More Desert Shorebirding!

Alex LamoreauxBird Finding Tips, Birding, Field Work, General News and Info, Identification, Migration, RaritiesLeave a Comment

This morning, Anna and I went to one of our cuckoo sites near Blythe that hadn’t been visited in a few weeks to see if there was any cuckoo activity there. We arrived at 5:00am and stayed for an hour and forty-five minutes, without hearing anything, so we left to go to Cibola NWR. Here Anna and I were planning on finding a few cuckoos that Anna had first discovered on a survey last week, specifically this one bird that we had captured and banded. We were easily able to lure in 4 different cuckoos using call-playback, and none of them were banded. We assumed, based on calls and behavior, that the four birds were 2 males and 2 females. Where could that banded bird have gone? We searched around other areas of Cibola NWR, and couldn’t even find another cuckoo, let alone a banded cuckoo. Around the ‘Cornfield Nature Trail’ area we had a flyover group of 3 Greater Yellowlegs and 3 Wilson’s Phalaropes. There were also a few other yellowlegs foraging in a flooded field near there. A little later, Anna said she had just heard a Whimbrel call. I doubted it and said it was probably a Killdeer or distant yellowlegs, but I should have believed her, because a few minutes later, while we were walking back to the car, a lone Whimbrel flew over us, calling! This was a new Arizona species for us!

Yellow-billed Cuckoo - this sneaky cuckoo wants to be captured....

Indigo Bunting - male at Cibola NWR

Greater Yellowlegs at Cibola NWR

After work, Anna and I swung past Hart Mine Marsh. At the south end of the lake we spotted a lone Snowy Plover near some Black-necked Stilts. This was another new state bird for us! A few minutes later, things got better when we found 4 more Snowy Plovers as well as some Western and Least Sandpipers. I also was able to spot two Forster’s Terns loafing out on some pieces of wood sticking up out of the lake. One was an adult, the other was a juvenile.

Snowy Plover - adult at Hart Mine Marsh

Snowy Plover and Semipalmated Plover at Hart Mine Marsh

Forster's Tern - juvenile at Hart Mine Marsh

Great Egret at Hart Mine Marsh

On a small mud flat out in the lake, I was able to get distant looks at 2 more Snowy Plovers as well as my first Semipalmated Plover in Arizona! Other highlights from Hart Mine were 2 Least Bitterns, 3 Common Moorhens, and 1 Spotted Sandpiper. The Brown Pelican and Little Blue Heron that we had a few days ago here were to where to be seen.

On the way back to Blythe, I scanned the telephone poles for raptors, while Anna drove. At a spot we often see Peregrine Falcons, we were not let down. As we drove nearer, even without binoculars, I could see the distinct silhouette of a Peregrine. We pulled up so I could get some photos and Anna and I both realized this was the exact some individual falcon that we had seen on 7/16/11; a heavily-molting subadult, that was likely a female based on size. The bird flew over to the next pole, allowing me to get some in-flight shots that show the blend of adult and juvenile feathers well. Here is a link to more, up-close, photos of this bird from 7/16/11. This other link is to a post I wrote recently on how to age Peregrine Falcons in the field.

Peregrine Falcon - subadult; Note blend of juvenile and adult feathers

Peregrine Falcon - subadult; Note blend of juvenile and adult feathers

Peregrine Falcon - subadult; Note blend of juvenile and adult feathers

Overall, it was a very good morning of birding. Hopefully we can go back to Cibola NWR soon to capture and band the 4 cuckoos we found today!