Date: 1/24/18 3:02 pm
From: Tim Helentjaris <tnhelentjaris...>
Subject: [AZNMbirds] Lads Cienegas sparrows
After talking to Alan Schmierer the other day about his Botteri Sparrow surveys and that there were no other winter reports outside of his, thought I would head down to Las Cienegas and see what I could drum up. Turned out to be too windy for that task and I had to give up on that goal.

At the start, decided to go in via Curly Horse Rd and see about refinding the BAIRD’S SPARROWs there. At the gate at the paved road, ran into Steve Hosmer and another Phoenix birded and we drove into the corral, fences, and metal water tank about a mile and a quarter in. Standing around there for some time, we waded through a lot of SAVANNAH SPARROWs but not much else and were getting discouraged when Ken Blankenship came up with another couple of birders and we followed them on foot to a larger dirt stock tank with water, mostly frozen, to the southeast and tried our luck there. Success, after a number more of SavS, we finally got onto a BAIRD’S that conveniently landed on the opposite fence long enough for us all to get scopes on it. Then we began a somewhat fruitless attempt to get better looks at the large flocks of CHESTNUT-COLLARED LONGSPURS that kept making hit-and-run stops at the water but between the wind and our presence, they never really settled down. We finally all gave up and began to move on to other areas.

I back-tracked and drove up the paved section of Curly Horse to enter Las Cienegas on the west side and headed east and south to eventually exit out the south entrance. Birding was pretty spotty here, had no luck calling up any Botteri’s or Cassin’s, the wind was just too strong and noisy and I couldn’t conclude much about whether they might be wintering along there or not? Funny thing, in the first area, the sparrows were overwhelmingly SAVANNAHs but all along this latter section, they were overwhelmingly VESPER SPARROWs? Noted this on our earlier longspur surveys, that some areas were often dominated by one or the other, and while I usually associated them with the same habitat types, I now think there must by some subtle distinctions that I am not aware of. Thanks to some schooling by Sue Kozacek earlier, I started paying attention to grasses and it did seem that areas with SavS had more diversity of species while those dominated by monocultures of Lehmann’s Lovegrass where were the VeSp were found? Not sure if there is anything to this or not but perhaps worth further attention?

Tim Helentjaris
Tucson, AZ

“A paranoid is someone who knows a little of what's going on. A psychotic is a guy who's just found out what's going on.”
- William S. Burroughs

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