Date: 7/21/17 9:50 am
From: Eric Hough <thebirdwhisperer22...>
Subject: [AZNMbirds] N/CEAZ: Cassin's Sparrows, Vermilion Flycatcher, etc.
Yesterday (7/20/2017) I went birding with Nick and Connie Worth across south-central Navajo and Apache Counties between Snowflake-Taylor, St. Johns, Richville, and Zeniff. After seeing Felipe Guerrero's recent reports of a Cassin's Sparrow irruption across grasslands in Yavapai County, one of the goals we had was to see if a similar irruption was occurring here as it did during 2011 when the species was found across all northern Arizona counties. Lo and behold, we detected 7+ CASSIN'S SPARROWS at St. Johns (Apache Co.) and 2+ birds near Dry Lake (Navajo Co.). The birds in St. Johns were along N 2nd St W southwest of the Water St wastewater ponds; here is the link to my eBird list where you can find the map link: http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S38235519

The Dry Lake area birds were at the 2nd cattle guard along Duck Lake Rd. north of Hwy. 377: http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S38241078

At least four of the St. Johns Cassin's Sparrows were singing males and we also saw interactions with at least three other silent birds (possibly females). The observation of the birds near Dry Lake was of at least two singing males.

Here is a list of other notable sightings at locations we visited:

--Snowflake-Hwy. 77 bridge over Cottonwood Wash near Silver Creek confluence (Navajo Co.): one immature 'hendersoni' SHORT-BILLED DOWITCHER, two 'MEXICAN DUCK' x MALLARD intergrades with nearby immature Mallards that may have been the offspring of this pair, and a WHITE-FACED IBIS in a rainwater pool on the west side of the highway. We also had a few BARN OWLS and YELLOW-BREASTED CHATS, a YELLOW WARBLER, and a SUMMER TANAGER in the riparian zone on the east side of the highway.

--Concho Lake (Apache Co.): at least 14 pure-looking 'MEXICAN DUCKS' with 17 other distant MALLARDS that may have included a mix of intergrades and northern forms, two PIED-BILLED GREBES sitting on nests, an adult BALD EAGLE flying over, a WILSON'S PHALAROPE, four SPOTTED SANDPIPERS, 3+ PHAINOPEPLAS, and a singing male LAZULI BUNTING.

--St. Johns WTP/Water St. (Apache Co.): two WHITE-FACED IBISES, one SORA, nine shorebirds that flushed and flew away (probably Wilson's Phalaropes), and a PHAINOPEPLA.

--St. Johns-N 2nd St. W (Apache Co.): the aforementioned 7+ CASSIN'S SPARROWS, a pair of SCALED QUAIL, and a singing CRISSAL THRASHER.

--Richville/Generating Station Rd. east of Hwy. 191 between St. Johns and Springerville (Apache Co.): We stopped here to try for the introduced population of California Quail which has persisted since the 1960s, but were unsuccessful. A few times we thought we may have heard a few calling in the distance, but could not rule out mimicry incorporated in the singing of the several YELLOW-BREASTED CHATS along the Little Colorado River here. We also heard a calling CRISSAL THRASHER and a few singing LAZULI BUNTINGS and BLUE GROSBEAKS.

Lyman Lake State Park (Apache Co.): **Note that we found the road to the south end of the lake closed, as it turns out this south end is actually BLM land and still under a Stage 2 fire restriction closure despite the ample monsoon rains the area has already had. Birds were slim at the northern end as usual, but we did find a RUFOUS-CROWNED SPARROW, adult breeding plumage BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT-HERON, and a family of ROCK WRENS near the dam, and an OSPREY, an AMERICAN AVOCET, and a GREATER ROADRUNNER in a cove near the visitor center and campground.

Zeniff Rd./Forest Rd. 332 between Hwy. 277 and 377 south of Dry Lake (Navajo Co.): an immature VERMILION FLYCATCHER about 0.5 mile south of Hwy. 377 (if fledged locally, surprising given most of poplar groves are dead in the area), a BENDIRE'S THRASHER near the same spot I had detected birds on territory during 2011 and 2014 while surveying this stretch as part of the Clay Springs BBS route, a GREATER ROADRUNNER, and a GREATER YELLOWLEGS in a rainfall puddle at the intersection with Hwy. 377.

Duck Lake Rd. up to the 2nd cattle guard north of Hwy. 377 just west of Dry Lake (Navajo Co.): the aforementioned 2+ singing CASSIN'S SPARROWS.

Taylor (Navajo Co.): a couple of BURROWING OWLS at a prairie dog colony and a nearby GREATER ROADRUNNER.

All across the region we heard more Eastern than Western Meadowlarks.

It was a fun day exploring an under-birded region with friends and getting them their lifer Cassin's Sparrows and Bendire's Thrasher! The weather cooperated mostly, but we did run into heavy monsoon rain around midday in St. Johns and in the evening in Taylor. Most of the dirt roads were still passable and not too muddy yet, although the rain last night likely changed that.

Good birding,

Eric Hough
Wickenburg, AZ

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