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

Rufous-backed Robin, Ruddy Ground-Dove, Mountain Plover

An excellent day exploring the Santa Cruz Flats in Pinal County, even in gale force winds. At least we avoided the rain today.

We started at Evergreen Sod Farm, and after some searching spotted four MOUNTAIN PLOVERS flying across the fields and landing in the distance. We drove closer and a load more materialized for a total of 35. A couple of COMMON MERGANSERS were on a canal, and a wintering OSPREY flew by.

Mountain Plover [1]

Mountain Plover [2]

Osprey [3]

Osprey [4]

At Baumgartner Rd x Wheeler Rd, we didn’t find a Rufous-backed Roin but did see the continuing male RUDDY GROUND-DOVE with a bunch of INCA DOVES.

The usual section of sagebrush habitat north of Harmon Rd, a mile east of Sunland Gin Rd, produced the usual sagebrush specialties: several SAGEBRUSH SPARROW and a nice SAGE THRASHER.

Sagebrush Sparrow [5]

Sagebrush Sparrow [6]

Sage Thrasher [7]

Sage Thrasher [8]

Sage Thrasher [9]

Sage Thrasher [10]

A ‘HARLAN’S’ RED-TAILED HAWK, possibly wintering for its seventh year, was found along Green Reservoir Rd near Toltec Buttes Rd.

A GILDED FLICKER was a nice find along Greene Reservoir Rd just west of Picacho Hwy. A few MOUNTAIN BLUEBIRDS and LARK BUNTINGS were hanging out nearby.

Gilded Flicker [11]

Gilded Flicker [12]

Lark Bunting [13]

Lark Bunting [14]

Also in the flats, a couple of BLACK VULTURES, numerous NORTHERN HARRIERS, two HARRIS’S HAWKS, a FERRUGINOUS HAWK, a couple of flocks of LEAST SANDPIPERS, GREATER ROADRUNNER, BURROWING OWL, WHITE-THROATED SWIFT, PRAIRIE FALCON, loads of HORNED LARKS and AMERICAN PIPITS, and a BARN SWALLOW.

Burrowing Owl [15]

Harris's Hawk [16]

Back at Baumgartner Rd x Wheeler Rd, we got lucky with a five-second view of a RUFOUS-BACKED ROBIN drinking from the garden hose at the side of the house.

Rufous-backed Robin [17]

And after a full day driving the flats and actively looking, we finally connected with ten CRESTED CARACARAS just before dusk in the fields at Baumgartner Rd x Cripple Creek Rd (which we’d checked earlier). There must have been a plow somewhere with about 100 hungry caracaras behind it.