Patagonia, Sonoita Creek SNA, 25 January 2009

Keith Kamper, Jake Mohlmann and I enjoyed a great morning out in the Patagonia area on Sunday, Jan 25. We were greeted around 8:15AM by a surprise FERRUGINOUS HAWK, perched on a telephone pole by the high school.

We stopped by the Visitor's Center at Patagonia Lake State Park to obtain our free pass for the Sonoita Creek State Natural Area, and enjoyed a crisp male COMMON GOLDENEYE across the lake (previously posted by Peter S).

We started off by hiking into the area between the first stream crossing of the Blackhawk Trail (?) and the outflow of the dam at the west end of the lake. We were excited to see a PEREGRINE FALCON emerge from a small brushy pond with a GREEN-WINGED TEAL in its talons! The three luckier teal escaped the clutches of the falcon that morning, and fled the area.

Immediately thereafter, Keith and I discovered a very vocal BLACK-CAPPED GNATCATCHER (audio/video on the blog). In the same vicinity were several BLUE-GRAY and BLACK-TAILED GNATCATCHERS for direct comparison - neat!

(You may need to turn your volume waaaayy up...I'm not sure how much the audio/video quality is reduced by uploading it to this blog! The original video is much better, but is also 14MB.)

Again, image quality reduced from the original picture, but this is kind of a neat shot of the Black-capped Gnatcatcher with its tail fanned. A tail shot from below would have been better, but after reviewing the Pyle guide, it appears that this topside view of the fanned tail is also diagnostic. The vocalization in the video above is diagnostic as well. UPDATE: For more details, see the more recent post entitled "Gnatcatchers in Arizona."

And I thought this was just too cute to not include!

Not nearly so rare but still fun to see was a WILSON'S SNIPE and a huge mixed flock of sparrows containing WHITE-CROWNED, CHIPPING, LARK, BLACK-THROATED, and a single RUFOUS-WINGED. As we hiked down to, around, and past the Cottonwood Loop, we did not detect any rare Robin or Kingfisher, although two BELTED KINGFISHERS patrolled the creek.

Potentially the most out-of-place bird of the day was an immature male EASTERN BLUEBIRD at the fence that delineates the beginning of a private ranch, downstream from the second stream crossing (Keith and Jake only, I missed it).

On the drive back to Patagonia, about 3/4 mile west of town, we caught a prolonged glimpse of an immature GOLDEN EAGLE (big white wing patches, probably last year's young). It was immediately chased away by a Red-tailed Hawk. Just north of the U.S. Border Patrol checkpoint (north of Sonoita) was an interesting "kettle" composed of one male NORTHERN HARRIER, a RED-TAILED HAWK, and an AMERICAN KESTREL.

Good birding,
John Yerger

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