Micah Riegner with Troy Corman
I spent May and June 2020 surveying riparian breeding bird for AZGF and visited Date Creek for a total of 10 surveys within that time period. Eight of those visits were at a plot about a mile upstream from the ranch, while the remaining two were adjacent to the ranch. Here I include a list of all the species (including migrants) that I saw on those surveys.
It was interesting to see the seasonal changes throughout that time period. When I started the surveys in early May, the water extended all the way down to the ranch, but by mid-June the water dried up by almost a mile. Meanwhile, the beavers were busy building a dam. In early May there were no dams to speak of—all of which had been washed out in the floods from February; by the end of May they had constructed a dam roughly 3 ft high.
There were numerous noteworthy birds I came across while doing the surveys. It was incredible to see 4 pairs of Zone-tailed Hawks nesting along the creek. I’ve never seen such high concentrations of this species in Arizona. Mid-May through early June there were plenty of avian migrants passing through the riparian corridor, the “coolest” of which were Olive-sided Flycatchers, which breed up in high elevation conifer forests, and a Swainson’s Thrush, which also breeds up in high elevation forests. Wilson’s Warblers were probably the most abundant migrants; some were even singing quite a bit. A pair of Yellow-billed Cuckoos arrived at the end of June. These are typically some of the latest migrants to reach Arizona, arriving from their wintering grounds in the Chaco of Bolivia and Argentina. I also had a single Willow Flycatcher vocalizing up at the beaver pond—perhaps still a migrant working its way north.
I received Troy Corman’s notes from the surveys he conducted in 2012. In summary, here’s how they compared to this year. Troy had many of the same birds including “Wild” Turkeys, Zone-tailed Hawks, and the common breeders. Birds that I had on my survey that weren’t seen in 2012 include Gray Hawks, which arrived at Date Creek around 2013 or 2014, Green Heron, Anna’s Hummingbird, Cooper’s Hawk, Say’s Phoebe and Northern Rough-winged Swallow. Troy had numerous migrants including Gray, Hammond’s, Dusky and Pacific-slope Flycatchers, Townsend’s and Hermit Warblers, Brewer’s and Lincoln’s Sparrows, Lazuli Bunting, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Hermit Thrush, Green-tailed Towhee and a Golden Eagle! In adding my list to his, together Troy and I had over 100 species for the ranch—not bad.
I’d like to thank the Wolf/Knight family--Stefan, Kimberley, Ryan and Savannah--for giving me access to Date Creek to conduct these surveys. I look forward to coming by again, maybe once the monsoons get going. Let’s hope for some good rain this year!
Field Guides, Inc.
Wild Turkey—I saw a mother with a chick on my last visit on 6/17
Great Blue Heron—I’m not sure where they’d be nesting, perhaps well upstream from where I was surveying. I saw the pair on a few occasions flying through and landing on the boulder outcroppings.
Green Heron—Seen twice along the creek near the old dam.
Gray Hawk—What a cool raptor to have nesting along the creek. Two pairs seemed to be present; one downstream from the ranch and one just upstream.
Zone-tailed Hawk—There were a total of 4 nesting pairs spaced out along the creek. By the end of my survey period, they had fluffy white chicks.
Harris’s Hawk—I suspect these breed not far upstream from the ranch. By the end of the survey period I saw a fairly well-grown fledgling.
Common Black Hawk—It’s somewhat surprising there are not more of these along the creek. I saw only one individual, a second-year bird, flying over.
Cooper’s Hawk—Seen a couple times along the creek.
Yellow-billed Cuckoo—One of the later migrants to arrive in Arizona, flying all the way from their wintering grounds in Bolivia and Argentina. I saw two on my final survey on 6/17.
Great Horned Owl—They nested in one of the boulder outcroppings near the creek. One morning I saw two chicks emerge from the rocks.
Western Screech-owl—A pair called very night across from the ranch.
Elf Owl—I had great looks at one near the gate.
White-throated Swift—These were often high overhead. Occasionally they’d come down to drink in the creek.
Anna’s Hummingbird—They nested near the dam.
Costa’s Hummingbird—The most common hummer along the creek.
Gilded Flicker—A few pairs of these desert flickers were nesting along the creek.
