Journal - October, 2001
If you use the contents of my journal for commercial purposes,
please acknowledge the source to your clients - thanks.
Bottom of Page
This log is in chronological order and the most recent entries
are at the bottom of the page.
The last update was on Tuesday, October 30, 2001
Monday, October 1, 2001
Yesterday morning's overcast in Sierra Vista turned into about 8 hours of moderate but persistent rain during the afternoon and evening. Similar conditions continued this morning at Whitewater Draw where I again encountered cloudy skies, on and off rain, and gusty winds. Despite the less than ideal weather, birding was very good.
In terms of rarity, the best bird was a previously reported TRICOLORED HERON, present in the southeast corner of the northwest pond. The bird was not visible from the west dike and could only be seen by walking north along the main north-south dike then cutting across to the other north-south dike that lies west of the main dike. Even from here it was hard to see as it foraged under cover of the willows.
A better bird for me, however, was a singing WESTERN MEADOWLARK that represented my earliest fall record for Cochise County. My previous early date was 10/12/96 and the average return date here seems to be around October 18.
Other birds of note included 2-GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GOOSE resting on the now extensive mud flats, a PEREGRINE FALCON that failed to nail anything, and a few SANDHILL CRANES (just a tad early perhaps, the 2nd week of October is more typical).
Shorebird habitat is now excellent and there was a decent showing today with 8-LONG-BILLED CURLEWS, 20-GREATER YELLOWLEGS, 15-LONG-BILLED DOWITCHERS, 1-SPOTTED, 6-WESTERN, 10-LEAST and 15-BAIRD'S SANDPIPERS, 8-BLACK-NECKED STILTS, 80-AM. AVOCETS and 2-SEMIPALMATED PLOVERS. There was a recent report of two Sanderlings and at one point (helped perhaps by wishful thinking) I thought I had found them. The birds in question turned out to be very pale and distant Western Sandpipers. In the end it was their feeding action that clued me in. Sanderlings are generally less than annual in SE AZ, but this year there seem to have been a few around.
Other species in the water and on the mud included many of the winter duck species, GREAT & SNOWY EGRETS, GREEN HERON, BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT-HERON, RING-BILLED GULL and a too-far-to-id gull.
Sparrows were well represented with SONG, LINCOLN'S, plentiful SAVANNAH, and a few CHIPPING, BREWER'S and VESPER SPARROWS. Amazingly, I didn't see a single White-crowned at Whitewater Draw proper nor on Coffman Road. Other passerines included scads of WESTERN KINGBIRDS and TREE SWALLOWS, WILSON'S WARBLER, PYRRHULOXIA and a good sized flock of LAZULI BUNTINGS.
I recorded the following species from 8:00-10:00am.
Ruddy Duck, Greater White-fronted Goose, Am. Wigeon, Gadwall, Green-winged Teal, Mallard, N. Pintail, N. Shoveler, Redhead, Ring-necked Duck, Tricolored Heron, Snowy Egret, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Green Heron, Black-crowned Night-Heron, Turkey Vulture, N. Harrier, Red-tailed Hawk Am. Kestrel, Peregrine Falcon, Scaled Quail, Am. Coot, Sandhill Crane, Long-billed Curlew, Greater Yellowlegs, Long-billed Dowitcher, Spotted, Western, Least & Baird's Sandpipers, Black-necked Stilt, Am. Avocet, Semipalmated Plover, Killdeer, Ring-billed Gull, Mourning Dove, Belted Kingfisher, Say's & Black Phoebes, Western Kingbird, Chihuahuan Raven, Loggerhead Shrike, N. Mockingbird, Marsh Wren, Tree, Violet-green & Barn Swallows, Horned Lark, Lesser Goldfinch, House Finch, Common Yellowthroat, Wilson's Warbler, Song, Lincoln's, Savannah, Chipping, Brewer's & Vesper Sparrows, Canyon Towhee, Pyrrhuloxia, Lazuli Bunting, Yellow-headed Blackbird and Eastern & Western Meadowlarks.
Wednesday, October 3, 2001
Today I started a two week working trip by driving to California and doing some scouting along the way. I spent about 4 1/2 hours at the south end of the Salton Sea, checking on a few species, then continued west through the San Jacinto Mountains.
By its own standards, conditions at the Salton Sea were relatively cool and tolerable. It was still warm, of course, at around 90 degrees but certainly not the 115 degrees as on my last visit. I birded on Sinclair, Garst and Poe Roads, the trees around refuge HQ, and at Red Hill Marina and Obsidian Cove. I spent an inordinate amount of time looking for Yellow-footed Gull, mostly at Red Hill where I found a large concentration of gulls spread out over 1/2 mile and 6 birds deep. I scanned the flock numerous times from different angles but didn't have any success until most of the flock took flight revealing a single YELLOW-FOOTED GULL. In other locations I found good numbers of LAUGHING GULLS and repeated the process looking for another target -- FRANKLIN'S GULL. They certainly weren't common but I did find a few. The only other gulls seen were RING-BILLED, CALIFORNIA and HERRING. Terns were represented by CASPIAN, FORSTER'S and BLACK, the latter two being very common.
Shorebirds were plentiful with AM. AVOCET particularly abundant, WHITE-FACED IBIS and MARBLED GODWIT were also very numerous. I only looked specifically for SNOWY PLOVER and I again found just one individual in with SEMIPALMATED PLOVERS. I wanted to do more shorebirding along Davis Rd but ran out of time.
My list at the sea was as follows:
Eared, Western & Clark's Grebes, Double-crested Cormorant, Am. White Pelican, Brown Pelican, Ruddy Duck, Snow Goose, Mallard, N. Pintail, N. Shoveler, Snowy Egret, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Cattle Egret, White-faced Ibis, Osprey, Red-tailed Hawk, Am. Kestrel, Gambel's Quail, Am. Coot, Marbled Godwit, Long-billed Curlew, Greater Yellowlegs, Lesser Yellowlegs, Willet, Short-billed Dowitcher, Long-billed Dowitcher, Western Sandpiper, Least Sandpiper. Black-necked Stilt, Am. Avocet, Black-bellied Plover, Semipalmated Plover, Killdeer, Snowy Plover, Ring-billed Gull, California Gull, Yellow-footed Gull, Herring Gull, Laughing Gull, Franklin's Gull, Black Tern, Caspian Tern, Forster's Tern, Black Skimmer, Mourning Dove, Common Ground-Dove, Burrowing Owl, Belted Kingfisher, Say's Phoebe, Black Phoebe, Loggerhead Shrike, N. Mockingbird, European Starling, Rock Wren, Marsh Wren, Verdin, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Tree Swallow, Barn Swallow, House Sparrow, Orange-crowned Warbler, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, Song Sparrow, Savannah Sparrow, Abert's Towhee, Red-winged Blackbird, Western Meadowlark and Great-tailed Grackle.
