Green Valley Morning Flight Project 2020

For an introduction to the my Green Valley Morning Flight project check out this link

I was happy with my 2019 results but I knew there was much for me to learn about the visible migration in my area. I decided in Fall Migration 2020 to extend my observation days by a few weeks and to try and be more consistent with my observation hours.

I was able to conduct my observations on 70 days between July 12 – November 1, 2020 with a total of 148.2 hours. Average temperature was 72F with a high daytime temperature at 81F and lowest at 57F. Average wind speed was 6 mph with a max wind of 14 mph. Wind direction was predominately S (14 days) or SSW (13 days). The top five daily totals occurred on SSW winds.

Project Results

The number in ( ) is the number days out of the seventy days of the project that the species was seen. Next is the total number seen. The number in [ ] is the max number for that species and the date. The date following this number is the date span of occurrence.

White-winged Dove (59/70) Total 2133 [154 8/11] 7/12-9/25 late 10/10

The migratory flight of White-winged Dove is a little difficult to figure out as it is a common local breeder. Numbers started to increase by mid-July with flyby flocks of 30+ birds being seen. The flight seemed to peak in early August and then tapered off through September.

Lesser Nighthawk (6/70) Total 7 [2 8/26] 8/9-9/6

This species was seen infrequently probably because the bulk of the migration takes place in the evening hours.

Vaux’s Swift (6/70) Total 7 [2 9/27] 8/21-9/27

It was nice to see this species as I missed it in 2019. Probably more frequent then was recorded as the species can be easily missed as it speeds by.

Vaux’s Swifts – September 27, 2020

Long-billed Curlew (1/70) Total 1 [1] 8/25

This by far was the most surprising bird of the morning Flight. I was shocked and caught completely off-guard with this 3-4 second flyby and it took a few seconds for my brain to kick-in on the ID. This large completely brown bird, with a long deeply decurved bill, long, broad, brownish wings with a rapid wingbeat was moving quickly NW-SE. I was too dumbfounded to get any recognizable photograph.

Osprey (1/70) Total 1 [1] 9/27

Ospreys occur regularly at the ponds in my development and I would see them frequently, but this bird appeared to be a migrant as it was high and moving in a steady N-S path with no soaring.

Great Egret (1/70) Total 1 [1] 9/22

This is another species that frequents the nearby ponds during the summer but this particular bird was moving steadily N-S at a high altitude.

Great Egret – September 22, 2020

American Kestrel (3/70) Total 3 [1] 9/10-9/21

I see American Kestrels frequently in my area most of the year. They are either perched on a pole or tree or hovering over an open area. These individuals came in quickly from the NW, high with a continuous wing-flapping flight and passed by in a matter of a few seconds.

Western Wood-Pewee (7/70) Total 7 8/19-9/10

I have not found Western Wood-Pewee nesting in my dry desert habitat so it was nice to see this species occur in migration. Only single birds were seen on the seven days. Typically, they were seen moving S along the treetops or found feeding in the yard.

Hammond’s Flycatcher (1/70) Total 1 [1] 9/18

I was very happy to see this bird as it was flycatching in the adjacent wash. It remained for most the morning.

Pacific-slope Flycatcher (4/70) Total 4 8/22-9/20

Four individuals were seen during the period and each one was found in the early morning feeding in the adjacent wash. Each moved on after a few hours

Empidonax species (5/70) Total 5 8/26-9/14

Frustratingly, these five individuals were seen only in flight as they passed quickly either overhead or at eye level.

Cassin’s Kingbird (1/70) Total 1 [1] 7/21

Surprisingly only one was seen during the observation period. My feeling is that probably a few of the distant “yellow-bellied” Kingbirds seen were this species.

Western Kingbird (21/10) Total 67 [14 7/25] 7/19-9/18

The Western Kingbirds that occur during the Morning Flight typically are seen in small groups flying just above the trees and like most birds at that height, they suddenly appear out of nowhere and are gone quickly

“Yellow-bellied” Kingbird  (7/70)  Total 16  [6  7/18]  7/18-9/1

These birds were too distant or severely backlit to provide any field marks to make a positive identification. I’m guessing that some of these may have been Cassin’s Kingbirds.

“Yellow-bellied” Kingbird – July 18, 2020

Warbling Vireo (8/70) Total 9 [2 9/13] 7/21-10/4

I had an early flyby July 21 and then not another until September 6. Four of the birds were discovered after landing in my yard.

