO, HERMIT THRUSH, BLACK-THROATED GRAY and TOWNSEND’S WARBLERS, and PAINTED REDSTART.
Along the way we encountered BLACK VULTURE, NORTHERN HARRIER, GREATER ROADRUNNER, and LOGGERHEAD SHRIKE.
California Gulch x Warsaw Canyon:
The BLACK-CAPPED GNATCATCHERS were eventually found in their usual spot in the thick hackberries and acacias. We did a little pishing and owl calls to see what else was around. I thought I’d change up the owl calls a little and played a snippet of Elf Owl call, just for variety. I was surprised to hear an ELF OWL calling back! We found the tree it was calling from, but the bird remained hidden, presumably deep in a cavity, safe and sound. Also in the area, COSTA’S HUMMINGBIRD, GRAY FLYCATCHER, and LUCY’S WARBLER.
Ruby Lakes (California Gulch Dam):
There must have been a movement of REDHEADS today as there was one here too, and it helped to provide a somewhat hilarious moment. A female ‘MEXICAN’ MALLARD, probably nesting nearby, really took exception to the Redhead. She swam out from under the overhanging trees at the edge of the pond, got up close to the Redhead, and quacked and quacked and quacked relentlessly until the Redhead simply couldn’t take it any more and flew away! Also here, CASSIN’S KINGBIRDS, YELLOW WARBLER, and LINCOLN’S SPARROW. Our final bird of the daytime was a very distant migrating OSPREY over Montaña Peak.
Ruby Rd again:
We still had time for one more species just after dark, a COMMON POORWILL which flushed up from the road. What a great day!