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

Another SE Arizona Big Day

Last April I went out with David Chapman to do a ‘big day’ [1], seeing and hearing as many species as possible in one day. We ended on 144 species, which was pretty good. Could we beat it this year? The weather forecast said no – it was going to be very windy, especially in the afternoon. Undeterred, we went for it anyway…

Peña Blanca Canyon:

Our first surprise was the ease with which we found a stunning RUFOUS-CAPPED WARBLER, which have been elusive recently, presumably nesting.

Rufous-capped Warbler [2]

Rufous-capped Warbler [3]

Rufous-capped Warbler [4]

Rufous-capped Warbler [5]

Rufous-capped Warbler [6]

Rufous-capped Warbler [7]

Rufous-capped Warbler [8]

Rufous-capped Warbler [9]

An even bigger surprise was a distant speck high over the canyon which materilized into a CRESTED CARACARA, the first ever record for the canyon listed on eBird.

Crested Caracara [10]

We were treated to great views of ELEGANT TROGONS.

Elegant Trogon [11]

Elegant Trogon [12]

Elegant Trogon [13]

We didn’t stay that long, but it was productive as ever, with MONTEZUMA QUAIL, BLACK VULTURE, NORTHERN HARRIER, SHARP-SHINNED HAWK, the nesting ZONE-TAILED HAWKS, BLACK-CHINNED, ANNA’S, BROAD-TAILED, RUFOUS, and BROAD-BILLED HUMMINGBIRDS, ARIZONA WOODPECKER, PEREGRINE FALCON, PACIFIC-SLOPE, DUSKY-CAPPED, ASH-THROATED and BROWN-CRESTED FLYCATCHERS, HUTTON’S VIREO, ROCK and CANYON WRENS, a calling CRISSAL THRASHER, ORANGE-CROWNED, BLACK-THROATED GRAY, TOWNSEND’S WARBLERS, PAINTED REDSTART, GREEN-TAILED TOWHEE, RUFOUS-WINGED SPARROW, HEPATIC and SUMMER TANAGERS, PYRRHULOXIA, LAZULI BUNTING, and HOODED and SCOTT’S ORIOLES.

Ruby Rd:

GRAY HAWK and AMERICAN KESTREL were added to the list.

Rio Rico Golf Course:

There was a great selection of ducks here recently, but not today. We did manage to add AMERICAN WIGEON and NORTHERN FLICKER.

Las Lagunas:

A female BUFFLEHEAD was a real bonus, and we also found ‘MEXICAN’ MALLARD, NORTHERN SHOVELER, NEOTROPIC CORMORANT, GRAY and SWAINSON’S HAWKS, COMMON YELLOWTHROAT, and SONG SPARROW.

Just as we were about to leave, a flock of WHITE-FACED IBIS flew in, glowing beautifully in the sunlight.

White-faced Ibis [14]

White-faced Ibis [15]

White-faced Ibis [16]

White-faced Ibis [17]

White-faced Ibis [18]

White-faced Ibis [19]

White-faced Ibis [20]

Kino Springs:

A male REDHEAD continues, with other new birds for the day being RING-NECKED DUCK, SPOTTED SANDPIPER, BELL’S VIREO, CEDAR WAXWING, and YELLOW-BREASTED CHAT. We also saw ZONE-TAILED HAWK, COMMON YELLOWTHROAT, and GREEN-TAILED TOWHEE.

Ring-necked Duck (left) and Redhead [21]

Patagonia Roadside Rest:

A THICK-BILLED KINGBIRD perched up and posed for us.

Thick-billed Kingbird [22]

Thick-billed Kingbird [23]

Thick-billed Kingbird [24]

Also here we got yet another GRAY HAWK, plus WARBLING VIREO, and YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLER.

Blue Haven Rd:

Four VAUX’S SWIFTS zipped overhead, while we also added GREAT BLUE HERON, INCA DOVE, NORTHERN BEARDLESS-TYRANNULET, OLIVE-SIDED and HAMMOND’S FLYCATCHERS, and ABERT’S TOWHEE.

