Written evening of December 9 2011.
Wow. Today was another awesome day in Southeast Arizona! 9 more lifers today brings my year total to 409.
I started the birding day at the Sweetwater Wetlands in Tucson, which is known for excellent birding. Almost immediately I spotted a couple of Lesser Goldfinches but I noticed a Lawerence's with them. Lawerence's Goldfinch! That was a bird I did not expect on this trip and an exciting 401. From there I birded my way around the wetlands but my dad went ahead. I met some very nice birders at the wetlands and gave a few of them my blog address (hope you like it folks!) While watching an Anna's Hummingbird (not a year bird of course, but very nice) my dad came walking down "I think I saw that red cardinal-like thing that you were telling me about" He's not a birder, but I knew what he meant: Pyrrhuloxia. So he took me to the spot. First all I saw were Ruby-crowned Kinglets and Orange-crowned Warblers. But then I spotted the cardinal. Sure enough, there was a female Pyrrhuloxia! Thank you papa for finding me 402:) From there my dad and I walked around, of course looking for one thing: birds. We spotted a woodpecker fly into a tree and my dad said "Gila, right?" I responded "I don't think so, let's stay on this bird" It finally gave a pretty good look showing a lot of red around it's head and I knew it was either a Red-breasted or Red-naped Sapsucker. I went to look at my Peterson Guide to get the ID but I realized something: my Peterson Guide was GONE. We went to ask some of the people I had seen before if they had seen it, but they hadn't. On the bright side of things, they did have a Sibley Guide and they let me look up my sapsucker. It was a Red-naped, a lifer for me. Unfortunately I never found my Peterson Guide. Oh well. Fortunately I have several copies, although not on this trip. I have my Sibley Guide that I'm using now that my Peterson is gone. Happy to be at 403, we left Sweetwater and headed to the Santa Cruz Flats to drive around and do one thing: birding. One the way to Santa Cruz I spotted a Prairie Falcon along the highway, an awesome life raptor and one of the most wanted Arizona birds. Almost immediately once in the flats I spotted a large flock of birds that I was able to identify as Lark Buntings, another life bird. After the Lark Buntings, after getting oriented after being slightly lost we had an amazing flyby Prairie Falcon, a much better look than along the interstate. That was wonderful! From there we headed to a Turf Farm where Mountain Plovers and other good birds had been reported. We were fortunate to run into some other wonderful birders. After a little while they spotted what the man thought was Mountain Plovers so he got the scope out. Indeed there were about 10 Mountain Plovers, a lifer and number 406 for my Junior Big Year. Excellent! Thanks to those wonderful people for their help. They said that in certain habitat Sage Sparrow and Bendire's Thrasher were not out of the question. We drove around some roads in prime habitat and spotted a Sage Sparrow! It gave a brief but nice look. We ended up skunking on a Bendire's. After the Sage Sparrow getting slightly lost paid off as a Greater Roadrunner road ran across the road! That was one of my very most wanted birds this trip, let along this year. It was of course a lifer and number 408. We ended up seeing one more Roadrunner later in the day and managed some poor but ID-worthy photos (which I will post and some other photos from today). From the roadrunner we proceeded to a spot where a Rufous-backed Thrush (AKA Rufous-backed Robin) had been reported. We ran into several birders including the Mountain Plover people. We thought we might have had Ruddy Ground-Doves but they turned out to be Incas. Crested Caracara was a nice "trip bird" there and my first ones since Texas. The "Mountain Plover people" told us that Lark Sparrows can sometimes be seen at Tucson City Parks so we headed there. We skunked on a Lark Sparrow but got a beautiful male Vermillion Flycatcher. On our way to Madera Canyon I decided to bird some good habitat and happened upon a Gambel's Quail, which was my last new bird of the day. A hare (rabbit) came running through and scared the quail into the brush! That was quite an event.
All in all, Arizona day two scored. And tomorrow is going to be amazing. We're getting up early to go on a morning bird walk with an amazing and professional birding guide from this area. I've been in contact with him and he's helped out a lot! Thanks so much, Laurens. I will post his guiding website on my blog in tomorrow's post.