AZ Bird Network

Full Version: Wupatki Sage Thrashers
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For the first time in many years I drove the Wupatki-Sunset Crater Loop and saw literally hundreds of Sage Thrashers (and a few robins). At the Wupatki Visitor Center there were about 50 of these birds - on the ground, vegetation, trees and roof top. The drinking fountain, unsurprisingly, was attracting much business.
On  December 2017 ago I saw a road-killed Sage Thrasher on Hyw 180 about 2 miles above Baderville..in pure ponderosa pine forest at 7600 ft elevation. On Friday and Saturday 5 and 6 January 2018 three Sage Thrashers were seen coming to water at Lockett Meadow Tank at Locket Meadow at the mouth of the Inner Basin on the San Francisco Peaks at elevation 8600ft (with Jason Wilder).
Following up on Terry's report I went out to Wupatki this morning (13 January) to check out the Sage Thrasher phenomena.  In the immediate vicinity of the visitor's center I counted 52 individuals. Scanning from the overlook behind the visitor's center it seemed that nearly every juniper had a Sage Thrasher perched atop.  The staff have put out some water dishes in front of the visitor's center and a small saucer had five individuals.  A ranger told me when they put the water out first thing in the morning that 100+ robins come in for a drink.  Driving in from Sunset Crater a stop at a side road just before the FS boundary there was a rain pool that also had about 8-10 individuals.  While here a flock of 500+ bluebirds of both species flew over. After a spell they alighted nearby and about 60 Mountain Bluebirds with 8 Westerns came in to drink.  Quite a lot of blue.  In this dry winter, all of the concentrations of Sage Thrashers were near water sources.  Overall pretty cool!
Dry and mild winters like the one we are currently having seem to really concentrate the birds at water sources as well as possibility allowing greater numbers than normal to winter locally. The winter of 1994-95 was very dry and mild, at least into late February.  Following up on rumors of large numbers of robins in the Wupatki area, I drove through on 5 February 1995.  The number of robins were astonishing. I estimated a one-way arrival rate of robins coming to drink at the Wupatki sewage treatment ponds at 34,000 birds per hour. A few miles to the south, robins appeared to be commuting to snow patches on the north slopes of the cinder cones and I estimated that the birds were passing at a rate of 144,000 per hour. NPS personnel at Wupatki said these flights had been on-going daily throughout the winter.  I recall John Coons mentioning that at the end of that winter that robin dung had accumulated a foot deep around the boundary fence of the Wupatki sewage treatment ponds.