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Day 3 (Sunday, 18th May)

Map of San Pedro area

San Pedro House

San Pedro house area

San Pedro House

Open land at San Pedro House

We arrived at San Pedro House at around 5:30, and it was a little chilly, with the sun just beginning to rise. It is set in a large open area, apart from two large cottonwood trees at the end of a 200m drive from the main road, a visitors hut, and plenty of feeders for the birds (hummingbirds at the front, and finches to the rear). Even at this time of the morning, Black-chinned Hummingbirds had started their day, and our first Vermilion Flycatcher was nearby. A Gilded Flicker was even trying its luck at one of the feeders.

The trail begins with a 200m walk across open grassland to the wooded hollow containing Kingfisher Pond, and there were numerous Flycatchers in the form of Vermilion and Cassin’s Kingbirds, with through flying Summer Tanagers in the open. As we glanced back, a Swainson’s Hawk had alighted on a perching post at the edge of the trail. The trail then followed the edge of the trees, and we entered the area containing the (so called) Kingfisher Pond, where there was a constant noise from the Bullfrogs (heard, but generally not seen). The trees were buzzing with birds in the form of Warblers (Wilson’s and Common Yellowthroat), and yet more Vermilion Flycatchers. This was our first site with a profusion of noisy Red-winged Blackbirds. Rough-winged Swallows overflew the pond, which was devoid of kingfishers, but we continued the circuit, and found Yellow-breasted Chat characteristically skulking, and what we decided were probably numerous Lucy’s Warblers, since they were the size, shape and background colour that we expected, but didn’t have the clinching rufous showing on crown and rump.

Kingfisher Pond

Red-tailed Hawk

Kingfisher Pond

Red-tailed Hawk

Vermilion Flycatcher

Vermilion Flycatcher

Male Vermilion Flycatcher

Female Vermilion Flycatcher

There is also a second, smaller and usually drier, pond off the southern boundary of the park, but this was relatively birdless when we found it. On the return of the trail, heading back to the House, the temperatures were beginning to climb rapidly, with a rising wind which was warm and offered little cooling effect. This again seemed very quiet, until about half way along, when a noisy Ash-throated Flycatcher preceded a Black-throated Sparrow and Wilson’s Warbler. A few metres further, and a male Lazuli Bunting was calling at the top of the bushes. The remainder of the walk was quiet, but we did stumble across a Gopher Snake, making its way towards either shade or sanctuary from us under a small thorn bush.

After a reasonably long and hot ramble, the intention in arriving at the visitors centre was to relax for some time and watch the hummingbird feeders. Green-tailed Towhee was the first of a group of birds, feeding just in front of the porch, to persuade us to change our plans. It was followed by White-crowned Sparrow, Canyon Towhee, and Vermilion & Brown-crested Flycatchers. As we spent more time shunning the relaxation and wandering the grounds, more and more birds appeared and most were ultimately quite approachable. We added Curve-billed Thrasher, Abert’s Towhee and Bewick’s Wren to the already impressive list. Another case of putting in the time to turn up the birds!

Canyon Towhee

Green-tailed Towhee

Canyon Towhee

Green-tailed Towhee

White-crowned Sparrow

Gambel's Quail

White-crowned Sparrow

Gambel's Quail

Observation platform

Lower ponds

Observation deck above vegetated pond

More distant open pond

This was only 2.9 miles from San Pedro House (towards Sierra Vista), and has changed since the Lane guide was published. A great deal of money seems to have been spent to accommodate visiting birders, and a new track straight through the entrance leads to a rather pleasant raised viewing platform with canopy. This overlooks the very manicured yet inviting water treatment beds, the closest four of which can be seen easily, and are overgrown with mainly reeded vegetation. The main downside is that, although Red-winged Blackbird enthusiasts would be in seventh heaven, a lot of birds probably hide out in this cover, or frequent the more open and exposed mud on the lagoons further to the rear of the plant. This was evident when 8 White-faced Ibis flew in and disappeared on landing behind the raised banks. Patience was rewarded – sitting and watching chalked up Eastern Meadowlark on the fences behind us and on the sewage tracks, passing flocks of Swallows also contained Sand Martin and Cliff Swallow, small groups of White-throated Swifts, and a circling Prairie Falcon.

