alaskabirder

Its a Great Day to Bird

Month: January 2017

Tubac and Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge

January 13, 2017

Not all Friday the 13ths are bad luck.  Luck was with us when we went searching for the Rose-throated Becard along the DeAnza Trail in Tubac, Arizona.  Of course it doesn’t hurt to have about twenty or more other birders looking for the same bird.  We went about ¼ mile down the trail (to the south) and saw four people with their binoculars raised.  I stopped and asked if they had seen the Becard.  They said yes, but it flew off about 10 minutes ago.  So we all waited to see if it would return.  Meanwhile three other birders came up the trail from the south.  They inquired whether we had seen the bird or not to which one guy said yes, but it left 10 minutes ago.  This young birder said “So you lost it” to which the guy huffed “No, the bird flew off”.  The young guy and his friend headed back down the trail in search of the bird.  Another birder who was with them stayed behind and was about 20-30 feet down the trail from us.  After about 5 minutes of looking he yelled he had found the bird.  So off we all rushed to see the bird.  As I was looking for the bird based on the instructions given as to where it was located, high in the tree, about ten more people showed up.  I finally got on the bird – a first year male.  He wasn’t as dark as shown in the field guides, but there was no mistaking his rose-colored throat.  Unfortunately the bird was too far away for me to take a photo, and the bird seemed to be in constant motion.  When someone new came up and asked where the bird was located it proved challenging to get them on the bird.  We are talking about habitat consisting of large cottonwood trees and while most of the trees did not have leaves, they all had lots of limbs and were tall (think a pain in the neck).

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Birders looking at and for the Rose-throated Becard

From Tubac we stopped at St. Gertrudis Road (about 6 miles south of Tubac) to search for a Brown Thrasher and a Rufous-backed Robin.  We weren’t so lucky there, but then it was noon and not much was out and about.

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Cute little bird book house, however, no one has written in the book in a couple of years. This bird book house is along St Gertrudis Road.

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Okay these guys aren’t native (guineafowl)

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St Gertrudis Road – which has hosted some rare species

Bird Species Seen or Heard at Tubac/DeAnza Trail/St. Gertrudis Road

  • Rose-throated Becard
  • Ladderbacked Woodpecker
  • Gila Woodpecker
  • Red-naped Sapsucker
  • Chipping Sparrow
  • Plumbeous Vireo
  • Bridled Titmouse
  • Say’s Phoebe
  • Vermillion Flycatcher – finally, the male
  • White-breasted Nuthatch
  • Red-tailed Hawk
  • Lark Sparrow
  • House Finch
  • Bewick’s Wren
  • Northern Cardinal
  • Abert’s Towhee
  • Northern Mockingbird
  • White-crowned Sparrow
  • Pyrrhuloxia
  • Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Next stop – Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge, SE Arizona.  This refuge was established in 1985 for the reintroduction of the Masked Bobwhite quail and to restore the grassland habitat it depends upon.  The refuge consists of 117,464 acres of previously over-grazed habitat (former ranches with over 1.5 million cattle).  Mesquite trees encroachment are now a big problem in reducing the grassland habitat needed by the quail.

We first stopped at the Arivaca Cienega, which has a nice 1.5-mile loop trail and part of the refuge.  We got there about 2:00 pm and still saw 16 different species.  The area was pretty dry.

A trip along the visitor center entrance road resulted in two FOYs – both an Eastern and Western Meadowlark.  The Eastern Meadowlark is actually a permanent resident of the refuge, while the Western Meadowlark is merely a snow bird – here for the winter.

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Vesper Sparrow

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Refuge grasslands – the sparrows and meadowlarks love it.

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This is a Masked Bobwhite enclosure near the visitor center

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But alas it was closed for renovations so we didn’t get to see any of the Masked Bobwhites – in captivity or in the wild.

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The view from our campsite

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I was photographing this Loggerhead Shrike when it decided it had enough and flew right towards me. Missed me by a couple of feet,  but it was a little nerve-wracking.

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Sunset as seen from our campsite

We camped at the refuge, which has quite a few dispersed primitive camping spots – 81 to be exact, and free!  We chose one near the refuge headquarters entrance road.  The forecast is for rain tomorrow and we don’t want to be caught on the dirt roads which can become quite muddy.   Until it rains, we will continue to bird the refuge from the confines of our vehicle before heading to Sierra Vista for the evening.  A motel stop and a chance to post four different blogs – including this one – and to sleep in a real bed.  Oh, and I have laundry to do.  Fun, fun.  Not.

