The San Rafael Grasslands are one of Arizona's finest locations, both scenic wise and bird wise.
When Short-eared Owls are a no show and if the White-tailed Kites stay distant, the rising song from the Eastern Meadowlark is a good fall back.
Here is a distant shot of a White-tailed Kite as it hunted and hovered over the grasslands...
I have yet to see a Baird's Sparrow perched on a fence line at San Rafael out of the many times I have been here. But yet I encountered one with killer binocular views while walking through the grass once. American Kestrels can be abundant on the fence lines.
Patagonia has some very awesome birds. While I was birding at Patagonia Lake State Park, this male Pyrrhuloxia popped out right in front of me. This is a species that I haven't seen much of, and getting this incredible view of this adult male is the best I've had of this species. It is a bird a see a few of every year on treks to southeast Arizona or if I get extremely lucky in Maricopa County.
The other cardinal, the much more common Northern Cardinal, is prevalent all over Patagonia too...
Oodles of birders were at Patagonia Lake State Park in search of the famous Elegant Trogon who winters there every year. I can say that I was part of that crowd. Without a Trogon in sight, a Black-capped Gnatcatcher family had to be my Plan B. Black-capped Gnatcatchers are a traveling birder's treasure too, as they have a very limited range in the United States: Southeastern Arizona.
I love birding along Soniota Creek. As a birder, I guess I never know what may show up in the vicinity...
Along Soniota Creek, I also encountered a mammal I have only seen once in my life, and there was a big family group of this mammal of at least twenty individuals...
White-nosed Coatis everyone! I probably spent close to an hour watching these interesting animals.
Thanks to my friend Dr. Carol, I had an epic cabin to spend the night in in the Patagonia and Soniota area. On the way home I birded more of Southeastern Arizona which included stops to Florida and Madera Canyons as well as the Santa Cruz Flats. On the entrance road into Madera, I found this pair of Rufous-winged Sparrows. This is a species I haven't seen a lot of in my birding time, and it was fun "catching up" with this bird.
Once I got to Santa Cruz Flats, I want to Sasco Road where it intersects with the Santa Cruz River. My target bird was to see the continuing Louisiana Waterthrush, who has indeed spent the winter along this riparian area. It didn't take me long to find this bird, and I spent well over an hour watching it and trying to get some decent photographs of it.
Up next was a pass through the fields and farmlands within the Santa Cruz Flats to look for Crested Caracaras, or "Tractor Falcons". I came upon a field that was being plowed by a tractor, and there were my Crested Caracaras!
Caracaras feed on insects and other crap that is kicked up in the plowing process. They are interesting and fun to watch. The tractor driver found me more strange than the Caracaras. "What the heck is this guy doing, what's so interesting about this tractor?"
I got lucky as one young Caracara perched very close to the road.
My treks continued up into Prescott. Besides owl searching, I enjoyed many other birds. One of them was this Violet-green Swallow.
And the other was this more rare Eastern Phoebe, my first for Yavapai County!
Caleb and I saw these Snow Geese in Maricopa County while we were on our way back from Organ Pipe. It's rare to see blue morphs of this species in Arizona, so this sighting of this mixed-morph flock was pretty cool.
Cliff Swallows have their impressive nests built under bridges. Colonies of these swallows are quite the thing to watch..
Dominic and I went up to Mount Ord in our recent encounter with a Northern Pygmy-Owl. Other than the owl, I was amazed at the sight of the Western Bluebird pair..
We also got to see a few female Olive Warblers, and we heard quite a few more.
Other awesome outing recently came when Melissa and I went to the Thrasher Spot together. We were hoping to get a wave of migrating Sage Thrashers, which is exactly what we got. Melissa and I had at least 8 birds, and the birds were all using the same immediate area. What a cool sight this bird is!
Conspicuous Bendire's were pretty numerous too.
"Look Melissa, a Roadrunner!"
Melissa and I went under that big Phoenix bridge in pursuit of the creatures that live there. We were surprised to find this Great Horned Owl. I don't think I've ever seen a Great Horned Owl with it's tufts raised up so much, what a neat sighting.
Owls are on this post, after all! The final bird of the day was a new owl for Melissa, her first Barn Owl. Other than a roost like this, Barn Owls can be very challenging to find. Good thing for this spot!
More awesome birding expeditions are bound to be around the corner!