Standing on the benches of the viewing platform, we could just see inside the adjacent dryish lagoon, and the odd patch of water hosted “Mexican” Mallards, a Shorelark on the bank, and a Swainson’s Hawk landing for a drink.

We later chanced upon reports for the birds seen at the works, and these included a note from some birders who had walked out to the lagoons at the rear, and had no problems from workers present. We visited these ourselves, and found 2 lower and much more open lagoons, with mud edgings. They had many more birds to see. These included the earlier White-faced Ibis, as well as Mexican Mallards, Cinnamon Teal, Green Heron in one corner, and a collection of waders in the opposite corner, with 8 Wilson’s Phalarope feeding as a group, and 4 Spotted Sandpipers.

White-faced Ibis

Eastern Meadowlark

White-faced Ibis

Eastern Meadowlark

We intended popping into this pond and one or two other places in the upper San Pedro valley by taking Hereford Bridge, but this was under repair, and hence closed to traffic. A re-routing of about 15 miles was in order: bi-product of this was a Roadrunner (strangely, running over the road in front of us) on this journey, and the third and last of the trip on the way back from San Pedro River Inn (neither would have been seen but for this diversion). We headed up as far as the Hereford Bridge from the other direction, which was indeed closed, and backed up a mile or so to this small pond. It is surrounded by a single row of trees, and barbed wire, on all sides, and birdwise wasn’t very inspiring, apart from at least 3 Ash-throated Flycatchers, and lone Abert’s Towhee and Green Heron. Apart from this, it wasn’t really worth peeking through the trees.

San Pedro river inn

San Pedro river inn

San Pedro river inn

San Pedro river seen from Inn

A mile to the South, in the opposite direction to the bridge, was a much better place for birds. The Inn consists of 6 or so self contained units, which are open for hire, but they also welcome birders, to the extent that they have a sign up directing us to parking, and asking to register before exploring the area. We parked up in marked bays outside the cabins, and a very helpful lady, who possibly owned or worked on the premises (staying in the “Eagle Nest” cabin), took us down to the river, and pointed out a roosting Great Horned Owl and its chick sitting on branches in a large cottonwood tree. After taking in the Owls for some time, we walked some way along the still flowing river / stream. It was now mid-afternoon, hot, and very windy, but as usual a little patience did turn up some birds. First were 3 of the local race of Song Sparrow, singing and displaying the characteristic dark breast spot, with Abert’s Towhee on the opposite side of the river. Continuing the walk found Wilson’s Warbler, which was by now becoming a regular, White-breasted Nuthatch, and a close Western Wood-pewee. Walking back and comparing another Western Wood-pewee, the second of the adult Great Horned Owls was found, only around 100 metres from the nesting tree. Before leaving the woods, we found second helpings of Gila Woodpecker and Vermillion Flycatcher, as well as our first Ladder-backed Woodpecker of the trip.

Hanging around the cabins for some time also encouraged more species to appear. A pair of Vermillion Flycatchers popped up regularly, and were possibly the most confiding that we had encountered. Eastern Meadowlark was with Red-winged Blackbirds around the pools, and a Red-shafted Northern Flicker fed in the open on the lawns. As we steeled ourselves to leave the scene, we found a pair of Scaled Quail. They apparently like to feed under the bird feeders here, but turned out to be the only ones of the whole trip. At one point, one of the Scaled Quails and 2 Curve-billed Thrashers were perched within 5 posts of each other on the same stretch of fencing.

Great Horned Owl

Owl chick

Great Horned Owl

Great Horned Owl chick

Northern Flicker

Greater Pewee

Norther (Red-shafted) Flicker

Western Wood-pewee

Eastern Meadowlark

Vermilion Flycatcher

Eastern Meadowlark

Vermilion Flycatcher

Home

Paintings gallery

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Content

Introduction

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4

Day 5

Day 6

Day 7

Species list

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