Monday, March 31, 2014

Arizona: Sweet Sewage

Up this morning at 5:30am and out of the hotel by 5:50am. It was overcast and quite warm, with the cloud trapping the heat in. First stop…Starbucks! Mmmm, coffee.

Today I decided to spend another morning at Sabino Canyon. The birding was quite good there yesterday, so best to give it another go and work some different trails. The park was not as busy as yesterday, but nonetheless joggers and hikers were omnipresent. As I began down the main trail heading east, I soon realized that the smaller Esperado trail that I did yesterday was likely the better option. However, before I even got there I found my first Greater Roadrunner nest in a fuzzy bear cactus. Cool!

The usual arid desert scrub birds were singing and calling everywhere: Verdin, Lucy’s Warbler, Lesser Goldfinch, Cactus Wren, and Phainopepla. I made it to the end of the Esperado Trail slowly, where eventually it joined the road that headed into the canyon. From here I followed the road for about a quarter mile, where I then diverted downhill to the riparian area where birds were certain to be more abundant. Along the creek I found Cedar Waxwing, Black-throated Sparrow (including my first nest of this species), Costa’s Hummingbird, Black-throated Gray Warbler, and Brewer’s Sparrow. At one location along the creek, dozens of birds fed on seeds, bathed in the small pools, gathered nest materials, or sang for mates. These included Yellow Warbler, Abert’s Towhee, Broad-billed Hummingbird, Orange-crowned Warbler, Lazuli Bunting, Gray Vireo, Gray Flycatcher, and Hermit Thrush. As I worked my way back to the parking area I picked up Northern Cardinal (stunning male), Pyrhuloxia, Ladder-backed Woodpecker, Black-tailed Gnatcatcher, and Ash-throated Flycatcher.

After 3.5 hours at Sabino, it was now time to try something else; the morning temperature had already increased to 23 degrees Celsius. I decided to head to Sweetwater Wetlands, a sewage treatment facility that for the most part, actually didn’t smell of sewage. I’d been to this wetland before in winter and it was fairly productive for ducks, but on this trip it was so much better as spring migrants were everywhere. For the duck round-up I quickly added Mallard, Ruddy Duck, Northern Shoveler, Cinnamon Teal, Gadwall, Green-winged Teal, and American Wigeon. As for shorebirds…what? Shorebirds in the desert? There was a good mix of species in the recharge ponds including Killdeer, Western Sandpiper, Least Sandpiper, Long-billed Dowitcher, Baird’s Sandpiper, Spotted Sandpiper, Black-necked Stilt, and American Avocet. Songbirds new for the trip included Wilson’s Warbler, Plumbeous Vireo, and Common Yellowthroat. Two Neotropic Cormorants were a surprise, but not as much as the myriad small rodents living amongst the reeds…I could hear them rustling everywhere, and with patience I could see as many as five at once in the binoculars. I also learned that red-eared sliders make good perches for American Coot.

It was now midday, and the heat was suppressing much of the bird activity. I decided to spend the afternoon checking out other local, but not popularized, birding sites. First I went to Avra Valley, which much to my disappointment only had two species: Turkey Vulture and American Kestrel. Next I drove along Reservation Road toward Pecan Grove. Along the way I picked up a Loggerhead Shrike and a Greater Roadrunner. Once at Pecan Grove, or sadly, what was left of it, I added only one new species: Horned Lark. Slowly I made my way back to Tucson, and paid one last visit to Sweetwater Wetlands. I didn’t add anything new, and so at 4:45pm I decided to call it a day and head back to the hotel.

Total Species for the Day: 74
Total Species for the Trip: 101
Total Lifers for the Day: 0
Total Lifers for the Trip: 2

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