Northern Rough-winged Swallow (14/70) Total 22 [3 8/1] 7/18-9/5

This swallow was usually noticed as single flybys usually associated with Barn Swallows.

Tree Swallow (4/70) Total 5 [2 8/31] 7/20-10/11

Only four Tree Swallows were identified during the flight period and usually associated with a flight of other swallow species.

Violet-green Swallow  (3/70) Total 5  7/27-8/31

Five single flybys with Barn Swallows.

Bank Swallow (5/70) Total 13 [4 8/30, 9/15] 8/30-9/21

Single flybys associated with other swallows.

Barn Swallow (65/70) Total 468 [24 9/13] 7/12-10/24

The most numerous swallow species during the Project with a flight that extended almost the entire date span. Sightings usually consisted of groups of 3-4 birds or a loose flock of scattered single birds. The flight was steady and daily and seemed to peak in late September.

Cliff Swallow (13/70) Total 77 [35 7/25] 7/13-9/13

Found usually in groups 2-3 birds and usually associating with movements of other swallows. Sporadic through July to September with a high count of 35 on July 25. This was the highest one-day total for any swallow species.

swallow species (7/70) Total 17 [4 7/28, 8/4] 7/28-9/12

Seventeen unidentified swallows were noted during the Morning Flight. These were birds that I either sped past me providing only a brief view or birds I picked up on after they were past me.

Ruby-crowned Kinglet (3/70) Total 5 [2 10/31, 11/1] 10/21-11/1

Five birds were seen during the Morning Flight, four were flybys and the other was found feeding in the adjacent wash.

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (1/70) Total 1 10/20-10/21

Probably the same bird seen both days as it feed in the perimeter of my yard.

Northern Mockingbird (14/70) Total 25 [5 7/25] 7/22-8/15

Typically flying slowly but steadily at treetop level, these birds were easily noticed. Twenty-five birds were seen during their three week span.

Phainopepla (27/70) Total 77 [11 8/30] 7/18-11/1

The Phainopepla flight extended nearly the entire date span. Seventy-seven birds were counted usually in small groups of 3-4 birds. Most were generally high flyovers but a few were nice treetop level sightings.

Phainopepla – July 18, 2020

Brewer’s Sparrow  (3/70)  Total 4  [2]  9/10-10/5

A surprise for me, I wasn’t expecting to find this species but in reality I should have been looking for it as the species winters in good numbers nearby. Both single birds, weeks apart, were first noticed at a distance and followed until they landed in my yard! A nice yard list addition.

Brewer’s Sparrow – September 10, 2020

Chipping Sparrow (3/70) Total 4 [2] 9/13-10/12

I was surprised to have only four single birds during the Morning Flight as they can be fairly common in my neighborhood during the Fall.

Lark Sparrow (12/70) Total 47 [7 8/15] 7/12-9/13

Lark Sparrows passed by from mid-July through mid-October with small groups scattered throughout this period.

Lark Bunting (1/70) Total 3 [3] 9/13

The three birds were seen together on the same day.

Dark-eyed Junco (1/70) Total 1 [1] 11/1

One “Pink-sided” Junco landed in the adjacent wash in the early morning and spent the better part of the day feeding in my yard.

Dark-eyed Junco (Pink-sided) – November 1, 2020

Vesper Sparrow (1/70) Total 2 [2] 9/13

Two together were the only ones noted.

Vesper Sparrow – September 13, 2020

White-crowned Sparrow (7/70) Total 22 [5 11/1] 10/12-11/1

Usually passed by in groups of 3-4 occasionally landing in my yard or the nearby wash.

White-crowned Sparrow – September 28, 2020

Green-tailed Towhee (2/70) Total 1 [1] 9/12-9/13

Presumably, the same bird spent two days foraging through the yard and wash.

Green-tailed Towhee – September 13, 2020

Yellow-breasted Chat (8/70) Total 2 [1] 9/11-10/10

One bird spent eight consecutive days around my yard and then another made a brief appearance ten days later.

Yellow-breasted Chat – September 15, 2020

Brewer’s Blackbird (2/10) Total 5 [3] 9/22-9/28

Scattered flybys during the six day period.

Yellow-headed Blackbird (6/10) Total 14 [6 8/30] 8/30-9/28

All but one were high flyovers usually very vocal which helped to alert me of their presence.

