Burro Creek: Varied Bunting (Yavapai Co.)

erh36

Active Member
On the evening of 1 June 2020, Micah Riegner and I found a singing male VARIED BUNTING in a tributary of upper Burro Creek Canyon north of Bagdad (Yavapai Co.). This would presumably represent a spring overshoot, although the riparian habitat in the drainage was actually perfect for what the species can be found in farther south (netleaf hackberry, desert broom, catclaw acacia, etc.). It continued there the next morning (2 June). The pinpointed location where we had the Varied Bunting was at approximately: 34.7123190,-113.2480761. It is downslope of the pump station labeled on the fence as “Francis Creek Booster”, but looking at topo maps this drainage is not Francis Creek (that drainage is actually across the canyon and upstream). This is along the aquaduct road that travels down to Burro Creek from the canyon rim. Photos of the bunting can be found on our eBird list: https://ebird.org/checklist/S70033814

**Note that this area is difficult to access. High clearance AWD or 4WD are required to travel the ~3 hours from Bagdad to get to the rim of Burro Creek Canyon, multiple dirt roads and entrance through 5 gates (please leave them the way you find them!), then either a treacherous drive or long hike down ~1000 ft. elevation relief from the rim along the aquaduct road to get to the point where the bunting is. It’s summer now and you’ll have to deal with the possibility of an overheated vehicle or heat stressed body while ascending the steep, very rough road on the way back up.

In upper Burro Creek we also had INDIGO and LAZULI BUNTINGS, and hybrids between the two.

On 2 June while driving back towards Bagdad, we also encountered a singing and skylarking CASSIN’S SPARROW, at least 2 pairs of GRASSHOPPER SPARROWS, and several EASTERN MEADOWLARKS in the grasslands on Bozarth Mesa. One of the Grasshopper Sparrows was carrying a grasshopper down to an unseen nest at the base of a yucca. The day before, we also had 2 PINYON JAYS in the woodlands just west of Lower Corral Draw and Strotjost Flat. Photos and audio recordings will be entered on our eBird lists.

On 3 June we observed at least 8 VIOLET-GREEN SWALLOWS along lower Burro Creek just downstream from the confluence with Warm Spring Canyon (Mohave Co.). The vegetation here is upland desert-scrub with small riparian patches along deep pools of the creek. Cliff and N. Rough-winged Swallows were also nesting here, with family groups with begging young of the former.

An epic trip in a truly amazing part of the state! The variety and seemingly odd mixtures of plant communities in this region is astounding.

Good birding,

Eric Hough
Wickenburg, AZ
 
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