Green Valley Morning Flight Project 2021

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

I was able to conduct my observations on 50 days between July 3 – October 22, 2021 with a total of 86.9 hours down from 148.2 hours in 2020. Average temperature was 71F with a high daytime temperature at 81F and lowest at 61F. Average wind speed was 5 mph with a max wind of 8 mph. Wind direction was predominately SSW (31 days).

This year’s max count was on August 8 with 184 individuals passing and the highest species diversity was on August 15 with thirteen species. The number in ( ) is the number days out of the fifty days of the project that the species was 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  (49/50)  Total number 314  [162]  8/8  (7/3-10/8)

Here in Green Valley, AZ, White-winged Dove is a common breeding bird. Therefore, trying to determine when migration begins is a bit tricky. Usually by mid-July morning flight numbers start to reach the mid thirties. he flight then peaks rapidly through early August  and then tapers off through late September with a few birds seen in morning flight through mid-October. In some years, a few White-winged Doves will spend the winter in Green Valley.

Lesser Nighthawk  (2/50) Total number 2  [1]  (7/27-8/9)

Only two birds were found during the morning most likely because the bulk of the migration takes place in the evening hours.

Great Blue Heron  (1/50)  Total number 1 (8/27)

Probably one of the local residents but this bird was moving steadily N-S at a high altitude

White-faced Ibis  (2/50) Total number 33  [17] 8/29  (8/12-8/29)

Two apparent migrant flocks moving N-S in a high deliberate flight. 

Killdeer  (1/50) Total number 1  (9/4)

Probably a local resident but the bird was noted flying N-S at a high altitude. 

A note on hawk migration. Most hawks wait for favorable late morning or afternoon thermals to help with their migration, so I probably miss most migrant hawks that pass after I shut down the morning flight usually around 9-10 am.

Turkey Vulture  (1/50)  Total number 44 (9/24)

Difficult to separate local birds from migrants but I feel confident this continuous flight of singles and small groups moving N-S were migrants

Osprey  (2/50) Total number  2  [1] (9/19-9/24)

Two separate individuals were noted moving N-S at a high altitude.

Sharp-shinned Hawk  (2/50) Total number 2  [1]  (10/8) 

Two individuals, one early morning and another mid-morning were in a high deliberate N-S flight. Sharp-shinned Hawk is a fairly regular winter resident in Green Valley. 

Swainson’s Hawk (1/50)  Total number  2  (9/24) 

Two mid-morning birds moving N-S within a few minutes of each other were my only sightings..

American Kestrel  (1/50) Total number 1 (7/27)

Another species which can be difficult to separate resident from migrant individuals but this particular bird moving steadily N-S at a much higher altitude than I see the local American Kestrels fly when they are hunting or taking insects on the wing led me to believe it was migrating. 

Peregrine Falcon  (1/50) Total number 1 (9/14)

A high flying individual moving N-S at a steady clip was most likely a migrant as opposed to a local hunting individual.

Empidonax species (1/50) Total number 1 (9/10)

One unidentified tree top flyover was the only one of this group I saw in this year’s Morning Flight. Normally, I will get at least 2-3 empis during the Morning Flight that will land nearby giving me at least chance to make an identification but that did not happen this year.

Cassin’s Kingbird  (1/50) Total number 1 (9/29)

Surprisingly, only one report. Possibly some of the distant “yellow-bellied” kingbirds noted below could have been this species.

Western Kingbird (16/50) Total number 97 [16] 8/7  (7/17-10/4)

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 (5/50) Total number 15 [6] 9/29  (7/19-9/29)

These birds were too distant or severely backlit to provide any field marks to make a positive identification. It is quite possible that some birds may have been Cassin’s Kingbirds.  

Flycatcher species (2/50)  Total number 2 [1] (8/16-8/18)

Both of these quick flybys gave me the impression of Western Wood-Pewee but they were too quick to get a positive identification.

Warbling Vireo  (4/50) Total number 4 [1] (8/4-8/27)

Four close, tree top individuals were observed during a three-week span in August.

Northern Rough-winged Swallow (3/50) Total number 3  [2] (7/23-9/4)

With the exception of Barn and Cliff Swallows, the other swallow species were poorly represented in this year’s Morning Flight. Only three Northern Rough-winged Swallows were noted this fall during this species’s mid-July to early September span.

Barn Swallow (28/50) Total number 104  [11] 8/29 (7/3-9/24)

Barn Swallow is the most numerous swallow species during the Morning Flight Project with their flight extending through the entire date span.

Violet-green Swallow (1/50)  Total number 1 (8/7)

Only one was observed during this year’s Morning Flight.

