Coon Bluff & Goldfield Recreation Areas along the Lower Salt River

January 26, 2015
After seeing reports yesterday of a rare (for here) Harris's Sparrow being seen for the second time in a couple weeks at Coon Bluff, Susan and I met there at 8:00 this morning to try our luck at finding a single sparrow in acres of mesquite bosque.  Susan had contacted Jay Miller, the birder who had first located and then re-found the bird, for good directions on where he had seen it yesterday.  Bird's fly, so knowing where it was yesterday was no guarantee for today, but it would put us into the area and we could search from there.  

We entered the bosque on a horse trail.  Looking for a bird about a half inch larger than a White-crowned Sparrow with which the Harris's hangs out was tedious.  I got excited when I saw a Dark-eyed Junco but that was short-lived since it had too much dark hood and no white belly.  Still, we sorted through White-crowned Sparrows scratching around on the ground.  I got easily distracted when a flock of Western Bluebirds flew in, some settling on the bare mesquite, others on the ground, both males and females.

Male Western Bluebird
Female Western Bluebird
In our searching through White-crowned Sparrows, we were moving the flock away from us, so we, too, walked slowly, quietly forward.  We were well into wild horse territory by the time we spotted part of the band associated with Coon Bluff.

As almost always, it was Susan (she doesn't like me to call her Eagle Eye - but she sure has one) who first spotted the rare bird!  

White-crowned Sparrow & Harris's Sparrow
It was quite a thrill to see the somewhat larger sparrow that winters mostly in the mid to south central part of the country out here in Arizona desert.  It must have been finding plenty of food and may have enjoyed our company.  Because, as we returned toward the car, we met Lindsay Story and another birder, Jay, coming toward us.  As we stood together telling her where she might find it, Jay said, "Here it is!"  Very close to us was our rare Harris's Sparrow!

Harris's Sparrow
After savoring our successful sighting of our target bird, we decided to drive over to Goldfield Recreation Area to aim for a sighting of a Gilded Flicker.  The parking lot there is blocked with a gate but there is limited parking on the west side of the entrance road to the recreation area.  We spotted two Red-shafted Northern Flickers, several Gila Woodpeckers and several chattering Black-tailed Gnatcatchers. The way they make their tail go round in circles always fascinates me.  I heard a Greater Roadrunner and when Susan caught up with me, she had seen it.  Sighting one of them always seems to be a good-luck token, so we continued walking past the gate, through the parking lot, toward the Salt River.  From up on the bluff, we spotted numerous (40 or so) Cedar Waxwings that had just flown in and perched on the bare cottonwoods below us.

Cedar Waxwings
It wasn't until we returned to the cars that we spotted our desert woodpecker, the Gilded Flicker, on top of a saguaro.  Perched, it was indistinguishable from a Red-shafted Flicker in our cloud-cover light, but the moment it flew and flashed yellow beneath its wings, we knew we had lucked out again.

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Clicking on the photos will enlarge them.

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