I didn't do much birding in the mountains and I saw mostly roadside birds as I was driving along listening (unsuccessfully) for Pinyon Jay. Among the species that I recorded were BAND-TAILED PIGEON, WHITE-HEADED WOODPECKER, WESTERN SCRUB-JAY, STELLER'S JAY, PYGMY NUTHATCH, MOUNTAIN CHICKADEE, BUSHTIT, WESTERN BLUEBIRD and CALIFORNIA TOWHEE.
Thursday, October 4, 2001
The first of 6 days with Carmen Tarantino and Colleen Martin from Buffalo, NY. This marks the fourth time this year that I've birded with Carmen, twice previously in AZ and once in TX. Over the next week we'll be doing some "relaxed target birding" (if there is such a thing), mostly in southern California although we may venture a little further north if time permits. As you'll see, it wasn't a particularly auspicious start bird-wise or otherwise.
I had a few hours this morning before meeting Carmen and Colleen at Long Beach airport so I killed time by checking around Huntingdon Beach for Tricolored Blackbird. I've seen them here a few times in the past but I didn't find any today. Among the species I recorded in various central park locations were BELTED KINGFISHER, DOWNY & NUTTALL'S WOODPECKERS, BUSHTIT, TOWNSEND'S WARBLER and CALIFORNIA TOWHEE. I also made a brief visit to Bolsa Chica to see if it would be worth a visit later in the day. There was very little activity and none of the birders present had seen the recently present Curlew Sandpiper. A huge flock of BLACK-BELLIED PLOVERS were the most conspicuous species along with the almost tame BELDING'S SAVANNAH SPARROWS.
The first mishap of the day occurred at Long Beach airport when I inadvertently left my vehicle window open in the long term parking lot. After meeting Carmen and Colleen and picking up his rental vehicle, we returned to my vehicle to collect my stuff only to find that a thief had seized the moment. Amazingly, all that was missing was a $20 tape player and a California Delorme Atlas. In plain view and not taken were my scope, binoculars and laptop. I guess I should count myself lucky! However, it does leave a bad taste in the mouth to know that such things can happen.
After lunch we spent a couple of hours at Newport Back Bay to look for CALIFORNIA GNATCATCHER. I've never missed them here and although we did locate one today, we were unable to get to it. Some of the habitat in Big Canyon is being restored and we didn't trespass in order to see it. Very frustrating! We did pick up one target bird -- ELEGANT TERN to slightly redeem the situation. Among the other species from 30 recorded were OSPREY, BLACK SKIMMER, and side by side LONG and SHORT-BILLED DOWITCHERS (thankfully, calling).
We discovered the second mishap of the day when checking into our San Diego hotel -- Carmen was missing a credit card, lost somewhere between lunch, birding at Back Bay and a stop for coffee along the way to San Diego. Oh well, let's hope that things improve tomorrow!
Friday, October 5, 2001
Day 2 with Carmen and Colleen and a rare day when the logistics in terms of target bird route and tides worked out very well. We were also pretty successful and Carmen picked up 11 lifers for the day. Our only real miss among the birds specifically looked for was Surfbird, a bird that should have been a no-brainer.
We began at Otay Lakes where CALIFORNIA GNATCATCHER was relatively easy to locate but required a modicum of persistence to see well. We checked the lake hoping for CLARK'S GREBE but the only bird seen among many WESTERN GREBES was way too distant to be a satisfactory life view, so we'll save that for another day. We recorded 30 species here including EARED GREBE, RED-SHOULDERED HAWK, CASSIN'S KINGBIRD, FORSTER'S TERN, SAGE SPARROW and CALIFORNIA TOWHEE.
Next stop was Tijuana Slough NWR (Seacoast Drive) at high tide. At least 6 CLAPPER RAILS were close to the street but we had to work much longer than I had hoped before seeing one of them!
We didn't linger after seeing the bird and moved over to 13th Street in Imperial Beach. I've found the impoundments here to be reliable for RED-NECKED PHALAROPE and at least 30 were present today. Also present were lots of AM. AVOCETS and a lone HORNED GREBE, just about right on time in southern California.
We hurried north to La Jolla where the tide hadn't receded much and we had to wait around quite a while before the "rock pipers" started feeding. Our targets were BLACK TURNSTONE (many seen), WANDERING TATTLER (at least 4 were present) and Surfbird which we didn't see at all despite about 2 1/2 hours of searching. We also picked up four more target birds with BRANDT'S and PELAGIC CORMORANTS, HEERMANN'S GULL in all plumages except adult, and a juvenile SABINE'S GULL. Other species included a couple of WHIMBRELS, SPOTTED SANDPIPER, WILLET, lots of RUDDY TURNSTONES, SANDERLING, BLACK-BELLIED PLOVER and ELEGANT TERN.
Our last destination of the day was Santee Lakes where TRICOLORED BLACKBIRDS were relatively easy to find at lake #5, a location that I've seen them at several times in the past. More spectacular, however, were the many WOOD DUCKS. Other species included GREEN HERON, COOPER'S HAWK, BELTED KINGFISHER and NUTTALL'S WOODPECKER.
Our list for the day was as follows:
Pied-billed, Horned, Eared, Western and Clark's Grebes, Brandt's, Double-crested and Pelagic Cormorants, Brown Pelican, Ruddy Duck, Wood Duck, Gadwall, Mallard, N. Shoveler, Snowy Egret, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Green Heron, N. Harrier, Cooper's, Red-shouldered & Red-tailed Hawks, Am. Kestrel, Clapper Rail, Sora, Am. Coot, Whimbrel, Spotted Sandpiper, Wandering Tattler, Willet, Ruddy & Black Turnstones, Long-billed Dowitcher, Sanderling, Red-necked Phalarope, Black-necked Stilt, Am. Avocet, Black-bellied Plover, Heermann's, Western & Sabine's Gulls, Elegant & Forster's Terns, Rock & Mourning Doves, Anna's Hummingbird, Belted Kingfisher, Nuttall's Woodpecker, Say's & Black Phoebes, Cassin's Kingbird, Western Scrub-Jay, Am. Crow, European Starling, House Wren, California Gnatcatcher, Bushtit, Barn Swallow, Horned Lark, House Finch, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, Song, White-crowned, Savannah & Sage Sparrows, Spotted & California Towhees, Tricolored Blackbird, Great-tailed Grackle and Brewer's Blackbird.
Saturday, October 6, 2001
Day 3 with Carmen and Colleen was a very long day of birding and travel in search of a handful of target birds. We left San Diego at 5:30am for a trip to the Salton Sea after which we battled the traffic on I-10 and headed into the San Gabriel Mountains northeast of Los Angeles. We reached our intended overnight destination of Buellton at 8:30pm only to find all accommodations there and in neighboring Solvang completely full, and we eventually ended up in Lompoc to extend our day just a little more.