January 14, 2017

After breaking camp we headed to the Pronghorn Auto Tour Route, which begins near the refuge headquarters.  This ten-mile loop road produced few birds and no Pronghorn.  The refuge volunteer at the visitor center said only about 10 Pronghorn are left due to coyotes killing all the young and probably hunters killing the adults.  I asked how many Masked Bobwhites have been released on the refuges and he said about 10,000.  Despite that high number, he said it is rare to see them.  The volunteer said that on the 2016 Christmas Bird Count one couple thought they spotted two.  We didn’t spot any.

After driving the Pronghorn Auto Tour Route, we decided to drive down to Sasabe, an Arizona border town, eight miles from the refuge center/headquarters entrance.  Let’s just say it isn’t much of a town.  A sign as you are coming into town advertised a store with just about everything.  They weren’t kidding.  We came away with junk food and a tamale for Jack.  He said it was great.

Our next stop was Brown’s Canyon, located on refuge lands.  We didn’t make it all the way to the canyon, where the refuge has an educational center, because special access permission is required.  You must travel across State Trust Lands to get to the canyon, and the state requires a permit.  The refuge offers hikes in the canyon the second and fourth Saturday of each month, however, we didn’t learn about today’s hike until it was too late.

Seeing as it was around 1:30 pm and it would be a good 3+ hour drive to Sierra Vista, we decided to camp another night on the refuge.  Free is good.  The volunteer said his second favorite camp site – he helps clean them all as a volunteer – is #16, so we decided to check this site out.  This site is nice, and luckily it was unoccupied.

We took a short hike on some of the roads and when coming back to our campsite, we flushed some Gambell’s Quail.  I decided to see where they had landed and backtracked a couple of yards to a wash.  There I startled seven Ringtail Cats, and dang I didn’t have my camera with me.  I could have gotten much better shots of the ringtails than the two we saw at Patagonia Lake nestled up in a tree.  Ah, such is life.

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Morning has broken … Portend of the storm to come

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Refuge – former ranches now Masked Bobwhite habitat

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This is wetland is called Triangle Pond

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We saw a lot of Loggerhead Shrikes on the refuge. They must love all those sparrows.

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This Kestrel was missing its mustache.

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Tomorrow, we head to Sierra Vista for a night in a hotel and food cooked by someone else.  Hooray!!!  Nice treat once in a while.

 Bird Species Seen or Heard at Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge

  • Greater Roadrunner
  • Ladderbacked Woodpecker
  • Red-tailed Hawk
  • Vesper Sparrow
  • White-crowned Sparrow
  • Loggerhead Shrike
  • Canyon Towhee
  • Pyrrhuloxia
  • Lesser Goldfinch
  • House Finch
  • Bewick’s Wren
  • Ruby-crowned Kinglet
  • Chiquaquan Raven
  • Black Phoebe
  • Red-winged Blackbird
  • Ruby-crowned Kinglet
  • Gila Woodpecker
  • Eastern Meadowlark
  • Western Meadowlark
  • American Kestrel
  • American Coot
  • Gambell’s Quail
  • Mourning Dove
  • Brewer’s Sparrow
  • Say’s Phoebe
  • Black-throated Sparrow
  • Cactus Wren
  • Marsh Wren
  • Mallard
  • Savannah Sparrow

Remember …

It’s A Great Day to Bird

 

 

 

Patagonia Lake State Park/Sonoita Natural Area

January 10, 2017

We arrived at Patagonia Lake State Park around 3:30 pm, having made a brief and disappointing stop at Paton Hummingbird Center.  Paton’s is undergoing renovations and although there were a lot of feeders up, not much bird activity.  Of course the time of day could have something to do with the lack of birds.  However, we have been there before in the afternoon and have seen a lot of birds.  This place is now owned and operated by the Tucson Audubon Society.

Once we got established at our campsite we decided to walk adjacent to the lake – westward to the day-use area.  We usually bird this area upon arrival at the campground.  Speaking of campgrounds, last year there was hardly anyone here. This year there are a lot more people.  Of course last year was much colder than this year. We plan to stay at least two nights, maybe three, depends upon how goes the birding.  Tomorrow we will bird along the eastern end of the lake.

For our first day, despite having only an hour or so to bird, we spotted 28 species.  Helps having a lake that supports waterfowl.  We did flush a heron/bittern, but I didn’t get a good enough look at the bird.  I suspect a Black-crowned Night Heron juvenile.   As we were returning to the campground, we found one area near the lake supporting at least seven different species: Chipping Sparrow, Bewick’s Wren, Verdin, Bridled Titmouse, Northern Mockingbird, Say’s Phoebe, and Ruby-crowned Kinglet.  Fun to watch all the activity.  A last minute feeding frenzy.

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Vesper Sparrow

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Donkey’s are so cute

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American Kestrel

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Double-crested Cormorant

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Patagonia Lake

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Three Common Mergansers – females. Two males were hanging out with about 10 females on the lake floating along as though in a parade.

