Quigley Wildlife Area, Feb 5, 2022


On Jan 1st I took my first birding trip of the year to Cocopah RV Resort. It was really great to get back out after being confined to the house for four weeks due to a broken foot (bonehead tree-trimming accident). Got SNOW GOOSE, HOODED MERGANSER, and a few DARK-EYED JUNCOS. Last year I didn't worry about keeping any lists, but in 2022 I'm going for 300 species in southwest Arizona and will try to post all my birds in eBird. It's good to have a goal.

This morning (Jan 5) I spent a couple of hours in the big circular ag fields ten miles south of Yuma. It was an awesome day for raptors--last year must have been a banner one for rodent propagation! These fields on the south side of County 19th Str and on west side of Ave. B haven't been so great during the past six years, so it was a real treat to see excellent numbers of FERRUGINOUS HAWKS there once again. And the ROUGH-LEGGED HAWK and two SHORT-EARED OWLS were only the second observations I've had of these species south of town. Also nice was a flock of 171 LONG-BILLED CURLEWS.

Despite some bad weather and broken foot setbacks, I'm quite enjoying the hunt for new species! On 16 Jan I connected with LECONTE'S THRASHER at Tacna, and got a bonus SAGE THRASHER, too. From there I went to Paloma Ranch where I got my one of my best birds so far, a beautiful WHITE-TAILED KITE. It was hovering over an alfalfa field, hunting for rodents.

The following day I did my first "Big Day" of the year, starting out with the trill of a WESTERN SCREECH-OWL and the growl of a BLACK RAIL at Mittry Lake. As the sun rose, it was really cool to see two pairs of CLARK'S GREBES doing their pattering mating dance over the water. Twelve hours later I tallied my 100th species for the day, a LESSER GOLDFINCH, in our yard.

On 19 Jan I went a bit farther afield, north to Imperial NWR, where I listened to a chorus of howling coyotes and braying burros at daybreak. Three RIDGWAY'S RAILS clattered in the marsh, completing my rail list for the year. Lots of waterfowl about, including a flock of COMMON MERGANSERS at Meers Point.

At the Yuma East Wetlands I finally caught up with the wintering BELL'S VIREO two days later.

The ROUGH-LEGGED HAWK continues in the ag fields south of town, but I only see it every other visit. I have been unable to find Brian's SWAINSON'S HAWK. My most productive visit (for sheer numbers) was on 21 Jan, when I counted the following raptors in an hour and a half: 9 NORTHERN HARRIERS, 72 RED-TAILED HAWKS, 42 FERRUGINOUS HAWKS, 4 AMERICAN KESTRELS, and 1 PEREGRINE FALCON.
On one of my visits to the ag fields I watched a RED-TAILED standing in the tall grass looking intently at the ground. Then it hurriedly ran forward for a few seconds, like a penguin waddling, and stopped to stare into the grass again. It moved its head slowly from side to side, trying to find a tasty morsel. After a bit, it once again raced off, doing the 10 foot dash in its comical way, and again stopped abruptly to survey its hunting grounds.

On 22 Jan, after dropping Suzanne off at Sky Harbor Airport, I surveyed the Ambian Dairy (adjoining Paloma Ranch) cattle boneyard and slop ponds. In a scene more reminiscent of southern Texas than southwestern Arizona, I counted 210 BLACK VULTURES, 3 CRESTED CARACARAS, and 180 LONG-BILLED CURLEWS.

Two days ago I headed north to Vicksburg Farm in pursuit of Caleb Strand's (and company) longspurs. I was very happy to relocate three LAPLAND LONGSPURS and one THICK-BILLED LONGSPUR, since most of my longspur chases end in disappointment. Not many raptors about, but a trio of COMMON RAVENS did give away the day roost of a GREAT HORNED OWL. Up to 144 species for the year.

On the last day of January I got up really early and made it to Cibola NWR in the cold and dark--I got eleven Great Horned Owls, a bobcat, and a fox! Later in the morning I connected with my first HERMIT THRUSH of the year.


