Tuesday, March 31, 2009

There's a bird on my head!

Happy New Year! Yesterday, Susannah and I birded the Wilcoxx/ Sulphur Springs valley area. We started out with a drive around Cochise Lake where we saw many American Coots and Northern Shovelers as well as Common Mergansers, a raft of Ruddy Ducks and a lone Canvasback, American Pipits, and a crazy Say's Phoebe who thought I was a perch and alighted on my hat! That guy gets the Bird of the Year award!

We also checked out the small pond by the golf course and found some Pied-billed Grebes, a gorgeous Green Heron, an immature Black-crowned heron, and a few American Widgeons. Then we headed south on Kansas Settlement road and a made a few stops along the road seeing a frustratingly difficult-to-ID flock of mixed sparrows. We did ID the White-crowned and Chipping sparrows mixed with Lark Buntings. In the same field, we saw a Curve-billed Thrasher that we tried to make into a Bendire's, but no luck. That bill was way too big and curved.

On the way down to White Water Draw there were surprising few raptors on the poles. We did spot a few Red-tailed Hawks and Northern Harriers though as well as a few Loggerhead Shrikes on the wires.

When we finally got to WWD around noon, we found 2 Soras (!) among the numerous Coots and Shovelers. We checked out the Soras for a long time. It's unusual to be able to see those guys and not just hear them. We walked around the dike to the first viewing platform to get better looks at the Sandhill Cranes that we could hear but not see and immediately saw something blazing white out on one of the many sandbars (the water level is probably as low as I've ever seen it). Could that be what I think it is? YES! A Bald Eagle just sitting there looking amazingly majestic. We put the scope on him and all thought of seeing Sandhill Cranes passed out of our minds.

When we finally tore ourselves away from him/her, we got some great looks at the 1 to 2 thousand Sandhills at the back edge of the draw. Susannah also spotted a Kildeer and several Dunlin working the edges of the sandbars. As we continued around the dikes, we found two florescent orange Vermillion Flycatchers showing us their tricks. One last look at the barn storage yielded 2 Great Horned Owls sleeping the day away. We had spent 2 hours there!

Our way back north on 191 produced a few more birds (American Kestrel and Harris' Hawk) to round out the day nicely. Total species count: 37 :-)