January 11, 2017

Oh was it cold this morning.  No frost on the pumpkin so to speak, but still cold finger chilly outside.  Patagonia Lake State Park has a nice birding trail at the east end of the lake and campground.  We took that trail this morning and was surprised to see a Gray Catbird – not a bird that regularly makes an appearance in Arizona, let alone during the winter.  What a great find – our bird of the day.

We had a total of 53 species today, of which 32 are species we didn’t see yesterday.  So the total of species seen as of today at this park is 60.  Not too shabby.

A Black-capped Gnatcatcher has been seen in the park, and reported on eBird rare bird alert.  This bird is a permanent resident of the park, but rare.  In non-breeding plumage the bird looks almost identical to the the Blue-gray Gnatcatcher so identification is generally by song.  And its song I heard.  At first I thought the bird calling was the Gray Catbird, but when I checked my bird app, the song belonged to the Black-capped Gnatcatcher. Woohoo!!! Life bird.

We also had several flycatchers that all looked alike.  I think I need a good flycatcher field guide (with lots of photos).  Is there such a book?  I’ve been able, to the best of my ability, identify at least two of them – Gray’s Flycatcher (this bird flicks its tail downward like a Phoebe) and the Hammond’s Flycatcher (based on length of its wing tips and the olive vest).

We took a side trail and I swear we saw several dozen Ruby-crowned Kinglets.  Never saw so many in one hike – and sometimes several at a time.  Maybe they were following us and it just seemed like a lot of kinglets.  Oh, and high in a tree were two Ring-tailed Cats.  What adorable looking creatures.  A life mammal for me.

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I had put out food for Doodlebug to eat and then went into the van to get ready for the day. I heard noises on the top of the van and when I went out to investigate there must have been 20 or more Great-tailed Grackles vying for the dog’s food. Won’t make that mistake again.

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Might not be able to read this sign but it asks people to refrain from using taped bird calls and songs. Of course not everyone reads the sign. It is written from a bird’s point of view.

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Someone constructed a feeder and puts out food for the birds. Here Great-tailed Grackles and Red-winged Blackbirds are feasting on bird seed.

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The eastern end of Patagonia Lake

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Female Pyrrhuloxia – I call this the pyrex bird. Easier to say and Jack knows what I mean.

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Male Pyrrhuloxia

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White-crowned Sparrow

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Okay … maybe we need to be careful and alert on the trail

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Gray Catbird

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Northern Cardinal

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A flycatcher …. Anyone know which one? Your choices are Dusky, Hammond, and Gray – at least that is what is usually seen here in the winter.  I don’t recall the bird flicking its tail downward, which eliminates the Gray Flycatcher.

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Two Ring-tailed Cats in a tree. The one on the left is curled up and sleeping. The one of the right was keeping a watch on us.

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Sonoita Creek

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Doodlebug did not like the cow and took a wide path around it.

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Gray Flyctcher

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Red-winged Blackbirds at the feeder

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White-winged Dove …

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… here in a tree near the Visitor Center

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Common Gallinule

January 12, 2017

The Sonoita Trail in the Sonoita Natural Area was our objective for the day.  This is a nice, 2.75-mile loop hike with upland and riparian habitat so some new birds.  The parks department only allows a few people into the natural area each day.  We were the only people on the trail, at least in the morning.  We did see a few different birds, including a Black-throated Gray Warbler and a stunningly beautiful Canyon Wren.  Gotta love those wrens.  Along the trail we saw a total of 22 species.  I think this is more than we saw last year when we hiked/birded the trail.

After our morning hike and lunch, Jack stayed back at camp with Doodlebug, while I went to check out birds on the bird trail.   I really do love this walk as you never know what you might find.  Today it was a House Wren and a Plumbeous Vireo.  Two new birds to add to the total list of birds seen or heard at Patagonia Lake State Park/Sonoita Natural Area.

With 10 new species today, that brings the total number of bird species seen or heard over the last three days at the park to 70.  Woohoo!!!  The real reward of course is great birds in a great setting.   We did see a couple of birds we weren’t able to identify – a large raptor we think might be a Golden Eagle, the heron/bittern bird, a flycatcher or three, and one or more of the cormorants may be a Neotropical Cormorant, which are common here whereas the Double-crested Cormorant which we did see is listed as uncommon.   Go figure.

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Common Goldeneye

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Hermit Thrush

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Sonoita Creek Trailhead signpost

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The “rocky” trail

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Prickley Pear Cactus – a purple version

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Our view from the trail

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The trail near Sonoita Creek

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Canyon Wren – this bird at one point was walking straight down a cement bridge abutment

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Park staff or volunteers protecting these cacti seen near the trail

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Cattle can be found within the natural area – Arizona is an open range state. If you don’t want cattle on your property, then you have to fence them out. This little guy was so cute I wanted to take him home.

