By the end of the search that lasted over three hours, I found many Sage Sparrows, and most of them were Bell's as McCreedy discovered at this location previously. I had 1-2 Sagebrush Sparrows, and probably anywhere between 10-15 Bell's Sparrows. There were quite a few birds I wasn't able to see well, so I won't call them anything other than Sage Sparrow sp., but they all looked good for Bell's also. I covered a rather small area at Robbin's Butte, and the Bell's Sparrow wasn't disappointing! This next Bell's Sparrow was one of the most cooperative birds that I had during the search, if only I could have had my camera focused better.
As I've mentioned in my previous posts about Bell's Sparrow field marks, this bird differs from the similar Sagebrush Sparrow it was split from by it's darker-blackish malar stripe that contrasts with it's gray head and nape. Sagebrush has a malar-stripe that isn't as extensive and is much lighter, and the Sagebrush's malar is the same tone in coloration as the head and nape. The back of the bird is also very plain and is relatively unstreaked, where in Sagebrush Sparrow the back is noticeably streaked.
Here's a more distant shot of a Bell's Sparrow from behind. It isn't a good picture, but it does show the plainness of the back.
This bird was pretty cooperative, while the others didn't allow me to get too close.
This Bell's Sparrow was more cooperative than the others. I was able to get close and stand still while the bird foraged on the ground and came out into the open several times.
Here are a few more pictures of the bird above. The contrast of the gray head and black malar are very evident in this picture, and the brownish back also contrasts with the other features to give the bird a "three-toned" look.
Here's a few more Bell's Sparrows from the morning. I really enjoy observing both Sage Sparrow species.
Other than this Expedition and a few recent lengthy trips to Apache County, I've kept most of my birding local. On one of those days, I went birding with Caleb Strand, who is an epic birder. Caleb is a teen, and his birding skills are already top notch. During our birding day, we went birding at the Hassayampa River at both the rest stop and the Preserve, as well as Lake Pleasant. I was very thrilled to find Caleb his first ever California Gull. On Caleb's most recent birthday, he found his first Sabine's Gull, a rarity in Arizona. California Gull isn't rare, so I joked with him that it was wrong how he was getting rarities as lifers before expected birds.
A guess what Caleb and I found after we found his lifer Cali Gull? Another Sabine's Gull! The Sabine's stayed distant, but we had decent scope views and a flying field mark to deal with. At Hassayampa, this Summer Tanager was still hanging around.
While taking a snack break on a trailside bench, we also discovered this Lesser Goldfinch sitting on a nest. I only noticed this nest because the bird flew into it. If that didn't happen, this nest would probably be very hard to pick out.
Nashville and Wilson's Warblers were also quite numerous along the two trails that were open at the Hassayampa River Preserve. Due to flooding, three of the trails in the Preserve were sadly closed. Had they had been open, I think Caleb and I would found more birds, and perhaps a rarity.
Hopefully more birding expeditions will be coming soon!