Saturday, December 23, 2006

Sweetwater Wetlands

The group this morning was an interesting mix of birders from parts as far away as California, Vermont, New York City and South Africa. We were led by co-leaders Peggy Wenrick and Liz Payne and started the day enveloped in thick fog that delayed any good views of birds for the first 45 minutes or so. The fog gave us a chance to refine our birding by ear skills for American Coots, Soras, American Widgeon, and Common Moorhens. We also concentrated on viewing the few passerines we could discern in the trees directly in front of us. We spotted Orange-crowned Warbler, Yellow-rumped warbler, female Summer Tanager*, Abert’s Towhee, Song Sparrow, and several Ruby-crowned Kinglets.

Gradually, we began to see the outlines of coots like ghosts in the shadowy recesses of the water. As the sun rose and warmed the air, the fog quickly burned off. Above us, several flocks of Yellow-headed Blackbirds flew. The sight of these birds with their bright yellow heads sparkling in the sun drew enthusiastic oohs and aahs from visitors and Tucson residents alike (myself included). There were probably several hundred of the. Soon we were able to see the ducks in the ponds (Pied-billed Grebe, Blue-winged Teal, Green-winged Teal, and Cinnamon Teal, American Widgeon, Bufflehead, and Ruddy Duck). The Red-tailed Hawk with the stick/arrow in his wing was seen on his usual roost as was the Harris’ Hawk. Sid, as per his usual, picked out a wonderful Prairie Falcon specimen sitting on a far-away electric tower. A Cooper’s Hawk was also briefly seen.

As we made our way around the ponds, we saw more ducks and lots (relatively speaking - more than I’ve ever seen in one place at one time) of Common Moorhens. When we got to one of the lookouts, we had wonderful views of a Green Heron and a Sora that stayed for a long time! We checked the back pond for Kildeer and shore birds, but there wasn’t one blessed bird in that pond. With that I bid adieu to the group to begin my little trip to Phoenix. Highlights of the day were definitely the Yellow-headed Blackbirds, the fluorescent green of the Green-winged teal and Green Heron, and the long looks at the Sora.

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