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Isn’t it adorable?

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Bewick’s Wren along the bird trail …

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… searching for food

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Gray Flycatcher – this bird flicked its tail downward

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Female Northern Cardinal

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Black Phoebe

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The bird trail

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A White-winged Dove at the feeder

Bird Species Seen or Heard at Patagonia Lake State Park/Sonoita Natural  Area

  • Yellow-rumped Warbler
  • House Sparrow
  • American Coot
  • White-winged Dove
  • House Finch
  • Common Merganser
  • Verdin
  • Anna’s Hummingbird
  • Lincoln’s Sparrow
  • Chipping Sparrow
  • Ring-billed Gull
  • Pied-billed Grebe
  • Eared Grebe
  • Red-winged Blackbird
  • Mallard
  • Ruddy Duck
  • Great Blue Heron
  • Phainopepla
  • Say’s Phoebe
  • Northern Mockingbird
  • Bewick’s Wren
  • Bridled Titmouse
  • Ruby-crowned Kinglet
  • Great Egret
  • Great-tailed Grackle
  • Ladderbacked Woodpecker
  • Double-crested Cormorant
  • Vermillion Flycatcher
  • Rufous-winged Sparrow
  • Pyrrhuloxia
  • Northern Cardinal
  • White-crowned Sparrow
  • Gila Woodpecker
  • Gray Catbird
  • Cinnamon Teal
  • Dark-eyed Junco
  • Wilson’s Snipe
  • Song Sparrow
  • Black Phoebe
  • Green-winged Teal
  • Lesser Goldfinch
  • Orange-crowned Warbler
  • Abert’s Towhee
  • Curve-billed Thrasher
  • Northern Flicker
  • Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
  • Black-capped Gnatcatcher
  • Hutton’s Vireo
  • White-breasted Nuthatch
  • Pacific Wren
  • Red-naped Sapsucker
  • Hermit’s Thrush
  • Gray Flycatcher
  • Hammond’s Flycatcher
  • Common Gallinule
  • Common Raven
  • Black Vulture
  • Lesser Scaup
  • Vesper Sparrow
  • House Wren
  • Marsh Wren
  • Canyon Wren
  • Plumbeous Vireo
  • Green-tailed Towhee
  • Black-throated Gray Warbler
  • Common Goldeneye
  • Killdeer
  • Canyon Towhee
  • Black-throated Sparrow

I love this park with its lake, riparian, and desert habitat – there are a lot of birds to see.  I hate to leave so soon.  Tomorrow we head to Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge, but first the De Anza Trail near Tubac to search for the Rose-throated Becard.  Wish us luck.  Remember …

IT’S A GREAT DAY TO BIRD

 

Madera and Florida Canyons – South of Tucson

January 8, 2017

Before heading to Madera Canyon we made a stop at the Tucson Sweetwater Waste Water Treatment ponds.  As birders know, sewage and water treatment ponds are a great place to bird.  Sweetwater is particularly nice because of the many vegetated pools (not a sewage lagoon).

We walked the trails in search of birds, particularly FOYs – first of years (or what some may call first of season, but then I always wonder ‘what season’? – fall, spring, summer, migration?).  With the ponds you get your water birds, and with the cottonwood and mesquite trees you get your songbirds.  We did see 28 different species.  I’ve been here and have gotten around 50 species, so today was a slow day.

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Map of the wetlands

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Trail through the wetland complex. Part of the trail is handicap accessible – paved

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Ruddy Duck – this male was preening

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One of the ponds

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Two Common Gallinule preening – a whole lot of preening going on at the ponds today

Bird Species Seen or Heard at Sweetwater WWT Ponds

  • Orange-crowned Warbler
  • Yellow-rumped Warbler
  • Gnatcatcher sp. (didn’t get a good look at its tail)
  • American Coot
  • Ruddy Duck
  • Pied-billed Grebe
  • Cinnamon Teal
  • Song Sparrow
  • Lesser Goldfinch
  • Ruby-crowned Kinglet
  • Verdin
  • Vermillion Flycatcher (female)
  • Say’s Phoebe
  • American Wigeon
  • Green-winged Teal
  • Killdeer
  • Gadwall
  • Northern Shoveler
  • Northern Pintail
  • Cooper’s Hawk
  • Common Gallinule
  • Red-winged Blackbird
  • Marsh Wren
  • European Starling
  • Gila Woodpecker
  • Red-tailed Hawk
  • White-crowned Sparrow
  • House Finch

We made it to Madera Canyon around noon.  We captured a campsite, ate lunch, then ventured out on one of several trails that start (or end) at the Bog Springs Campground.  This campground, surprisingly, wasn’t full.  They don’t have many sites – around 13 sites.  We wound our way down from the campground to the main canyon road and connected to the trail along Madera Canyon Creek.  There is usually good birding here, but since it was siesta time, not too many birds were seen or heard.  Of course maybe they were all at the Santa Rita Lodge with its enticement of  a dozen or more feeders.  Yet, even at the lodge (we stopped to check out the feeders) there didn’t seem to be as many birds as when we were here last January (2016).  I did get a Hepatic Tanager (male), which according to the Madera Bird Checklist is a rare sighting for the winter.  There were also seven Wild Turkeys that came to the feeders, collecting anything dropped to the ground by other hungry, sloppy birds.