Conditions at the Salton Sea were very much in our favor with cloudy skies that kept the temperature quite pleasant. Unfortunately, I can't quite say the same for the smell! After spending some time photographing a couple of BURROWING OWLS we went on to find 3 out of 4 target birds. After a quick look along Garst Road at lots of regular and common species and a great look at PEREGRINE FALCON, we headed to Red Hill to look for YELLOW-FOOTED GULL. I was happy to find a single bird in almost the same place as a couple of days ago among a large flock of mostly RING-BILLED GULLS and a few CALIFORNIA GULLS, also a target bird. At Obsidian Cove we found several FRANKLIN'S GULLS, target #3, among many LAUGHING GULLS. We struck out on Clark's Grebe finding only a single WESTERN GREBE. Nevertheless, an excellent start to the day.
After a long drive we birded in the Chilao area of the San Gabriel Mountains where we found three target birds in quick succession -- a small flock of BAND-TAILED PIGEONS feeding on the ground, a couple of very elusive RED-BREASTED SAPSUCKERS, and lots of very vocal and visible WHITE-HEADED WOODPECKERS. We found a sapsucker almost as we arrived but it took quite some time before we were able to get a decent look.
Eared & Western Grebes, Double-crested Cormorant, Am. White & Brown Pelicans, Ruddy Duck, Snowy, Great & Cattle Egrets, Great Blue Heron, White-faced Ibis, Turkey Vulture, Osprey, N. Harrier, Am. Kestrel, Peregrine Falcon, Marbled Godwit, Willet, Long-billed Dowitcher, Western & Least Sandpipers, Black-necked Stilt, Am. Avocet, Black-bellied Plover, Ring-billed, California, Yellow-footed, Herring, Laughing & Franklin's Gulls, Black, Caspian & Forster's Terns, Black Skimmer, Band-tailed Pigeon, Burrowing Owl, Acorn Woodpecker, Red-naped & Red-breasted Sapsuckers, White-headed Woodpecker, N. Flicker, Say's & Black Phoebes, Steller's Jay, Western Scrub-Jay, Common Raven, Loggerhead Shrike, Western Bluebird, Pygmy & White-breasted Nuthatches, Tree & Barn Swallows, Mountain Chickadee, Oak Titmouse, Red Crossbill, Dark-eyed Junco, Savannah Sparrow, Spotted Towhee, Yellow-headed & Red-winged Blackbirds, Western Meadowlark, Great-tailed Grackle and Brewer's Blackbird.
Sunday, October 7, 2001
Day 4 with Carmen and Colleen was a much more relaxed day than yesterday with far less traveling. It was a cool day with morning overcast and afternoon sun. We tried for 6 target birds and found 4 birding along Alisal Road in Solvang, at Lopez Lake near Arroyo Grande, and at Oceano willows and Montaņa de Oro State Park in San Louis Obispo County..
As usual, YELLOW-BILLED MAGPIES were easy to find shortly after we left Solvang and started down Alisal Road (I've never missed them here, touch wood!). Getting a decent photograph was a somewhat more difficult task.
Next stop was Lopez Lake which was packed with weekend campers and boaters. The only grebes that we positively identified were WESTERN GREBES and we struck out on Clark's for the second day in a row.
We had better success at Oceano where we immediately found our target TOWNSEND'S WARBLER along with ORANGE-CROWNED, NASHVILLE and BLACK-THROATED GRAY WARBLERS. Carmen was able to get some decent photos of a very cooperative BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT-HERON. A cheerful group of CHESTNUT-BACKED CHICKADEES were a little more active and difficult to see.
We spent a pleasant afternoon at a sunny and windless Montaņa de Oro State Park looking for three target birds. The ever elusive WRENTITS were extremely common but it took us a couple of hours in two separate sessions before we all managed to see one satisfactorily. Ironically, CALIFORNIA THRASHER found us on two occasions. The rest of our time was devoted to looking unsuccessfully for Surfbird. During the search we had a side by side comparison of BRANDT'S and PELAGIC CORMORANTS and great looks at BLACK OYSTERCATCHER, WHIMBREL and WANDERING TATTLER.
Pied-billed, Horned & Western Grebes, Brandt's, Pelagic & Double-crested Cormorants, Brown Pelican, Mallard, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Green Heron, Black-crowned Night-Heron, Turkey Vulture, Red-shouldered & Red-tailed Hawks, Wild Turkey, California Quail, Whimbrel, Spotted Sandpiper, Wandering Tattler, Black Oystercatcher, Heermann's, Ring-billed & Western Gulls, Anna's Hummingbird, Belted Kingfisher. Acorn & Downy Woodpeckers, N. Flicker, Black Phoebe, Western Scrub-Jay, Yellow-billed Magpie, Am. Crow, Hutton's & Warbling Vireos, Western Bluebird, California Thrasher, Bewick's & House Wrens, Bushtit, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Wrentit, Chestnut-backed Chickadee, House Finch, Orange-crowned, Nashville, Black-throated Gray & Townsend's Warblers, Common Yellowthroat, Song & White-crowned Sparrows, Spotted & California Towhees, Western Meadowlark and Brewer's Blackbird.
Monday, October 8, 2001
Day 5 with Carmen and Colleen saw us return to Montaņa de Oro State Park to work on a couple more target birds, one of which was leaving (Hermit Warbler) and the other just arriving (Golden-crowned Sparrow). The number of people present was way down from yesterday although a good number of birders were around, no doubt bolstered by the fact that several eastern vagrants were found here yesterday.
The willow areas were quite active with ORANGE-CROWNED, NASHVILLE and TOWNSEND'S WARBLERS, and resident WRENTITS and CALIFORNIA THRASHERS were both very vocal in the chaparral. On the way in to the campground we heard a CANYON WREN singing and later saw this very handsome and underrated bird. We concentrated on the pines in the campground since this was the most likely area for Hermit Warbler. Here we met a local birder who told us that most of them have left the area but he did give us the location of where he had seen one on Saturday. Our walk around the campground wasn't entirely unproductive, however, since we did find a couple of GOLDEN-CROWNED SPARROWS. Other species included CALIFORNIA QUAIL, NUTTALL'S WOODPECKER and FOX SPARROW.
Next, we checked the pines at nearby Los Osos middle school where we were able to relocate the aforementioned HERMIT WARBLER by call among the more numerous TOWNSEND'S WARBLERS. Unfortunately, the bird remained very high in the treetops and we only had a fleeting glimpse. Definitely a BVD job. Even more frustrating was our encounter with a CASSIN'S VIREO that I heard singing and just could not track down. This bird also stayed high in the trees and we never saw any movement at all. Not much else of note here but we did see our first LESSER GOLDFINCHES of the trip.
