And birds we did see. Melody Kehl got me out the door at 5am this morning, meaning I had to be awake at 4am, which meant I got less than 4 hours sleep last night. But it was worth it for the birds we saw. We saw only 39 species in total, but I added 16 new Arizona species to my state list, giving me 127 seen here this year. I even saw another Snow Goose. But that was only the icing on the cake.
It was the new birds we saw today that made the day grand. We had a long drive out to Gila Bend, where we were on the hunt for two birds of note, a Sage Sparrow and a Le Conte's Thrasher. But before we even got to the designated area, Melody slammed on the breaks and made a sharp u-turn that would have made any stunt driver proud,(our lunch and beverages were scattered across the back seat-but survived). We had stopped for a Ferruginous Hawk. It was sitting atop a pole, as I got my first look, then flew across the street and alighted on another pole in much better light. I got a few more photos before it flew off into the morning sky.
From there we drove to the Thrasher location and walked into a habitat that seemed more suited for the Roadrunner and Coyote, than to look for the birds,(then again, that's what the Coyote was up to, so I stand corrected). First up, was the Sage Sparrow and it didn't take long to show. I got a decent first look and then we found more and I was able to get some nice photos of a sparrow that turned out to be a LGJ: Little Grey Job. Nice bird, easy identification as far as sparrows go.
Next it was on to the Le Conte's Thrasher. This location at the corner of Baseline Road and Salome Highway is known for Le Conte's and it wasn't long before Melody heard one and we were chasing it into the scrub. It alighted on a bushy tree and we both got great looks at it through Melody's scope. Before we could get close enough for a photo op, it was gone, not to be seen again the rest of morning. We spent about another half hour trying to find it again for a photo, but considered ourselves lucky to have seen it at all. Time to move on.
We had an hour drive ahead of us and the lack of sleep was catching up to me, so I covered my head with my hat and slept like a sack of potatoes the entire drive to the small town of Eloy, which is not in the middle of nowhere, it's well past nowhere. It's pure desert emptiness and a popular spot for illegal aliens to camp after they sneak into America. Funny how the Border Patrol Officers never patrol way out this way. If they want to find the illegals, all they have to do is ask the birders.
Here we were looking for Bendire's Thrasher. We had barely begun our hunt when something flew overhead. Melody saw the shadow pass and I already had my binoculars on the bird when she shouted, "Prairie Falcon!" Bonus. I got a good look then quickly grabbed my camera and got some photos before it sailed off into the sun and parts unknown.
Back to the pesky Bendire's Thrasher. We were hearing it singing in the trees and stealthily crept our way around to find it, when a Thrasher appeared in a tree and the singing stopped. We got eyes on the bird and it was a Curve-billed Thrasher. But it wasn't singing and we were both convinced it was not the bird we had heard, though they are good mimics. However, shortly after we got to see the Curve-billed, we heard the Bendire's song again. It was clearly a Bendire's and not a Curve-billed song, said Melody,and played both for us to compare.
Now we saw two birds head into a tree and knew something was up. As we were looking, we saw an Ash-throated Flycatcher and Yellow-rumped Warbler, but no Bendire's. We got even closer to the tree where we had heard it and then, from under the tree and into another thicket, ran the Bendire's Thrasher. Shorter beak than the Curve-billed, and running with an upright gate, similar to a Roadrunner. Melody saw it in the scrub, but only from behind. We had our bird, and it sure did take coordination and team work. How many birders does it take to get a Bendire's Thrasher? Two. One for the head, and one for the tail. And both to hear it's call.
Speaking of Roadrunners, I did get my first Arizona American Roadrunner sighting today. I also saw Yellow-headed Blackbirds up close and personal and even better, added two Rodent-y things to my Rodent-y things list: Black-tailed Jackrabbit and as seen below, Round-tailed Ground Squirrel. That gives me 18 Rodent-y things for the year. Of course, the Rodent-y list has a long way to catch up to my Big Year Bird List, of 560, with the addition of 5 new birds today. We missed out on two, the Crissal Thrasher and Mountain Plover, though I may have a shot at the Crissal with Matt Brown tomorrow.
Tonight I can rest, get a good dinner, get to bed early and sleep in until 5am. Woo hoo!
By the way, anyone get the Mary Poppins reference?