Sunday, January 8, 2017

Casa Grande Arizona Part 2 Dec.10-Dec.29 2016 Bobcat, Mountain Plover, Burrowing Owl, Rosy-faced Lovebirds, Thrashers, Ross's Geese

The month of December seemed to fly by as every day provided many opportunities to photograph Arizona fauna.  Some of the areas we explored were, Papago Park, Thompson-boyce Arboretum, Sweetwater Park, Gilbert Water Ranch, Thrasher Corner (Salome and Baseline), Patagonia SP, St. Davids Monastery, San Pedro House and Santa Cruz Flats which covers a large area.  
Gilbert Water Ranch was an area I have often heard of.  We were not disappointed with the variety of birds here including a Black and White Warbler.
The many ponds at the Water Ranch contained many varieties of waterfowl such as this Black-necked Stilt.
I have seen many Lincoln's Sparrows before but not one that almost walked over my feet.
The main reason for visiting the Gilbert Water Ranch was to find the Rosy-faced Lovebird.
We arrived at the park-got out of the car-walked over to the restroom and there they were, chattering away.
These birds are the descendants of escaped birds and are now countable on the ABA list.
American Avocets were very common here.
Bendire's Thrashers were at almost every location we visited.
Curved-billed Thrashers were equally abundant.  We tried 3 times to find LeConte's Thrasher at Salome and Baseline roads (Thrasher corner).  Every time we were thwarted.
At Thrasher Corner a Prairie Falcon cruised by.
A Road Runner had a deformed bill.  I noticed when the tail was up the crest was down and vice versa.
Not sure where I took this picture of a Desert Cottontail.  
In the previous blog I explained how a lady at our resort told us about Burrowing Owls just down the road.  There were 4 of them right beside the road in the middle of a busy area.
We checked them every day because most of the time only their heads were visible.  Whenever I saw them on the perch I would go over and get a few pictures.
We had a rain storm one night.  The burrow must have gotten soaked. The owls were hampered with muddy talons.
Loggerhead Shrikes were an everyday sight on the Flats.
We took a side trip to the southern part of Arizona.  This Bewick's Wren was at St David's Monastery.
Further along the road we stopped at San Pedro House, close to Sierra Vista.  A Black Phoebe watched us hike the trails.
A Gila Woodpecker alights on a tree.
Still further down the road is Patagonia State Park.  A Northern Cardinal was coming to a feeder.
Female Pyrrhuloxia is easy to confuse with a female Cardinal.  Patagonia.
Green-tailed Towhee.  Patagonia.
I believe this is a Cassin's Vireo but Plumbeous is very similar.  Patagonia.  We had heard from another birder that an Elegant Trogon had been seen at Patagonia that morning.  We searched but couldn't locate it.  When we got back to the car I noticed the car beside us was from British Columbia-our home province.  Back at the resort I checked ebird and found the person who found the Trogon was old acquaintance, Thor Manson from Oliver, BC.  We must have passed on the trails somewhere and not realized it.
I was sitting on a bench at San Padre House when this Red-tailed Hawk cruised low over my head and dropped down.  I only had a few seconds to get this shot before it saw me and flew away.