Almost all the remainder of the day was spent driving from Morro Bay to Oceanside, a compromise location in between where we wanted to bird tomorrow and where we had to end up in the evening, and we a made only a couple of stops.
A Yellow-green Vireo was found yesterday in Goleta, near Santa Barbara, and we made a token visit since it was on our way. Unfortunately, our noon arrival time pretty much guaranteed minimal activity and that coupled with the lack of birders present soon sent us on our way.
Our next location was the Palos Verdes Peninsula to look for Allen's Hummingbird and Spotted Dove. It was cool, cloudy and windy when we arrived at Point Fermin in the late afternoon and birds of any kind were hard to come by. Eventually, I induced a SPOTTED DOVE to call from one of the many dense trees in the park and we were able to track it down in the canopy. After that we checked Averill Park and neighborhood flowers and feeders for Allen's but only came up with ANNA'S HUMMINGBIRD.
Pied-billed Grebe, Double-crested Cormorant, Am. White & Brown Pelicans, Mallard, Snowy Egret, Cooper's Hawk, American Kestrel, California Quail, Marbled Godwit, Long-billed Curlew, Semipalmated Plover, Killdeer, Western Gull, Spotted Dove, Anna's Hummingbird, Belted Kingfisher, Nuttall's Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, N. Flicker, Black Phoebe, Western Scrub-Jay, Am. Crow, Cassin's Vireo, N. Mockingbird, California Thrasher, Canyon & House Wrens, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Bushtit, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Wrentit, Lesser Goldfinch, House Finch, Orange-crowned, Nashville, Townsend's & Hermit Warblers, Fox, Song, White-crowned & Golden-crowned Sparrows and Spotted & California Towhees.
Tuesday, October 9, 2001
Day 6 and final day with Carmen and Colleen. After an horrendous but thankfully short drive in commute traffic from Oceanside to La Jolla, we started our day by working the rocky areas in La Jolla cove in search of Surfbird. Disappointingly, our results were the same as a few days ago in that we saw the expected rock species except Surfbird! Nevertheless, this is a beautiful and enjoyable location to visit and Carmen was able to get some close up photographs of a few species. Several times I had WHIMBREL, WANDERING TATTLER and BLACK TURNSTONE in the same binocular view. Also present were small flocks of RUDDY TURNSTONES, SANDERLINGS, WESTERN SANDPIPERS and BLACK-BELLIED & SEMIPALMATED PLOVERS, a few LEAST and SPOTTED SANDPIPERS and 8-ELEGANT TERNS.
Although they are less common there, and the high tide was now against us, we decided to head south to Point Loma to continue searching for Surfbird. As might be expected, we again came up empty. BRANDT'S and PELAGIC CORMORANTS were easy to see side by side at Sunset Cliffs and WANDERING TATTLER was among the birds at Cabrillo Point.
After missing Clark's Grebe at the Salton Sea (where it should have been easy) we've been fighting a losing battle to find one. On our return to Oceanside we decided to make a small detour to check Lake Hodges where Western and Clark's Grebes are reputedly "common from fall to spring". This is a location that I had not previously visited and it turned out to be quite an adventure.
The first thing we learned is that there isn't an overlook where you can scan the lake, in fact, there isn't any vehicle access at all. The lake level was very low and this made for quite a walk to get close to the water. From a distance we could tell that at least 4 Western type grebes were present so we continued on. There was one "bay" of the lake that was completely dry (or so we thought) that meant an even longer walk to get around it, so we decided to cut across -- mistake! Just a few feet into this area of weeds and "dry", cracked mud I sank down into some very wet and yucky looking black mud. It was deep enough to be 4 inches above my knees, what a shock. With some help from Carmen and my 'scope I was able to extract myself after about 5 minutes. I can laugh about it now but it sure was scary at the time.
At the expense of a slightly extended short cut we used the weeds as a way to cross the mud and eventually made it across to the water. Although we could now see only 2 grebes, they turned out to be CLARK'S GREBES so our efforts were not in vain. In the end we spent 2 1/2 hours and walked 4 1/2 miles round trip to see these birds, probably the most effort I've ever expended to see a Clark's Grebe. During the walk I thought about the hundreds of Clark's Grebes that would be present on Roosevelt Lake in AZ.
Nevertheless, an exciting adventure and another target bird found to bring the trip to an end on a good note. In fact, we eventually got close enough to see all the field marks well. As a bonus, on our return walk we had excellent looks at a pristine WHITE-TAILED KITE hunting on the wing and perched on a snag. We didn't pay much attention to other birds here but we did record 30 species including N. HARRIER, LONG-BILLED DOWITCHER, FORSTER'S TERN, CASSIN'S KINGBIRD, BLACK & SAY'S PHOEBES, TREE SWALLOW, WRENTIT and BREWER'S BLACKBIRD.
From October 4-9 we traveled 1600 miles, mostly along the coast between San Diego and Morro Bay, with inland trips to the Salton Sea and San Gabriel Mountains. We enjoyed good weather throughout, cool and cloudy along the coast and sunny and pleasantly warm inland. We managed to find and see well 25 target birds. In addition, we located Hermit Warbler and Cassin's Vireo but failed to see them. Birds specifically looked for and not found were Surfbird (extensively) and Allen's Hummingbird (briefly). Essentially, we focused only on target birds and the habitat visited was quite limited. Even so, we recorded 146 species (see the itinerary summary and trip list). Including my October 3 travel day, I recorded 158 species.
Monday, October 15, 2001
After a cancelled job in California I was back in the field again today. I had an October week 2 hole in my data for Whitewater Draw and even though duck hunting season recently started, I decided to pay a visit. (For bar-graph data I use 1-7, 8-15, 16-23 and 24-31 as "weekly" periods.) It was a gorgeous morning -- clear blue sky, quite crisp to start and not a breath of wind. Visibility was excellent and all the mountain ranges were crystal clear. The yellow-gold Aspen fall colors were clearly visible in the high elevations of the Huachucas, particularly on the north slope of Carr peak. Recent days have had a definite fall feel to them, as is the norm in mid October here in Sierra Vista. However, later in the day the temperature climbed to the mid 80s as a reminder that summer is still hanging in there just like the NY Yankees.
Conditions at Whitewater Draw are excellent right now. There's an abundance of mud flats and shallow water for waders, some deeper water for ducks and grebes, plenty of weedy areas for seedeaters, and the willows are still in heavy leaf providing lots of food and cover for migrants.