Cliff Swallow (13/50)  Total number 32 [4] 7/27 (7/6-9/5)

Usually found in small groups and usually associating with Barn Swallows their flight began in earnest in mid-July and then seen sporadically through early September

Northern Mockingbird (5/50) Total number 5  [1] (7/9-8/2)

These birds are easily noticed as they fly at treetop level. An early migrant, numbers were down slightly from 2020. Twenty-five birds were seen during their three week span.

Phainopepla (19/50) Total numbers 50 [5] 8/2 (7/8-10/4)

The Phainopepla flight extended nearly the entire date span. Fifty birds were counted usually in small groups of 2-3 birds. The majority are generally high flyovers. 

Lark Sparrow (19/50) Total numbers 96 [20] 8/4  (7/17-8/22)

A total of 96 Lark Sparrows passed by from mid-July through mid-September with small groups scattered throughout this period.

White-crowned Sparrow (2/50)  Total number 8 [5] 10/22 (10/18-10/22)

Usually passed by in groups of 2-3 occasionally landing in my yard or the nearby wash. The overall total probably would have been higher had I extended the Morning Flight Project into November when there is a slight increase in numbers. 

sparrow species (1/50) Total number 2 [2] (9/14)

Too distant to make a positive identification other than they were sparrows.

Yellow-breasted Chat (1/50) Total number 1 [1] (8/22)

This bird showed up in my yard during the early morning and remained through the day frequenting the bird bath for sips and splashes.

Yellow-headed Blackbird (3/50) Total number 13 [6] 9/7 (7/26-10/4)

Usually high flyovers and usually very vocal alerting me to their presence.Most are found within cowbird flocks. One early sighting on July 26. 

Hooded Oriole (43/50) Total number 184 [6] 8/27 (7/3-9/22) late 10/22

Difficult to determine summer residents from migrants so the 184 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 fly by October 22, nearly a month after my last September sighting.

Bullock’s Oriole (13/50) Total number 13  [4] 8/3  (7/6-8/31) late 10/4

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), I feel ok calling the bird on July 6 a migrant. One late bird was noted on October 4.

Bronzed Cowbird (2/50) Total number 10 [2]  (7/9-8/7)

Usually seen as singles or pairs within mixed cowbird flocks.

Brown-headed Cowbird (33/50) Total number 218  [37] 7/27 (7/3-9/4)

Nearly all the birds counter were in small groups of 5-15 birds in steady flight at treetop level. 

Brewer’s Blackbird (5/50) Total number 33  [18] 9/29  (9/10-10/4)

A species that usually announces its presence with frequent calling, most are seen flying by quickly at treetop level.

blackbird species (1/50) Total number 6  [6] (9/9)

Distant blackbirds too far for a positive identification.

Orange-crowned Warbler (1/50) Total number 1 (9/10)

Only one was noted this fall and luckily it landed in my yard.

Nashville Warbler (1/50) Total number 1 (9/10)

The only Nashville Warbler was found in my yard within minutes of seeing the above Orange-crowned Warbler.

Yellow Warbler (3/50) Total number 3  [1] (8/29-9/7)

Only a minor flight was observed with three single birds over a two week period.

Yellow-rumped Warbler (2/50) Total number 7  [5] 10/22 (10/18-10/22)

Had I extended the Morning Flight Project a few more weeks, I think the numbers would have reflected a more realistic migration flight as this species’s numbers seem to spike a little in November. 

Wilson’s Warbler (3/50) Total number 3 [1] (9/10-10/4)

Three birds were noted within a span of about thirty days all singles. 

warbler species (6/50) Total number 12  [3] 9/22 (8/19-/22)

Frustratingly, several warblers were either too distant or passed by too wuickly to make positive identifications other than to say that was a greenish one and that was a yellowish one. 

Western Tanager (3/50) Total number 4  [2] 8/19 (8/19-10/8)

Four were seen during a 3-4 week span, three flybys and one which landed in my yard.

Black-headed Grosbeak (5/50)  Total number 10 [5] 8/7   (7/17-9/10)

One of my favorite birds to see during the Morning Flight Count, I was not disappointed by the ten birds that were seen. 

Blue Grosbeak (1/50) Total number 1 (7/21)

One male was seen flying over July 21.

Lazuli Bunting (3/50) Total number 4 [2] 8/27 (8/4-8/27)

I usually see these birds as singles flying by quickly at mid-elevation 

Dickcissel (1/50) Total number 2 (9/11)

Luckily, this species calls frequently when in migration and it’s distinct call can be heard far in advance signaling it’s arrival. The two birds noted on 9/11 passed within ten minutes of each other.

Passerine species (16/50)  Total number 66  [11] 7/26  (7/26-9/11)

These were birds that were too distant, backlit or too quick to get positive identifications. From by quick impressions, most seem to be sparrows, flycatchers and tanagers.