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.