Date: 11/28/19 1:41 pm
From: Clifford Cathers <azbirding...>
Subject: [AZNMbirds] AZ:11/28/19:Turkey Day in Cochise County
With Storm #2 dragging it's heals in California, I decided to follow behind Storm #1 this morning to Willcox and Benson to check out the lakes there.  It became apparent the further I drove east that Storm #1 wasn't quite done with Cochise County as of mid-morning and Texas Canyon was above the cloud base.

The good news is that the water level at Willcox Cochise lakes is coming up again and even the dry northwest arm of the lake is taking on water.  For the first time in my three decades in this part of Arizona, I didn't dare drive around the lake.  Oatmeal is how I would describe the road conditions after record rainfall here, and it alternated between eight inch deep super soft mush to hard pan within a short stride.  There is lots of ponded water elsewhere away from the lake, including the roadside ditches, the golf course, the playa and even in Willcox itself.  I parked in the parking lot near the entrance and walked out to the old dock area.  My trusty old Keens were immediately sacrificed to the birding deity and I doubt they can be saved.  I now have a shopping target for tomorrow.

The best bird was likely a lone BONAPARTE'S GULL (crescent shaped ear patch, black bill, smaller gull) though turning it into something rarer would have been impossible without walking halfway around the mud-ringed lake.  Puddle ducks were up in large numbers in order of abundance: NORTHERN SHOVELOR, AMERICAN WIGEON, RUDDY DUCK, GREEN-WINGED TEAL, GADWALL (such a stunning duck), NORTHERN PINTAIL, MALLARD, BUFFLEHEAD, CINNAMON TEAL and the normal smattering of AMERICAN COOT.  SANDHILL CRANES came in from the north near the end of my time there, appearing in the sudden gloom and dropping into the vegetation to loaf.  Other birds around the main pond included GREATER ROADRUNNER, LOGGERHEAD SHRIKE, HORNED LARK, CHIHUAHUAN RAVENs, EASTERN MEADOWLARKs (singing) and a few others.  

Over at the flooded and puddled golf course, a flock of 30 LEAST SANDPIPERs and 4 GREATER YELLOWLEGs were hanging with the hundreds of AMERICAN WIGEON.  Other birds in and around the pond included GREAT-BLUE HERON, PIED-BILLED GREBE, WHITE-CROWNED, BREWER'S, SONG and LINCOLN'S SPARROWs, COMMON YELLOWTHROAT, LARK BUNTINGs, CURVE-BILLED THRASHER and BLACK and SAY'S PHOEBEs.  A noisy SORA peeled off from the cattails.

Puddle ducks were even more numerous at the Benson Waste Water Treatment Plant in order of decreasing abundance: NORTHERN SHOVELOR, AMERICAN WIGEON, RUDDY DUCK, BUFFLEHEAD (as many as 40 on the pond), GREEN-WINGED TEAL, NORTHERN PINTAIL, CANVASBACK, MEXICAN DUCK, GADWALL, CINNAMON TEAL, RING-NECKED DUCK and LESSER SCAUP.  A pair of EARED GREBEs were spotted and 1 RING-BILLED GULL.  AMERICAN COOTs were common as always.  Among other species, there were GREAT EGRET, BLACK PHOEBE, tons of RED-WINGED BLACKBIRDs and a large number of GREAT-TAILED GRACKLEs.

Clifford A. Cathers

Vail, AZ
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