Atascosa Highlands CBC highlights - 2 January 2015

Once again, the Atascosa Highlands Christmas Bird Count was a blast!  Although the point of CBC's is to monitor wintering bird populations by conducting surveys in a repeatable manner each year, it basically just involves going out to a pre-designated area and birding.  And, just like any birding, it's always fun when you rack up a decent species list!  Our team ended up with 65 species for our section for the day.  The rarest, however, was our last species for the day, a hybrid Red-breasted x Red-naped Sapsucker!

Here you can see how extensive the red is throughout the face and throat, typical coloration for a Red-breasted Sapsucker.

On a slightly different angle through the branches, one can see a heavy red wash through the auriculars, but the face pattern of a Red-naped Sapsucker is still visible through that wash.  Also, while there isn't much black framing the throat, a bit of black feathering can be seen where the red from the throat runs into the upper breast, another sign that the bird is a hybrid rather than a pure Red-breasted Sapsucker.

Finally, the bird turned its head to show red color filling the entire back of the head and nape, rather than the more limited red in the nape that a Red-naped shows.

After the count, Deb Finch and I stopped by the Amado Wastewater Reclamation Facility (i.e. sewage effluent pond) hoping that a previously reported Pacific Loon was still there.  It was!  For a bonus, a fellow sea-dweller was hanging out with it: a female Red-breasted Merganser.

Pacific Loon on the left, showing the classic "chinstrap" pattern as well as rounded head, small bill, sharp contrast between dark hindneck and whitish foreneck.  Red-breasted Merganser on the right, showing the very thin-based bill typical of that species.

All-in-all, not bad for a winter day of birding in southeastern Arizona!

John Yerger
Adventure Birding Company

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