Billed as “Raptors, Thrashers, and Sparrows of the Santa Cruz Flats”, our guide Doug Jenness led us northeast on I-10 to the Red Rock exit. From there we did “stop and go” birding from the cars which was quite an event since there were eleven cars in the group. Our first real stop produced a Barn Swallow, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Gren-tailed Towhee and a small flock of Green-winged Teal that flew over our heads. As we couldn’t ford the Santa Cruz River in our cars, we birded the banks of the river for a few minutes mostly producing nothing. Heading back to the cars and turning around we made our way around a blurry maze of back roads, all unpaved and some requiring downright daredevil driving skills (picture an indentation in the dust just wide enough for two tires between an irrigation ditch and a dirt ditch), along this agricultural area (cattle, cotton, sorghum, and sod). It was quite productive for Mountain Plover*, Crested Caracra*, Mountain Bluebird*, Lawrence’s Goldfinch, Lark Bunting, Horned Larks, American Pipits, Kildeer, Yellow-headed Blackbirds, Red-winged Blackbirds, and Gila Woodpeckers. The Caracaras and Mountain Plover were particularly interesting because we were able to get really good looks at them. One plover even walked up to have its picture taken. Very cute! There were a few Bendaire’s Thrashers as well as some sparrows, but I never got a good enough look at any of them to “own” them for the day.
In the course of the day, we spotted quite a few raptors in addition to the Caracras: Cooper’s Hawk, Northern Harrier, American Kestrel, Peregrine Falcon and several morphs of Red-tailed Hawk including dark morph and Southwestern. We ended at a small pond in Arizona City where the lighting was bad, but which produced American Coots, Redhead Duck, and Ruddy Ducks, but no Wideons as far as we could tell. Highlight of the trip home was a much needed stop at Baskin-Robbins for some chocolate ice cream with hot fudge sauce. Oh yeah!