Roger Tess and Pat Francis joined me for November’s Fun Birding Workshop, the Rarity Chase. There were a few contenders in the days leading up, but we settled for heading north and going to see a GLAUCOUS-WINGED GULL discovered by Tommy DeBardeleben at Glendale Recharge Basins in western Phoenix.
As we arrived, a dashing adult PEREGRINE FALCON was terrorizing Mourning Doves along 107th. We paid homage to the GLAUCOUS-WINGED GULL. Great find Tommy! My second new gull in Arizona this week. It was good to see some familiar faces among the small crowd of gull admirers.
Also at this excellent site, lots of shorebirds including a large flock of LEAST SANDPIPERS which were accompanied by two WESTERN SANDPIPERS, as well as high numbers of GREATER YELLOWLEGS, LONG-BILLED DOWITCHER, BLACK-NECKED STILTS and a couple of AMERICAN AVOCETS. There were at least eight RING-BILLED GULLS, plenty of GREAT BLUE HERONS and GREAT and SNOWY EGRETS and a good range of ducks.
Heading back south, we toured the Santa Cruz Flats, south of Eloy, with varying success. It was nice to find my first MOUNTAIN BLUEBIRDS of the winter, three groups totaling 25 birds at various points along Pretzer Rd. A calling but unseen CHESTNUT-COLLARED LONGSPUR flew over Evergreen Sod Farm on Pretzer.
We gave Mountain Plover a pretty good go but didn’t find any. The only shorebirds were a few Killdeer. Sparrows were in short supply except in isolated pockets. Raptors were generally thin on the ground but we did quite well for species. A MERLIN was at Evergreen Sod and NORTHERN HARRIER and AMERICAN KESTREL reached double figures. We only saw a handful of RED-TAILS but we eventually found a FERRUGINOUS HAWK further east along Pretzer, just west of Picacho Highway, with another or the same further south on Picacho.
In some ways, birding the Santa Cruz Flats is easier this winter as there are vast swathes of cotton fields which can safely be ignored, leaving patches of good habitat to concentrate on. There are always birds around the sod farms, a ripening sorghum crop at Curry and Pretzer is attracting big numbers of birds, while the irrigated fields along Pretzer west of Picacho Highway are still productive, although drier than my last two visits.
Looking for Bendire’s Thrasher, we unearthed a surprise CRISSAL THRASHER along Curry, south of Pretzer, and several CURVE-BILLED before finding our BENDIRE’S at Baumgartner and Cripple Creek Rd. Also along Baumgartner to the east of Wheeler Rd, three CRESTED CARACARA and a PRAIRIE FALCON for a five-falcon day.