It was a gorgeous day in southeast Arizona. Dennys senior breakfast was a hit and the second cup of coffee got me going. We had hardly started the slow but careful roadside birding in the Sulfur Springs Valley when some Mountain Bluebirds were seen. This was followed by more good looks at Sage Sparrows and a Crissal Thrasher. A little further along we found our first Bendire's Thrasher as well as more Curve-billed Thrashers. The Whitewater Draw Wildlife Management Area is an oasis in the valley, holding many of the usual water birds. However, the refuge is best known for its wintering Sandhill Cranes. The population has grown over the past decade and now numbers something in excess of 40,000 cranes. We saw a group of 500 which was impressive. We also saw several coveys of Scaled Quail (photo) which is locally referred to as "cotton top." Along the road a falcon lit on a power pole (photo). It was a Prairie Falcon, a bird some are still missing, eh David?
It was about that time that John noticed that the tire pressure light on the dash had come on indicating the at least one of our tires had a leak. Sure enough! The right front was looking a bit flat. We drove to the nearest town and found the tire repair place closed since it was Sunday. That was to be the case in the next nearest town as well. So after sampling the local cuisine for lunch, we drove back to Douglas where a Walmart had a functioning tire repair facility. It took over two hours; all told we lost three plus hours of birding. When the repair was finished, we replaced the donut tire with the full-sized version and headed back to the valley. We worked some more fields where we got excellent looks at Lark Buntings, some of which were molting into breeding plumage (photo). This is another species that breeds where we might not go, so it was good to see it now.
We have decided to go back to the west, forgoing a crack at some of the species in the Chiricahuas. The strategy is to go after species that are here in winter only or are rare since we'll be back to Arizona in July for the breeding birds. So tonight we're staying in Patagonia at the Stage Stop Inn, a place where my groups have stayed. Tomorrow we will visit some of the areas we've visited earlier, but failed to see an important species. The species total is now 339.