Tucson Audubon’s Paton Center for Hummingbirds:

Our highlight in our brief visit was a WHITE-THROATED SPARROW.

White-throated Sparrow [25]

We missed out on Violet-crowned Hummingbird, but did see BLACK-CHINNED, ANNA’S, and BROAD-BILLED HUMMINGBIRDS, plus GRAY HAWK, INCA DOVE, NORTHERN BEARDLESS-TYRANNULET, ABERT’S TOWHEE, WHITE-CROWNED SPARROW (mostly the ‘MOUNTAIN’ subspecies), WESTERN TANAGER, and PINE SISKIN.

Las Cienegas:

By now the wind was really hampering our progress, and the grasslands were an almost complete dud, with just a few bigger birds brave enough to come out of the grass, including NORTHERN HARRIER, SWAINSON’S HAWK, ASH-THROATED FLYCATCHER, LOGGERHEAD SHRIKE, HORNED LARK, and ‘LILIAN’S’ EASTERN MEADOWLARK.

Mustang Mountains:

As we headed east, a couple of birds that weren’t afraid of the gale-force winds were a pair of GOLDEN EAGLES, a huge bonus!

Whetstone:

A pair of CHIHUAHAN RAVENS were added to the list. Due to the weather we decided that high elevation was not the place to be, so we headed towards Willcox earlier than planned.

Willcox Twin Lakes:

Lake Cochise was excellent and added lots of new birds, really boosting our total. The big highlights were gulls, with a BONAPARTE’S GULL and five FRANKLIN’S GULLS on show.

Bonaparte's Gull [26]

Franklin's Gull [27]

Franklin's Gull [28]

The duck selection was good, with GADWALL, MALLARD, AMERICAN WIGEON, BLUE-WINGED and CINNAMON TEALS, NORTHERN SHOVELER, RING-NECKED DUCK and RUDDY DUCK. The shorebirds were also impressive, although the three plover species that have been present lately had moved on, unfortunately. We found BLACK-NECKED STILT, AMERICAN AVOCET, KILLDEER, SPOTTED SANDPIPER, GREATER YELLOWLEGS, a few WILLETS, LEAST and WESTERN SANDPIPERS, LONG-BILLED DOWITCHER, and WILSON’S PHALAROPE.

Willet [29]

Willet [30]

Also in the area we added SCALED QUAIL, EARED GREBE, DUSKY FLYCATCHER, VIOLET-GREEN and BANK SWALLOWS, COMMON YELLOWTHROAT, BREWER’S SPARROW, LARK BUNTING, and YELLOW-HEADED BLACKBIRD.

Scaled Quail [31]

Scaled Quail [32]

Sunsites WTP:

A quick stop at this seldom-visited site produced GREEN HERON, TREE SWALLOW, and another good roost flock of YELLOW-HEADED BLACKBIRDS.

Cochise Stronghold:

The sun was just about down as we entered the canyon but we were still able to add a late SPOTTED TOWHEE, as well as getting nice views of BLACK-THROATED GRAY and TOWNSEND’S WARBLERS, PAINTED REDSTART, and SCOTT’S ORIOLE.

We waited until it was dark enough and started looking and listening for night birds. The wind had subsided slightly but was still hampering us. Despite this we were able to find both WHISKERED SCREECH-OWL and ELF OWL in the oaks around the campground.

Whiskered Screech-Owl [33]

Whiskered Screech-Owl [34]

Whiskered Screech-Owl [35]

Sahuarita:

Our final bird of the day, or night, was LESSER NIGHTHAWK, a few of which were feeding under the bright lights by an intersection. This brought us to an almost unbelievable 151 species for the day! Given the conditions and the fact that we were forced to miss out entire key habitats, it would have been hard to do any better.

My thanks to Dave once more for his great company and stamina.