Date: 11/30/17 8:10 pm From: Tommy DeBardeleben <debardelebentommy...> Subject: [AZNMbirds] AZ: Greenlee County Birding (29-30 November 2017)
Gordon Karre and I spent yesterday and today, November 29th-30th, birding in southern Greenlee County near the towns of Duncan and Clifton. The potential of this county is always impressive and the mystery of it's bird life certainly is too.
Yesterday, November 29th, we spent the entire day in Duncan. Birding highlights were many. We got to the Duncan Birding Trail along the Gila River just after sunrise. The birding trail is always a productive stop. We had about 50 species in just over three hours. Highlights included a comical SNOW GOOSE flying in formation with a large flock of SANDHILL CRANES. This goose was out of place and seemed to be fitting in with a much larger bird, maybe wanting to be a Sandhill Crane. 5 WOOD DUCK, NORTHERN SHOVELER, GADWALL, AMERICAN WIGEON, NORTHERN PINTAIL, GREEN-WINGED TEAL were among the ducks present. Waterbirds can be very challenging to find in Greenlee County. A fly-over GREAT EGRET was a surprise. SANDHILL CRANES are very common along the birding trail and throughout Duncan. WHITE-WINGED DOVES winter here, and we had decent numbers throughout the trip. A STELLER'S JAY was heard calling on the north side of the Gila while we walked the trail. We later saw one nearby after crossing the river, likely the same bird heard before. Several AMERICAN CROWS were heard calling among the many Common Ravens. A good bird we found were at least 10 EASTERN BLUEBIRDS out in a field near the eastern perimeter of the birding trail. We also had CASSIN'S FINCH, RED CROSSBILLS, and PINE SISKINS flying over, with the first perching for a few minutes and feeding on berries in a tree. The best bird here was a GOLDEN-CROWNED SPARROW among the many White-crowned Sparrows.
At a few small ponds along Wilkins Road (Private Property), we observed a GREEN HERON and another EASTERN BLUEBIRD.
At a pond on the east side of the US 70 south of Duncan and just north of Railroad Wash Road (Private Property but viewable from road) we found 3 REDHEAD, RING-NECKED DUCK, and VERMILION FLYCATCHER.
Railroad Wash Road, which attracted a Upland Sandpiper last year, didn't have the conditions in the ag. fields that we were hoping for. A walk down to the Gila River rewarded us with a SWAMP SPARROW. A PYRRHULOXIA was also great to see.
Once back on US 70, we stopped to count a large flock of SANDHILL CRANES, which numbered about 260 individuals in a small section of a field. Gordon started laughing out of nowhere, and said, "Tommy, I think I found the SNOW GOOSE". It was the Snow Goose, and it was hanging out with the Sandhills and was copying their feeding behaviors except for when the Cranes would dance. When a flock of 10 SNOW GEESE flew in nearby, the weird "Sandhill" Snow Goose didn't pay any attention to it's own kind. This proved to be a good stop otherwise, as we also added WILSON'S SNIPE, 2 EASTERN BLUEBIRD, 2 PYRRHULOXIA, and a flock of AMERICAN GOLDFINCH.
After completing the Stagecoach Loop on the north side of the Gila River in Duncan, we accessed the north side of the Gila River from a dirt road. This turnoff was on Old Virden Road, just southeast of Highway 75. The section of habitat here was very impressive and there are more access to tall cottonwood stands as opposed to the Duncan Birding Trail not far south and on the south side of the Gila River. A WHITE-THROATED SPARROW was the best bird here. As Duncan is roughly 3600' in elevation, we had some other noteable birds for the habitat and elevation. In a stand of cottonwoods along a small stretch we encountered DOWNY WOODPECKER, HAIRY WOODPECKER, HUTTON'S and PLUMBEOUS VIREOS, BRIDLED TITMOUSE, BROWN CREEPER, and BLACK-THROATED GRAY WARBLER. Another EASTERN BLUEBIRD called nearby.
Today on November 30th, we started the day in Duncan along a residential road called East Avenue. We had good birds here in May including a Rose-breasted Grosbeak, and it has potential around the many barking dogs. A few RED-BREASTED NUTHATCHES at this location were new for the trip.
We finished the trip with visits to the Gila River via the Gila Box Conservation Area, a drive through Morenci, and the San Francisco River via Clifton. At Gila Box was a small flock of GOLDEN-CROWNED KINGLETS. This is one impressive riparian area. A drive through Morenci looking for Rock Pigeons gave us 11 ROCK PIGEONS, which seem to be pretty rare in Greenlee County!!! We also looked for ponds in the area without any luck. Nothing very notable was along the section of the San Francisco River that we covered in Clifton via Frisco Avenue, but the cottonwoods and willows still had amazing amounts of green on them compared to the dull yellow leaves that were elsewhere in the birding spots visited during the trip. It would have been interesting to visit this spot first thing in the morning. After that, we left. Thanks Gordon for the fun Greenlee County birding trip!