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Southeast Arizona 2004

Part 2: Ruby Road and Buenos Aires NWR

 

Made it to the edge of the forest by dawn, and was surprised to hear another Rufous-winged Sparrow singing right along with the Botteri’s! (So much for Saguaro being my only chance at that…) There was quite a cacophony at first (and thankfully no raging river this time); the road started off mainly as mesquite forest, and picked up Gray Hawks tuning up, Bewick’s Wren, what I’m assuming was Northern Flicker in that stuff, and the biggest surprise of all, a singing Gray Flycatcher! (According to the book they should be showing up now, but I sure didn’t expect to hear one singing!  Stuart Healy wrote me later and said they do indeed sing on the wintering grounds...) Blue Grosbeaks were all over, as well as Rufous-crowned Sparrows. A quick stop at Pena Blanca Lake was wonderful: I had forgotten what a rich wetland this was! But a five-minute sit at the boat ramp added a family of Moorhens in the reeds (along with a token Coot), Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Summer Tanager, Yellow Warbler, Yellow-breasted Chat, and a ton of grackles and Barn Swallows! A harsh noise behind me turned out to be a roosting Turkey Vulture!

   

Left:  Peña Blanca Lake.  Right:  Moorhen family

Lake area from the back side

Heading back down the road, the rock formations were astounding (no wonder AAA designated this as a scenic drive)! The habitat is still pretty scrubby, but where there were Alligator Pinyons picked up Mexican Jays, Bridled Titmice, a Dusky-capped Flycatcher (as well as Ash-throated), Acorn Woodpecker (as well as a Ladder-backed), Varied Bunting, and in the grassier area, the tell-tale trill of the Montezuma Quail (unseen, as per usual…)! At one stop had a heard-only Northern Beardless Tyrannulet, a cowbird that had me tracking it down to be sure (turned out to be Brown-headed), and an odd-sounding Black-headed Grosbeak; with the youngsters starting to sing, I’m unsure of my ability to tell them from Hepatic Tanager vocally. Passed all the famous canyons, but no Five-striped Sparrows decided to visit (although some of the habitat looked promising—one of these days one of those little buggers will make it to the main road!) A lovely Gray Hawk circled over the road, and a quick stop at Arivaca Lake added a pair of Hooded Orioles that were mad at me (I was obviously near a nest)!

   

Scenes along Ruby Road...

   

Left:  Montezuma Quail country.  Right:  Riparian area

       

               

Not quite a ghost town, I guess...

   

Arivaca Lake and agitated Hooded Oriole

Decided to brave Arivaca Cienega, even though it was mid-day, and boy, I almost got overheated out there! But the bird list still filled two pages, with goodies such as Vermilion Flycatcher, a young Gray Hawk, tons of chats, and a Western-type flycatcher that a local birder (Jack Whetstone) told me later was in all probability a Pacific-slope, migrating through the lowlands. Both Sora and Virginia Rail sang for me, and both Cassin’s and Western Kingbirds were numerous (couldn’t pick out any Tropicals this year). Buntings kept buzzing but wouldn’t come out, but finally at the marsh a female Lazuli showed herself. A Black Vulture whizzed by while I was trying not to pass out, and had a nice pair of Cardinals come in.

Skipped the Arivaca Creek Trail, intending to do that on the way out, but birding the refuge roads took the rest of the day (almost ran down a family of Roadrunners on the way there). The gal at headquarters gave me her last checklist (which unfortunately didn’t have any abundance data), showed me the display where she had painted the mural (I was impressed!), and pointed out the Barn Swallow nests, particularly the one where they had taken over an old Say’s Phoebe nest!

      

Left:  Arivaca Cienega.  Center:  Vermilion Flycatcher.  Right:  Sonoran Whiptail showing off his foot...

Headed on the drive after that, and even in the sweltering heat the Cassin’s Sparrows were all over! A pair of Swainson’s Hawks were a nice addition, and a huge flock of Lark Buntings, the males still in breeding plumage, along with tons of kingbirds, made my day! Also had a Grasshopper Sparrow up on a bush giving its "flimsy" song…

             

Left:  Grasslands at Buenos Aires NWR.  Right:  Western Kingbird

           

Left and center:  Very warm Cassin's Sparrows!  Right:  Lark Buntings were abundant along the Antelope Drive

After revisiting the road I got stuck on (no danger of that this year; it was as dry as a bone out there) decided to head on in to Green Valley, where I checked in and called my old San Diego birding buddy Ed Post, and he came and picked me up and showed me their house (and his "pet" Roadrunners who came right up with the offer of hamburger meat)! Boy, I’m tempted to move there, as the cost of living is a lot less!

   

Roadrunners often become quite tame in suburban Arizona, coming right up into your yard for a handout!

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