Hooded Oriole (49/70) Total 260 [11 8/1, 8/2, 8/11] 7/12-9/15 late 10/4

Difficult to determine summer residents from migrants so the 260 total is probably not an accurate reflection of their migrant flight. By mid July, I started to notice more high flyovers, birds that I could see coming towards me at a distance and continue past me. I also noticed a definite decrease in adults by late August. An immature was a flyby October 4, nearly a month after my last sighting in mid-September.

Bullock’s Oriole (25/70) Total 43 [4 7/21, 7/24, 7/2 5] 7/19-9/5

Another species that I have difficulty determining local breeders from migrants. Using my criteria for determining migrants (steady N-S flight direction at treetop level or higher), the four individuals on July 21 were probably the first migrants. The flight was nearly daily through late July and August.

Brown-headed Cowbird (25/70) Total 320 [53 7/26] 7/19-9/1

This species usually passed by in small groups of 5-10 birds. Only close birds provided positive identifications.

cowbird species (7/70) Total 39 [12 7/19] 7/19-8/17

There were distant flocks that may have contained both cowbird species as in 2019, but positive identification could not be established.

Lucy’s Warbler (1/70) Total 1 [1] 8/25

Lucy’s Warblers are a bit difficult to figure out. The local breeding birds stop singing in early-mid summer and become harder to find. The one flyby on August 25 was the first seen after weeks of not hearing or seeing any local birds.

Lucy’s Warbler – July 25, 2020

Orange-crowned Warbler (9/70) Total 21 [3 10/20, 10/21, 10/24, 10/31, 11/1] 8/23-11/1

Close flybys made the identifications a bit easier and there were a few that dropped into my yard or the nearby wash.

Orange-crowned Warbler – October 20, 2020

Nashville Warbler (2/70) Total 2 9/12-10/18

Two individuals that both showed in the early morning in the adjacent wash.

Magnolia Warbler (1/70) Total 1 [1] 10/20

A complete and happy surprise. The bird appeared mid morning as it landed in the top of a tree in my yard. From my experience of banding many fall Magnolias and seeing many during the Fall Migrations in the East, I had an initial gut feeling that the bird was a Magnolia. Several other birders conducted a vigil during that afternoon and the next morning but the bird did not return.

Magnolia Warbler – October 20, 2020

MacGillivray’s Warbler (5/70) Total 5 9/10-9/17

Five individuals all being found as they fed in the yard in the early morning. One bird was watched as it flew in from a distance and landed in the yard.

Yellow Warbler (12/70) Total 17 [3 8/19] 8/19-9/15

Yellow Warbler is a local nester so I limited my counting to individuals that seemed to meet the Morning Flight criteria.

Yellow-rumped Warbler (8/70) Total 21 [4 10/20, 10/21] 8/19-11/1

An early individual was a surprise August 19. The next flyby wasn’t seen until October 11 and then nearly daily.

Black-throated Gray Warbler (3/70) Total 3 10/12-10/21

Three flybys with one bird stopping to spend several morning hours catching insects in my yard.

Black-throated Gray Warbler – August 18, 2020

Wilson’s Warbler (12/70) Total 17 [4 9/19] 9/5-10/12

Flybys and yard birds beginning September 5. Sightings became daily during mid September tapering off through mid October.

Wilson’s Warbler – September 19, 2020

warbler species (5/70) Total 5 [3 9/17]
These were either too distant or got by me too quickly for a positive identification.

Summer Tanager (5/70) Total 5 [1] 7/29-9/18

Five single flyovers added some nice color to the Morning Flight.

Summer Tanager – September 11, 2020

Western Tanager (11/70) Total 16 [3 7/25, 8/22] 7/23-8/22

Most were single birds, but occasionally, 2-3 would flyby together.

Rose-breasted Grosbeak (2/70) Total 1 [1] 10/20-10/21

Another surprise. While holding the vigil for the Magnolia Warbler, a beautiful male came into the yard. To the delight of the visiting birders, it made several appearances until it departed the following day.

Rose-breasted Grosbeak – October 21, 2020

Black-headed Grosbeak (7/70) Total 12 [3 7/27] 7/19-8/19

One of my favorite Morning Flight species, most were close providing some great flyby looks.

Lazuli Bunting (1/70) Total 1 [1] 8/22

A lone individual flyby August 22. Was definitely hoping for more.

passerine species  (16/70)  Total 62  [5  7/25, 8/1, 8/3, 9/13]

These were birds that were too distant, backlit or too quick to get positive identifications. Buntings, sparrows, flycatchers and tanagers seemed to fit the general impression of these birds.