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Bog Springs trail

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Madera Canyon Creek

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Mexican Jay at one of the Santa Rita Lodge feeders

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Wild Turkey at the Santa Rita Lodge

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This guy too was at the lodge – a Hepatic Tanager

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Acorn Woodpecker – a busy guy; note the holes in the tree

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Sunset

After our short hike we hung around camp, relaxing and reading.  It was a bright, beautiful, blue sky day.  Felt like a Homer summer day – warm and sunny.  Like Homer, when the sun goes down here, so does the temperature and quickly too.

We put the dog out at around 8:30 p.m. to do her thing and heard this hooting sound.  Sounded like a Northern Saw-whet Owl, which they don’t get around here.  Come to find out, the Northern Pygmy Owl has a similar call – hoot, hoot, hoot, hoot, hoot – only with more silence in between hoots.  The owl was close so I got out a flash light and found it in a tree at our campsite.  Score!!!  Don’t get many small owls on this trip.   The bird for the day.

January 9, 2017

After breakfast we decided to drive down to the Proctor (entrance) parking lot and hike up the river trail to the Santa Rita Lodge – about 1.5 miles one-way.  Along the trail we had a few birds mostly flocked together, which a birder always loves (at least this one – more for your money).  All in all we had 25 species today of which all but four were in the wild, i.e., not at a feeder.  Yesterday we only had 16 birds.  What a difference a day makes.

The prize today goes to the Painted Redstart.  What a beautiful bird.  I heard its call – not knowing what was calling – and so started looking for the bird.  The Redstart was close to the trail and out in the open calling.  At first it had its back to us and was pivoting its body back and forth.  Not sure why – searching for morsels or on the alert?  It would move off a short distance, into some shrub, but then fly back to its perch calling and calling all the while whipping its body back and forth.  I think we sat for close to five minutes watching this bird – at least it seemed that long.  Mesmerizing!

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The Mountain is the background is called Elephant’s Head – my imagination doesn’t  see the resemblance

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Verdin

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Road leading to Elephant’s Head

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Madera Canyon Creek

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Wild Turkey and it wasn’t at the feeders

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My what a … um … unusual looking face you have

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Brown Creeper creeping up the tree

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Brown Creeper

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Painted Redstart

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Painted Redstart – the male, of course

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Cholla fruit

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This Cholla had five arms coming out in different directions near its top

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Okay, the Dusky, Hammond’s and Gray Flycatcher are all possible at Madera Canyon in the winter. I think this is a Hammond’s Flycatcher.

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Pine Siskins and Lesser Goldfinches at one of the many feeders at the Santa Rita Lodge in Madera Canyon

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Another upclose view of the Wild Turkey.  Is my wattle better on the left or the right side of my beak?

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Female Arizona Woodpecker

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The lodge personnel even plug holes in the tree with food for the birds – here Mexican Jays feasting

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Bridled Titmouse – my favorite Titmouse

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Arizona Gray Squirrel

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White-breasted Nuthatch

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White-breasted Nuthatch

January 10, 2017

We broke camp and headed to Florida Canyon (near Madera Canyon) in search of the Rufous-capped Warbler.  But first we stopped for an early morning look at the feeders at Santa Rita Lodge.  We stayed there for about 45 minutes with cold fingers (sun had not come up over the top of the mountains yet), and was surprised to see the Painted Redstart come to the feeders.  Fun to watch. We were hoping for the Yellow-eyed Junco that frequents the area, but alas, none showed.

At Florida Canyon we saw several gnatcatchers but they weren’t calling or singing so I couldn’t tell if one was the elusive (for everyone) Black-capped Gnatcatcher or not.  I took off toward the area where the Rufous-capped Warblers are generally seen, and Jack and Doodlebug (the dog) continued on the Florida Canyon trail.  There were at least three other people looking for the warbler, including the brother of Pat Pourchet, an Anchorage birder.  Small world.  None of us found the warbler.  In fact, the canyon we took (an offshoot of Florida Canyon) was quiet except for a Hutton’s Vireo, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, and a Pyrrhuloxia.  Jack saw more birds on his trail then I did on mine.  This is the second year in a row that we/I have failed to see the Rufous-capped Warbler.  The bird has been reported recently on eBird, but no luck today.  Luckily I have seen this bird on three separate occasions, but always nice to see it again.

