Wednesday, September 4, 2013

In Search of Shorebirds at Lake Cochise

1. sky full of phaloropes-kab A Sky Full of Phalaropes 8-7-2013

On August 7 Chris Rohrer and I went in search of shorebirds at Lake Cochise in Wilcox. While we do live in a desert, there are a few of these manmade bodies of water where shorebirds are known to stop by during migration. Chris is much better than I am at keeping track of what is moving through the area, and so, with target birds on our list we headed for the lake one sultry afternoon. Our targets were Baird’s Sandpiper, Semipalmated Sandpiper, Semipalmated Plover, Stilt Sandpiper, and a Black Tern. Each of these species would be either Life Birds or State Birds for one or the other of us.

2. lesser yellowlegs There was no one there but the birds when we first arrived but a large flock of Long-billed curlews flew off just as we pulled up. I think Chris got a shot of them, but I did not. However, a Lesser Yellowlegs posed nicely for me! In the fuzzy foreground are some Baird’s Sandpipers. Life Bird for me! Chris had already got it on a previous visit.

3. ibis-kab A few Glossy Ibis take to the sky.


4. phalorope-kab Just one of over 150 Wilson’s Phalaropes!


5. Stilt Sandpiper I think this is one of the 4 Stilt Sandpipers we saw due to its drooping bill.

Life Bird!

6. male harrier-kab A male Northern Harrier came tilting over the grasses and extended its legs in search of prey along the shoreline.


7. baird's sandpiper-kab A dirt colored Baird’s Sandpiper-Life Bird!


8. spotted sandpiper-kab Killdeer in front and Spotted Sandpiper in back.

We saw several killdeer along the shoreline but the real search was for a Semipalmated Plover. While I have seen this species on the East Coast I have not seen one in Arizona and Chris had never seen one at all. So, as we moved around the lake I scanned every killdeer for the much smaller plover. Chris was preoccupied with photographing when suddenly I spotted it!

9. Semipalmated plover-kab Notice the smaller build and beak and the bright orange legs! Notice also that it only has one chest band! I was so excited that I only took three quick shots because I wanted to be sure that Chris saw the bird. So I put my camera down and pointed it out to him. He was so excited! Snap! Snap! Snap! He went to work documenting this Life Bird for himself! Me? I was so proud of myself for finding it!

10. evening light-kab As the light grew low and golden we knew it was time to go. We had been here almost 3 hours! But before we drove away, we decided to check just one more area…

11. nightheron-kab Black-crowned Night Heron in Tree near Golf Course.

We found yet another small pond that I had never noticed before. Nearby a new lookout platform had been built. We walked around the pond and climbed the platform. We found herons and swallows and a few lingering kingbirds.

12. juv BCNI lake Cochise-kab Juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron in willow tree.


13. silhouette-kabLake Cochise Sunset 8-7-13 

The shadows deepened to gray and purple.

The sky turned a soft rose and gold.

Night Herons took to the sky with the swallows.

Telling us it was time to go. ~kab 8-30-13

14. lake cochise-kab 

15. Lake cochise sunset-kab

Lake Cochise is also known as Willcox Lake or Twin Lakes Golf Course. It is located off Rt 186 or East Maley Street in Willcox and is open to the public. While there are no public restrooms at the lake there are gas stations and restaurants in town. There is a 1.2 mile dirt road that encircles the lake with a couple of bird blinds at two different spots. The lake can be birded entirely from the car. The bird lookout is a relatively new addition and gives you a view over the cattail pond and the western mountains. In the end Chris and I were here for 3 1/2 hours and we counted 35 species of birds! We got all of our targets except the Black Tern. Lake Cochise is an eBird Hotspot.



  1. It sounds like a productive and enjoyable day, and I found it an interesting read.

  2. Hey Kathie! Nice photos, and congrats on those lifers. I'm waiting for the Baird's to make their make into Phoenix--so far we seem to have missed them.

    Shore-birding has its own satisfaction. One doesn't get to be very close to the birds, but we can observe their behavior more than with warblers or other, more tolerant and yet flighty birds.

    1. Laurence, shorebirds give me fits! OH! I know it just takes time and experience but when I see a bird and can't I.D. it I get very frustrated!!!!! then, my eyes start to water from looking through bins and spotting scopes and camera lenses! But, I am getting better and it is fun. I just want to KNOW THEIR NAMES!

  3. Hi you guys had a good day out and got most of the birds you wanted. Great shots of birds and I loved the heron on the green grass.

    1. Margaret, we did have a good day! It was a lot of fun!

  4. That was a fun day. Every time we head to Willcox, I know it's going to be hours of study afterwards! And good eyes on the tiny Plover!!!! That was really exciting. And thank you for the spot!

    You got the Stilt:) Okay back to work. No more thinking about birds:)

    1. Chris, I so wanted you to see that bird, as you know. And I don't believe you ever stop thinking about birds!

  5. You two make an awesome birding pair. What one doesn't see, or photograph, the other does.

  6. Beautiful post and beautiful images. I also loved the poetry!! Congrats on the Life Birds!!

    1. Sheila, I am so glad you liked the poetry! You are in a rare class!


Welcome to my nest! I hope you will enjoy spending time here with me and the birds. Thank you for your comments. I will try to get back to you as soon as I get back from counting more birds.