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An excellent day of target birding with a major surprise in the afternoon!
Ruby Rd, east of Sycamore Canyon:
We made a quick roadside stop for a pair of ZONE-TAILED HAWKS that were acting like they had a nest nearby. We also found DUSKY-CAPPED FLYCATCHER and BRIDLED TITMOUSE. A couple of SCOTT’S ORIOLES were by the road west of Sycamore Canyon, as was another ZONE-TAILED HAWK.
Confluence of California Gulch and Warsaw Canyon:
Our main target for the day was FIVE-STRIPED SPARROW, and one was again unusually cooperative and easy to find for this time of year.
Also here, GREATER ROADRUNNER, lots of PHAINOPEPLAS, RUFOUS-WINGED SPARROW, SUMMER TANAGER, LAZULI BUNTING, and HOODED ORIOLE.
Ruby Rd, Yank’s Canyon Overlook:
Another quick roadside stop produced GRAY HAWK, DUSKY-CAPPED FLYCATCHER, and HUTTON’S VIREO.
Peña Blanca Lake:
We couldn’t rustle up a Common Black Hawk today, but we had more fantastic views of ZONE-TAILED HAWK, as well as finding CINNAMON TEAL, SHARP-SHINNED HAWK, GREATER ROADRUNNER, DUSKY-CAPPED FLYCATCHER, ROCK and CANYON WRENS, and LAZULI BUNTING.
Ruby Rd, east of Calabasas Campground:
A pair of GRAY HAWKS is in this area again, which is interesting as it’s the transition from oaks to mesquite habitat. Gray Hawks have been doing really well in the past few years, and have expanded their range from the classic riparian cottonwoods and willows into secondary habitats such as lower canyons with sycamores. This, however, is a tertiary habitat type at best.
We didn’t have high expectations during the heat of the afternoon, but it went rather well. The major highlight was when I casually checked out a vaguely owl-shaped lump near the top of an oak tree, which surprisingly turned out to be a small owl. Even more surprising, it was a FLAMMULATED OWL! Typically they are hole-roosting birds which inhabit much higher elevations, but it’s possible that they ‘stage’ on migration in lower canyons such as this. They are rare even in places you’d hope to find them at night, so finding one in the daytime at this elevation was akin to winning the lottery!
We heard RUFOUS-CAPPED WARBLER calling briefly but never got a look at it. Also in the canyon, we encountered BROAD-TAILED HUMMINGBIRD (another bird that passes through lower canyons in spring on their way to high elevation), LAZULI BUNTING, and HOODED ORIOLE. What a fantastic day in SE Arizona!