Saturday, February 5, 2011

Wintering Ducks and Shorebirds at the Santa Cruz River in Marana

For several days and nights it has been colder than ever here in Tucson. Not many beetles and bugs to watch under those conditions. But along the steadily flowing Santa Cruz River that is fed by the Pima County Water Reclamation Plant, there are more birds than in other years.

 The churning water of the overflow directly under the bridge is the favorite spot for most ducks, a Green Heron, some Pied-billed Grebes and a few American Coots.

 Three species of Teal dabble in the churning water or rise up in tight flocks flashing their brightly colored wing patches that gave them their common species names.

Blue-winged Teal Pair
Male Blue-winged Teal
Cinnamon Teal

Most common is the small Green-Winged Teal

Grebes and Gadwalls

 Mallards and a single male Wood Duck are usually found further down river.

 Wood Ducks are rare in Arizona.

A Flock of Least Sandpipers occupies the sandbank                                                                                    

Spotted Sandpipers with rhythmically dipping tails search for food along the banks. I was thrilled to watch a Wilson's Snipe around the pillars of the bridge but I couldn't get a photo.A Water Pipit was more obliging 
Noisy Killdeer feed at muddy parts of the river bank, but they can also be found in the dry, stony sand flats along the road where they will hide their eggs. Today I saw a Coyote and a Northern Harrier patrol the water's edge for prey, last week it was a Prairie Falcon  - It may be safer to keep vulnerable offspring a little bit away from the attractive riparian area.

Last year the river changed its bed and covered most of the open mudflats that the  Black-necked Stilts liked. This year I've seen them at Sweetwater but not at the Ina Bridge where these photos were taken in 2007. 

I really miss those elegant beauties.

At dusk, the Green Heron finally moves out of his hidden spot by the river bank


  1. Hi Margarethe,

    Just discovered your blog. Nice to see so many pretty places in Arizona.


  2. Awesome! Wow, we need to get out in the field again sometime this month. I need to try out my new camera (35X zoom) for one thing :-)

  3. Those Stilt pictures are fantastic. They capture the paradox of the bird--its apparent awkwardness that belays their grace and elegance.

    Larry B,