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September 15th, 2017
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Roseate Spoonbills!

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  • Hover over the photos to see the species name or site description

After our survey, Jennie and I decided to head out to Aquirre Lake at Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge in the hope of finding three Roseate Spoonbills that had been seen there off and on over the previous few days. We’d both seen this species elsewhere, but not in Arizona.

We dropped in at Amado Pond on the way, which hosted the continuing BROWN PELICAN and 13 BLACK-BELLIED WHISTLING-DUCKS.

Embarrassingly, I’d never been to Buenos Aires before, so it was exciting just visiting a new site. It’s an impressive mesquite grassland, with permanent and seasonal pools which can attract shorebirds and wading birds in the right conditions. Today was one such occasion.

We started at Grebe Pond, a big, permanent pond, which had a GREATER YELLOWLEGS and a few BLACK-NECKED STILTS, but no spoonbills. Thankfully, another birder appeared and told us where we could find the big pink birds, which he’d seen feeding on Aguirre Lake itself, which is a large seasonal pond that is often dry but currently has a little bit of water and some great wading bird habitat. On the way to the lake, we found a few migrant WILLOW FLYCATCHERS in the willows and mesquites.

Willow Flycatcher

Unfortunately, the spoonbills must have moved, as there was no sign of them at the lake. A ‘canal’ runs behind Grebe Pond, and we started to explore that habitat. A couple of BLUE-WINGED TEAL were among a flock of CINNAMON TEAL, a noisy BELTED KINGFISHER chattered away, and a NORTHERN HARRIER drifted by. Shorebirds included BAIRD’S, LEAST, and WESTERN SANDPIPERS. A couple of BANK SWALLOWS headed south, and other highlights were plenty of recently-arrived BREWER’S SPARROWS, LAZULI BUNTING, BULLOCK’S ORIOLE, and YELLOW-HEADED BLACKBIRD.

The only big wading birds we’d found were a few GREAT EGRETS and nine WHITE-FACED IBIS. We were starting to feel our luck was out when I spied three big pink birds through the vegetation! We adjusted our position and were soon enjoying excellent views of three stunning ROSEATE SPOONBILLS, my 426th species for Arizona.

Roseate Spoonbills

Roseate Spoonbills

Roseate Spoonbills

Roseate Spoonbills

Roseate Spoonbills

Roseate Spoonbills

Roseate Spoonbills

Roseate Spoonbills

Roseate Spoonbills

To end a wonderful day in fitting style, a scattered flock of 65 AMERICAN WHITE PELICANS drifted south, 39 of which I managed to fit into this photo.

American White Pelicans

 

September 15th, 2017
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Yellow-billed Cuckoo survey - Pesqueira Canyon

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It was decided that a couple more cuckoo surveys were in order to discover if any were attempting second broods, so Jennie and I were back in Pesqueira Canyon near Nogales. We did detect one YELLOW-BILLED CUCKOO calling, but didn’t get to see it and weren’t able to witness any potential breeding behavior.

We did find an impressive 48 species in this unremarkable canyon, with migration in full swing. Highlights included GRAY HAWK, at least 20 GRAY FLYCATCHERS, DUSKY-CAPPED and ASH-THROATED FLYCATCHERS, a migrant THICK-BILLED KINGBIRD, BLACK-TAILED GNATCATCHER, at least seven CRISSAL THRASHERS, a latish LUCY’S WARBLER, BOTTERI’S and LINCOLN’S SPARROWS, six GREEN-TAILED TOWHEES, SUMMER and WESTERN TANAGERS, BLACK-HEADED and BLUE GROSBEAKS, a couple of VARIED BUNTINGS, and an impressive 16 migrant BULLOCK’S ORIOLES.

Black-throated Sparrow

Crissal Thrasher

Crissal Thrasher

Crissal Thrasher

Crissal Thrasher

On the way out of the canyon, we stopped at Pesqueira Canyon Pond, which has really filled up. We found eight CINNAMON TEAL, three BLACK-NECKED STILTS, and three SPOTTED SANDPIPERS, as well as a few nice dragonflies.

Common Whitetail

Twelve-spotted Skimmer

 

August 31st, 2017
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Prothonotary Warbler, Green Kingfisher, Northern Waterthrush

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After conducting a Yellow-billed Cuckoo survey in Pesqueira Canyon near Nogales, Jennie and I headed to Patagonia Lake for some general birding. Despite not arriving until 1:00 pm, we racked up an impressive 53 species along the Birding Trail, with some excellent rarities.

Not long after we arrived, we heard the distinctive buzzy trill of a GREEN KINGFISHER calling between the willows and the cattails not long beyond the stairs, an area I’ve never seen one at the lake. Normally, the water level isn’t sufficient to create suitable habitat in this spot, but the monsoon swell meant that it was deep enough to dive and rich was small fish. We spent a while looking but couldn’t get a view. Several young SORAS were out in full view along the muddy edge, and a WILLOW FLYCATCHER fed low in the willows.

Willow Flycatcher

Willow Flycatcher

Soon after we were lucky enough to meet Chris McCreedy, who asked if we were looking for the Prothonotary Warbler. What Prothonotary Warbler? One had been found the previous evening and reported to eBird, but I’d missed it. We set about searching for a new state bird for both of us, and indeed a world life bird for me. I’m not sure how I hadn’t seen one on my travels, but I hadn’t, so this was exciting!