On the first day of the month, my foot being better, I was able to shuffle along on the trail at the Yuma West Wetlands to relocate Al & Franc's BROAD-BILLED HUMMINGBIRD. A fine start to the month!

Early on Saturday, after an hour of hunting, I turned up a pair of LECONTE'S THRASHERS and a pair of SAGE THRASHERS east of Tacna. Later that same morning I was pishing under a giant cottonwood next to the Gila River, drawing in yellow rumps and kinglets, when I heard a scratching behind me. Turning around I was startled to see a GREAT HORNED OWL on a big limb six feet behind me, taking off as I turned. I'd never heard it fly in, but had heard the claws as they had clamped to the wood! It flew to a higher branch, to better examine what had lured him over in the false promise of a tasty meal.

Yesterday (Feb 6th), on Hazen Road, I finally connected with three RUDDY GROUND DOVES after speaking with the owner. She told me that they used to be next to the little white shed and chicken coop, but that they now favored the horse corrals at the far southern end of the property. And, of course, she was right. She also told me that a few days ago a BALD EAGLE had perched on one of the big cottonwoods. She was most impressed by that bird, and told me (tongue-in-cheek) that the eagle could eat the Ruddy Ground Doves for all she cared! The BALD EAGLE is still around; I saw it at the Lower River Road Ponds that very morning. That afternoon, at the Ambian Dairy, I saw only a handful of BLACK VULTURES and one remaining CRESTED CARACARA.

On the 11th I made the 2.5 hour trip down to Ajo and Organ Pipe National Monument, in the southeastern portion of my corner of the state. Giant saguaros and organ pipe cacti dot the desert mountains, and harbor a rich avifauna. I added GILDED FLICKER, CACTUS WREN, BREWER'S SPARROW, and GRAY VIREO to my list. And at the Ajo sewage lagoon (always a favorite of birders) I added MEXICAN DUCK. Sadly, I missed the Ajo Country Club Red-breasted Sapsucker.

On Valentine's Day I finally got pics of the BROAD-BILLED HUMMINGBIRD at the Yuma West Wetlands Park, and then of the ZONE-TAILED HAWK which has been patrolling the area. I was thinking about that very hawk when I spotted a Turkey Vulture crossing the road--boy was I surprised when the vulture turned into the Zone-tailed Hawk! And then, the cooperative bird made numerous passes overhead, allowing me to get plenty of photos. These hawks mimic the Turkey Vultures in their flight patterns and black plumage, allowing them to "sneak up" on unsuspecting birds and rodents. At the wetlands they're undoubtedly feasting on the numerous round-tailed ground squirrels.

On the morning of the 16th I returned to the big ag fields south of Yuma and was surprised to find 10 SWAINSON'S HAWKS added in to the raptor mix. Seems early, but perhaps they always come back this time of year. The count for RED-TAILED HAWKS hit 65 and the count for FERRUGINOUS HAWKS was 36. An early RUFOUS HUMMINGBIRD visited our feeders that evening, bringing my 2022 bird total to 171.

Signs of spring are GREATER ROADRUNNERS cooing (they sound a lot like doves), swallows returning, fledgling VERDINS, and an ANNA'S HUMMINGBIRD sitting on a nest at the East Wetlands (found by Al this morning).

On Feb 17 I made an overnight trip to Wickenburg and Yarnell. Yarnell sits at an elevation of 4780', and gets a fair number of higher-elevation birds. It was in the 30s when I trekked around Flora May Park, but the birds were active. Right away I added beauties like ACORN WOODPECKER, NORTHERN CARDINAL, and JUNIPER TITMOUSE. With more effort and hiking around the shrine of St. Joseph, I spotted WESTERN BLUEBIRD, BUSHTIT, and WHITE-BREASTED NUTHATCH. Close to Wickenburg I found a PLUMBEOUS VIREO and a HARRIS'S HAWK.

