Yuma County Big Day, 19 May 2013
by Henry Detwiler

A long day to see how many species I could get if I started off in far northwestern Yuma County, at Kofa Queen Canyon

103 species seen  
Click on thumbnail pictures for full-sized photos.

elf owl

Elf Owl

The night before the "big day" I again camped out at Kofa Queen Canyon (Kofa NWR). An interesting non-avian sight was a young male desert male bighorn outfitted with a radio collar and two big ear tags--looking something like one of Santa's reindeers decked out with ornaments.

About 30 minutes after the sun set I heard my first COMMON POORWILLS of the season, and they kept calling, on and off, until dawn. Bob and I hadn't heard any the previous weekend during the NAMC. A little exploring with a short-wave/black light turned up about half a dozen sand scorpions. As I drifted off to sleep, I was serenaded by ELF OWLS, WESTERN SCREECH-OWLS, and a distant GREAT HORNED OWL.


Sand Scorpion

The first passerine to greet the morning was an ASH-THROATED FLYCATCHER, who started up at 4:35 a.m.! By 5:00 a.m. I was hiking up Indian Wash, on my way to the Signal Peak saddle, listening to CANYON TOWHEE, CANYON WREN, SCOTT'S ORIOLE, and BLACK-THROATED SPARROW. Soon after I started my ascent of Ten Ewe Peak a loud whirring noise made me look skyward--two COMMON RAVENS were hurtling down the mountainside in a breakneck dive.



It took them five seconds to cover the ground that had just taken me an hour to cover... Going around the "corner" of the ridge put me into the shaded upper canyon with lots of great brush and scrub tree habitat. Before long I heard faint chips and found a pair of BLACK-CHINNED SPARROWS carrying food to a nest. Flycatchers were well represented by PACIFIC-SLOPE, HAMMOND'S, and WESTERN WOOD PEWEE. A bit later I heard a RUFOUS-CROWNED SPARROW farther up-canyon.

Back down in Kofa Queen Canyon were dozens of TOWNSEND'S WARBLERS, flitting about from bush to bush. There were also a few YELLOW WARBLERS and just as last week, a solitary HERMIT WARBLER. Lots of VERDINS and PHAINOPEPLAS were calling.

Black-chinned Sparrow

Black-chinned Sparrow (with a moth)

Even though I'd meant to leave much earlier, I didn't get out of Kofa Queen until 10:00 a.m. Then I headed to the Dome Valley Feedlot, where ideal conditions meant lots of breeding BLACK-NECKED STILTS, migrating SPOTTED SANDPIPERS, and a good-sized flock of WHITE-FACED IBIS.

barn owl

Barn Owl

Later that morning I stopped at the Solar and Water Power Ponds west of Wellton, 60 acres of shallow water and mud flats. This is an experimental project which may at some point generate electricity and pure water. Here I found a REDHEAD, a GREEN HERON, two rare NEOTROPIC CORMORANTS, a single SEMIPALMATED PLOVER, and a WHITE-FRONTED GOOSE (maybe the missing one from Coyote Wash?). Beverly's place once again provided me the BARN OWL roosting in its palm tree.

At the leach fields east of Yuma I was happy to find the continuing RED-NECKED PHALAROPE, two WHIMBRELS, and one of the FRANKLIN'S GULLS. And of course dozens of the continuing BLACK-NECKED STILTS, GREAT EGRETS, and other waders. These large fields are being watered to eliminate the salts in them, so they'll be better suited to raising the next round of crops.

snowy egret

Snowy Egret

Up at Betty's Kitchen were quite a few birds I'd seen while scouting the day before, including several WILLOW FLYCATCHERS, BLUE GROSBEAKS, and a small flock of late WHITE-CROWNED SPARROWS adjoining the Pratt Restoration area. The habitat around Betty's Kitchen which was burned several years ago is undergoing serious renovation (including salt cedar eradication) by BLM, and should be looking good in a year or two.

My final stop for the day was along the Salinity Canal west of the Yuma West Wetlands, where I got my fifth owl species for the day, an obliging BURROWING OWL. There are at least four active burrows along the canal here--looking forward to seeing the chicks later this year!

burrowing owl

Burrowing Owl

It never broke 100 degrees all day, there was a pleasant breeze most of the time, and I ended up with 103 species--not bad for my May Yuma County "Big Day!"


kofa sunset
Kofa Queen Canyon

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