2017 Arizona Raptor Tour Report

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Highlights of Arizona Raptor Tour 2017

Main Tour 11-19 March | Tour Extension 19-21 March

by Bill Clark

 

The hawk-watch at Tubac, Arizona is one of the best places anywhere to see Common Black Hawks fly overhead.

Main Tour

The focus of this tour is to observe the unique migration of Common Black Hawks and other raptors at Tubac, Arizona. We saw nice flights of adults CBHs migrating on six mornings, with as many as 26 seen one morning. Some were close overhead and we often saw up to eight at a time. We also were treated to multiple sightings of Zone-tailed Hawks, some close and others flying with Turkey Vultures. Cooper’s Hawks were observed preforming display flights on several mornings. We heard Gray Hawks but only saw them flying on the last two days. Also passing on migration were Peregrine Falcons, Northern Harriers, and Swainson’s Hawks, as well as many Turkey Vultures. We had local Turkey and Black Vultures flying by periodically. We saw the local Red-tailed Hawks and local American Kestrel pair every morning. We had one or two Sharp-shinned Hawks almost every day, allowing us to compare them to the resident Cooper’s Hawks. Distant Golden Eagles were seen several times. A pair of Common Ravens was present much of the time. We had a variety of passerines to keep us occupied when no raptors were visible. On our last afternoon, we returned to the count site to observe raptors setting down. We saw two Common Black Hawks descend into the cottonwood trees and saw Zone-tailed Hawks. One two mornings as we drove from Tucson to Tubac, we saw Crested Caracaras in flight. Sergio joined us for the first four days and then flew off to give some promotional talks to Falcon Research Group and Golden Gate Raptor Observatory folks in Washington and California respectively.

We went to other raptor areas after lunch. The first day after lunch we visited the Paton’s hummingbird feeders in Patagonia and then traveled to the San Rafael grasslands. Here we saw American Kestrels, Red-tailed Hawks, and six Northern Harriers, five of which were adult males. The best raptor there, though, was an adult male Rough-legged Hawk, which flew right over us. The second day we went to the Marana, an agricultural area, where we saw a pair of Red-tailed Hawks perched near a stick nest in a saguaro cactus. But this nest was already occupied by an incubating adult Great Horned Owl. We saw other Red-tailed Hawks, but the afternoon was cut short by a tire puncture.

 On an afternoon at the Santa Cruz flats, we had some wintering Red-tailed Hawks, including one rufous-morph adult. We saw well a dark-morph Harlan’s Hawk, which typically flushed as we up. We had a light-morph juvenile Harlan’s Hawk and a rufous-morph juvenile Red-tailed Hawk. We also had an adult Ferruginous Hawk, perched and then flying. We observed four Crested Caracaras associated with a bunch of ravens. Our only Osprey was an adult we saw perched on the flats, the second time over a small pool. An active Red-tailed Hawk nest had a female incubating and a male perched nearby.

We spent an afternoon looking at Harris’s and Cooper’s Hawks in Tucson, both breeding in the city. We had excellent looks at Harris’s and saw one adult female on its nest in a front yard.

One morning after we left Tubac, we checked a sewage pond and added some ducks and other birds to our list.

We took an all-day trip to the Sulphur Spring Valley. We had great success in seeing three Ferruginous Hawks, including an adult and two juveniles. We also saw many Red-tailed Hawks, some American Kestrels, and a few Northern Harriers. We stopped before lunch at the Willcox sewage pond and added to our list. We saw well an adult female Swainson’s Hawk, an early return. We had a perched light juvenile Harlan’s Hawk and a distant rufous-morph juvenile Red-tailed Hawk. We ended the day at Whitewater Draw wildlife area, where we had some lingering cranes and other birds and a Barn Owl. We saw several Roadrunners and Loggerhead Shrikes, honorary raptors.

 

Marble Canyon Extension

Two participants joined me for this trip to look for California Condors. After checking into our Marble Canyon motel, we went to the Navajo Bridge and saw the adult pair that hangs out there: patagial tags 54 and H9. They flew to the top of a cliff close to the bridge, when the male, 54, started strutting around the female. She seemed rather unimpressed. He mounted her, but backwards; then she flew off. They flew off in mid-afternoon and did not return for more than an hour. When they came back, we could see eight condors in the air. We identified all but one of them by tag number.

The next morning we returned to the bridge, where we saw condor 54 perched on a cliff. An immature condor, 02, flew in and landed on the cliff way below 54. We watched another unsuccessful copulation when the pair was under the highway bridge. We got loads of information about these condors from the Peregrine Fund biologist, Angela. She used her tracking transmitter to verify which condors were around. She left for Badger Canyon, not far away. We went there later and saw the local adult pair there, condors 42 and J4. The pair from the bridge even flew by. We returned to the Navajo Bridge and soon afterwards the pair returned. The female perched under this bridge and was in sight just below us. The male joined her and we witnessed (and photographed) a successful copulation of this pair. It was spectacular, and included some loud grunting at the finish. We saw several Red-tailed Hawks and an adult Prairie Falcon.

All in all it was a great trip with a congenial group.   

Bill Clark,

Harlingen, Texas

 


California Condor Update from the field...

I was back on Navajo Bridge a few days ago. The copulating pair now are nesting. The egg was laid on 31 March. Here is a shot of H9 in the nest, taken from the bridge (see gallery below). She left the nest late in the afternoon and one egg could be seen from the scope.

Here is a shot of condor 19. There were six condors flying over us late in the day, including daddy 54.

Chick should hatch in June.

 

Cheers!

Bill Clark,

26 April 2017

 

Word of mouth

"Every day of the trip offered varied avian rewards but the immensity of the migration on the peak days was the highlight of the trip and an experience beyond description.​"

Frank Maher, USA

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