We visited Papago Park and although we saw quite a few birds I only got a picture of a Common Gallinule.
We have visited Sweetwater Park in Tucson many times in previous years but this is the first time we have seen a Bobcat there.  It was walking down the trail, completely oblivious to us, when it froze beside a pond.  Something had its attention.
It sprang into the water, out of sight, and came up with a hapless Coot.
I was hoping the cat would look in our direction.  It held the Coot in such a way that it couldn't flap its wings.
It took the Coot into the bushes and we found it lying down.  It was watching the wounded Coot which tried to slowly creep away (it couldn't fly).   Whenever the Coot went too far the Bobcat would spring on it again.  We watched for about 5 minutes of tormenting and then the cat decided the cat and coot game was over and started to pluck the Coot.  The brush obscured all chances for good photos.
We left and came back about 30 minutes later to find the Bobcat drying and cleaning its paws.  
One of the few times it actually looked in our direction.  We wondered how it got on the other side of the fence.  The Coot was on this side of the fence and when the cat pounced it went right through the 6 inch mesh as if it wasn't there.
Back at Santa Cruz Flats we found as many as 50 Crested Caracaras on one trip.
Mountain Plovers were on the sod farms but they were always too far away for a good picture.
On our 3rd and last visit they were much closer to the road.  We have searched for these birds many times in Southern Alberta which is the only location they can be found in Canada.  We still have not seen any there.  A bit frustrating when we counted 75-80 at this location.
Paradoxically, Mountain Plovers like low flat open areas and they are not fond of water.
Vermillion Flycatcher moulting into breeding plumage.
On our way home we stopped one more time at Thrasher corner.  An Ash-throated Flycatcher was the best bird seen.
A Black-tailed Gnatcatcher was also there.
On our way home we visited Colusa Wildlife Refuge. A couple of years ago we stopped there to find a Falcated Teal.  We never found that either but it is a great area for birds.
Snow and Ross's Geese come in to swallow fine gravel for their gizzards..
Ross's Geese.
Finally, a Meadowlark on the dyke at Colusa.
We have been to this part of Arizona before.  On those occasions we stayed further south.  We found this  is a better idea than staying in Casa Grande which was too far from some of the best birding sites.  As luck would have it a Rose-breasted Becard showed up a few days after we left.  Looks like we have to return.

End of this blog.  Scroll down for previous blog-(part one of Casa Grande).

Monday, January 2, 2017

Dec 1-10 2016. Part one of two - Casa Grande Az. Rock Wrens, Burrowing Owls, Sage Brush Sparrows, Rufous-backed Robin

This blog records the first ten days of a month in Arizona.  We arrived November 29, 2016.  Our destination was Casa Grande, just south of Phoenix.
We experienced a snowfall the night we stayed in Flagstaff.  The next day the skies were clear and the landscape was beautiful as we passed Sedona.

We visited Sedona for a few hours and captured this Western Bluebird  
The above map includes an area called The Santa Cruz Flats.  We heard this was a good area for birds and much of our vacation was spent exploring it. 
One of the first birds we found was a Merlin.
Brewer's Sparrow
Lark Buntings were plentiful on the Flats.
We had never seen Lark Buntings on their winter range before.  
Prairie Falcons were quite common here.
We found this Blue-gray Gnatcatcher at Casa Grande National Monument.
The Blue-gray Gnatcatcher is one of 3 Gnatcatcher species we found on this trip.
Verdins are very common here.  This one briefly showed its red shoulder patch.
We talked to a lady at our resort and she told us about some Burrowing Owls close to our accommodation.  More pictures in the next blog.   
Certain areas in the flats had plenty of Sage Brush Sparrows.  I wondered if this might be a Bell's Sparrow because of the faint stripes on the back but I am not positive.  Any experts out there?
A visit to Boyce-Thompson Arboretum didn't provide many birds but we did get to see an Antelope Squirrel.
A local tried to tell us this was a Monarch Butterfly and told the life history of Monarchs.  We didn't want to tell him it is a Queen Butterfly-a species we had encountered before in Texas.
Rock Wrens were seen frequently on our trip.
This Rock Wren was at Pichaco State Park and was gleaning leftovers under our picnic table.
  Here is a Sage Brush Sparrow.
When visiting this area we always drop into the Sweetwater reclaimation park in Tucson.  A cooperative Coopers Hawk was bathing in the reclaimed water.
We noticed it was banded.  I sent the info to the authorities and I am still waiting for the feedback.
Dian pointed out what we think is a Cotton Rat at Sweetwater.
A House Wren at Sweetwater.
While watching the Cooper's Hawk, a Snowy Egret flew in.
We heard reports of a Rufous-backed Robin on the Flats.  Not a great picture but it was the first time we had ever seen one.
One of our side trips was to Madera and Florida Canyons where we found an Arizona Woodpecker.

Florida Canyon had a Black-tailed Gnatcatcher.
And a Canyon Towhee.
A Canyon Wren was also along the Florida Canyon Trail.
A Rufous-crowned Sparrow was near the Canyon Wren.
Yellow-eyed Junco at Madera.
I was impressed by the claws on this Pond Slider Turtle.  Reminded me of Freddie Kruger.
Rock Squirrels were common on the right habitat.  Usually rocky areas close to irrigation ditches.

End of this blog.  Scroll down for previous blog.  The next blog will have pictures of the rest of the trip.