Arizona with Avocet Tours

May 19 – Group assembled at hotel in Phoenix this afternoon, where we had dinner and went over plans for the following day. Several tour participants went off to the Desert Botanical Gardens in Phoenix and had a great time looking at birds such as Gilded Flicker, Gambel’s Quail, Cactus Wren and Lesser Goldfinch to name just a few.

May 20 – We left our Phoenix hotel and made our way to the Scottsdale Community College where we couldn’t find a Burrowing Owl. I am beginning to think they may have abandoned the nest area I have seen them at in the past. We did have two consolation prizes here however, several views of Rosy-faced Lovebirds, a newly accepted species onto the ABA list, and a couple of Gilded Flickers!

At the Gilbert Water Ranch we explored various ponds and pools finding some wetland species we are not too likely to see often on this trip. Some of these birds included Green Heron, Great Blue Heron, Black-crowned Night-Heron, Snowy Egret, Neotropic Cormorant, Ruddy Duck, American Wigeon, Northern Shoveler and American Coot. Shorebirds included Black-necked Stilt, American Avocet, Spotted Sandpiper and a single Western Sandpiper spotted by leader Russ Cannings. A lovely immature Black Phoebe, complete with rusty wing bars, put on a nice show for us along the edge of one of the ponds.

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Immature Black Phoebe at Gilbert Water Ranch, Phoenix, AZ. May 2014. Photo Chris Charlesworth.

There were numerous Abert’s Towhees about, many showing off very well, while Song Sparrows, Wilson’s Warbler, several Verdin and Say’s Phoebe were also noted. In the Saguaro Cactus we saw nesting Gila Woodpeckers, as well as nesting Curve-billed Thrashers. Mammals tallied here today included Coyote, Hispid Cotton Rat and Desert Cottontail, while the only reptile noted was Red-eared Slider, a turtle species that I believe has been introduced into the area.

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Pair of Gila Woodpeckers nesting in Saguaro at Gilbert Water Ranch, Phoenix, AZ. May 2014. Chris Charlesworth.

A pair of Peregrine Falcons were fantastic to see at the water ranch, and were pointed out by another local birder…thank you very much.

Along the drive from Phoenix, east to the town of Globe we had great views of a Harris’s Hawk perched on a telephone pole, and another was seen atop a giant Saguaro. After lunch in Globe we paused briefly in Dudleyville, a sad and withering little town that claims to have Mississippi Kites. In 6 tours to the area, I have now seen them just once, and that wasn’t today. There were Turkey Vultures and another Peregrine Falcon sailing overhead, but no kites. We were rewarded, for our exploration of Dudleyville, with views of the very spectacular Vermilion Flycatcher, however. Brief views of Yellow-breasted Chat and Brown-crested Flycatchers were also had. Not far from Dudleyville we screeched to a halt to check out a strange looking ‘Turkey Vulture’ that was sailing over the desert. It turned out to be a splendid Zone-tailed Hawk that flew low over our heads three times!

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Zone-tailed Hawk near Dudleyville, AZ. May 2014. Chris Charlesworth.

Our final birding stop of the day, in Aravaipa Canyon, turned out to be spectacular as well. Those in Russ’s van had another Harris’s Hawk on the way down. We had fleeting but great views of a Common Black-Hawk soaring along the creek, and later I spotted its nest high in a cottonwood. With the scope trained on the nest, one could see the head of the adult whenever the wind blew the leaves out of the way. This is a rare and local raptor in Arizona so we were very happy to see it. Also in Aravaipa Canyon were birds like Hooded Oriole, Bronzed Cowbird, Bell’s Vireo, White-throated Swift and Violet-green Swallow. We reached Tucson in the late afternoon, tired but with 71 species on our day list.

Chris Charlesworth

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