Yuma: Riverside Park, East Wetlands and South Agricultural fields, Yuma County, AZ

Friday, January 15th:
After birding for several years, it seemed completely logical to do a one-day run to Yuma, way out at the southwest corner of the state along the Colorado River, to see if I could locate the rare Streak-backed Oriole that showed up there on my birthday (December 24, 2015)!  

Orioles tend to be very brightly colored birds and this one was no exception.  A rare visitor from Mexico, it was first found and photographed by birder, Jim Taylor on December 24, 2015. This was only the second recorded sighting of the bird in Yuma County.

I simply couldn’t get away any sooner so I invited Glenda Jones, an Ontario birding resident and first-time winter visitor to Arizona, to join me for this one-day adventure.

With Glenda driving, we departed the Phoenix area at 4 a.m. and arrived 210 miles later at 7:35 a.m. to begin searching for the Streak-backed Oriole at Riverside Park, adjacent to Yuma’s East Wetlands. At first light, we were the first birders present; temperature seemed balmy at 48°F.

Riverside Park

Recent reported sightings had me feeling optimistic that TODAY - its 21st day as a drop-in rarity - the Streak-backed Oriole would show up for my first view of it - a LIFE BIRD.

Other birders arrived. Among them was Jeff Coker, a Graham County AZ birder. Without actually knowing each other, we recognized one another’s names from our state’s hotline of unusual sightings. Birders spend little time talking with one another but spread out to make good use of as many eyes as possible. Jeff was stopping in the middle of a trip so his wife remained in the car.

Jeff, who had walked up to the canal berm, called out, "Prairie Falcon!"

Prairie Falcon -- Glenda's photo

It's not a common bird for me but I got to see it fly over. 

Another birder pointed out the Sharp-shinned Hawk perched high in a eucalyptus tree….that would explain the lack of very many passerines in the park.

Just as I started walking toward the East Wetlands, a gentleman from San Francisco was the first to spot our target bird. But, it flew down and away before he or anyone else could see it again. Glenda and I walked briefly in the East Wetlands, but I wanted to return to the park where most recent sightings had occurred.  

Almost two hours had passed. The Sharp-shinned Hawk had flown out. Jeff finally got in his car and pulled out to continue his family trip.  And, THEN, it showed up.  As Jeff drove up the hill, I waved my arms just as he looked back to see if anything was happening.  It didn’t take him long to join us taking photos of the beautiful Streak-backed Oriole.

Streak-backed Oriole - first one I ever saw - LIFE BIRD

Looking similar to a Hooded Oriole, the Streak-backed has a much more red-orange face and less chin patch

The Hooded Oriole is more slender and has NO STREAKS on its back like this rare visitor; Photo by Glenda

This LIFE BIRD showed itself from about 9:20 to 9:30 a.m.  It flew from its original perch in the mesquite at the back of the parking area to a small palm next to a deciduous mulberry tree, both of which are shown in the photo of the park (the first photo in this blog), 

Mission accomplished. Bird and birders came eye to eye!  We relaxed. 

After strolling through the East Wetlands a bit more we returned to our car at the park where we ate our packed lunch. Just as we finished, the Streak-backed Oriole showed up again in the mesquites. We were giddy with this second sighting!!  And, took more photos!

Knowing that we still had "birding time" left for Yuma, I suggested we visit Yuma's south agricultural fields for raptors and some other birds that might be new to Glenda who sees mostly eastern birds in the Toronto area.

Photos of some of the birds at the ag fields:
American Kestrel perched in a field looking for a meal
With hundreds of American Pipits in the fields, some took time out on the overhead wires or bushes.
American Pipit
Usually, I see American Pipits on the ground like this one that Glenda photographed

A perched Prairie Falcon that had flown over the field before landing

Male Northern Harrier "Gray Ghost"---photo by Glenda
Ferruginous Hawk - photo by Glenda

"Gray Ghost" -- male Northern Harrier 

With a birding day like this, who could ask for more?  We snacked again around 12:45 p.m. (60°F), then headed home.

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