Although I didn't see any hunters this morning, the birds had certainly responded to their presence. I saw very few waterfowl at all, just a few GREEN-WINGED TEAL, NORTHERN PINTAIL and MALLARDS and a lone LESSER SCAUP; the normally common GREAT BLUE HERONS were few and far between, all the white egrets were absent and I didn't see a single Am. Coot! I could hear some distant SANDHILL CRANES calling but I saw only 12 of them on the mud flats.
Shorebirds were present in very small numbers and I saw 4-LONG-BILLED DOWITCHERS, a couple of LONG-BILLED CURLEWS and LEAST SANDPIPERS, 1-GREATER YELLOWLEGS, 1-SEMIPALMATED PLOVER and 1-RING-BILLED GULL. Even KILLDEERS were hard to find and that's saying something.
Landbirds were somewhat easier to find. TREE SWALLOWS were absolutely abundant swarming over the water and resting on the weeds and flats. I estimated about 5000 birds. Both WESTERN and CASSIN'S KINGBIRDS were common, the only other flycatchers were a young male VERMILION and a few BLACK and SAY'S PHOEBES. Thrashers were represented by a perched up but silent CRISSAL and a calling CURVE-BILLED. I noted a few BLUE GROSBEAKS and LAZULI BUNTINGS working the weedy areas along with the usual collection of sparrows -- SONG, LINCOLN'S, WHITE-CROWNED, SAVANNAH BREWER'S and VESPER. I stumbled into one roosting GREAT HORNED OWL and a COOPER'S HAWK in adjacent trees. I also saw my first AMERICAN PIPIT of the season. I was surprised not to see any Lark Buntings or Quail.
54 Species seen:
Green-winged Teal, Mallard, Northern Pintail, Lesser Scaup, Great Blue Heron, Green Heron, Northern Harrier, Cooper's Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk, American Kestrel, Sandhill Crane, Long-billed Curlew, Greater Yellowlegs, Long-billed Dowitcher, Least Sandpiper, American Avocet, Semipalmated Plover, Killdeer, Ring-billed Gull, Mourning Dove, Greater Roadrunner, Great Horned Owl, Northern Flicker, Say's Phoebe, Black Phoebe, Vermilion Flycatcher, Cassin's Kingbird, Western Kingbird, Loggerhead Shrike, Northern Mockingbird, Curve-billed Thrasher, Crissal Thrasher, Marsh Wren, Tree Swallow, Barn Swallow, House Sparrow, American Pipit, House Finch, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, Lincoln's Sparrow, White-crowned Sparrow, Savannah Sparrow, Brewer's Sparrow, Vesper Sparrow, Canyon Towhee, Pyrrhuloxia, Blue Grosbeak, Lazuli Bunting, Yellow-headed Blackbird, Red-winged Blackbird, Eastern Meadowlark, Western Meadowlark and Brewer's Blackbird.
Tuesday, October 16, 2001
What a difference a day makes. The crystal clear air of yesterday were replaced by a really heavy and yucky haze, most unusual for this area. From Sonoita I could barely see the Whetstone and Santa Rita mountains and the Huachuca and Rincon mountains were completely obscured. By midday the Huachucas were barely visible even from Fry Blvd. in town. I don't know whether it was dust or smoke but it sure was ugly. Wasn't I just in LA?
I had planned to visit Patagonia Lake State Park this morning and Kino Springs tomorrow, however, as things turned out I abandoned my visit to the lake because of the wind and continued on to Kino Springs. Neither place was very birdy but I ended up killing two birds with one stone and saving some gas in the bargain.
I started by scanning the deep (west) end of the lake hoping to perhaps pickup a big grebe or a loon. I succeeded in beating the boat traffic but it didn't payoff with any birds. The shallow no-wake end had a few species including the usual NEOTROPIC CORMORANTS, a handful of duck species and a fishing OSPREY.
The best bird was undoubtedly my season first SWAMP SPARROW, by far the earliest one that I've seen in SE Arizona (previous early date was 11/8/99). Patagonia Lake is a reliable location for this scarce winter visitor, although last year they were mostly absent from SE AZ and I didn't see a single one at the lake. They are normally present from November through April and I have one late record in May.
Other species included VIRGINIA RAIL, BELTED KINGFISHER, PHAINOPEPLA, ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLER, GREEN-TAILED TOWHEE and RUFOUS-CROWNED SPARROW.
At Kino Springs I was dismayed to find hunters near the first pond and surprised to learn that hunting is even allowed here (perhaps it isn't). As might be expected, birds were scarce although I did find a lingering GRAY HAWK, SHARP-SHINNED HAWK, RED-NAPED SAPSUCKER, DUSKY and GRAY FLYCATCHERS, numerous LAZULI BUNTINGS and a fairly late VARIED BUNTING.
Over at the club house area was another OSPREY, several more RED-NAPED SAPSUCKERS, a beautiful male VERMILION FLYCATCHER and lots more LAZULI BUNTINGS.
A brief stop at the Paton's yard yielded 2-VIOLET-CROWNED, lots of ANNA'S and 1-RUFOUS HUMMINGBIRD.
A pleasant surprise on the drive home was a MONTEZUMA QUAIL in the middle of highway 82 between Patagonia and Sonoita. The exact location was at milepost 29 (1/2 mile west of the historical marker) where there's some good oak-savannah habitat. This is the second time in a week that this has happened to me -- on my way home from California I saw one sitting in the middle of Hwy 90 near Huachuca City. Today's bird flushed, last week's bird just sat there with heavy traffic whizzing by. Go figure.
60 species seen:
Pied-billed Grebe, Neotropic Cormorant, Ruddy Duck, Green-winged Teal, Mallard, Ring-necked Duck, Great Blue & Green Herons, Osprey, N. Harrier, Sharp-shinned, Gray & Red-tailed Hawks, Gambel's & Montezuma Quail, Virginia Rail, Am. Coot, Mourning & Inca Doves, Violet-crowned, Anna's & Rufous Hummingbirds, Belted Kingfisher, Gila & Ladder-backed Woodpeckers, Red-naped Sapsucker, N. Flicker, Gray, Dusky Flycatcher & Vermilion Flycatchers, Say's & Black Phoebes, Cassin's Kingbird, Common Raven, Phainopepla, N. Mockingbird, Curve-billed Thrasher, White-breasted Nuthatch, Marsh & Bewick's Wrens, Verdin, Barn Swallow, Bridled Titmouse, House Sparrow, Lesser Goldfinch, House Finch, Orange-crowned & Yellow-rumped Warblers, Common Yellowthroat, Song, Lincoln's, Swamp, White-crowned, Chipping & Rufous-crowned Sparrows, Green-tailed Towhee, N. Cardinal, Lazuli & Varied Buntings.
