Saturday, October 19, 2013

When Louisiana meets Arizona..

I've always wanted to see a Louisiana Waterthrush.  Well today, I got that chance!!!!

Hi everyone,

Today on October 19th, 2013, Laurence Butler, Muriel Neddermeyer, and I headed out to bird some of the wonderful hotspots in southeastern Arizona.  We had a few key targets we where shooting for, and we managed to get one of them!

We left very early and got to the San Rafael Grasslands at sunrise.  We were hoping to possibly find a Short-eared Owl or Baird's Sparrow.  Unfortunately, we dipped on both of them, but we still had a few good highlights.  We weren't expecting the owl by any means, and spent most of our time searching for the Baird's Sparrow in places where they are often seen.  Despite missing the sparrow, we did have other cool highlights that included a pair of WHITE-TAILED KITES, plenty of NORTHERN HARRIERS, a few small flocks of CHESTNUT-COLLARED LONGSPURS, GRASSHOPPER SPARROWS, and endless SAVANNAH SPARROWS.  EASTERN MEADOWLARKS and HORNED LARKS were also very interesting to observe on the fences.

Northern Harrier cruising the Grasslands

Savannah Sparrow

Eastern Meadlowlark

Horned Lark

Grasshopper Sparrow (mad we weren't looking for him first)

After the grasslands, we headed to Tubac, where we were in pursuit of the continuing LOUISIANA WATERTHRUSH along the Anza Trail (just south of the Tubac Bridge.  As we made our way to the previously reported spot, I heard the waterthrush giving it's call note.  We rushed over to the spot, and had great looks of the bird after it flushed into a cottonwood.  We noted it's key field marks and watched it sitting in the cottonwoods and not foraging along the river several different times.  A Waterthrush sighting usually has something to do with the bird walking along the water, and this one didn't.  That was really the main highlight from Tubac, we didn't see any of the other previous rarities.  For directions on the Waterthrush, Miriam Weber's recent post and directions on how to find it (thanks Miriam) were very helpful:

"Heading south on the De Anza Trail from the Tubac bridge, go past the first gate and continue about 30-40 yards until you reach a narrow, grass path to the left. Take the path to the river and look downriver, past the sign that says Private Property, at the two large puddles in the river bed. The bird spent 20 minutes in the puddle closest to us and sometimes climbed a half foot up on the nearby bank where he/she stood and bobbed for a while".

Thanks to all who have reported this bird, it was a State Bird for all of us and a lifer for Laurence and I.

Louisiana Waterthrush (rarity in Arizona)-LIFER

Waterthrush notes:  Noted live in the field and shown in my photographs were the long and bold rear supercilium, unstreaked throat, fewer breast streaks than Northern Waterthrush, brighter pink legs, and buffy flanks. It gave it's call note often, which helped in locating it.  

While this is a horrible photograph, this does show the birds supercilium well.  

Laurence and Muriel celebrating Louisiana!

Our last stop of the day was at the Santa Cruz Flats.  Our targets were of course Crested Caracara and Mountain Plover.  We struck out on both but did have a few other good highlights.  One was a male YELLOW-BELLIED SAPSUCKER that Muriel spied in a mesquite tree at the northwest corner of Baumgartner and Wheeler Roads.  This area is private property, but luckily, this sapsucker was near the road.  This is the area where a Rufous-backed Robin was seen in a previous year.  We also had a neat sighting with a PRAIRIE FALCON.  We also stopped to look at YELLOW-HEADED BLACKBIRDS in a cattle feeding pen.

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

Yellow-headed Blackbirds in the feedlots

Thanks Laurence and Muriel for an awesome day of birding!!

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