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Had another blessed day the next day, although a little hairy driving that Arivaca Road in the dark! Got to the main refuge entrance around 6:00, where a tiny little Chihuahuan Raven greeted me first thing! (Saw his bigger cousin later...) The Cassin's Sparrows were all over, and never let up their singing all morning, no matter where I went in the grasslands! But thankfully the one target bird I really wanted in that habitat (besides the "uncountable" Bobwhites) sang along the entrance road: Grasshopper Sparrow! Also had what I'm presuming was a Lesser Nighthawk batting around in the distance.
Left: Early morning monsoon; usually they don’t
start until the afternoon... Right: Entrance Pond
Left: Early morning monsoon; usually they don’t start until the afternoon... Right: Entrance Pond
The headquarters area was quite lively with both Bullock's and Hooded Orioles putting on a show, squabbling Say's Phoebes, several curious Lucy's Warblers, baby Barn Swallows (of several ages, from nestlings to fledged full-grown juveniles), and both Black-chinned and Rufous Hummers fighting over the feeders. I peeked at the sightings board and noticed several interesting things at "Triangle Pond", but there was no reference to said pond in any of their literature, so I asked a refuge guy who couldn't even find it on his official quad map! A volunteer named Bob pulled up about then, and he wasn't sure, either, but said there was a small pond out by Aguirre Lake, so he took me out there (seeing as I could never find the Sonoran Grassland Trail they're always advertising). I just hadn't gone far enough: it's a great loop around (usually dry) Aguirre Lake, but we had some good birds, including several flocks of Yellow-headed Blackbirds and a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher for the trip. There was indeed a little pond at the far end that had some good things, including two Solitary Sandpipers and a Greater Yellowlegs! He also pointed out a strange mushroom that ironically I had seen at Patagonia Lake and had no clue what it was; it's evidently called Mycelia (sp?). John wrote me back later and said that basically all mushrooms are mycelia; that refers to the furrows in the fungus (although he said they’re no longer considered fungi). So I’m still at a loss as to what it is!
Birds at the headquarters area...
Hooded Oriole, Lucy's Warbler, and Say's Phoebe
Barn Swallows (nestlings at left; juvenile at right)
Normally dry Aguirre Lake along the Sonoran Grasslands Trail (taken over by Pigweed at right)
Solitary Sandpiper hanging out at a little wetland (right)
"Bob" takes me on the grand tour
After the hike we went our separate ways (he tried to discourage me from continuing on that same road; he didn't have to convince me after I got stuck back there several years ago..), so I continued back, stopping every half mile. A convenient stop at the Bobwhite pens actually yielded several peeks at the little buggers (I've never seen them in there before, but then again I’ve never been there first thing in the morning, either…), but while I was watching them probably the best bird of the day popped up near the back: a White-crowned Sparrow! I usually don't give a second thought to songbirds that get inside pens, but now I'm wondering if somehow he got in there last winter and couldn't get out! So much for my mega-rarity...
Birds inside the breeding pen...
A shy Masked Bobwhite, an endangered race of the Northern Bobwhite that's supposed to be in the pen! I thought the White-crowned Sparrow would be the bird of the
trip until I realized it probably got trapped in the pen last winter...
Anyway, headed on to the Pronghorn Drive after that, where I actually saw a male Pronghorn! Didn't hear any of the Bobwhite, but a Scaled Quail put in an appearance, and Gambel's Quail called at one stop. Had great looks at a family of Cassin's Sparrows that were upset at where I parked, and a Botteri's and Rufous-winged Sparrow perched side by side. Lark Buntings were back in force, and great flocks of White-winged Doves would power by every once in awhile (the Mournings all seemed to gather in the dips). Had a couple of Swainson's Hawks soaring with the TVs, and "Lilian's" Meadowlarks sang here and there. Even had a flock of Chipping Sparrows show up in the mesquite, and a pair of Ash-throated Flycatchers flopped around there as well. At one spot also flushed the first Horned Larks of the trip.
Wildlife on the Pronghorn Drive included a real Pronghorn!
Lark Buntings (changing male and a female), fuzzy Swainson's Hawk, and upset Cassin's Sparrows
More Caltrop-laden fields
After finishing that I wanted to hike the Arivaca Creek Trail, so pulled in there when I got there, and even that late in the morning it was a very birdy place: chats and Bell's Vireos were all over and very visible, and migration was definitely underway with a small flock of Nashville Warblers and a single Wilson's! A brilliant Vermilion Flycatcher posed, and at the bench had a Yellow-billed Cuckoo singing and Summer Tanagers chuppering. It was also clear that a mob of illegals had come down the creek as it was full of footprints! (Who else would be coming down the creekbed instead of using the trail??)
Arivaca Creek Trail with a fuzzy Vermilion Flycatcher
Nashville Warblers—dull youngsters (right) can be confused with Virginia’s Warblers; look for the greenish coloration on the wings.
I had read a post about the Amado Sewage Ponds: a field trip had seen a Black Tern there, so I wanted to check it out. (I had asked Bob about it, and he instructed me to go north along the frontage road, but I made it all the way to the next freeway entrance with no sewage ponds, so I finally asked the guy at the market and discovered it was the frontage road on the other side of the freeway I needed to take, ironically very close to the turnoff to Elephant Head!) Headed back to Amado, and once in town saw some suspicious-looking doves on the wire—sure enough, they were Collareds! Finally found the pond, but there wasn't anything there, so I decided to head on in to Willcox and stop at the lakes before checking in—boy, have they had a lot of rain! The whole Twin Lakes area had little wetlands all over, which I've never seen before! That place was hopping, with "write-in" birds including a ratty-looking Redhead, an Eared Grebe, and at least one Red-necked Phalarope in with all the Wilson's (who were very entertaining by not only turning circles on the water but on the shore as well)! Other shorebirds included several Baird's and Least Sandpipers, a single Western, a handful of Avocets, a couple of Lesser Yellowlegs, what I presuming was a Long-billed Dowitcher (it was still pretty deeply rust overall), and a Black-necked Stilt somewhere (just heard it call). I ran into some other birders from California and we shared war stories, when one of them spotted a large flock of White-faced Ibis in the distance! A flock of Cinnamon Teal kept making the rounds as well, and Ruddies were bobbing in the middle of the lake. And it turns out I didn't need the Black Tern at Amado because there was a beautiful bird still in breeding plumage batting around right there!
Dipped on the Semi Sand and the Snowy Plover, but I was kind of in a hurry to get checked in, and I figured I could check again the next day after the Chiricauhas.
Birds around the Willcox area include Eurasian Collared Dove (a recent invader), Baird's Sandpiper, Redhead (a vagrant this time of year), and Wilson's Phalarope.
Snoozing Avocets (left) and a young Great Blue Heron (with rather short legs, it looks like...)