This morning (28 June) Mickey and I again visited the Yuma East Wetlands before work. The sun was already up when we arrived at 0545, the temperature was over 80 degrees, and the humidity was 40%. My hat goes off to the researchers who are out there on the river doing breeding bird surveys and other bird counts in this weather! New species for the June list of East Wetlands birds were INCA DOVE and AMERICAN KESTREL. The BELL’S VIREO and LADDER-BACKED WOODPECKER were vocal, but overall it was pretty slow this morning. Closer to work, two families of BURROWING OWLS now have young birds climbing and flying about their burrows. One family has three juveniles and the other has two (that I’ve spotted so far). Still haven’t seen any little ones from the 3rd and 4th pair of owls in the “colony”.
Spent a few hours out birding in the Yuma area on Saturday morning (23 Jun), and then again a couple of hours today (24 Jun) with Mickey. The days started out very pleasant, but by 9:00 the fun began to wane quickly.
On Saturday, at the Yuma East Wetlands, I added two more birds to the monthly list: GREEN HERON and BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT HERON. In fact, I saw every expected wader in Yuma County except for Cattle Egret. And a sight I did not expect to see was a KILLDEER sitting in a small tree. How common is that?!? Along one of the channels hundreds of CLIFF SWALLOWS were feeding over the water and perched in the reeds.
Continuing east past the edge of the wetlands, I added a number of BLUE GROSBEAKS and HORNED LARKS on my way to Mittry Lake. Just north of the burned-over site of Betty’s Kitchen, the Pratt Restoration Area is looking quite lush, and the trees are thriving. I saw a female YELLOW WARBLER, numerous juvenile SONG SPARROWS, and heard lots of YELLOW-BREASTED CHATS. My biggest surprise, though, was a YELLOW-BILLED CUCKOO that flew over and gave a series of calls once hidden in the cottonwood canopy.
On Mittry Lake were several CLARK’S GREBES and a RUDDY DUCK, and north of Mittry Lake in the marsh along S-24 I finally got my only BLACK RAIL for the day. A juvenile BROWN PELICAN was on the Arizona side of the Imperial Dam spillway, and at the Hidden Shores golf course were two VERMILION FLYCATCHERS.
Today, Mickey and I headed over to Imperial County, CA, to the Living Waters Ministry in Bard, and found two RED-SHOULDERED HAWKS. Efforts to find any Indigo Buntings were fruitless, but we did see a number of beautiful BLUE GROSBEAKS. In the Colorado River channel south of the Imperial Dam, we had a summering RING-NECKED DUCK.
On the way back to Yuma, along the Mittry Lake gravel road, a CLAPPER RAIL dashed in front of the car. We thought it would be long gone by the time we got even with it… But no, it didn’t want to go crashing through the salt cedar roots, so it flew up into a small tree and landed there–long enough even for a few photos!
Visited the East Wetlands again on Thursday morning for about an hour prior to work. Even though I arrived just after sunrise, I still heard no Black Rails. Clapper Rails were calling, as was the single Bell’s Vireo. New for this visit (in addition to what I had last Sunday) were four White-faced Ibis, a Greater Roadrunner, and numerous Great-tailed Grackles. The Least Bittern was a no-show, but I did see a Mallard family with 9 nearly full-grown juveniles. As I was walking over the rocks lining the levee road, I came close to stepping on a coiled and sleeping Western Diamondback!
Close to work I drove by the Burrowing Owl colony along the salinity canal. Three young owls watched me as I took some long-range photos with my super-zoom. Then they got nervous and shuffled down into their burrow. Meanwhile, the parents kept a wary eye on me from atop the berm over their home.
Yesterday (17 June) I visited the Yuma East Wetlands from 0745-0900, before the heat had me panting (like the birds). The marshes are in great shape and the willows and cottonwoods are growing steadily. I’ll be updating my website soon with maps and better descriptions of this area.
An unexpected find yesterday morning was a BELL’S VIREO, which never stopped singing the entire time I was there. Only heard one CLAPPER RAIL, and no Black Rails, but I did get there late in the morning. The YELLOW-HEADED and RED-WINGED BLACKBIRDS were the most common and obvious birds. A LEAST BITTERN teased me into trying to digiscope him (twice), but always moved out of sight at the last second! I’ll get him sooner or later, though, for this year’s quest to photograph 350 birds. One bit of bird behavior I haven’t seen before was from a LESSER NIGHTHAWK on a large area of fill dirt adjacent to the marsh. As I was walking by it hovered off a short distance and continued to beat its wings in an erratic manner, almost like a Killdeer luring me away from its eggs. I did not see any eggs or chicks, but didn’t spend but a second looking, in case they were out there frying in the sun.
Birds seen at East Wetlands, 17 June 2012, 0745-0900
Pied-billed Grebe, 1
Great Blue Heron, 1
Great Egret, 5
Snowy Egret, 2
Gambel’s Quail, 2
Clapper Rail, 1
Common Moorhen, 1
American Coot, 1
Black-necked Stilt, 5
Eurasian Collared Dove
Lesser Nighthawk, 2
Anna’s Hummingbird, 2
Black Phoebe, 1
Ash-throated Flycatcher, 1
Western Kingbird, 2
Bell’s Vireo, 1
Cliff Swallow, 50+
Marsh Wren, 10+
Northern Mockingbird, 1
Common Yellowthroat, 4
Abert’s Towhee, 2
Song Sparrow, 1
Brown-headed Cowbird, 2
Lesser Goldfinch, 8
We left Yuma at 0430 and started up Black Mountain in the San Jacintos shortly after 0830. The weather was perfect and the birds were singing, especially the Dark-eyed Juncos, Mountain Chickadees, and Western Tanagers. We stopped a couple of places and did some short walks on the way up the mountain, enjoying the creek, the fresh pine smells, and the birdlife. And then, just as we’d started back up the dirt road, a female Mountain Quail and four chicks were walking across the road and up the hillside! It was a life bird for Suzanne and my first look at young ones. At the top of the mountain we did really well with woodpeckers, finding a nesting Red-breasted Sapsucker, a family of White-headed Woodpeckers, and a pair of Nuttall’s Woodpeckers. On the way back down we were “serenaded” by an Olive-sided Flycatcher. Good birding!
Mountain Quail, Black Mountain