Wednesday, October 17, 2001
The Diamondbacks - Yankees game was about as boring as it gets so I made a late afternoon visit to the San Pedro. I should have stayed at home, it would have been more exciting. I saw only 21 species and almost all of them were around the San Pedro House. My 1.5 miles walk along the river and around Kingfisher pond yielded nothing bird-wise, just 1000s upon 1000s of grasshoppers. The only birds of note were a few LAZULI BUNTINGS.
Thursday, October 18, 2001
After traveling out of state on vacation for most of September and working in California during the early part of October, I decided it was time to get back into the old routine today. I wanted to check on Spotted Owl as well as on arriving and departing species. Unfortunately, security at Fort Huachuca is still very tight and I was denied access. The MPs that I spoke with said that only military people are allowed on post and there was quite a backup at the main gate due to a 100% i.d. check. It was intimated on the Tucson RBA that access might be possible, however, if it is, these guys don't know about it.
Down but not out, I headed instead to Carr Canyon where I birded a little in the lower canyon before continuing to the higher elevation area between Reef and Ramsey Vista campgrounds. Initially, at least, I had the place mostly to myself. I was enjoying the solitude until several rowdy Forest Service employees showed up and left their radio blaring as they worked. Oh, well.
The birding was quite patchy, dead in some places and busy in others, and could never quite match the fall colors and the views of the San Pedro Valley and beyond. Nevertheless, I was able to find a nice mix of residents, lingering summer species and some migrants/wintering species; and in the end I was pleased to record almost 50 species.
The most numerous and visible species were EASTERN BLUEBIRDS. I saw many of them at all locations starting in the lower canyon, not too far from Hwy 92, as well as at Reef, Ramsey Vista and points in between. Also between the campgrounds, I found several OLIVE WARBLERS in three different locations, including a nicely plumaged adult male. All of them were located by hearing their "phew" calls. I heard several HEPATIC TANAGERS "chupping" in the lower canyon and saw male and female near Reef.
I made a fairly thorough search of the tall timber around Reef looking for WILLIAMSON'S SAPSUCKER and I was eventually rewarded by my season first bird. I heard some light tapping that I slowly made my way towards to find a pristinely plumaged male working at eye level just a few feet from me. Reef also produced a single BAND-TAILED PIGEON, RED-NAPED SAPSUCKER, DUSKY FLYCATCHER, TOWNSEND'S WARBLER and a few common species.
Ramsey Vista was a blowout due to more radios blaring in the campground, although I did pickup CEDAR WAXWING and a couple of TOWNSEND'S SOLITAIRE'S here. I had intended to walk the Comfort Spring trail but the increasing wind and a helicopter working the area changed my mind.
48 species seen:
Turkey Vulture, Red-tailed Hawk, Gambel's Quail, Band-tailed Pigeon, Mourning & White-winged Doves, Acorn & Gila Woodpeckers, Red-naped & Williamson's Sapsuckers, N. Flicker, Dusky Flycatcher, Say's Phoebe, Cassin's Kingbird, Steller's Jay, Western Scrub-Jay, Mexican Jay, Hutton's Vireo, Cedar Waxwing, Eastern Bluebird, Townsend's Solitaire, Hermit Thrush, Am. Robin, Northern Mockingbird, Curve-billed Thrasher, White-breasted Nuthatch, Cactus, Canyon, Bewick's & House Wrens, Verdin, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Bridled Titmouse, House Sparrow, Lesser Goldfinch, House Finch, Olive, Yellow-rumped & Townsend's Warblers, Dark-eyed (Gray-headed) & Yellow-eyed Juncos, Lincoln's, White-crowned & Chipping Sparrows, Spotted & Canyon Towhees, Hepatic Tanager and Pyrrhuloxia.
Friday, October 19, 2001
Today I visited French Joe Canyon for the 26th time this year. It was my first time there since late August, shortly after the Rufous-capped Warblers had successfully fledged. I spent about 3 1/2 hours in the canyon including about 1 hour at the upper spring. Unfortunately, I neither saw nor heard a Rufous-capped Warbler, spoiling my 100% record of at least locating/hearing the bird on every trip this year. It was quite chilly when I started in the lower canyon but very warm at the spring by mid morning. The temperature in Sierra Vista reached the low 90s during the afternoon - bring on fall!
Bird activity was generally low, especially near the spring, perhaps due to a marauding SHARP-SHINNED HAWK present the entire time I was there. CHIPPING SPARROWS and WESTERN SCRUB-JAYS were the most conspicuous birds throughout. The only birds of note were a small flock of 9-BAND-TAILED PIGEONS, a single DUSKY FLYCATCHER, a calling CRISSAL THRASHER and 2-3 HEPATIC TANAGERS.
34 species seen:
Sharp-shinned Hawk, Band-tailed Pigeon, Mourning Dove, Ladder-backed Woodpecker, N. Flicker, Dusky Flycatcher, Western Scrub-Jay, Mexican Jay, Hutton's Vireo, Hermit Thrush, N. Mockingbird, Curve-billed & Crissal Thrashers, Cactus, Rock, Canyon, Bewick's & House Wrens, Verdin, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Bridled Titmouse, Lesser Goldfinch, House Finch, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Dark-eyed (Gray-headed) Junco, White-crowned, Chipping, Black-chinned & Rufous-crowned Sparrows, Green-tailed, Spotted & Canyon Towhees, Hepatic Tanager and N. Cardinal.
Monday, October 22, 2001
This morning I birded first at St. David Monastery and then moved on to Willcox ponds. A mild start gave way to temperatures in the 80s under partly cloudy skies with zero wind.
As is often the case, birding at the monastery was very pleasant without producing anything spectacular. I was hoping to find that Lewis's Woodpeckers had returned for another winter but I didn't come across any. Regular wintering species seen included WOOD DUCK, GRAY FLYCATCHER, GREEN-TAILED TOWHEE, WESTERN MEADOWLARK and the usual hordes of sparrows. Migrants noted were ORANGE-CROWNED and WILSON'S WARBLERS.
Although I visit here regularly (usually on the way to Willcox), St. David doesn't often get mentioned in birding circles. Therefore, it's worth mentioning that of all the places that I visit on a regular basis, St. David Monastery ranks 10th in most species seen at a single location (Patagonia Lake ranks 1st).
46 species seen at St. David Monastery from 7:00-8:45am
Wood Duck, Mallard, Red-tailed Hawk, Am. Kestrel, Am. Coot, Killdeer, Mourning Dove, Anna's Hummingbird, Gila & Ladder-backed Woodpeckers, N. Flicker, Gray Flycatcher, Say's & Black Phoebes, Cassin's Kingbird, Chihuahuan & Common Ravens, Curve-billed Thrasher, European Starling, White-breasted Nuthatch, Cactus & Bewick's Wrens, Verdin, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, House Sparrow, Lesser Goldfinch, House Finch, Orange-crowned, Yellow-rumped & Wilson's Warblers, Common Yellowthroat, Song, Lincoln's, White-crowned, Chipping, Vesper & Lark Sparrows, Green-tailed, Spotted, Canyon & Abert's Towhees, N. Cardinal, Pyrrhuloxia, Red-winged Blackbird, Western Meadowlark and Great-tailed Grackle.
