I'd been checking the Arizona Listserve and found a couple of posts regarding Chestnut-collared Longspurs being seen just east of Flagstaff. A quick check of Google Maps showed the location of Babbitt Tank only about an hour away from where we were staying. Robin was up for a drive, so we decided to take a trip to Flagstaff this morning.
We drove the Oak Creek Canyon (Hwy 89a) and picked up I-40 through Flagstaff. At exit 225 South we pulled off onto Buffalo Range Rd., just an 1/8 mile from the exit, and found a large flock of 150-200 'larkspurs' (Horned Larks and Chestnut-collared Longspurs) swirling around a small pond. The pond was frozen, with only the edges beginning to melt, so the birds had only a few locations where they could possibly land to drink.
In the image at left red arrows point to birds w/ all-black undertail coverts. The two birds in the corners of the image are Horned Larks, but the double arrow points to a Lapland Longspur, a bird considered rare in the winter time in Arizona. Note: the image is a composite of about 10 images I took of the passing flock - I plucked out those birds that were in focus and showed the traits of Chestnut-collared Longspurs and placed them in this single image. The LALO on the left is the bird banking, and the one on the right is the same bird one frame later - note the streaks on the flank, and chestnut-colored nape.
body-plants observed when their feet gave out under them.
Lowell Observatory up on Mars Hill, so we decided to check it out.
We spent an hour or so walking around the grounds, took in the last 5 minutes of a Pluto tour, then spent a few minutes observing the sun through a solar scope. It was neat to see sun spots and solar flares through the special scope. I couldn't bring myself to ask them if I could try to digiscope the sun, though, since I was worried that I might fry my camera.
Afterward, we spent a quiet half-hour or so sitting in the car in the parking lot. My attention was drawn to a pair of Acorn Woodpeckers that appeared in the large pines surrounding the parking lot. Albert's Squirrels were chattering off in the distance, and a single White-breasted Nuthatch was making its 'yank-yank-yank' call as it foraged nearby.
Bell Rock lookout for a quick walk. I took some panoramas of the impressive mesa scenery, and of the famous rock formation, itself.
A pair of Cassin's Finches flew by, and I recognized them by call. They sound much less 'burry' compared to the numerous House Finches. Canyon Towhees were also about, singing from tree tops well out from the trail.
We returned to the car and headed back to our cabin to call it a day.