Monday, March 18, 2013

Sunflower, AZ - 16 Mar 2013

After leaving Mt Ord, we wanted to stop and check out Sunflower, AZ which is not much more than a dot on the map, but yearly the Common Black Hawk has been nesting here along with Zone-tailed Hawks which nest a bit further up the stream.  First bird we saw soaring high above was a Zone-tailed Hawk, so that answered the question about whether or not this species had returned.  We had read a report the day before from one of the residents of Sunflower that mentioned that one of the Common Black Hawks had returned.  They also mentioned that the 2nd bird normally arrived a few days to a week later.  As we walked down the road we quickly found the one that had returned, perched in a tree, unfortunately on the back side of the tree not giving us the best photo ops.  Soon it started calling and we looked up in the sky and found a 2nd one circling and riding the thermals.  We thought maybe the mate had returned, but as they called back and forth to each other and the 2nd bird never came in for a landing and eventually kept going north, we decided that maybe this might have been 2 males and the one the trees was defending its claimed territory.  We will never know for sure, but it was quite wonderful to observe.

 Common Black Hawk

 Common Black Hawk

Common Black Hawk

While we were watching this spectacle, we also noticed a pair of Red-tailed Hawks riding the thermals above us in the sky.  I had never witnessed 2 of them flying so close to each other and after looking at my photos at home, I noticed that one of them had it legs and talons extended while in flight.  This is not a normal soaring behavior, so I decided to read up on the their breeding and courtship behavior and it seems the male of this species will often do this in courtship display.  Learn something new every day!  (Obviously it is not hard to see where this bird got its name!)

 Red-tailed Hawk

 Red-tailed Hawk

Red-tailed Hawk

Since we found our 2 target birds, we did not spend much more time there, so photos were concentrated on the hawks. We did discover an unusual and rare bird along the road.  A very skittish Eastern Phoebe was found and would not let us approach it very closely to get good photos.  It is not unheard of in Arizona, but this state is usually not where most of them migrate to.  Every year, maybe about a dozen or so show up in the state in the winter months.  So when they are found, it is highly recommended to try and get documentation.  While my photo leaves a lot to be desired, it is still good enough for a positive ID as it was also dipping its tail in the classical phoebe style.

Eastern Phoebe

And last but not least, a nice male Phainopepla made himself look very attractive in the afternoon sun.

Phainopepla

What a way to finish off the day with these 3 incredible and beautiful hawks and an Eastern Phoebe as well.



  

2 comments:

  1. Very nice Gordon. Good work tagging that Eastern Phoebe, and those Black Hawks are super sweet.

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