Buffalo Range Road: Chestnut-collared Longspur, Sage Thrashers
7 Apr 2013, 2:54 PM,
#1
Buffalo Range Road: Chestnut-collared Longspur, Sage Thrashers
This morning Tom Linda and I went out to Buffalo Range Road. We were hoping to find some Burrowing Owls that we've heard summer in the area. Although we found two large prairie dog towns we didn't find any BUOWs. It occurred to both of us that we may be too early - anyone have any ideas when BUOW return to Northern AZ?

Species diversity was pretty low out there. Every stop produced big numbers of Sage Thrashers (I'd guess we saw more than 50 in the course of the morning), Vesper Sparrows and Horned Larks. Savannah Sparrows and Black-throated Sparrows were common as well, and we ran into a few small flocks of White-crowned Sparrows. At Anderson Canyon we found a mixed sparrow flock that added Brewer's and Chipping Sparrow to our tally. At the Raymond Ranch headquarters a few Black-chinned Hummingbirds were coming in to feeders, and Say's Phoebes were patrolling the areas near the buildings. The only raptor we saw was a distant Golden Eagle.

Most of the tanks in the area are bone dry, but Casner Tank still has a good amount of water. As we drove past we noticed some birds bathing and puzzled for a while over a wet Vesper Sparrow and admired a single Cinnamon Teal on the water. As we kept our eye on the tank a brilliant male Chestnut-collared Longspur came in to drink - a nice exclamation mark to end the day!

Jason
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7 Apr 2013, 4:17 PM,
#2
RE: Buffalo Range Road: Chestnut-collared Longspur, Sage Thrashers
Jason, the old Grand Canyon bird checklist shows the early date for Burrowing Owl as 9 Apr. I'm not aware of any earlier records since then for up here.
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7 Apr 2013, 5:53 PM,
#3
RE: Buffalo Range Road: Chestnut-collared Longspur, Sage Thrashers
As Jason mentioned, we found a nice selection of sparrows, and their colors were really popping. I also have high confidence in seeing, very briefly, a Golden-crowned Sparrow. The bird was skulking in a bush, no more than 10 feet away as we pulled up on front of the ranch HQ. With my 10x binoculars, all I got on the bird was it's head, but a bright yellow crown was clearly visible. Unfortunately, the bird took off as soon as we tried for a better view and before Jason could get on it. One of those frustrating moments in birding.
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7 Apr 2013, 6:58 PM,
#4
RE: Buffalo Range Road: Chestnut-collared Longspur, Sage Thrashers
"Birding on the Navajo and Hopi Reservations" 1986 shows Burrowing Owls "uncommon" throughout April becoming "fairly common" in May. I couldn't readily find his definition of "uncommon". Earliest spring records were 18 March and 27 March
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