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August 1st, 2014
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SW Wings Festival Tour to Las Cienegas

Another good tour for the Southwest Wings birding festival, today in the wonderful Las Cienegas area. There were several highlights among a total of 66 species.

Southern entrance (4 miles west of Sonoita):
A WHITE-TAILED KITE pounced on something in the distance, then perched on a fencepost to eat it.
A close flyby from a CHIHUAHUAN RAVEN was popular.
GRASSHOPPER and BOTTERI’S SPARROWS, BLUE GROSBEAKS, and ‘Lilian’s’ EASTERN MEADOWLARKS were present in good numbers, as they were throughout the area.
A couple of CASSIN’S SPARROWS were singing.

Curly Horse Road, north of Sonoita:
A SCALED QUAIL showed briefly, but walked into the long grass and magically disappeared.
Two young NORTHERN HARRIERS may have been the product of local breeding. A nest site was reported in this general area earlier in the summer.
Two migrant WILLOW FLYCATCHERS were a treat, one at the pond by the first right bend (when entering from SR83), the other at the second left bend. A PACIFIC-SLOPE FLYCATCHER was also near the pond.
Two early migrant CHIPPING SPARROWS were interesting, but not without precedent in mesquite grassland habitat at this time of year (I saw one at Las Cienegas on a similar date two years ago, and neglected to mention a couple at San Pedro House yesterday).
Likewise, three early migrant LARK BUNTINGS flew by.
Several CASSIN’S SPARROWS were singing by the second left bend.

Cottonwood Pond (E Yucca Farm Rd, between Curly Horse Rd and E Empire Ranch Rd):
A WESTERN SCREECH-OWL showed briefly at the entrance to a hole in one of the huge cottonwoods, while SUMMER TANAGER and BULLOCK’S ORIOLES disputed the nearby branches.
TREE, NORTHERN ROUGH-WINGED and BARN SWALLOWS were heading south.

Empire Gulch:
The expected set of species were found along the Heritage Discovery Trail which starts at the ranch HQ, including GRAY HAWK, YELLOW-BILLED CUCKOO, WARBLING VIREO, YELLOW-BREASTED CHAT, SUMMER and WESTERN TANAGERS, and LAZULI BUNTING. Disappointingly, we were prevented from entering the gulch at the ‘cottonwood parking area’ because of a sign declaring the area closed, as bird banding was in progress. No banders or banders’ vehicles were evident, and even if they were present, I’m unclear as to why we weren’t allowed to bird for this reason.

Prairie-Dog reintroduction site (east of E Yucca Farm Rd):
Four active BURROWING OWLS, three of which were juveniles, at two different burrows.

Burrowing Owl

Burrowing Owl

Black-tailed Prairie-Dog

Black-tailed Prairie-Dog

 

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