At Willcox, the road to the Golf Course and ponds has been re-surfaced and is now in good condition. Lots of construction in the area, particularly near the pond near the club house (water level very low) and at the nearby sewage ponds on highway 186. Water level on the main pond remains very high. All the temporal ponds except one are dry.
NORTHERN SHOVELERS and RUDDY DUCKS were abundant on the main pond along with
a few other ducks and 3 species of grebes -- 1 PIED BILLED, 20+ EARED and
2-WESTERN. At least 200 SANDHILL CRANES circled over the nearby fields.
Shorebirds were hard to come by and I saw only 6-LONG-BILLED DOWITCHERS. Most of
the landbirds that I saw, including vocalizing side by side EASTERN and WESTERN
MEADOWLARKS, were on the north side of the golf course along the road that runs
west from the entrance road.
30 species seen at Willcox ponds from 9:30-10:45am.
Pied-billed, Eared & Western Grebes, Ruddy Duck, Am. Wigeon, Green-winged Teal, Mallard, N. Shoveler, Great Blue Heron, N. Harrier, Red-tailed Hawk, Gambel's Quail, Am. Coot, Sandhill Crane, Long-billed Dowitcher, Mourning Dove, Say's Phoebe, Vermilion Flycatcher, Chihuahuan Raven, Marsh Wren, House Finch, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, Lark Bunting, Song, White-crowned, Savannah & Vesper Sparrows and Eastern & Western Meadowlarks.
Tuesday, October 23, 2001
This morning I spent some time in the San Rafael Valley to check on returning species. Because of the inaccessibility of Fort Huachuca, just getting there was a bit of a chore with about 20 extra miles to travel. The valley is extremely dry and dusty, all of the roadside areas that normally have water were completely dry. Weather conditions were ideal -- mild, windless and crystal clear.
I focused mainly on trying to determine if BAIRD'S SPARROWS were back but I was only able to confirm their presence by hearing one. The grass and weeds are much higher than in the same location last year which doesn't bode well for future trips. I did manage to see GRASSHOPPER SPARROW and the more expected SAVANNAH and VESPER SPARROWS.
Birds in this environment are always scarce and only HORNED LARKS were abundant. EASTERN and WESTERN MEADOWLARKS were both fairly common and vocalizing. CHESTNUT-COLLARED LONGSPURS were hard to find and I only came across two "groups" of 4 and 2. I stayed in one spot for about 2 hours waiting for sparrows to pop up and a GREATER ROADRUNNER was perched up for much of that time. A few KESTRELS and a SAY'S PHOEBE worked the area. A passage RUBY-CROWNED KINGLET seemed out of place, although I have seen them in the grassland before. Raptors were notably absent with just a couple of HARRIERS working the fields and a perched PRAIRIE FALCON.
Thursday, October 25, 2001
This morning I spent some time on the San Pedro river (highway 90 area) where conditions were excellent -- clear blue sky, a pleasant temperature, zero wind and good visibility. Bird activity was fairly high when I began at 7:30am but quickly diminished after the first hour. By the time I left at 10:30am, hardly a bird was stirring.
Early sparrow activity around the San Pedro house seemed a little subdued, perhaps due to an immature COOPER'S HAWK that was hanging around. LINCOLN'S & WHITE-CROWNED SPARROWS were the most visible species. COMMON GROUND-DOVES were quite vocal.
A walk down the del Valle road as far as Garden wash yielded 2- NORTHERN HARRIERS working over the fields, 20+SCALED QUAIL, CASSIN'S KINGBIRD, a chattering VERDIN, a pair of calling CRISSAL THRASHERS, several BLACK-THROATED SPARROWS and a handful of other common species.
The area where the Garden wash meets the river was very productive, especially for seedeaters. Here I saw numerous LAZULI BUNTINGS, a few BLUE GROSBEAKS, NORTHERN CARDINAL (uncommon here), PYRRHULOXIA and CANYON & ABERT'S TOWHEES.
Walking north along the river I flushed a roosting GREAT HORNED OWL. Bird activity was now minimal and the only species of note were 1-HAMMOND'S and 2-DUSKY FLYCATCHERS. All three were interacting and calling.
I think the big pond (now known as Kingfisher pond) should be renamed to Dodo pond because birdlife is almost extinct. In previous years this was one of the most productive places, alas, no more. For example, consider the following sighting data for Common Moorhen, formerly a year round resident that could reliably be found at the pond. This is my own data and I obviously could have missed the bird occasionally, however, the trend is startling and irrefutable. I wonder what caused the decline?
47 species seen from 7:30-10:30am:
Mallard, Great Blue Heron, N. Harrier, Cooper's & Red-tailed Hawks, Am. Kestrel, Scaled & Gambel's Quail, Am. Coot, Mourning Dove, Common Ground-Dove, Great Horned Owl, Anna's Hummingbird, Gila & Ladder-backed Woodpeckers, N. Flicker, Hammond's & Dusky Flycatchers, Black Phoebe, Cassin's Kingbird, Chihuahuan Raven, Crissal Thrasher, White-breasted Nuthatch, Marsh, Bewick's & House Wrens, Verdin, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Bridled Titmouse, Lesser Goldfinch, House Finch, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, Song, Lincoln's, White-crowned, Chipping, Vesper & Black-throated Sparrows, Green-tailed, Canyon & Abert's Towhees, N. Cardinal, Pyrrhuloxia, Blue Grosbeak, Lazuli Bunting and Red-winged Blackbird.
Monday, October 29, 2001
Although it's far from the most birdy place at this time of year, this morning I visited Carr Canyon in the Huachucas. As long as Fort Huachuca remains closed, Carr Canyon is the closest viable location to find some of the wintering mountain birds. Since I'm usually birding in Garden, Scheelite and Sawmill Canyons, I don't have a tremendous amount of fall and winter data here so I decided another visit was in order. In fact, only 20% of my visits to Carr Canyon fall in the mid September to mid March timeframe, quite a disparate ratio.
The "cliff edge" drop in temperature that usually occurs in mid October (and at one point seemed like it was going to happen) hasn't become a reality and the weather continues sunny, warm and dry. Phoenix has had record highs near 100 in the past few days, thankfully, not quite so warm here in Sierra Vista. Although today was another beautiful, warmer than average fall day, my trip up the Canyon was initially impacted by high winds. Bird activity was significantly less than my visit last week, nevertheless, I managed almost 50 species in a few hours.
