Tuesday, December 2, 2014

AZ Big Year - Week Forty-seven 11/19-11/25

On Friday 21st I walked around Sahuarita Lake to look for a previously reported Clark’s Grebe.  This grebe is rather uncommon in Pima County and is less expected than Western Grebes.  I saw and photographed the Clark’s Grebe and before I left found a large flock of Lawrence’s Goldfinches.  On Saturday 22nd I led the Arivaca Cienega Field Trip.  Sixteen adults and 3 children showed up for the walk.  The mother with her three children quickly bailed out since her smallest one would not stop crying.  The walk lasted more than three hours with the most excitement being in the first hour.  In the cold & somewhat frosty first hour the sparrows were perched up and allowing for wonderful views.  We found three Clay-colored Sparrows and a Grasshopper Sparrow among the more expected species.  Noticeably absent were raptors with only singles of American Kestrel, Northern Harrier, & Red-tailed Hawk observed.
On Sunday 23rd Louise and I took another hike up to the Carrie Nation Mine.  At the first stream crossing we found a female Williamson’s Sapsucker and near the second crossing a Hammond’s Flycatcher.  One wee bit of excitement occurred when I heard a continuous melodious song emanating from the other side of the canyon.  My first thoughts were Brown-back Solitaire.  After several minutes of trying to get closer to the source and trying to attract the songster closer, I played a recording of a Townsend’s Solitaire.  It was a Townsend’s Solitaire, a species a thousand times more expected than what I was trying to turn it into.
Very early Monday 24th morning, I took off for the grasslands on the other side of the Santa Rita Mountains.  I arrived at Las Cienegas before sunrise as planned with the temperature at 14°F.  In the glow of the dawn I scanned the open areas for Short-eared Owl (409).  I finally saw one in flight at about sunrise.  It appeared to have a destination in mind, like it was heading to a roosting spot for the day.  I made my way south of Highway 82 towards Elgin to a cattle tank where a Lapland Longspur was seen several years ago.  There was a flock of Chestnut-collared Longspurs, a single flyover McCown’s Longspur, and many Horned Larks at this tank.  I also saw a light-morph Rough-legged Hawk catching some of the sun’s warmth during this very cold morning (16°F).  After a looping around the Lower Elgin to Elgin to Upper Elgin Roads I headed back north across the highway to a spot where Melody had a large flock of longspurs yesterday.  The flock I saw, really several small flocks, did not tally to the number Melody reported and I could only make out Chestnut-collared.  Melody’s client appears to have photographed a McCown’s in flight.  Further north, I found a Wilson’s Snipe out in the open at a small water hole along the road.  A stop at Cottonwood Tanks & a walk along Empire Gulch produced very few birds.  Several days before someone reported a female Purple Finch, I did not find any finches.
On Tuesday 25th Chris Benesh, Deb Finch, & I took the journey to San Bernardino NWR to search for a Least Flycatcher & Winter Wren that had been reported several days prior.  I had never been to the refuge though I had been to the Slaughter Ranch a mile or two away.  Both species would have been year birds and the flycatcher would have been a state bird (as well as very rare in Arizona).  While it was great birding with Chris & Deb and exploring a new location, we came up empty with the flycatcher & wren.  After lunch in Douglas, on our return journey we stopped at Whitewater Draw WMA.  We estimated 4000 Sandhill Cranes and in spite of trying we came up empty on Common Crane.  If Texas can have two; why not Arizona? We did find the big family group of Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks and a small family group of Pied-billed Grebes. The youngster grebe were very young, still with striped head, less than a third the mass of the adults, and begging food.

At the end of this week, my Arizona 2014 list is at 409.

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