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November 25th, 2011
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Sweetwater, Santa Cruz Flats, Pinal Air Park

Today (Nov 25) I was birding with Laura and Bill Couchman from Chicago. We pretty much repeated the previous day’s route.

We began at first light at Sweetwater Wetlands in Tucson, heading straight to the little bridge as it was too dark to see anything around Hidden Pond. Literally the first bird we saw was the presumably continuing but extremely elusive WHITE-THROATED SPARROW. We watched it feed by the concrete pool for about 20 seconds after which it disappeared, never to be seen again. There were loads of good birders at Sweetwater today but I don’t think anyone else saw it. It’s hiding well!

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We had a good time picking out various species around Sweetwater. Several LAWRENCE’S GOLDFINCHES were near the bridge, the SOLITARY SANDPIPER was still on the settling basins and after some effort, we finally got views of SORA, much to Bill’s delight. A very distant PEREGRINE FALCON was perched on a pylon about half a mile away in Christopher Columbus Park, tearing into breakfast.

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Solitary Sandpiper

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Solitary Sandpiper

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Lawrence's Goldfinch

Moving north to the Santa Cruz Flats, we searched for yesterday’s Mountain Plovers without success. Whilst birding from the car along the ‘2750’ road running north from Pretzer, west of Tweedy, I noticed a longspur in the short grass. It was too distant to get much on it through binoculars, so I crept out of the car and got my camera out of the back. I rattled off a few record shots, glanced down to grab my scope, looked back and it was gone. I didn’t hear it call.

On reviewing the photos, it turned out to be a McCOWN’S LONGSPUR, only the third record for Pinal County. I’ve given it a separate blog post.

Other highlights were a dark phase FERRUGINOUS HAWK south of the Pretzer/2750 intersection (same as yesterday), a splendid pair of WHITE-TAILED KITES on Pretzer east of Picacho Highway (same as yesterday), a BENDIRE’S THRASHER near the kites, with another at Pretzer/Toltec Rd, a PRAIRIE FALCON on Ellis east of Curry, and a couple of CRESTED CARACARAS in the hedge behind the corral on Baumgartner west of Wheeler. A sprinkling of MOUNTAIN BLUEBIRDS were found in most suitable fields. Two separate HOUSE WRENS in the oleanders along Pretzer west of Picacho were surprising. The SNOW GOOSE from yesterday flew over with its two new friends, a pair of CANADA GEESE.

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Dark morph Ferruginous Hawk

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Prairie Falcon

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Northern Harrier

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Bendire's Thrasher

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Bendire's Thrasher

Having failed to find any BURROWING OWLS in the Santa Cruz Flats, we stopped by the area east Pinal Air Park and found one as the sun went down. It was a fitting way to round off an excellent day, with 82 species.

 

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