Monday, January 2, 2017

Dec 1-10 2016. Part one of two - Casa Grande Az. Rock Wrens, Burrowing Owls, Sage Brush Sparrows, Rufous-backed Robin

This blog records the first ten days of a month in Arizona.  We arrived November 29, 2016.  Our destination was Casa Grande, just south of Phoenix.
We experienced a snowfall the night we stayed in Flagstaff.  The next day the skies were clear and the landscape was beautiful as we passed Sedona.

We visited Sedona for a few hours and captured this Western Bluebird  
The above map includes an area called The Santa Cruz Flats.  We heard this was a good area for birds and much of our vacation was spent exploring it. 
One of the first birds we found was a Merlin.
Brewer's Sparrow
Lark Buntings were plentiful on the Flats.
We had never seen Lark Buntings on their winter range before.  
Prairie Falcons were quite common here.
We found this Blue-gray Gnatcatcher at Casa Grande National Monument.
The Blue-gray Gnatcatcher is one of 3 Gnatcatcher species we found on this trip.
Verdins are very common here.  This one briefly showed its red shoulder patch.
We talked to a lady at our resort and she told us about some Burrowing Owls close to our accommodation.  More pictures in the next blog.   
Certain areas in the flats had plenty of Sage Brush Sparrows.  I wondered if this might be a Bell's Sparrow because of the faint stripes on the back but I am not positive.  Any experts out there?
A visit to Boyce-Thompson Arboretum didn't provide many birds but we did get to see an Antelope Squirrel.
A local tried to tell us this was a Monarch Butterfly and told the life history of Monarchs.  We didn't want to tell him it is a Queen Butterfly-a species we had encountered before in Texas.
Rock Wrens were seen frequently on our trip.
This Rock Wren was at Pichaco State Park and was gleaning leftovers under our picnic table.
  Here is a Sage Brush Sparrow.
When visiting this area we always drop into the Sweetwater reclaimation park in Tucson.  A cooperative Coopers Hawk was bathing in the reclaimed water.
We noticed it was banded.  I sent the info to the authorities and I am still waiting for the feedback.
Dian pointed out what we think is a Cotton Rat at Sweetwater.
A House Wren at Sweetwater.
While watching the Cooper's Hawk, a Snowy Egret flew in.
We heard reports of a Rufous-backed Robin on the Flats.  Not a great picture but it was the first time we had ever seen one.
One of our side trips was to Madera and Florida Canyons where we found an Arizona Woodpecker.

Florida Canyon had a Black-tailed Gnatcatcher.
And a Canyon Towhee.
A Canyon Wren was also along the Florida Canyon Trail.
A Rufous-crowned Sparrow was near the Canyon Wren.
Yellow-eyed Junco at Madera.
I was impressed by the claws on this Pond Slider Turtle.  Reminded me of Freddie Kruger.
Rock Squirrels were common on the right habitat.  Usually rocky areas close to irrigation ditches.

End of this blog.  Scroll down for previous blog.  The next blog will have pictures of the rest of the trip.


  1. What a fantastic trip you two! Makes me wanna go back! I love Eloy and the Santa Cruz Flats. It was the best spot for raptors and I saw Harris's Hawks, Caracaras, Black Vultures, Swainson's and more there. So glad you had a great time! I wish I had a black-tailed gnatcatcher photo that wonderful!! I saw one in near Madera Canyon as well. I also had yellow juncos at Madera. Did you see any Scott's Orioles? or hummers? nice shots on the lark buntings! Massive congrats on the Rufous-backed Robin!!!!!!! Wish I had a photo half as good! You are back just in time for BC's first Purple Sandpiper. Also another RFBL showed up in Comox while you were away.

    Great report and trip thanks for sharing!

  2. Looks like you had a very productive time in SE AZ, Len! Super photos, clear and sharp.