Most of the species that I saw were in the lower canyon residential areas and between the first and second stream crossings. Among the species here were SCALED and GAMBEL'S QUAIL, WHITE-WINGED DOVE, CASSIN'S KINGBIRD, PYRRHULOXIA, GREEN-TAILED TOWHEE and RUFOUS-CROWNED SPARROW.
Birds around Reef were much harder to find, although some fruiting Madrone trees had attracted many fruit eaters. Highlights were 10-BAND-TAILED PIGEONS, a couple of male WILLIAMSON'S SAPSUCKERS, male and female ARIZONA WOODPECKERS and a beautiful male OLIVE WARBLER. Both woodpecker species were partaking of Madrone berries along with N. FLICKER, STELLER'S JAY, lots of AM. ROBINS, and a few HERMIT THRUSHES & SPOTTED TOWHEES.
I was hoping to find some of the wintering species such as Townsend's Solitaire and Cassin's Finch but, other than the Williamson's Sapsuckers, I had no success in that regard. However, as soon as the temperature gets a little nippier (hopefully soon!), I'll feel more inclined to spend time walking the longer trails and hopefully find something more interesting.
48 species seen in Carr Canyon:
Cooper's & Red-tailed Hawks, Scaled & Gambel's Quail, Band-tailed Pigeon, Mourning Dove, White-winged Dove, Acorn, Gila, Ladder-backed & Arizona Woodpeckers, Williamson's Sapsucker, N. Flicker, Say's Phoebe, Cassin's Kingbird, Steller's Jay, Western Scrub-Jay, Mexican Jay, Hutton's Vireo, Phainopepla, Eastern Bluebird, Hermit Thrush, Am. Robin, N. Mockingbird, Curve-billed Thrasher, White-breasted Nuthatch, Brown Creeper, Cactus, Canyon, Bewick's & House Wrens, Verdin, Bushtit, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Bridled Titmouse, House Sparrow, Lesser Goldfinch, House Finch, Olive Warbler, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Dark-eyed & Yellow-eyed Juncos, Chipping & Rufous-crowned Sparrows, Green-tailed, Spotted & Canyon Towhees and Pyrrhuloxia.
Tuesday, October 30, 2001
Conditions were excellent when I began at Whitewater Draw this morning. There was a nice chill in the air, the light was good and winds were calm. By early afternoon it was just another unseasonably warm day. The habitat here remains excellent and, at least initially, plenty of species were visible. However, I didn't find any of the previously reported pelicans, geese or gulls.
After birding for over two hours and slowly but surely recording the expected
species, I came across a most unexpected species. Shortly before 9:30am I noted
a small, almost black, gull-like bird sitting on the water in the middle of the main pond.
I hurriedly got the 'scope on it and realized that I was looking at an immature
Jaeger species. I'd only just finished repeatedly scanning this area so, presumably, the bird had just flown in.
I observed the bird at rest for about 3 minutes and briefly saw it in flight when it was disturbed. The bird returned to the main pond but my attention was diverted elsewhere during which time the bird disappeared. I did not see it fly away but a 30 minute search didn't produce the bird again. I later agonized about reporting the bird since it had likely gone, however, I decided to err on the side of caution! At the time, I thought the bird was a PARASITIC JAEGER and after returning home and doing some research, I still think that's what it was.
Let me preface the following remarks by saying yo no soy marinero, I've never done any pelagic trips and never will! Consequently, what little experience I have with jaegers is from the coast and a few near shore boat trips and trips to Santa Cruz Island. I've seen Parasitic 7 times, Pomarine 3 times, never seen Long-tailed. That being said....
I was close enough that heat shimmer wasn't a problem, and I had reasonably good views of the
bird which was obviously a dark morph juvenile. The bird was small and its jizz was quite
delicate which to my mind immediately ruled out Pomarine. The head was small and, at times, showed a
definite peak towards the rear. An important feature that I noted (as I now realize) was that
the bill was relatively long and thin, mostly pale with a dark tip; the dark area being about 1/4 to 1/3
the length of the bill. The bill alone would tend to rule out the other two Jaeger species.
Coloration was generally dark brown (no rufous tones) with a slight but very discernible contrast between the upperparts and underparts. The face, breast and belly were somewhat lighter than the mantle, wings and tail. The breast had a very slight barring. The closest illustration that I can find in the references that I've consulted is the dark juvenile depicted in Sibley, page 198. However, the contrast between under and upper parts was a little more than illustrated.
When the bird flew, I didn't detect any barring on the underwings, just rather indistinct whitish primaries. I also didn't detect any barring on the upper tail coverts, either at rest or flying. The central tail feathers were not noticeably longer than other tail feathers. If I have any reservation at all about this bird not being a Parasitic, it would have to be because the barring on the undertail coverts was fairly contrasty. However, just from an afternoon's research I can see that there's a tremendous variation in juvenile plumage so I'm not going to let that outweigh all the other field characters.
Obviously, this bird overshadowed everything else that was present, but in reality the birding was pretty good and I managed to come up with a fairly respectable list of 63 species entirely within the confines of Whitewater Draw proper:
3-Gadwall, Mallard, 10-N. Pintails, 20+N. Shovelers, 2-Canvasbacks, 3-Ring-necked Ducks, Great Blue Heron, 8-Great Egrets, Green Heron, 6+N. Harriers, Red-tailed Hawk, Am. Kestrel, columbarius Merlin, Prairie Falcon, Scaled Quail, 1000s of Sandhill Cranes, 80+Long-billed Curlews, 10+Greater Yellowlegs, 8-Long-billed Dowitchers, Western & Least Sandpipers, Killdeer, Parasitic Jaeger, Mourning Dove, Greater Roadrunner, Ladder-backed Woodpecker, Say's & Black Phoebes, Vermilion Flycatcher, Cassin's Kingbird, Chihuahuan Raven, Loggerhead Shrike, N. Mockingbird, Bendire's, Curve-billed & 2-Crissal Thrashers, Cactus, Marsh & Bewick's Wrens, Verdin, Tree & Barn Swallows, Horned Lark, House Sparrow, Am. Pipit, House Finch, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, 20+Chestnut-collared Longspurs, Lark Bunting, Song, Lincoln's, White-crowned, Savannah, Brewer's & Vesper Sparrows, Green-tailed & Canyon Towhees, Pyrrhuloxia, Yellow-headed Blackbird, Eastern & Western Meadowlarks and Brewer's Blackbird.
This log is in chronological order and the most recent entries
are at the bottom of the page.
The last update was on Tuesday, October 30, 2001
Journal - October, 2001
If you use the contents of my journal for commercial purposes,
please acknowledge the source to your clients - thanks.
Top of Page