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January 29th, 2011
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Santa Cruz Flats

Burrowing-Owl-Santa-Cruz-Flats-11-0129-02I spent the day birding the Santa Cruz Flats with Louis, Karen, Judy and Pam from Scottsdale/New York. They had three target birds. We did pretty well…

Their first target was FERRUGINOUS HAWK and luckily it was the first hawk we saw on Sunshine Boulevard. We saw a couple more as we traveled around. Also along Sunshine Blvd we found a BURROWING OWL just north of Harmon Rd, with another on Eleven Mile Corner just south of Hotts Rd. We had a ROCK WREN here and at another two locations (making it six different sites in the Santa Cruz Flats for me this winter).

Ferruginous-Hawk-Santa-Cruz-Flats-11-0129-06

Our next target was MOUNTAIN PLOVER and with a bit of sweat and toil we eventually found one. It appeared to be standing alone on the sod at Evergreen Sod Farm, between Tweedy and Curry on the unnamed (?) road south of Pretzer and north of Ellis. Whilst looking at it through the scope, I noticed another hunkered right down nearby, then another. After a few minutes they all suddenly stood up and started to act like Mountain Plovers, running about and being obvious. What initially looked like a handful unbelievably turned into a flock of 44 MOUNTAIN PLOVERS! After a minute of activity they all settled down again and practically vanished, hunkering down very close to one of the water lines. This was around lunchtime. I had no idea they could be quite so cryptic.

Also at Evergreen Sod there were several large flocks of AMERICAN PIPITS totaling more than 300 birds.

Loggerhead-Shrike-Santa-Cruz-Flats-11-0129-01

We headed east towards Baumgartner to try for our third target, CRESTED CARACARA. There was no need to go far – we found eleven along Pretzer, a mile or so west of Picacho Highway. These fields were productive, with lots of WESTERN MEADOWLARKS and LARK SPARROWS amongst others. We were then held up further by a pair of BENDIRE’S THRASHERS and a PRAIRIE FALCON at the intersection of Picacho Highway and Ellis Rd.

Crested-Caracara-Santa-Cruz-Flats-11-0129-06

Rufous-backed-Robin-Santa-Cruz-Flats-11-0129-01We arrived at the corner of Wheeler and Baumgartner at around 4:00 pm and within a few minutes located the continuing RUFOUS-BACKED ROBIN feeding in the privet-type trees (this had become target bird number four).

We didn’t do so well around the corral to the west of the house. A couple of guys were working there and we saw practically no birds at all. The workers had cut all the grass/weeds along one edge of the corral (exactly where I had seen the ground-doves a couple of weeks ago) and had cleared some other vegetation in the area. It’d be sad if this was a reaction to the presence of birders recently. Hopefully the small dove flock will hang around. We found a couple of WHITE-WINGED DOVES further west on Baumgartner.

Another gorgeous day to be out and about in Arizona with excellent birding companions. And four out of three ain’t bad…

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