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View from the road on the way to Florida Canyon

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Hillside along the Florida Trail

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This piece of wood looked like a pig’s face to me

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Where’s the top of this cactus? Wonder where it went? Did someone eat it?

Tonight we are camping at Patagonia Lake State Park.  We will bird along the way – taking a road less traveled (Highway 62 -Box Canyon, a dirt road), with a stop at Paton’s the famous hummingbird spot in Patagonia.  Until then “BIRD ON” as Gary Lyon would say.

Bird Species Seen or Heard at Madera Canyon/Florida Canyon

  • Red-tailed Hawk
  • Western Bluebird
  • Bridled Titmouse
  • Acorn Woodpecker
  • Mexican Jay
  • Ruby-crowned Kinglet
  • Red-naped Sapsucker
  • Lesser Goldfinch
  • House Finch
  • White-breasted Nuthatch
  • Dark-eyed Junco
  • Hepatic Tanager
  • Anna’s Hummingbird
  • Chipping Sparrow
  • Wild Turkey
  • Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
  • Verdin
  • Hutton’s Vireo
  • Bewick’s Wren
  • Townsend’s Solitaire (my favorite warbler, I think)
  • Lincoln’s Sparrow
  • Brown Creeper
  • Arizona Woodpecker
  • Painted Redstart
  • Common Raven
  • Hermit’s Thrush
  • Northern Cardinal
  • Pacific Wren
  • Hammond’s Flycatcher
  • Pine Siskin
  • Inca Dove
  • Loggerhead Shrike
  • House Wren
  • Pyrrhuloxia

Remember It is always …

A GREAT DAY TO BIRD

 

Catalina State Park – Arizona

January 6, 2017

We left our friends, and wonderful hosts, Carla and Wayne today and headed south to Catalina State Park just outside of Tucson, Arizona.   We plan to camp here two nights.  This is another one of our favorite birding spots in Arizona – I have a lot of them.  We have visited here a number of times, never tiring of the opportunity.   On the way, via back roads, we did stop several times to check out raptors on the powerlines – mostly Red-tailed Hawks, but we did find three Harris’s Hawks (FOY – First of Year).

We got to the park around noon, set up camp (well that took us about five minutes), had lunch and then did a short trail walk from the campground to a trailhead parking lot.  We, did of course, bird along the way – bagging five more FOYs: Pyrrhuloxia, Bewick’s Wren, Canyon Towhee, Black-tailed Gnatcatcher, and the Rufous-winged Sparrow.   Woohoo!!!  Great birds.

Oh, least I forget, while we were having lunch a Roadrunner came into our camp and proceeded to feast on the bugs at our campsite.  Yeah!!!  We later saw two other Greater Roadrunners on the trail.  One year when we stayed here we had five Roadrunners come in to our campsite.  These birds are very habituated to humans.

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Greater Roadrunner

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Greater Roadrunner. The song “roadrunner, the coyote is after you, roadrunner if he catches you your through” always comes to mind when I see this bird.

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Bridle Trail from campground to (multiple) trailhead parking lot

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Catalina Mountains

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Wow,  does this Saguaro Cactus have a lot of arms or what? The arms don’t start growing until the cactus is at least 75-100 years old (according to Wikipedia), and it’s growth rate is strongly dependent on precipitation. The more precip, the greater the growth (entire cactus).

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Male Phainopepla

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Rufous-winged Sparrow

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Northern Mockingbird

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Habitat along the Bridle Trail

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Bewick’s Wren (I so love these birds – my favorite wren) – a bird with an attitude.

January 7, 2017

Today we hiked from the campground to start of the Bird Trail, then hiked the one-mile loop Bird Trail, plus took a side trail off the Bird Trail.  In all, I estimate we hiked over three miles.  Poor Doodlebug (our dog).  She was really tired when we got back.  Luckily, there were several watering spots for her plus the water in our backpack. We were gone for over 3.5 hours.  When you are birding, you don’t cover large distances in a short period of time as you might do when just plain hiking.  I’m not sure I could go on just a straight-out hike anymore – without stopping to check the birds I see.

In the afternoon we stuck around our campsite and I finished reading a book.  One thing I do like about camping – I don’t feel guilty sitting around and reading a book.  While reading, it was fun to watch two Greater Roadrunners venture into our campsite in search of food.  They must be used to people feeding them because they came within 5-10 feet of Jack or I.  Fun to watch them.  Then later, Jack saw one jump into a tree and then run up one of the larger limbs.  They must roost in trees at night.

