Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Lower San Pedro IBA Surveys

This month the Important Bird Area team visited sites around San Manuel to survey for birds. The intrepid team composed of Scott Wilbor (IBA Conservation Biologist, our Fearless Leader and Birding Guru), Jennie MacFarland (IBA Program Assistant – Biologist and Birding Warrior), Tim Helentjaris (Volunteer and Birdwatcher Extraordinaire) and Celeste Andresen (Nature Conservancy Employee and Bird Whisperer). Scott, Jennie and Tim arrived in San Manuel Friday July 16 and discussed plans for surveying our feathered friends the following day over delicious Mexican food and then retired to the San Manuel Lodge.

The following morning the team met before 5 am for breakfast in the hotel parking lot courtesy of Scott and left in teams of 2 to conduct the surveys.

Jennie and Celeste surveyed the 7B property on the T1 Route that begins in a mature mesquite bosque with huge mesquite trees. The transect ends in a small riparian area fed by a hot spring that is home to many birds as well as a community of Lowland Leopard Frogs. Celeste and I found 30 species of birds during our survey including many fledged young Vermillion Flycatchers and Lucy’s Warblers. About halfway through the survey, we encountered a corral that had a large puddle of muddy water. The bird activity here was astounding! Two Lesser Nighthawks were zooming over the water despite the fact it was now midmorning. Two female Black-chinned Hummingbirds were zipping around over the survace of the water hawking for tiny insects and occasionally pausing to fight with each other! While we watched Song Sparrows scratched about for breakfast and sang their distinctive song while a whole family of Yellow Warblers took advantage of the abundant insects. As we moved on to finish our survey, a Black Phoebe swooped from its perch to the water and back again and a Brown-crested Flycatcher caught an enormous insect in its large bill, emitting honking squeaks of triumph. All in all a great surveying morning!

Meanwhile, Scott and Tim were conducting two transect surveys on the BHP property near San Manuel. Their second survey began where the first ended and both closely followed the San Pedro River. Their surveys started off with a bang with a sighting of a group of Wild Turkeys roosting high up in a tree! Racking up an impressive 38 species, many of the highlights of the morning were not birds at all. A mama Javalina with an adorable and tiny baby in tow crossed their path and later in the morning two young White-tailed Deer bucks, still with velvet on their antlers, were hanging out obliviously until they saw Scott and Tim and then bounded away, flashing their white tails. Their second transect ended on the bank of the San Pedro River just in time to see a Great Blue Heron flush and fly a little further down stream.

A great birding time was had by all while gathering important information to hopefully create a new Important Bird Area. To find out what the IBA program is all about and how you could volunteer to be an intrepid bird surveyor, please visit our site at www.aziba.org The website it full of great information about the IBA program including current IBA sites in AZ as well as access to summaries of the birds found by IBA surveyors at existing IBA sites and potential IBA sites.

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