We spent a long while looking but we couldn’t find the warbler, so Jennie and I headed towards the end of the lake, where a Stilt Sandpiper had been seen by the creek inflow. We couldn’t find that either, but did see WHITE-FACED IBIS, BELTED KINGFISHER and a few SPOTTED SANDPIPERS. Other birds included DUSKY-CAPPED FLYCATCHER, RUFOUS-WINGED SPARROW, ABERT’S TOWHEE, YELLOW-BREASTED CHAT, WESTERN and SUMMER TANAGERS, BLUE GROSBEAK, LAZULI BUNTING, and BULLOCK’S ORIOLE.

We also saw something remarkable. Delightfully, a YELLOW-BILLED CUCKOO appeared at the end of the lake in a dead tree, broke off a branch, and headed into a willow thicket. A couple of minutes later it was back, breaking another branch from the tree. It used all its force to break the twig, so enthusiastically that at one point it hung upside-down momentarily before the branch broke. It came back a couple more times, each time heading to the same spot in the willows with another twig. It was across the creek so we didn’t pursue it to find a nest, but it was a fantastic spectacle to witness.

Yellow-billed-Cuckoo

Yellow-billed-Cuckoo

Yellow-billed-Cuckoo

Yellow-billed-Cuckoo

Yellow-billed-Cuckoo

Yellow-billed-Cuckoo

Yellow-billed-Cuckoo

Yellow-billed-Cuckoo

Yellow-billed-Cuckoo

Yellow-billed-Cuckoo

We headed back towards the trailhead and met Chris again, who had seen the Prothonotary Warbler. We settled back into the willows to look. I was aware that a Northern Waterthrush had been around, which surprisingly would be a new bird for me in Santa Cruz County. Somehow I’d never seen one along the Santa Cruz River at Tubac, Sonoita Creek or at either of the main lakes. We hadn’t been back for long before a bird flew past, catching my eye. I followed it and it proved to be the NORTHERN WATERTHRUSH. Excellent!

Northern Waterthrush

Northern Waterthrush

Northern Waterthrush

Northern Waterthrush

Chris had also seen the Green Kingfisher in this area, as well as the Prothonotary Warbler, so we hung around a while longer. A HAMMOND’S FLYCATCHER was foraging among the willows, while ORANGE-CROWNED, NASHVILLE, MacGILLIVRAY’S, YELLOW, and WILSON’S WARBLERS, plus several COMMON YELLOWTHROATS, gave suggestive flashes of yellow as they lurked in the dark.

Suddenly, the GREEN KINGFISHER called again and flashed past, landing at the back of the willows. We were able to get nice views as we peered through a convenient gap in the foliage.

Green Kingfisher

Green Kingfisher

By now we’d been standing in the same spot for quite a while, enjoying amazing birding all around us. It was late afternoon and time to go, so we turned to head back to the car. As we did so, Jennie caught a flash of yellow out of the corner of her eye, and quickly called out “PROTHONOTARY WARBLER!”

Prothonotary Warbler

Prothonotary Warbler

Prothonotary Warbler

Prothonotary Warbler

Prothonotary Warbler and Sora

Prothonotary Warbler

Prothonotary Warbler

A new life bird, and three great rarities all seen from one spot! We watched the warbler for a while before heading home, delighted with our day.

 

August 31st, 2017
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Yellow-billed Cuckoo survey - Pesqueira Canyon

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  • Hover over the photos to see the species name or site description

It was the final scheduled Yellow-billed Cuckoo survey of the season on behalf of Tucson Audubon Society and Coronado National Forest, and Jennie and I were confident we could find some in Pesqueira Canyon near Nogales.

We succeeded! There was still a pair of YELLOW-BILLED CUCKOOS in the canyon, in an area that had hosted cuckoos on previous visits, and the way they were acting was suggestive of a breeding pair. They were never far apart and were softly calling to each other.

Yellow-billed Cuckoo

Yellow-billed Cuckoo

Yellow-billed Cuckoo

Yellow-billed Cuckoo

Yellow-billed Cuckoo

Pesqueira Canyon is a fairly standard, lower-elevation, mesquite- and oak-dominated border canyon. It isn’t particularly known as a birding site, but it was lively with breeding birds and migrants passing through for a total of 43 species.

The highlights were four GRAY HAWKS, four COMMON GROUND-DOVES, three GREATER ROADRUNNERS, 15 migrant GRAY FLYCATCHERS, VERMILION, ASH-THROATED, and BROWN-CRESTED FLYCATCHERS, BLACK-TAILED GNATCATCHER, CURVE-BILLED and a minimum of five CRISSAL THRASHERS, a couple of LUCY’S WARBLERS (one of which was singing!), migrant MacGILLIVRAYS, YELLOW, and WILSON’S WARBLERS, an impressive 37 RUFOUS-WINGED SPARROWS, WESTERN TANAGER, BLACK-HEADED and BLUE GROSBEAKS, and BULLOCK’S ORIOLE.

Common Ground-Dove