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Red-tailed Hawk

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Bridle Trail

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Anna’s Hummingbird

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Lots of Saguaro Cacti here

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Bridled Titmouse

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Bird Trail

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American Kestrel

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Barrel Cactus fruit

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House Finch pair

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Brewer’s Sparrow

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This Greater Roadrunner at our campsite found something good to eat

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Okay this guy was right next to the picnic table I was sitting at – about five feet away from me. Probably looking to be fed. Not going to happen.

Bird Species Seen or Heard at Catalina State Park (January 6-8, 2017)

  • House Finch
  • Lesser Goldfinch
  • Greater Roadrunner
  • Gila Woodpecker
  • Phainopepla
  • Ruby-crowned Kinglet
  • Rufous-winged Sparrow
  • Abert’s Towhee
  • Canyon Towhee
  • Red-tailed Hawk
  • Black-tailed Gnatcatcher
  • Bewick’s Wren
  • White-crowned Sparrow
  • Canyon Towhee
  • Pyrrhuloxia
  • Northern Mockingbird
  • Common Raven
  • Verdin
  • Bridled Titmouse
  • Anna’s Hummingbird
  • Northern Flicker
  • Black-throated Sparrow
  • Ladderbacked Woodpecker
  • Woodhouse’s Scrub Jay
  • Gray Flycatcher
  • Western Bluebird
  • Northern Cardinal
  • Mourning Dove
  • House Sparrow
  • American Kestral
  • Dark-eyed Junco
  • Cactus Wren
  • Vesper Sparrow
  • Brewer’s Sparrow
  • Chipping Sparrow

Next Stop – Madera Canyon.  Until then …

IT’S A GREAT DAY TO BIRD

 

 

Boyce Thompson Arboretum, Apache Junction, and Gilbert Water Ranch

January 3, 2017

Jack and I traveled to Apache Junction, Arizona (near Phoenix) to visit our friends Carla and Wayne Stanley.  They have a great location – views of the Superstition Mountains and a bird haven.  Carla puts out a lot of bird feed for the birds and it definitely draws them in.  Fun to watch.  I don’t know how much they spend on bird feed in the four months they are here, but I assume it is a lot.  Lucky birds.  Thanks Carla and Wayne for supporting local birds and a great time.

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House Finch

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Curve-billed Thrasher with a very (deformed) curved bill

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Inca Dove

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Female Gila Woodpecker – no red on its head

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Male Gila Woodpecker – red on head

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A nice afternoon and evening spent with friends and birds.

Bird Species Seen or Heard from Carla and Wayne Stanley’s Backyard

  • Anna’s Hummingbird
  • Abert’s Towhee
  • Eurasian Collared Dove
  • House Finch
  • Northern Mockingbird
  • Gambell’s Quail
  • Mourning Dove
  • Inca Dove
  • Cactus Wren
  • Gila Woodpecker
  • House Sparrow
  • White-crowned Sparrow
  • Curve-billed Thrasher
  • Bendire’s Thrasher
  • Verdin
  • Rock Pigeon
  • Northern Flicker
  • Northern Cardinal
  • Common Raven
  • Black-throated Sparrow
  • American Kestrel
  • Cooper Hawk – boy did this bird clear the area of other birds when it popped in

January 4, 2017

Ah, a favorite place –  Boyce Thompson Arboretum.  If you love cactus (from all over the world) and birds, then this is the place for you.  The property is owned and operated by the State of Arizona and is located east of Phoenix – an easy drive.  We got there around 9:30 am and birded the park for three-plus hours.  They have a great trail system, and for those with dogs – dogs are welcomed so long as they are on a leash.  Doggy bags provided.

I saw or heard 20 different bird species.  This actually was lower than during previous visits this time of year.  Most of the birds I’ve seen here before.  One new species was the Plumbeous Vireo.  Although I have seen this species before, I’ve not seen it at Boyce.  There was a pair flitting about in the trees.  As for the various cactus plants we saw, I apologize for not getting the names of all those photographed.  You will just have to come to the arboretum to see them for yourself.

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Barrel Cactus

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Male Anna’s Hummingbird

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Prickly Pear Cactus

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We walked up this wash for a short distance in search of birds

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An agave plant

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Male Phainopepla

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No waterfowl or coots on the pond, although I have seen waterfowl and coots here in the past.

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Cactus flower getting ready to blossom – this bee likes it

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Do these tuffs provide protection for the cactus spines? I wonder what the purpose is for the tuffs?

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Love the spindly needles – sharp too

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One of the trails.  They provide park benches along the way to stop and rest and enjoy the beauty of the area.

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Queen Creek –   there has always been water in the stream bed when we’ve been here.  Maybe not during the hot summer months though.

