Our two main targets were Mountain Plover and Sprague's Pipit. We started off with looking for Mountain Plovers. Luckily, we didn't have any problems finding them. At first there was a smaller flock of 9 birds, and that quickly grew to 44 when more of them flew in from the south.
Seeing and studying these Mountain Plovers was a lot of fun. I believe this is only my fourth observation I have ever had of the species.
Mountain Plovers then seemed to be everywhere. Some were hallucinations from the mad parade, while others were clearly, Mountain Plovers.
In the area was also a pair of Burrowing Owls....
After finding Mountain Plovers, our next target and search was for the Sprague's Pipit, a small and elusive grassland bird. This was my main target bird of the day, especially since I had only seen one Sprague's Pipit in my entire life prior to this attempt. After Mark Ochs originally found the first Sprague's Pipit, Kurt and Cindy Radamaker and Caleb Strand decided to walk up the fields and they kicked up five more Sprague's Pipits, plus Mark's Sprague's Pipit. Dominic and I were hoping to see these birds, well, at least one of them well. We started to scan the grass for any movement as well as watch for any pipits that were about the be flushed up. Once flushing a few birds, we saw where one of them landed..
It was our target, and we enjoyed looks at the Sprague's Pipit feeding, walking, and running through the dense grass. Finding it in our camera viewfinders was an entirely different story!
The Sprague's Pipit may look like a streaked and drab big-eyed little bird to anyone, but for the birder, it is one of those birds that make this hobby fun.
As we continued to walk through the fields, we had at least six Sprague's Pipits as well. We even had five of them flush in the same area as Kurt, Cindy, and Caleb all had a similar number together. It was great to study the Pipits behavior, flight, and calls.
We searched for other birds also, including the eastern warblers in the American Redstart and Black-throated Blue Warbler spilling over from last year. We had the redstart but didn't have any luck with the Black-throated Blue Warbler. A Summer Tanager that was found last year was also still around. These birds are wintering, yes! The only photograph I was able to get of anything was of a nice Vermilion Flycatcher.
After exploring throughout the Santa Cruz Flats area, we stopped at Arizona City Lake on the way home. We found two drake Wood Ducks as well as this Greater White-fronted Goose. Dominic said that this was the closest he has ever been to this goose species.
It was a great day of Pinal County birding at the Santa Cruz Flats. Thanks to Dominic for an awesome day!