Sandhill Cranes and Brewer's Sparrows near Woodruff
16 Jan 2011, 6:06 PM,
#1
Sandhill Cranes and Brewer's Sparrows near Woodruff
Two Sandhill Cranes and a flock of 14 Brewer's Sparrows were seen along the Little Colorado River about 2.25 miles (straight line) downstream (NNW) from Woodruff on 16 January 2011.

I can recall offhand seeing Sandhill Cranes only 2 times before in northern Arizona and there are a handful of reports by others. This is the largest flock of Brewer's Sparrows I can recall ever seeing in winter in northern Arizona.
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17 Jan 2011, 9:27 PM,
#2
Woodruff (no cranes), Holbrook, Winslow
1/17/11
I met up with my mom in Holbrook to go over to Woodruff to search for the cranes Chuck found yesterday. Based on the info. that the birds were ~2 miles downstream from Woodruff, I printed off an image of the area from Google Maps which showed a set of agricultural fields adjacent to the Little Colorado River. From Woodruff we drove north on the road towards Hwy. 180, parked off a spur road, and walked west along the edge of the river canyon to some higher bluffs overlooking the agricultural fields. We spent a couple of hours walking along and scoping the fields but were unable to find the cranes. They must have been hidden somewhere along the river or in some other fields. Earlier on we found a couple different flocks of BREWER'S SPARROWS (~20 individuals altogether) mixed with Sage and White-crowned Sparrows. Of note in Woodruff were four BREWER'S BLACKBIRDS, which are rare on the Colorado Plateau in winter. If anyone goes to look for the cranes, I would also recommend checking the agricultural fields along Zeniff Rd. near Dry Lake (along Hwy. 377 between Holbrook and Heber, about 25 minutes drive from Holbrook). The fields throughout that valley would also seem prime winter habitat for the vagrant crane.

Around midday we made our way over to Holbrook, first checking the fields off McLaws Rd. (south of the river) without much of note. At the sites off Golf Course Rd. on the western fringe of the city limits (exit 283), we found that they are beginning to release water into the wastewater ponds (which had been dry for a while). Hopefully they will be full by the time waterfowl begin migrating north again. At the agricultural fields behind the Hidden Cove Golf Course, we found a large flock of Canada Geese (~100 individuals), one LINCOLN'S SPARROW and one SAVANNAH SPARROW (both are rare to uncommon in winter in northern AZ). The unnamed reservoir was partially frozen still, but there were several waterfowl species present (Northern Shovelers being the most abundant). Yesterday while I briefly stopped here I had a flock of ~150 House Finches (this site seems to have large numbers of this species every winter). Also, there is a new sign at the petroglyph site behind the golf course asking that those who want to visit the petroglyphs call either 524-6225 or 524-6558 (there are no signs regarding the other birding spots mentioned, which are on the other side of the fence from the petroglyph site and on city of Holbrook land).

After we parted ways, I stopped at McHood Park (Clear Creek Reservoir) near Winslow on my way back to Flagstaff in the late afternoon. The only water-birds were a few Gadwall and lots of American Coots. One LINCOLN'S SPARROW was present with some Song and White-crowned Sparrows near the boat launch site below the ranger's house. Just before I left I saw huge flocks of European Starlings (~300), Red-winged Blackbirds (100+), and Great-tailed Grackles (50+) coming in to roost on the electric lines behind the ranger's house and RV sites.

Overall an exceptionally nice January day to go birding in northern AZ, with temperatures in the 60's and no wind. Here are the species lists for each area:

Woodruff/Little Colorado River
Northern Harrier
American Kestrel
Mourning Dove
Eurasian Collared-Dove
Common Raven
Horned Lark
Bewick's Wren (1)
Rock Wren (5)
Canyon Wren (1)
American Robin (25+)
Mountain Bluebird (40+)
Sage Thrasher (2)
European Starling
Spotted Towhee
BREWER'S SPARROW (~20)
Sage Sparrow (~20)
Song Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco (Slate-colored, Oregon, Pink-sided, Gray-headed)
Red-winged Blackbird
BREWER'S BLACKBIRD (4)
Western Meadowlark
House Sparrow

Holbrook
Canada Goose (~100)
Mallard (~30)
Gadwall (1)
American Wigeon (~10)
Green-winged Teal (10+)
Northern Shoveler (50+)
Canvasback (10+)
Redhead (~10)
Ring-necked Duck (5+)
Lesser Scaup (1 female)
Common Merganser (2 males)
Bufflehead (2)
Ruddy Duck (30+)
Northern Harrier
Sharp-shinned Hawk (1)
Red-tailed Hawk
American Coot (30+)
Killdeer (1)
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Eurasian Collared-Dove
Northern Flicker (3)
Common Raven
Horned Lark
Marsh Wren (3)
Bewick's Wren
SAVANNAH SPARROW (1)
Song Sparrow
LINCOLN'S SPARROW (1)
White-crowned Sparrow
Red-winged Blackbird
Western Meadowlark
House Finch (~150 on Jan. 16th)

McHood Park (Clear Creek Reservoir)
Gadwall
Northern Harrier
Red-tailed Hawk
American Coot
Common Raven
European Starling (~300)
Song Sparrow
LINCOLN'S SPARROW (1)
White-crowned Sparrow
Red-winged Blackbird (100+)
Great-tailed Grackle (50+)


Good birding!!!
Eric Hough
thebirdwhisperer22@yahoo.com
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