Fan-tailed Warbler

Fan-tailed Warbler

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Yuma: A Rare Bird Chase

It is not often that I will travel 3 hours to chase a rare bird, but on New Year's Day, I did just that.  Yuma is about a 3 hour drive from the the Phoenix area and I had seen the reports and some photos of a rare Mexican bird that had showed up in Yuma; a male Streak-backed Oriole.  This was not going to be a new life bird for me as I had seen several in July of 2015 when I made a trip to Chiapas, Mexico. Even though it was not a life bird, it would be a new bird to my United States list and also my Arizona list.  They do show up in the United States from time to time, but are considered rare and are a review species for the Arizona Bird Committee to review and verify.  

The trigger that got me to go to Yuma for this bird was an email from Muriel Neddermeyer wanting to go birding and she suggested that as an option, so I kind of jumped on the band wagon, as it is much more fun to travel with a friend when on a long drive for a new bird.  At the last moment, we found out that good friend, Chris Rohrer, was going to be returning late the night before we left and he was interested in joining us.  So the 3 of us headed out in the dark on New Year's Day morning and we knew this was our goal so we were going to go straight to the oriole location, and not look at any other birds.  Well that is easier said than done because I was a passenger and when the sky started to get light before we reached our destination, I happened to spy a Red-tailed Hawk and a Common Raven along the road for my first 2 birds of 2016.

It was cold when we arrived and 2 other birders were already there staking out the place and they had not yet seen it.  It was not long until another 4 more birders also showed up and then a 5th, so we had 10 people watching and listening for this bird to make an appearance.  After about a half an hour I heard its chatter call as well as another good birder and sure enough it came in to the tree next to the palm tree where it liked to feed on the fruits of that palm.

 Streak-backed Oriole

 Streak-backed Oriole -showing the streaks on its back, hence its name.

 Feasting on a palm fruit.

Wow! What a stunning bird to observe on the first day of the year!  Since we were in Yuma, we decided to head to the agricultural fields south of the city as there had been some reports of high numbers of raptors, with Ferruginous Hawks being the most numerous.  We were amazed at the numbers of these marvelous raptors as we counted over 40 individuals.  One of them even managed to fly over our vehicle while we parked along the road which offered us some incredible close observations.  

 Ferruginous Hawk

With Yuma being a 3 hour drive home, we departed the area in early afternoon as we tried to do a little birding on the way home including a drive through some of the agricultural fields in and around the town of Maricopa, Arizona, which is in Pinal County.  We found one stretch of road where we were astonished by the number of Burrowing Owls.  Our final tally was about 30 of these cuties.  At one spot, we found a pair on a concrete ridge, so we tried to get the car in a position for photos.  First 2 photos are of the pair when we stopped the car.  Then one of them got a bit concerned and shy, and ducked down behind the concrete while the other just stayed perched and acted very nonchalant about the whole experience.  I love how the shy one was peeking up over the concrete to check on us.

 Burrowing Owl #1

 Burrowing Owl #2

 Burrowing Owl # 2 - showing its shyness

Burrowing Owl #1 - being very nonchalant

A couple more shots from the road were an American Pipit and a Loggerhead Shrike in the waning afternoon sunlight.

 American Pipit

Loggerhead Shrike

What an awesome day to start of the new year with an awesome bird!  The oriole was a life bird for Muriel and a state and national bird for both Chris and myself.


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