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November 24th, 2011
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Sweetwater Wetlands, Santa Cruz Flats

I spent a fine day with Shirley and Paul Graber from Surrey, England, celebrating Thanksgiving the best way that us Brits know how: birding at sewage ponds! I had a good day with the camera and got lots of photos.

Sweetwater Wetlands was productive as ever, with many interesting birds. We had great views of NORTHERN FLICKER, RED-NAPED SAPSUCKER, TOWNSEND’S WARBLER, ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLER and lots more. We couldn’t persuade a SORA to show itself but we heard plenty.


Northern Shoveler


Northern Flicker


Townsend’s Warbler


Orange-crowned Warbler


Orange-crowned Warbler

Back in the parking lot, we were preparing to leave when there was a sudden alarm call and all the birds scattered. I looked left and right for the inevitable hawk, then noticed the perfect image of a flying COOPER’S HAWK in the hood of the car next to me. Taking a second to work out the angles, I looked up and saw the culprit perched on the pole right above us. I don’t think I’ve ever found a bird from its reflection in a car!


Juvenile Cooper’s Hawk

Moving north, we found GREATER ROADRUNNER, LOGGERHEAD SHRIKE, various sparrows and three BURROWING OWLS near Pinal Air Park. Always a treat! How many can you spot? Just one? Look again…


Burrowing Owl


Greater Roadrunner


Loggerhead Shrike


Loggerhead Shrike


Lark Bunting


Vesper Sparrow

A quick bathroom stop at Picacho Peak turned into more birding, as there were a number of birds in the desert next to the parking lot, including CURVE-BILLED THRASHER, NORTHERN CARDINAL, PYRRHULOXIA and LARK SPARROW.


Curve-billed Thrasher


Gila Woodpecker

We carried on to the Santa Cruz Flats. The highlight was finding a MOUNTAIN PLOVER along the ‘2750’ road running north from Pretzer, west of Tweedy. I think this is the first report in SE Arizona this fall so it was nice to spread the news of their return. It was unusual to see one on its own, but a few minutes later we noticed another flock and in all we saw 39.


Mountain Plover

We also saw a dark phase FERRUGINOUS HAWK there, and watched a thrilling chase between a PEREGRINE FALCON and a MOURNING DOVE, which lasted for a couple of minutes before the dove finally escaped. A lost-looking SNOW GOOSE passed overhead and we found three more BURROWING OWLS in the vicinity.


Burrowing Owl



Along Pretzer to the west of Picacho Highway, the other good area for me recently, we found a pair of WHITE-TAILED KITES in the fields to the south of the road. Lots of birds along the roadside and in the fields here.


White-tailed Kite


Northern Harrier

Ten CRESTED CARACARAS were behind the corral on Baumgartner west of Wheeler, and a PRAIRIE FLACON was near the farm along Baumgartner east of Wheeler, the third time I’ve seen one here this month.


Prairie Falcon


Prairie Falcon

Another action-packed day with great company and 73 species. My thanks to Paul & Shirley for a  fun trip!


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