Target Birding at Davis Dam, Bullhead City, Mohave County, AZ PLUS 3 other stops

Friday-Saturday, February 11 & 12th:
Off again to find a Life Bird! 
It involved a long drive to western Arizona so, at 5 a.m., I picked up birding friend, Glenda Jones, Ontario winter visitor this year, to see if we could find the reported YELLOW-BILLED LOON at Davis Dam in Bullhead City across the Colorado River from Laughlin, NV. Neither of us having seen it before, it would be a LIFE BIRD for each of us.

Since loons aren’t common in the Phoenix desert, I had studied up a bit on all of them in case we had to identify others in order to find the exact one we both wanted to see. 

Approximately 260 miles and 4.5 hours later, we arrived at a cinder-based parking lot just prior to Davis Dam, closed to vehicles. Having checked the wind forecast at 8-10 mph, I was shocked to see whitecaps on Lake Mohave in front of us. (Part of Lake Mead Recreational Area.)

With our visor caps tied down with sweatshirt hoods, we started checking the waterfowl from the edge of the parking area. A handsome female Common Merganser was diving and swimming about 25 feet out, up and down with each swell between white caps.

Female Common Merganser

Not yet out of the wide parking area, but fighting the wind at every step, we both started taking pictures of another loon that showed up — it looked like our target!  Was it?  Click…click…click.   Sure seemed so.…click. Then we switched to binoculars to confirm the details we were seeing. Astonished to have found it so easily, we continued out toward the dam.

Yellow-billed Loon, much lighter face and thicker bill than Common showing a dark spot behind eye

The road was out in the open. We walked into the dastardly wind, holding on to the railing and holding the tripod of the spotting scope each time we set it up along the pedestrian sidewalk. Having lost sight of our original Yellow-billed Loon, Glenda thought she might have found it way out toward some rocks where fisherman were bouncing around in a boat. But we could never re-find it.

Ring-billed Gulls sailed over us.  

Ring-billed Gull; photo by Glenda
In two hours’ time fighting the wind to identify the waterfowl, we managed to come up with 12 species including Western and Clark’s Grebe’s, plus what I thought were Greater Scaup but not being able to get a good handle on their ID markers, listed them as Greater/Lesser Scaup. 

Glenda finally set up her scope on the closed roadway, below the concrete wall along the sidewalk on the dam cutting down on the wind shaking the spotting scope and tripod. With more stability, we were able to ID a Pacific Loon across the cove in front of the parking area.

Glenda Jones on Davis Dam, Mohave Lake
As we reached the parking lot, I had a text from Gordon Karre and Tommy DeBardeleben telling me they had seen me at Davis Dam. They talked about being on the cliff but I have no idea where they were. By their report, those two top birders worked a lot harder for the Yellow-billed Loon than we did! It seems to be all about the intersection of time and space and we lucked out for sure.

From Davis Dam, we headed south on AZ-95 with a stop at Bill Williams National Wildlife Headquarters and Delta in La Paz County. With luck, we would find a beautiful Barrow's Goldeneye swimming in the cove close to the parking and picnic area. But the first ones we saw were Common Goldeneye, very far down and distant in the cove. 

Male Common Goldeneye (golden eye and white spot on cheek)
Female Common Goldeneye with brown head, yellow beak.
Then, we spotted the Barrow's Goldeneye.  Also too distant for great photos:
Crescent on cheek and white spots on the black base of its wings
After driving farther south to Parker Dam, we stopped to check out that area where we found a nice pair of Hooded Mergansers, a nice flock of Greater Scaup and a couple Redheads.

Babs birding Parker Dam [Photo by Glenda Jones]

Feeling like we had certainly enjoyed a full day of birding, we headed to Blythe, CA for a bit to eat and a place to rest our heads before our final birding stop the next morning.

Cibola National Wildlife Refuge in La Paz County, Arizona, is most easily accessed from Neighbors Boulevard in Blythe.

The place was loaded with birds! Blackbirds galore in the sky and on utility wires.

Northern Pintails, Northern Shovelers, and American Wigeon were numerous - hundreds in the first pond.
Northern Shoveler
Canvasback -- the only one we saw

A Great Egret hunted in a field.

American Kestrel checking out the fields

Burrowing Owls are always fun to spot! 

And, what we hoped to see, we saw by the hundreds!  --  Sandhill Cranes!

The posted totals at the Visitor's Center

What a whirlwind two days of fantastic weather, good company and 61 species of great birds!

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