Sunday, October 4, 2009
A Gathering of Swainson's Hawks
It was just a year ago when Gus and I saw 110 Swainson's hawks in Rio Rico on October 5, 2008. Swainson's gather in large flocks to migrate and so on a hunch we drove down there again to see if they would return to the same field at the same time of the year. The day is cloudy and cool, and we are dressed for the weather. As we head north on Pendleton Rd I feel my heart pounding with anticipation. Would we see them? Will they be here? The sky is strangely empty, save for migrating turkey vultures. But as we pull into the dirt patch across from Just Ct. I see the field full of hay bales and on each hay bale a brown lump of bird. I jump out of the car with bins in hand and start to scan and count.
The field is large and spread out. A barbed wire fence and gate obstruct my entrance, but I am content to stand at the field's edge and see. None of the birds are in the sky. They are all on the ground like chickens! It is an odd thing for me to see such majestic birds of prey on the ground, but there they are, and there they stay. In the end, I count 85 birds. I am sure there are more. I am sure there are more coming.
Who knows how long they will stay there, or what inner urging will cause them to lift into the sky en masse and proceed with their migration south. I now call this field Swainson's Hawk Field. I wonder how many generations of birds have gathered here before taking flight.
To get to Swainson's Hawk Field go south on I-19 to the Rio Rico Dr. exit. Head east on Rio Rico Drive to Pendleton Dr. Turn north (left) on Pendleton and travel approximately 2.5 miles where you will see an opening on the left across from Just court. Pull off the road and gaze into the field. Perhaps the Swainson's hawks are there waiting for you today. It is a marvelous sight to see.
To make your trip even more worthwhile, stop at the Rio Rico pond in Rio Rico Dr. I saw a Belted kingfisher, 3 white-faced ibis and 2 juvenile black-crowned night herons there yesterday also. Have fun birding!
And for those who know him TR Ryan of From Faraway, Nearby arrives on Tuesday and we will be birding all around Tucson! Pictures and stories to follow!