Fan-tailed Warbler

Fan-tailed Warbler

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Willcox and Lake Cochise

On Sunday, March 1, 2015, I headed down to the southeastern area of Arizona with Magill Weber riding along.  We were headed to Cochise Lake near Willcox, AZ to try our luck at locating a Red Phalarope that has been reported by many in the past week.  This is a bird that breeds along the Artic shores in the summer and spends its winters at sea; a rather rare bird inland.  I had seen only one of these birds once before and it was in the Pacific Ocean in 2013 about 20 miles out from Half
Moon Bay, California, so to have one show up in Arizona it is quite remarkable.  This would be a great bird to add to my Arizona list and I think Magill felt likewise.  So this was our target bird for the day an it did not take long to find it spinning around and back and forth in the water, foraging like phalaropes normally would.  At first it was a bit far out for photos, but we moved to another side of the lake and it eventually worked its way a bit closer for some identifiable photos.  Obviously this bird is not in its colorful reddish breeding plumage at this of the year, but still a remarkable bird none the less.
 Red Phalarope
Red Phalarope
One other bird dominated the landscape all around Cochise Lake; the Sandhill Crane.  Parts of Arizona is the winter home for this magnificent bird.  Arizona does not draw the biggest concentrations of them and I have seen them just about every winter in Maricopa County west of Phoenix as a small flock winters there.  A much larger concentration accumulates a bit further south from Willcox at Whitewater Draw and that place draws many birders to see them.  We were stunned by the sheer numbers in Willcox; we counted well over 1500 which brought back fond memories of Nebraska where they congregate along the Platte River in central Nebraska in the early spring every year and they number in the hundreds of thousands.  This was definitely impressive to see and hear and they actually allowed a bit of a close approach. 
 Sandhill Cranes - Need I say more?

As we work our way around the lake, I got to see my find Cinnamon Teal of the year.  (Yeah, that is kind of sad when I have them only about 6 miles from my home in Mesa at the Gilbert Riparian Water Preserve!)  I had to drive all the way to Willcox to see my first of the year.
Cinnamon Teal
We then made our way to the pond by the golf course where we found a stunning breeding plumage male Ruddy Duck.  Not a plumage we see too often and that blue bill really looks out of place, but also adds to its good looks.
Ruddy Duck
As we were driving out to head back a home, we were fortunate to have an Eastern Meadowlark sitting on a fence post and did not take off like most of them do when approached by humans.  We just stopped the car and enjoyed the view with the sunlight showing off its bright yellow chest.
 Eastern Meadowlark

We spent only about 1½ hours before we headed home, but it was a very productive day of birding in such a short time span.  Definitely worth the trip. 




  1. Great add to your AZ list! There are not enough Cinnamon Teal in my life--in AZ or anywhere.

  2. Nice gordon!

    Your shots of the REPH came out well, and way to crush the EAME! I tried many the time, but they always flushed in my case. Blarg!

    1. Thanks Laurence! I have always thought all Meadowlarks were rather skittish and not very generous to photography. This one was pretty relaxed since we remained in the car and shot the photos through an open window.