The ‘sewer’ tour was shortened by our substitute leader, Darlene Smyth who had to pinch hit for the original leader and his substitute. After scouting the sites listed in TAS’s description, Darlene concluded that Sweetwater Wetlands was the best bet. The five followers and our leader carpooled to Sweetwater as the sun rose. Despite the chilly start, a finer day in Tucson could not be found once the sun burned off the lingering cloud cover. Until then, those of us who had two layers of clothing wished for a third and the luckiest among us still had their hats and gloves in our birding bags.
Darlene asked us to be as quiet as possible so we crept around the ponds which I think helped us gain more species. One of the first birds we saw was a Cassin’s Vireo* in the cottonwood tree near the parking lot. He was a very cooperative bird and we all got good looks at his spectacles. There were also hundreds of Red-winged and Yellow-headed Blackbirds and Great-tailed Grackles among the cattails making so much racket it reminded me of Jurassic Park. Interestingly, the male Red-wings were concentrated in the cattails while the females seemed to be feeding in the almost-dry recharge basins. Also in the recharge basins were 3 or 4 Killdeer.
Ducks included Gadwall, American Widgeon, Mallard, Blue-winged Teal, Cinnamon Teal, Northern Shovelers (quite possibly every one in the country was at Sweetwater), Green-winged Teal, and several beautiful Ruddy Duck males in full breeding plumage. Among the reeds we also spied many American Coots, a Sora, Common Gallinule, and a Virginia Rail. We spotted a Harris’ Hawk from the parking lot and also saw a pair of Red-tailed Hawks, American Kestrel, Common Raven and Turkey Vulture.
Of course, there were plenty of MoDo’s to be found which Darlene told us have a pinkish cast to the breast feathers. There was also one Eurasian-collared Dove which isn’t listed on the Sweetwater checklist. Smaller birds included 2 woodpeckers (Gila and Ladder-backed), Cactus and Marsh wren, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Orange-crowned Warbler, Wilson’s Warbler, and a hundred-gazillion Yellow-rumped Warblers. We also spotted a few pairs of Abert’s Towhees, Common Yellowthroat, Phainopepla, European Starling, tons of Song Sparrows, quite a few White-crowned Sparrows and Lesser Goldfinches, Black Phoebe, House Finch and House Sparrow.
The biggest disappointment was not seeing the Rose-breasted Grosbeak that brought many people out this morning. We searched every bird in every willow, but to no avail. By the time we finished 2 trips around the ponds (a little after noontime), the sun was downright hot and we were all glad for the cool and comfort of the ride back to the meeting place.