The Santa Cruz River at Tumacacori and Corona De Tucson Sewage Treatment Plant 26 September 2008

Ahh, nothing like sanitized effluent (perhaps less-than-sanitized since some of the water flowing in the Santa Cruz River at Tumacacori comes from Nogales, Sonora and may be untreated) to nurture a lush riparian corridor filled with towering Fremont Cottonwoods and Gooding's Willows. Add Netleaf Hackberry, mesquites and scattered weedy fields, and you have all the components needed for breeding species and migrants galore. Jake Mohlmann and I enjoyed a cool morning here today, and even dodged light sprinkles en-route. We explored the river from the Santa Gertrudis Lane crossing north to the Tumacacori National Historic Park along the Juan Bautista de Anza Trail.

Migrants were present, but in modest numbers this morning. We encountered several mixed-species flocks that included Bridled Titmice, White-breasted Nuthatches, Bell's, Warbling, and Plumbeous Vireos, as well as several species of warblers, Lucy's, Nashville, Orange-crowned, MacGillivray's Common Yellowthroat, Wilson's, and Yellow-breasted Chats amongst them. Summer Tanagers sputtered around us, with migrant Western Tanagers, Black-headed Grosbeaks and Pacific-slopped Flycatchers making known their presence. Gray Hawks seemed to be omni-present due to their vocal nature. A weedy field near where the lane crosses the river produced many Lazuli Bunting, A couple Varied Buntings, Blue Grosbeaks, White-crowned Sparrows and this gem photographed by Jake Mohlmann:

It has been a good year for Painted Bunting is southeast Arizona, and it is always nice to see an adult male of this species!

Walking north along the river, we noted a few more small mixed flocks, but there was no sign of the Red-eyed Vireo, Northern Waterthrush and Northern Parula that Adam and I observed here a week or so ago. Things really keep moving during migration!

From the MAPS station, we hiked away from the river to cover the mesquite bosque that leads towards the historic park. Green-tailed Towhees and Rufous-winged Sparrows made themselves known vocally, both in full-song. As we rounded the sharp right turn in the trail (when coming from the river) where the kiosk with information on the park and its natural history is located, we came upon a Black-capped Gnatcatcher, still rare, but seemingly increasing in southeast Arizona. The bird vocalized several times-- a strange mewing, sometimes described as slightly demonic-- the most diagnostic characteristic when in basic plumage. I managed to get a few poor-quality documentation shoots of this rare and sprightly species, more common just south of the U.S.-Mexico border.

After returning to the car, we checked the fields south of Tumacacori. Small pools of standing water were present in a few spots and held White-faced Ibises, Killdeers and a Single American Pipit.

The water levels at Corona de Tucson Sewage Ponds were fantastic for migrant shorebirds, though for how much longer it is uncertain, as the two lowest ponds are not going to be in use and are slowly evaporating. Get there now while the habitat remains! Several sharp juvenile Baird's Sandpipers adorned the ponds, out-sizing the Least and Westerns around them. Over half a dozen Pectoral Sandpipers were present; we tried in vain to find that mega Sharp-tailed Sand. Several Solitary Sandpipers were not so solitary, loosely associating in one of the muddy basins. A single Red-necked Phalarope was present, as were a few species of common ducks including Northern Pintail, and an Eared Grebe. A great day with much thanks to effluent!

Good Birding,
Keith Kamper
Senior Guide for Adventure Birding Company

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