Ten very chilly birders met our guide, Kendall K. 7am at the Jack-in-the-Box on Ina Road this morning. There were several of the usual suspects along with some newcomers on the trip and it made quite a good group today. We picked car pool assignments and headed north to the Marana exit of I-10. Our first stop was along Trico Road to check for Burrowing Owls. We got great looks at one perched on one of the PVC pipes in the field and also saw Black Vultures, Loggerhead Shrike, and many White-crowned Sparrows. We didn’t stay here long as it was still pretty cold.
Next we headed to our main viewing area of Simpson Farm which was north of our first stop. Both the city of Tucson and TAS are doing tremendous work here in restoring this area. We worked our way along the “path” which really isn’t much of a path, but more a bending in the weeds. As we worked our way along, the day began to warm up quickly and we all had shed at least two layers by the time we got back to the cars. Occasionally, we wandered down toward the river or up along the birm and out along the valley. We flushed 2 separate Barn Owls out of whatever those green fluffy trees were. It was on one of these forays up to the birm that we spotted the first white-tailed Kite sitting in a bare willow tree along side a Western Meadowlark. We all watched him for several minutes when someone spotted 2 more flying over the fields! As if that were not site enough, there were also about 20 Mountain Bluebirds flitting among the low bushy vegetation in the valley. No one knew quite where to look for a few minutes. Species also seen here include Mallard, Gambel’s Quail, more Black Vultures (excellent views of them), Northern Harrier (at one point being chased by a WTK), Sharp-shinned Hawk (also allowed good looks), Cooper’s Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk, American Kestrel, Mo Do (of course), Red-naped Sapsucker, at least three Loggerhead Shrikes (but, you know, three shrikes and you’re out! Yuk yuk!), Common Raven, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Black-tailed Gnatcatcher (one came very close to us in the salt bush), Orange-crowned Warbler, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Abert’s Towhee, plus Chipping, Brewer’s, Vesper, Lark, Lincoln’s, and White-crowned Sparrows.
Finally, most of us ventured a little farther north to the wheat/cotton farms just south of the Pinal Air Park. Here we added Say’s Phoebe, Black Phoebe, Gila Woodpecker, Ladder-backed Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Brewer’s and Yellow-headed Blackbirds, and, best of all, White-throated Swifts*. To top it all off, I picked up greater Roadrunner at the corner of Ina and Silverbell on the way home to bring the total to 39 species for the day.