Saturday, October 14, 2006

Whhheeeeeee!!!! I hit 350!

Santa Cruz River at Esperanza Ranch

I wasn’t sure if this walk would go or not as the weather people have been predicting rain and storms all week for this weekend. However, there were clouds, but no rain when I left this morning and, as it turned out, the weather people were wrong (again). We met our leader, Kendall, just off Irvington Road which is on the south side of Tucson and then traveled to a second meeting place in Green Valley. I drove this week after assurances from Kendall that my car would make it. Newbie Leslie (today was her very first birding trip!) and old-timer/ field guide, Bob rode with me to Esperanza Ranch which is just north of Nogales on I-19.

As we walked down the access road to the ranch, we met two more birders who said they saw a Black-throated Gray warbler. As I didn’t see it, I’m not counting it among today’s list, but it was a “Darn! That one got away” bird! It wasn’t long before we came to a small pond that was rich in birdlife. Here we saw: Barn Swallow, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, American Coot, Lesser Scaup, Pied-billed Grebes, Vermilion Flycatcher, Say’s Phoebe, Yellow-headed Blackbirds, Mallards, and Yellow-rumped Warblers. We spotted a Great-horned Owl who had been roused from his hiding place and flew over the pond (twice). He was really a treat!

We again saw many sparrows this week. Around the back end of the pond, we had Brewer’s, Lark*, Lincoln’s, Savannah, White-crowned and Vesper sparrows. Another great treat was an entire flock of Lawrence’s Goldfinch*. The males were still very beautiful in their (not quite dismantled) breeding plumage. Another frequently seen, but never tiring bird was the Lazuli Bunting* – a lifer for me. As pretty as the males were, I was also fascinated by the females who looked as though someone dunked their tails in blue ink.

Moving along the trail behind the pond, the amaranth fields yielded a few more surprises for us. Among the first was a Loggerhead Shrike and a Northern Harrier. One of the best though was a Plumbeous Vireo* who was singing in one of the mesquite trees. His white spectacles and gray plumage were easily spotted with bins.

Other notable passerines today were: Abert’s Towhee, Green-tailed Towhee, Barn Swallow, Black Phoebe, Bewick’s Wren, Cassin’s Kingbird, Common Ground Dove, Gila woodpecker, House finch (that’s for Leslie – her first!), Ladder-backed Woodpecker, Lesser Goldfinch (nice contrast with seeing the Lawrence’s today), Mourning Dove, and Northern Cardinal.

At the end point, while we were watching the Common Ground Dove, two Black-bellied Whistling Ducks and a Greater White-fronted Goose were spotted. We also found a Loggerhead Shrike who had caught his breakfast, a lizard, and had it speared on a mesquite thorn. I had often seen that behavior illustrated in books, but never in real life. Cool! As we headed back toward the pond, someone spotted a Green Heron, American Kestrel, Solitary Sandpiper, and Northern Flicker (red-shafted). I count 42 species (not including the Black-throated Gray warbler or the Red-naped Sapsucker that I didn’t see). It was very much worth risking the rain!

Life List count: 353!

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