Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Dirt Fields, Mountain Plovers, and a Rufous-backed Robin

On Friday, January 21, John Yerger and I volunteered our time to survey the southern Santa Cruz Flats of Pinal County for wintering Mountain Plovers. We made countless stops along remote county roads such as this, overlooking off-season cotton fields. This is looking NE toward Picacho Peak, familiar to commuters along I-10 between Tucson and Phoenix.

In our search for Mountain Plovers, we were getting warmer when we looked over the sod farms near Tweedy and Pretzer roads.

We finally located a group of 15 Mountain Plovers in a relatively flat dirt field (few dirt clods or plants) to the southwest of the intersection of Hotts and Tweedy Roads.

I also noticed this minute velvet ant – actually a wingless female wasp. This species is Dasymutilla foxi.

Since it was in our area, we also stopped at this row of fruiting privet where Richard Fray and Laura Steward found a Rufous-backed Robin just five days earlier.

It was not there for the first several minutes, but while we were chatting with Laurens Halsey and Andrew Core, it flew in and began feeding out in the open. I managed this "digibinned" shot with my Canon PowerShot S90 held up to my Zeiss binoculars.
I kept track of our sightings for entering into eBird. We came up with a total of 55 species:

Mallard 5
Great Blue Heron 1
White-tailed Kite 2
Northern Harrier 6
Cooper's Hawk 1
Red-tailed Hawk 22
Ferruginous Hawk 3
Crested Caracara 11
American Kestrel 9
Prairie Falcon 1
Killdeer 3
Mountain Plover 15
Least Sandpiper 16
Eurasian Collared-Dove 158
Mourning Dove 576
Greater Roadrunner 1
Gila Woodpecker 25
Ladder-backed Woodpecker 1
Black Phoebe 2
Say's Phoebe 18
Loggerhead Shrike 6
Chihuahuan Raven 18
Common Raven 41
Horned Lark 176
Verdin 2
Rock Wren 1
House Wren 2
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 2
Rufous-backed Robin 1
Bendire's Thrasher 1
Curve-billed Thrasher 2
European Starling 19
American Pipit 212
Orange-crowned Warbler 2
Yellow-rumped Warbler 18
Common Yellowthroat 1
Green-tailed Towhee 1
Abert's Towhee 6
Brewer's Sparrow 12
Vesper Sparrow 43
Lark Sparrow 10
Lark Bunting 161
Savannah Sparrow 68
Song Sparrow 6
White-crowned Sparrow 39
Northern Cardinal 1
Pyrrhuloxia 6
Red-winged Blackbird 550
Western Meadowlark 222
Yellow-headed Blackbird 50
Brewer's Blackbird 475
Great-tailed Grackle 12
Brown-headed Cowbird 350
House Finch 5
House Sparrow 19

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