Thursday, October 21, 2010

Willcox, AZ – Tree Swallows, Gopher Snake, Grasshoppers, and a Gray Hawk

I'm pretty much bound to the computer these days between tours, but I couldn't resist the invitation to join my friends Keith, John, and Jerry for a quick run over to Willcox to check the lake at the golf course, known as Lake Cochise. We had planned this trip a couple days earlier and were pleased that a Mew Gull (very rare in AZ) was reported from the day before we were to head out there.

Lost water birds are notoriously ephemeral at Willcox, so it was little surprise that there were no gulls at all this morning. But the birding was still good. While the numbers of shorebirds (such as American Avocets, Long-billed Dowitchers and others) and waterfowl were enough to keep us occupied, we were most impressed by an estimated 7000 Tree Swallows roosting on the mud and flying around the area. It was a spectacle to behold.

We checked a grove of trees as a possible vagrant trap a few miles east of there, finding an immature Gray Hawk – notably late and at an odd location. I managed to get this digibinned shot as it took off.

The grasshoppers here were abundant. Just a quick glance revealed four species, and there may have been as many as 10 if one looked carefully. The lovely pink one above is a color form of the Lakin Grasshopper, Melanoplus lakinus. This one below is the Two-striped Mermiria, Mermiria bivittata.

A couple other species we saw were Red-winged Grasshoppers, Arphia pseudonietana, and Plains Lubber Grasshopper, Brachystola magna.

We also stopped to rescue this young Gopher Snake, Pituophis catenifer, as it was surely going to be smashed by the traffic.


  1. Beautiful snake!
    Where's the little migrant trap? I can't picture it quite.
    Best from Vancouver!

  2. Hi Rick,

    Thanks! The migrant trap is a grove of trees you can see off to the north as you head towards Dos Cabezas, just about 2 miles past Kansas Settlement Road. I swear I remember something rather good being found there sometime in the past year or two, but I can't find mention of it in the birdwg05 archive.

  3. Gray Hawks seemed to be having a great year in Cochise and Santa Rita Co this year, I've never seen and heard so many young ones around nest sites (maybe just luck, though) Lots of very colorful grasshoppers, too, only a strange lack of Horselubbers.