Santa Cruz Flats, Pinal County, AZ

Saturday, December 5th
At 6:00 a.m., I departed home to meet a group of 12 Desert Rivers Audubon birders meeting in Tempe to travel together in three cars to Santa Cruz Flats which lies a bit south of Picacho Peak and west of I-10 South to Red Rock. 

Ornithologist, Dr. David Pearson of Arizona State University, our guide was in Car #1 with Judy driving. Dwayne drove Car #2 and I was in Car #3 with Cynthia driving her Land Rover. When traveling dirt roads thick with dust, it’s obvious that Car #3 had the least desirable position, but with Phyllis and Leslie along, we had a grand time. 

It was the second long birding day in row for me (and Phyllis & Leslie who had been on Kathe’s Big Loop yesterday). Since the extensive Flats consist of many agricultural fields and salt-bush desert, birding is done by stop and go from the vehicles.

Since most birds we spotted were distant, but verifiable with our binoculars, my picture taking was limited. 

The group had a total of 88 bird sightings, of which I saw 73, best of which was the LOUISIANA WATERTHRUSH along the Santa Cruz River not terribly far south from where it crosses Sasco Road. Dr. Pearson heard the waterthrush and led us through the trees along the river until we all had an opportunity to see the bird come down the muddy bank to water's edge, flit up to a fallen branch, drop down again, and repeat!  It's only the second time I've seen the Louisiana Waterthrush.  The Crested Caracara, Mountain Plovers, Prairie Falcon and Sprague's Pipit were also cherished sightings of birds I seldom see.

American Kestrel - male
White-fronted Goose - Photo by Dwayne Morse
Wilderness provides table and seats for lunch break
Leader, Dave Pearson, is seated
My photo of distant Crested Caracara

Online photo of Crested Caracara

Mountain Plover (online photo, as they were at least 75 yards distant from us)
Rare Sprague's Pipit; foraging in the distance - Photo by Dwayne Morse

Vermilion Flycatcher

With my Car #3 leaving prior to the other two cars that continued to another waterfowl site, it was after 4 p.m. when I returned home. Having birded for six hours, I was totally stoked with seeing 73 of the total group sightings of 88 and that trip to Santa Cruz Flats will continue to be one of my favorites.

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