I hadn't planned on arriving until Thursday night, but with the storm I left early. I wasn't signed up for any field trips Thursday, so it was primarily a business day. Later in the evening I did stop off at the pond at St. George Golf Club and met up with some very friendly AMERICAN COOTS.
I thought it was a bit odd--usually when you come to these kinds of ponds it's the domesticated Mallards and geese that will mob you for food. A few days later the mystery became clear as I witnessed a lady who came with a big bin of food for all the birds. Even the American Wigeon came in for the action. Also present on the pond regularly (as I visited it several times over the weekend) was a GREAT BLUE HERON, one CANVASBACK, a couple RING-NECKED DUCKS, and a handful of nice little RUDDY DUCKS.
Friday morning I had signed up for the "Find the Vermilion Flycatcher" field trip. I could hardly sleep the night before I was so excited, and arrived early, rearing to go. People were gathering in the parking lot at Tonaquint Nature Park. I checked in and overheard that the setup was running behind, so, I snuck off to bird the park. I was too hyped up to stand around and wait!
Around Tonaquint I ran in to a SHARP-SHINNED HAWK, a few RING-NECKED DUCKS, GAMBEL'S QUAIL, a BUFFLEHEAD and calling ABERT'S TOWHEES among the usual suspects (Song Sparrows, YR Warblers, Mallards, Coots, etc.)
I made my way back to the parking lot and it looked like we were finally departing. I followed the group, not realizing that there was more than one field trip leaving from the same spot, and soon found out my group had already left! I scrambled for some phone numbers, thanks to event organizers and finally caught up to my group, who were at the Sunbrook Golf Club. We drove around the neighborhoods and checked out the ponds on the green. There were three MUTE SWANS
, one GREAT EGRET
, one GREAT BLUE HERON
, a BELTED KINGFISHER
, more RUDDY DUCKS
, a few HOODED MERGANSERS
, one CANVASBACK
, a couple NORTHERN SHOVELERS
, a NORTHERN FLICKER
. But no Vermilion Flycatcher. 9:30 rolled around quickly and the field trip was officially over. I was not content. I mean, the Vermilion Flycatcher was one of the main reasons I was here, and was the mascot for the whole festival!
While we gathered to depart our separate ways in our caravan of cars, I overheard a tip from one of the field trip leaders that the Vermilion Flycatcher could be out in Santa Clara. I remembered seeing a sighting in e-bird for it out there so I wanted to try for it. Out of the entire group, only one other person wanted to try for it, so Lucy and I headed for Santa Clara. (If anyone wants to chase it, let me know and I'll direct you where to go.)
Along the river we walked, seeing three RED-TAILED HAWKS, one VERDIN, WC SPARROWS, SONG SPARROWS, a mixed flock of RW BLACKBIRDS, BREWERS BLACKBIRDS, and STARLINGS. We enjoyed a few GREEN-WINGED TEAL in the river with some MALLARDS. A little ways upstream I caught a GREAT BLUE HERON standing in the middle of the river. Then, above the heron a bright red speck flitting around. "There it is!" I exclaimed to Lucy! I had found the VERMILION FLYCATCHER.
We walked up the road parallel to the river, hoping for a better view but the brush was too thick to get close. Upstream we were able to find a break in the foliage and walked down in to the banks of the stream.
Making our way around a bend, we spotted him again, enough to get a heavily-cropped diagnostic photo or two.
In the stream we also ran on to a BLACK PHOEBE, a number of YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLERS, and a RUBY-CROWNED KINGLET.
After high-fiveing and getting some soul-satisfying views of the cheery red flycatcher, we headed back to our cars, exchanged e-mails and went our ways. But I wasn't done birding.
I hit up the Jacob Hamblin home, adding NORTHERN MOCKINGBIRD to my list for the day.
And back at Tonaquint I got my FOY AMERICAN PIPIT when a flock of about 50 flew overhead and my first-of-year SAY'S PHOEBE.
I then hit up SPRINGS PARK POND. Around the pond the ABERT'S TOWHEEs were lurking and calling. I caught up to two CRISSAL THRASHERS. I was struck with how such an awkward-looking bird has such a pretty song.
On the pond there were quite a few RUDDY DUCKS, more COOTS, MALLARDS, a couple NORTHERN SHOVELERS.
I also ran on to a lovely litte VERDIN, and a lone SNOW GOOSE.
A couple of NORTHERN HARRIERS flew over, and it became 2:00--time to get back to work.
Stay tuned for Part 2: Zion's National Park, Snow Canyon and more.