May 23, 2016: Kachina Wetlands

Kachina Wetlands is a waste-water treatment facility in Flagstaff. If you bird, you know that sewage treatment ponds are often great birding spots; if you’ve birded in enlightened places, you know that some of them are really terrific habitats. Kachina Wetlands is one of those. I’d seen it as an ebird hotspot while planning the trip, but I didn’t really know what to expect. You park at the end of a dead-end road through a trailer park and walk in through some trees, to be met with this view.

Kachina Wetlands

There are multiple ponds separated by dikes, some dry and others full; several have islands in the middle, and there are tall pines surrounding the area as well as on the islands. Cattails fill a lot of the ponds, while the dry areas have tall grasses and scrub. Loads of good habitat.

First lifer of the morning was Pygmy Nuthatch, which, though close to me in some pines, was too active to catch for a photo. Next I saw a splash of yellow in the cattails and heard an unfamiliar harsh call — Yellow-Headed Blackbird. This one is hard to miss.

Yellow-headed Blackbird

I also got another chance to see Eared Grebes, as well as a Pied-Billed Grebe with a bunch of fuzzy young.

Eared Grebe

Some Canada Geese had babies foraging right on the trail, and they weren’t getting out of my way at all. One adult just stood there and hissed at me while I went by.

I had promised to be back by 7:30 for breakfast, so I was heading back when I heard an unfamiliar sparrow song in the tall grass. I looked, and I could see the bird way out there perched on a stick. Somehow I dredged up Vesper Sparrow (studying calls in advance paid off?) and I played the song to check. Matched perfectly, and next thing I knew he was perched right next to me and singing.

Vesper Sparrow

On the way out, I also saw a Say’s Phoebe — not a lifer, since I saw the one that showed up in St. Gen county earlier this year. And finally, just as I was getting back to the car, a little flash of blue in a pine tree turned out to be a Western Bluebird. Four lifers before breakfast.

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