Olive-sided Flycatcher—I saw a couple of these migrants passing through on their way from the Amazon basin up to the high elevation conifer forests of Northern AZ and beyond.
Western Wood-Pewee—A few stayed around to breed in the riparian corridor.
Ash-throated Flycatcher—Fairly common along the creek.
Brown-crested Flycatcher—A common breeder along the creek.
Hammond’s/Dusky Flycatcher—Seen migrating through in low numbers.
“Western” Flycatcher—A few migrants seen along the creek. Western Flycatcher refers to Cordilleran/Pacific Slope Flycatchers, which are impossible to identify without hearing them. Pacific Slope would be the more likely candidate at this elevation.
Willow Flycatcher—A single individual was seen calling up above the beaver pond.
Bell’s Vireo—One of the most common breeders. I saw adults feeding fledglings by early June.
Plumbeous Vireo—Migrant passing through.
Warbling Vireo—Common migrant in late May. Many of them were singing.
Northern Rough-winged Swallow—A few were seen along the riparian corridor.
Even More Birds
Swainson’s Thrush—I recorded a migrant on its way from South America to the high elevation conifer forests.
Cedar Waxwing—I heard a few near the ranch.
Orange-crowned Warbler—I saw a few of these migrating through in mid-late May.
MacGillivray’s Warbler—A couple migrants were passing through the riparian corridor in late May.
Common Yellowthroat—Quite a few were breeding along the creek, especially in the cattail marsh.
Yellow Warbler—Another common breeder.
Black-throated Gray-Warbler—Migrants passed through in May.
Wilson’s Warbler—Fairly common migrant. Many were already singing.
Yellow-breasted Chat—The “theme song” of Date Creek. These were heard just about everywhere and all day—even at midnight!
Abert’s Towhee—A common riparian obligate.
Black-throated Sparrow—Fairly common in the uplands away from the riparian area.
Song Sparrow—A few were breeding in the dense stretch of cottonwoods and willows.
Summer Tanager—A fairly common breeder along the riparian corridor.
Western Tanager—Lots were migrating through in late May.
Black-headed Grosbeak—Several were passing through during migration.
Indigo Bunting—This is a fairly uncommon breeder in Arizona. I saw a couple singing males along the creek.
Blue Grosbeak—They started showing up in mid-May.
Red-winged Blackbird—Only a single male was seen in early May.
Bronzed Cowbird—Not a common bird in this part of the state. I saw a male displaying to two females in early May.
Brown-headed Cowbird—The more common cowbird here in AZ.
Hooded Oriole—These were common along the creek.
Bullock’s Oriole—One seen on the survey near the ranch.
Scott’s Oriole—Probably a migrant passing through in mid-May.
Sonoran Mud Turtle—These are amazingly abundant along the creek.
Desert Iguana—This is one of the most heat-tolerant lizards in North America. I saw a few out in the Creosote flats.
Eastern Collared Lizard—A couple were seen in the boulders.
Long-nosed Leopard Lizard—A top predator in the lizard world. I saw a few out in the Creosote flats.
Zebra-tailed Lizard—Common in the sandy washes.
Greater Earless Lizard—Common along the creek.
Ornate Tree Lizard
Common Side-blotched Lizard
Desert Spiny Lizard
Desert Horned Lizard—I saw quite a few of these miniature dinosaurs in the Creosote flats.
Gila Spotted Whiptail—Common in the riparian area.
Ground Snake—I saw one crossing the road one afternoon.
Gophersnake—One seen in the riparian area.
Glossy Snake—Seen crossing the road in the Creosote at night.
Western Patch-nosed Snake—I found a dead one on the road.
Coachwhip—A lengthy 4-ft individual was crossing the road in late May.
Black-necked Gartersnake—Often found near water. I saw one in late May.
Western Daimondback Rattlesnake—A couple were active in the riparian area in late May.
Sidewinder—This snake has one of the most incredible modes of locomotion. I saw two out in the Creosote flats.
Speckled Rattlesnake—This species is highly variable in color pattern throughout the state. The one I saw was quite pink.
Javelina—Lots were coming down to drink by the beginning of June.
Puma (tracks, including apparently female and her cub)
Great Purple Hairstreak (Atlides halesus) –The northern extension of a tropical genus. This species is a mistletoe specialist. I saw one gathering salts in the creekbed.
Slide through photos below!