Sunday, September 18, 2011

Shorebirding in SE Arizona

When you think of birding in Arizona, the first thing that comes to mind is probably not shorebirds.  However, we get our share of migrants that pass through every fall.  One of the best places to see shorebirds during migration in Arizona is at Lake Cochise in Willcox.  Well, "lake" is exaggerating a bit.  It's more like a pond.  But it has the necessary mud that attracts a variety of shorebirds.  Two species were reported there in August that I would love to add to my list.  Short-billed Dowitcher and Semipalmated Sandpiper.  In SE Arizona, both of these species are rare but expected in August and September during migration.  It seems I waited too long to see these two species, but I did see some cool birds today.

I started the morning at the Benson wastewater ponds to check if a Sabine's Gull reported two days ago was still around.  No such luck.  However, I did pick up a new bird when I spotted a Red-necked Phalarope spinning around with some Wilson's like this one:

Wilson's Phalarope
Along the road to Lake Cochise, some pools have been created from the recent rains.  As I drove past, I flushed a bunch of Wilson's Snipe and White-faced Ibis.  I stopped and noticed this Killdeer when it gave its loud alarm call:

A Western Kingbird was flycatching from this perch:

The first peeps I saw as I circled the lake were Baird's Sandpipers.  I got out of my truck and got as low to the ground as I could to get these shots:

Then I noticed a couple Semipalmated Plovers, a new state bird for me:

The second individual appears lighter in color, a juvenile perhaps?  On the other side of the lake I noticed a Long-billed Curlew, but it departed before I could try for a photo. 

The best spot of the day turned out to be some rain pools next to the lake.  I was able to park my truck close to the birds without disturbing them.  I awkwardly maneuvered into the passenger seat to take some photos.  As I rested my lens on the window, I noticed some peeps only fifteen feet in front of me!  They were in some shallow pools that I hadn't even noticed because I had been distracted by these:

White-faced Ibis

Here are the nearby peeps I saw:

Least Sandpiper

Western Sandpiper
Western Sandpiper

A little further from the peeps, I spotted some Stilt Sandpipers with a Greater Yellowlegs:

And these Pectoral Sandpipers:

As I was leaving, this Vesper Sparrow posed on a fence:

I ended the day with 17 shorebird/wader species!  Who would have thought you could see such cool shorebirds in Arizona? 


  1. Nice variety! Definitely wasn't expecting an Arizona shorebird post, but you've seen some great stuff. Love the Baird's Sandpiper shots and the 2nd ibis shot in particular...

  2. Awesome post, photography and blog Jeremy! Thanks for adding to your excellent blog list! Short billed Dowitchers are pretty common during migration in my neck of the woods. Good birding!