We had a relatively wind-free day on the 20th, so I tried another big day around Yuma. It started really well at Mittry Lake with all the rails (RIDGWAY'S, BLACK, VIRGINIA, and SORA) and both GREAT HORNED OWL and WESTERN SCREECH-OWL. And, as usual, it was easy to pick off species early in the morning. But then it got to be like pulling teeth, and I wondered if I would reach 75 species, let alone 100. But I added a few here and there, and a last push got me PEREGRINE FALCON on 32nd Street, a missing HOODED MERGANSER in the Yuma Main Drain, and the ag fields gave up SWAINSON'S and FERRUGINOUS HAWKS, a single HORNED LARK, WESTERN MEADOWLARK, AMERICAN PIPIT, and a small flock of MOUNTAIN PLOVER. Just like last month, I'd managed 100 species on the nose.

I ventured down to the Ajo Country Club again, and with the help of the local expert, Doug Backlund, redoubled my efforts to find the Red-breasted Sapsucker. Alas, we were unsuccessful. Farther south, at Quitobaquito Springs in Organ Pipe National Monument, I was happy to see a small flock of VIOLET-GREEN SWALLOWS. I even managed to snap an in-focus photo of one with my superzoom Sony.

The past two mornings I've made short trips to the desert at Raven Butte and Tinajas Altas. It's really dry, and the only flowering plant is the chuparosa. Their red tubular blossoms are attracting lots of COSTA'S HUMMINGBIRDS and a few ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLERS. Added to those species were some sparse CACTUS WRENS, ASH-THROATED FLYCATCHERS, VERDINS, and BLACK-TAILED GNATCATCHERS. No sign at all of my targets: Gray Vireo and Long-eared Owl. So I'm winding up the month of February with a total of 184 species.

More and more birds are singing in our backyard--a pair of SPOTTED TOWHEES, VERDINS, our HOUSE WREN, and WHITE-CROWNED SPARROWS are all being heard.

MARCH 2022

A morning trip to Kofa King Valley turned up a singing BENDIRE'S THRASHER on March 2nd. Hiking down the King Wash to hunt for the semi-reliable LONG-EARED OWL proved fruitless on the way in. Even the usual suspects, like VERDINS & BLACK-THROATED SPARROWS were in really short supply--the dry winter has hit them hard. But on the way out I paused underneath a small palo verde to catch my breath, and was startled when a LONG-EARED OWL flushed and flew out over my head! Such is the life of a birdwatcher. I followed in the direction he flew, out of the wash and into a stand of thick mesquites and paloverdes. We played chase for a bit; me getting a few glimpses and getting more and more worn out; him laughing. I soon tired of the one-sided game, but still happy that I'd at least seen the beast.

I picked Suzanne up at the airport on Thursday, March 3rd, so now I've got my birding partner back! We went out to the East Wetlands on Sunday and she found me my first WILSON'S WARBLER of the year.

On my birthday, March 9, I spent some time south of town at the ag fields and was rewarded with a bumper crop of raptors. FERRUGINOUS, RED-TAILED, and SWAINSON'S HAWKS all numbered in the double digits, and a PEREGRINE FALCON even joined one of their low-hanging kettles for a bit. Other nice birds were two SAGE THRASHERS and a flock of LONG-BILLED CURLEWS.

The 11th saw me back at Cocopah RV Resort, not ten minutes from our house. The mixture of ponds, the Colorado River, and parklands means that on a good morning I can score almost 50 species within a couple of hours. This morning I spotted a ZONE-TAILED HAWK mixed in with a small flock of TURKEY VULTURES. Before I could even get the camera up a LONG-BILLED CURLEW also spotted the hawk, and started to dive bomb it. The ZONE-TAIL glided away, but not before I got a couple more nice photos.

This morning (March 13th) Suzanne and I visited the Bill Williams NWR with Brian to hunt for the elusive NUTTING'S FLYCATCHER. Brian led the way over the Bill Williams River, through log jams, and along a riparian corridor to the breeding grounds of these rare (in the USA) flycatchers. We heard and saw our first-of-season LUCY'S WARBLERS on the way in. A couple of look-alike ASH-THROATED FLYCATCHERS got us excited, but unfortunately we never met up with the intended target. Still, a beautiful hike into a nice remote area. Up to 188 birds for the year.