Buffalo Range Road: Chestnut-collared Longspurs, Wood Duck, Sage Sparrows, more
27 Oct 2012, 4:38 PM,
#1
Buffalo Range Road: Chestnut-collared Longspurs, Wood Duck, Sage Sparrows, more
This morning Tom Linda, BB Oros and I took a fantastic cruise down Buffalo Range Road, south from I-40 for about 10 miles. Along the way we stopped at Babbit Tank, Sinkhole Tank, Lute Hart Tank, Casner Tank, and the tanks within the Raymond Ranch Wildlife Area. I've labelled each of these sites on the map below. Notable is the fact that we found Chestnut-collared Longspurs at every site, totaling over 100 birds. In addition, we found increasing numbers of Sage Sparrows as we headed south down Buffalo Range Rd - with none in the area of Babbitt Tank and a few loose flocks totaling around 20 birds near Raymond Ranch.

Highlight Birds:
WOOD DUCK (very rare above the rim - one male at Lute Hart Tank)
Ferruginous Hawk (Babbit Tank - our first bird of the day!)
Coopers Hawk (out of habitat at Raymond Ranch)
Golden Eagle (Two at Sinkhole Tank, one adult one juvenile)
Merlin (2 at Babbit Tank, 2 at Sinkhole Tank, 1 at Casner Tank)
Loggerhead Shrike (numerous throughout area)
Crissal Thrasher (Raymond Ranch)
American Pipit (Lute Hart and Casner Tanks)
Chestnut-collared Longspurs (50-60 at Babbit Tank, 20-30 at Sinkhole Tank, 10-20 at Lute Hart Tank, 10-20 at Casner Tank, 1-2 at Raymond Ranch)
Sage Sparrows (1 at Lute Hart Tank, approximately 20 more seen between Casner Tank and Raymond Ranch)

Babbit Tank Chestnut-collared Longspurs - 24 individuals in this pic:
   

Sinkhole Tank Golden Eagle (adult):
   

Lute Hart Tank American Pipit
   

Lute Hart Tank Wood Duck
   

Distant pronghorn:
   

A great morning out there!

Jason

Buffalo Range Road annotated map:

View Tanks of I-40 in a larger map
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27 Oct 2012, 5:10 PM,
#2
RE: Buffalo Range Road: Chestnut-collared Longspurs, Wood Duck, Sage Sparrows, more
That was just what I needed. Kind of epic.
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28 Oct 2012, 11:25 AM,
#3
RE: Buffalo Range Road: Chestnut-collared Longspurs, Wood Duck, Sage Sparrows, more
You can go all the way to Buffalo Range headquarters where a manager lives year round and ask if you can drive the buffalo "tour" road looking for birds and also buffalo (bison actually). I've not been there for several years but have always been greeted warmly and one summer a friend of mine and I were invited to have coffee with him on the big front porch - we watched birds come and go and visit the feeders for an hour. It was great fun. I don't know the name of the current manager.

Quite a few years ago an Audubon field trip was planned to visit the B. Range but no one showed up - perhaps they were a bit timid about roads in those days.

elaine
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1 Nov 2012, 12:58 PM,
#4
RE: Buffalo Range Road: Chestnut-collared Longspurs, Wood Duck, Sage Sparrows, more
notes on a follow up visit at this link to AZ-NM listserv

http://listserv.arizona.edu/cgi-bin/wa?A...&T=0&P=785
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12 Nov 2012, 11:23 AM,
#5
RE: Buffalo Range Road: Chestnut-collared Longspurs, Wood Duck, Sage Sparrows, more
I made a bit of a weather miscalculation this morning - it was 32 degrees with a slight breeze at my house in Flagstaff at 8AM, and its usually 5-10 degrees warmer along Buffalo Range Road. Thinking the recent weather might have blown in something interesting I headed out to Babbit Tank. The wind at Exit #225 was dead calm, and the temperature actually colder than Flagstaff (31 when I got out of the car)! Babbit Tank was thickly frozen over, which I've found in the past to be absolutely non-conducive for birds. Today was no exception and not a single bird came in to explore the ice patch. I did hear a handful of flyover Chestnut-collared Longspurs and Horned Larks, but they never settled where I could see them. Other bird activity was very quiet. I found one American Kestrel, one Loggerhead Shrike, and several Western Meadowlarks.

After giving up on Babbit Tank, I drove up to Reservation Tank (as much to check conditions as in the hopes of finding any birds), which I found to be bone dry. As a consolation prize I turned up two groups of Sage Sparrows - totaling 15 birds.

   

Although Reservation Tank is no more than a dirt patch, there are some surprisingly reliable water pockets in the rocks along the wash bottom just to the north, and here there were more Horned Larks, a handful of Chestnut-collared Longspurs, some of the Sage Sparrows mentioned above, and a Loggerhead Shrike.

Jason

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4 Dec 2012, 12:16 PM,
#6
RE: Buffalo Range Road: Chestnut-collared Longspurs, Wood Duck, Sage Sparrows, more
An hour-long sit at Babbit Tank this morning produced one churning flock of ~85 longspurs overhead (all Chestnut-collared as far as I could tell) that absolutely refused to put down at the water. I knew there had to be a raptor in the area, but I couldn't detect it for the life of me. As I departed I finally noticed that to my east (right in the sun) there was a pair of perched Prairie Falcons keeping watch over the vicinity. I'm not sure how long they were there, but it certainly seems that the longspurs were taking no chances.

With the dry fall Babbit Tank is getting very low. Once it goes dry, Buffalo Range Rd is going to be much less enticing...

Jason
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5 Dec 2012, 8:58 AM,
#7
RE: Buffalo Range Road: Chestnut-collared Longspurs, Wood Duck, Sage Sparrows, more
I was just looking at some photos I took yesterday and in one single frame I have a capture with 88 CCLOs in it - in the field I figured I was covering half to two-thirds of the flock while shooting, so this pushes my estimate of the number of CCLOs out there to ~150.

Jason

The birds are much easier to identify in the hi-res version. I see a couple HOLAs in the group, with the rest CCLOs:
   
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18 Dec 2012, 11:58 AM,
#8
Pretty poor conditions for longspurs...
I went out to Buffalo Range Road this morning, 18 December, to see if anything unusual is around. Conditions were very pleasant compared to Flagstaff with partly sunny skies and about 40 degree temperatures. The recent storm dropped mostly liquid precipitation out there, but it has done little to enhance the water levels of the tanks.

Highlights today included Sage Sparrows, of which I found more than 20 spread all along the road, starting from about 3 miles south of the freeway to the gate at the Raymond Wildlife Area. Raptors were also a highlight, with 2 Golden Eagles, 3 Red-tailed Hawks, 1 Northern Harrier, 1 Merlin, and 1 Prairie Falcon seen. Loggerhead shrikes put on a good show, with 3 or 4 different birds seen.

Sage Sparrows in situ:
Sage Sparrows along Buffalo Range Road

Casner Tank and Lute Hart Tanks, the farthest tanks south along the road before Raymond Wildlife Area, are the only remaining tanks in the area with significant water in them. The level at Casner Tank is quite high, and it even hosted a Green-winged Teal and American Pipit today. The lower elevation tanks in the unbroken sage brush areas, where the longspurs have favored in past years, are completely dry or very close to it (Babbit Tank falls into the latter category). I detected only a single longspur today, a flyover CCLO at dry Sinkhole Tank.

Jason



Not birds, but still lovely:
Pronghorn along Buffalo Range Rd.
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