21 Jan 2019, 7:16 PM,
Yesterday (1/20/19) I birded with Nick and Connie Worth over in Snowflake-Taylor (Navajo Co.) where we saw 24 of the continuing SANDHILL CRANE flock in the farm lands behind the Walmart in Taylor and four CACKLING GEESE at the gravel pit ponds along Cottonwood Wash in Snowflake, presumably the same flock as the three first reported by John Wilson and his family on Jan. 12. Photos of the geese can be seen in my eBird list below. I showed the geese photos to David Vander Pluym and he thought these appeared to be of the 'minima' subspecies. This is apparently a first county record for the geese and the cranes are an increasing winter resident locally. Another highlight was a male RED-BREASTED MERGANSER seen flying with Mallards as small flocks spooked. A handful of the Mallards present appeared to be MEXICAN DUCK x MALLARD hybrids. Several hundred ducks and geese have been overwintering here, hanging out in the ponds and foraging on the adjacent farm fields. Behind the Walmart in Taylor we also saw ~50 BREWER'S BLACKBIRDS, which are local wintering residents around agricultural areas in the area, while most of the species winters south of the Mogollon Rim in the state. 

The gravel pit ponds along Cottonwood Wash and Old Bypass Rd. just upstream of the confluence with Silver Creek are part of a recently opened location where the town is apparently planning an open access walking/biking path. A few others were out walking and we also met John Wilson and family birding there. I've renamed the hotspot (I started this one), although it hasn't updated yet. I kept the pinpoint at the same spot since this is the trailhead parking. If the trail gets an official name in the future as it becomes more established, the name can always be changed then. The parking is along Hwy. 77 immediately north of the bridge over Cottonwood Wash as you head north out of Snowflake. You park in the dirt lot and walk under the highway bridge to access what Google Maps calls Old Bypass Rd. You can walk along the old paved road and even some of the dirt berms between the gravel pit ponds to view them. There are also adjacent ephemeral farm fields, ponds, and stringers of willows, weedy patches, and old cottonwoods.

Good birding,

Eric Hough
Wickenburg, AZ

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