The Raptor Route

A truly outstanding morning on the Santa Cruz Flats with the participants in the Aimophila Adventures Raptor Clinic gave us great looks in life at most of the species we had examined yesterday in skin. We knew it would be a good morning when the first bird in the parking lot where we met was a tailless Cooper’s Hawk, and just the 5 miles of Ina Road on the way to the interstate produced American Kestrel, Peregrine Falcon, Red-tailed Hawk, and two Harris’s Hawks.

We continued, though, to Marana (Mountain Bluebirds and Burrowing Owls on the roadside) and up past Red Rock to the flats proper. Red-tailed Hawks were rarely out of sight, and among the 39 birds we saw were several bright reddish “intermediate” morphs and a couple of glistening white fuertesi locals. One bird, starkly black and white below with relatively strong supercilia, was occasion for a disquisition on Harlan’s Hawk: until, that is, it flew and revealed a solidly red tail.

Other species observed were Ferruginous Hawk, Northern Harrier, Prairie Falcon, and Merlin. But the Crested Caracara show beat them all. We had a total of nine birds, at least eight of them juveniles, just west of the Pinal Gypsum Tank. This species has been present in unprecedented numbers this fall on the lower Santa Cruz, and the great predominance of young birds among the birds being seen makes me think that this is in fact an ‘invasion’ by caracaras produced south of the border.

Thanks to everyone in the workshop for making it such a great one this time around!