Peach Springs area: more Cassin's Sparrows
16 Jul 2011, 3:57 PM,
Peach Springs area: more Cassin's Sparrows

This morning David Vander Pluym and I went in search of Mohave County birds in the Peach Springs area, which is near the Coconino County line west of the Aubrey Valley - near Grand Canyon Caverns.

We learned that the only permit for Hualapai tribal lands available for purchase on a weekend is for Diamond Creek Rd at $15/person, so we opted to explore Buck and Doe Rd, which we were told is public access. (Other permits are for sale weekdays at the Tribal Office.) As we were turning onto the road, a flock of meadowlarks flew in, which turned out to be LILLIAN'S MEADOWLARKS (by call, song, and amount of white in the tail) - we had about 10 total in the immediate vicinity, and didn't have any meadowlarks the rest of the day! Almost immediately as we continued driving, we heard a song that grabbed our attention, and I turned to see a sparrow skylarking. We quickly realized it was a CASSIN'S SPARROW! We stopped and David managed to get some photos, and after a few minutes more Cassin's Sparrows started singing - three or four were countersinging in the area.

Eventually we continued on, driving through open juniper woodland/grassland interface, when another singing CASSIN'S SPARROW caught our attention. After a few minutes we figured there were four Cassin's Sparrows singing here (a total of 7-8 on this drive). This stop was just before the pavement ends. Since we only stopped when we happened to hear one while in a moving vehicle, and each stop had several birds, there must have been many more out there. We made one more stop along Buck and Doe Rd (no longer in grassland) and then decided we might as well go into Coconino County to look for Cassin's Sparrows there.

We stopped near the county line on the road to Supai (Res Rd 18), just pulling over at the intersection since the road does require a fee. It wasn't long before we heard our Coconino CASSIN'S SPARROW, singing from the hills on the south side of the highway. At this point we weren't far from Yavapai County, so of course we had to go for it. Our first stop in YAV did not produce, but our second stop (near mm 120 on rt 66) quickly produced another singing Cassin's Sparrow.

Since nearly all of our stops in appropriate habitat produced at least one singing Cassin's Sparrow, and this habitat is very, very widespread in the area, there seem to be plenty of birds out there. We found them at grassland edges, where there were plenty of shrubs for the birds to sing from. Some birds were even singing from open juniper woodland as long as there was a fairly thick grass cover. They didn't seem to be in open grassland. They also seemed to favor areas with scattered cholla.

The Cassin's Sparrows and Lillian's Meadowlarks take the cake for the day, but we had some other interesting birds as well. LARK SPARROWS were abundant at nearly every stop. A BARN SWALLOW flew by in Truxton. We had three singing GRAY VIREOS along Buck and Doe Rd, and one in COC on the turnoff to Supai. Also at the COC stop, we had a soaring FERRUGINOUS HAWK. As we were headed home, we made a stop near Valentine and were finally successful in picking up RUFOUS-CROWNED SPARROW for Mohave County - they have been quite a headache!

We had a few target birds that did not cooperate today, particularly Bendire's Thrasher and Zone-tailed Hawk, but overall it was a fantastic morning in a really interesting area!

Good birding,
Lauren Harter

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