Monday, January 2, 2012

The Chase For the Nutting's

Hi everyone,

Today on January 2nd, 2012, Jim Kopitzke and I had an awesome day of 
birding, as we headed up to the Bill Williams National Wildlife Refuge in 
search of the Nutting's Flycatcher.  The day goes by too fast when birding 
in awesome places like this, and that was certainly the case today.  We 
were both very successful by the day's end, with both life and state 

Barrow's Goldeneye

Barrow's with Common Goldeneye

Our first stop of course was at Bill Williams, where we walked around 
Planet Ranch Road in search of the NUTTING'S FLYCATCHER.  We ran into 
Jason from Phoenix, and he had heard the flycatcher before we arrived at 
8:30 A.M.  We started near mile 2.5, but quickly went back to where Jason 
heard the bird which was at mile 2.0. While walking on the flag trails 
which goes through the area's dense riparian habitat, we heard the 
distinctive "wheep" from the Nutting's roughly around 9 A.M.  A few other 
birders who had arrived were looking at the flycatcher from Planet Ranch 
Road.  We quickly went back to the road and scanned from there.  The 
flycatcher continued to call on and off and play hide and seek with the 
birders, until we relocated it.  It gave good looks on and off 
consistently for the next hour starting at 9:30, and often calling during 
the time we were looking at it.  That was the prize for me, seeing the 
bird while it was calling.  There were about ten birders in the area 
during this time frame, all getting looks at this excellent rarity in 
North America.  Thanks Lauren and David for the awesome bird and discovery!

From the success of seeing our first Nutting's Flycatcher, we then went to 
the Bill Williams Delta.  Birds were everywhere, some of them way too 
distant to accurately scope.  We got lucky as there was a spot right by 
the Refuge's visitor center with a cove with a large Goldeneye flock.  
This large flock held at least seven BARROW'S GOLDENEYES, which was a life 
bird for me and a state bird for Jim.  A very cool looking bird, and fun 
to compare it with the Common Goldeneye!  Other highlights at the Delta we 
were able to locate were a PACIFIC LOON and a HORNED GREBE among the 
abundance of waterbirds.  There were two distant loons I wasn't able to 
get a good look at.  

Our next stop turned out to be amazing as we stopped at Havasu Springs to 
search for some of the recent rarities reported there.  We were on the 
lookout for the Mew Gull that was recently seen.  Despite the fact the 
wind was horrible at this site, the birding was still good.  As we 
arrived, I saw a young gull flying around that I thought was the Mew Gull 
and looked good for that bird.  I quickly lost it, and we went about 
scanning birds in the distance.  I then got on the young gull eventually, 
but it was too far out on the water.  Jim then spied a loon flying across 
the water a good distance away, and as we looked at it closely we could 
see that it was one of the RED-THROATED LOONS!  The loon landed and gave 
us good scope views, where Jim celebrated a state bird, and I celebrated a 
life bird.  Following the Red-throated Loon, two COMMON LOONS swam and 
dove nearby, as one of them was just feet away from the shore at times.  
As gull activity dwindled down as we started birding, it quickly picked up 
again.  That young gull that I thought was the Mew Gull flew over us 
again, and landed over a hill along the shore.  We ran to the spot and saw 
that it was the MEW GULL!  It was Jim's state Mew Gull, which gave us more 
entertainment.  Other birds of interest here was a RED-BREASTED MERGANSER 

Next, Mohave County.  We went to Rotary Park first to check the gull 
flocks.  Besides Ring-billed's, we came up with a young CALIFORNIA GULL.  

Our final stop came at Site 6 from 3 to 4 P.M. at Pittsburgh Point, in 
search of some of the rare gulls there.  The spot was quiet as we started 
searching, but it ended the day on a great note.  We spotted two gulls in 
the distance as we started, as one of them we felt was probably the 
Thayer's Gull.  The looks were far too distant to be sure.  As we waited 
for gull activity, a flock of BUFFLEHEADS, COMMON MERGANSER, and a COMMON 
LOON were out on the water.  In spite of the fact I was bored hoping for 
more gull activity, I decided to throw some bread out to a RING-BILLED 
GULL flying overhead.  It seemed as if it were magic bread, as the quiet 
site 6 all of a sudden had gulls flying in from every angle after one of 
them took interest in my bread.  I continued to feed them, and I then 
caught site of our other hopeful bird, the GLAUCOUS GULL!   The Glaucous 
Gull flew right past us, where we were able to study it perfectly.  It 
circled around and saw that my bread wasn't too good after all, and left 
before coming back one more time.  It never feed, but thankfully did 
investigate what the other gulls were up to.  The Glacous was another 
great state bird for Jim, and a great lifer for me.  And I was just 
kidding about the magic bread, gulls always do that.

Glaucous Gull

Another great day to be birding in one of AZ's awesome locations!