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October 28th, 2011
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Sweetwater Wetlands, Santa Cruz Flats

Birding again with Jean and Sterling Weaver and Susan and David Schwardt from Rochester, NY. We hit Sweetwater briefly in the morning without adding to the recent rarities. There was a nice selection of birds on offer and we got great views of some iconic Southwestern species such as Verdin.







Winter is taking hold, with duck numbers increasing. The recharge basins are empty, though, so many of the ducks are over at Roger Road. Those at Sweetwater were showing nicely in the early morning light.




Northern Shoveler


Northern Shoveler

Plenty of SORAS have arrived at Sweetwater and their cries can be heard every few minutes, but seeing them can prove tricky. With a little encouragement we were able to view one at close range, then another two on the settling basins, which also hosted a SOLITARY SANDPIPER.





Moving on to the Santa Cruz Flats south of Eloy, we didn’t find any definite Rufous-backed Robins in the pecan grove on Curry Rd, although the vegetation has grown up a little making it almost impossible to see birds feeding on the ground. We had a couple of flight views of a bird that was about robin sized, but couldn’t get perched views. It was heartening to meet the young boy who lives in the trailer. When he arrived home from school, he saw us and excitedly shouted inside that there were birders looking for his robin. He then he came and chatted for a while. He was thrilled that his ‘friend Alex’ had given him a bird book – great job Alexander!

A couple of INCA DOVES were showing well here and a ROCK WREN was calling. Around the corral on Baumgartner just west of Wheeler, five CRESTED CARACARA gave excellent views from the road. The irrigation channel opposite had two GREAT and a SNOWY EGRET, which was a surprise.


Crested Caracara


Crested Caracara


Crested Caracara

We had a brief and very positive conversation with the owner of this property as well. It shouldn’t need to be said again, but both of these sites are family homes and places of work, so please don’t leave the road or otherwise bug the locals. They are very welcoming to respectful birders.

Elsewhere in the flats we found BENDIRE’S THRASHER but very little else. Raptor and sparrow numbers were low, while the only shorebird we found was a single Killdeer. The most birdy area was the irrigated fields along Pretzer just west of Picacho Highway, as it often was last winter.

We stopped at Amado Pond late afternoon. The turnover, even at this time of year, is noticeable. The WILSON’S PHALAROPE from the previous day was still there, but the Wilson’s Snipe had been replaced by a LONG-BILLED DOWITCHER, the Black-bellied Whistling Ducks replaced by two female BUFFLEHEADS, and a CATTLE EGRET completed an unusual egret trifecta.

A great day with good company and some really nice birds.


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