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Male Northern Cardinal – saw lots of cardinals today

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Red-naped Sapsucker

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Plumbeous Vireo

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Monarch Butterfly

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Oh, I do remember the name of this cactus – Octopus Agave

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Saguaro Cactus

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Loved the way the light lit up this leaf

After Boyce, we returned to Carla and Wayne’s house and hung out in the back yard checking out the birds coming to the feeder and just relaxing.  Ah, what a life.

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Verdin

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Carla puts out oranges for the birds. The Verdin love oranges.

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Inca Dove – a pair usually comes into the feeder late in the afternoon

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Cactus Wren – the Wren family is my favorite family of birds

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These guys really love the suet feeder Carla puts out for the birds

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Yes, even desert hares

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Abert’s Towhee – does he blend into the Cholla or what?

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Black-throated Sparrow …

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… this guy is the lone Black-throated Sparrow coming to the feeder …

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… well he actually eats the seeds on the ground, rather than at an actual feeder

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White-crowned Sparrow

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Mourning Dove

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This Mourning Dove looks a little different – maybe it is getting ready to molt?  That one feather.

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I think this may be a Bendire’s Thrasher. Note the short bill and the yellow eye.

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Curve-billed Thrasher

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In addition to the one with the deformed bill, there are at least three other Curve-billed Thrashers that come to the feeders …

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… and they do like the suet as well

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The House Sparrow surpass all the other species in shear numbers, including the House Finch

Birds Species Seen or Heard at Boyce Thompson Arboretum

  • Verdin
  • Anna’s Hummingbird
  • House Finch
  • Gila Woodpecker
  • Cactus Wren
  • Northern Mockingbird
  • Curve-billed Thrasher
  • Phainopepla
  • Northern Cardinal
  • Black Phoebe
  • Belted Kingfisher
  • Ruby-crowned Kinglet
  • Hermit Thrush
  • Abert’s Towhee
  • Spotted Towhee
  • Red-naped Sapsucker
  • Yellow-rumped Warbler
  • White-crowned Sparrow
  • Plumbeous Vireo
  • Canyon Wren

January 5, 2017

Today we visited the Gilbert Water Ranch in Gilbert, Arizona.  This is a great place to bird, but beware the area is also heavily used by walkers and runners, and there is a playground for children.  The area is always quite busy.  Surprisingly the birds have become somewhat used to all the activity and when flushed, don’t travel far.  Today I observed 48 different species.  This is actually a low number as I generally have around 60+ birds.  I’m sure a lot depends upon how much reclaimed water is available for the birds – this is a waste water treatment area – constructed wetlands.

In this riparian area, there are seven ponds and Water Ranch Lake.   There area is small in that the trails cover only a couple of miles.  We spent around three hours at the lake. I was happy – another great day of birding.

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Dedication Sign

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Hiking Map for Gilbert Riparian Preserve (Gilbert Water Ranch)

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Pond 7 – lots of shorebirds here: Sandpipers, Avocets, Stilts, and Dowitchers

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Female Lesser Goldfinch

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Black-necked Stilt

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American Avocet

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Long-billed Dowitcher …

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… or three

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Yes, a non-native species – Rosy-faced Lovebird. We saw this species in Namibia, Africa.

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The trails are wide

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LOTS of Desert Hares, and I mean LOTS

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These platforms were not here last time we visited several years ago

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I wonder whose nest this was?

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American Coot

Birds Species Seen or Heard at Gilbert Water Ranch

  • Gila Woodpecker
  • Curve-billed Thrasher
  • Great-tailed Grackle
  • Eurasian Collared Dove
  • Gambell’s Quail
  • White-crowned Sparrow
  • Northern Shoveler
  • Least Sandpiper
  • Long-billed Dowitcher
  • Canada Goose
  • Double-crested Cormorant
  • Black-necked Stilt
  • American Avocet
  • Black Phoebe
  • Great Blue Heron
  • Mourning Dove
  • Lesser Goldfinch
  • Abert’s Towhee
  • Rosy-faced Lovebird
  • Orange-crowned Warbler
  • House Sparrow
  • House Finch
  • Northern Harrier
  • Wilson’s Snipe
  • American Coot
  • Verdin
  • Anna’s Hummingbird
  • Mallard
  • Green-winged Teal
  • Ruby-crowned Kinglet
  • Lesser Yellowleg
  • Killdeer
  • Northern Pintail
  • Yellow-rumped Warbler
  • Red-winged Blackbird
  • Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
  • Snowy Egret
  • Cinnamon Teal
  • Song Sparrow
  • American Kestrel
  • Marsh Wren
  • Osprey
  • Green Heron
  • Northern Mockingbird
  • Red-tailed Hawk
  • Lesser Scaup
  • Ring-necked Duck
  • Ruddy Duck

Tomorrow we head to Catalina State Park for several days.  This park is located near Tucson, Arizona.  Until then …

It’s A Great Day to Bird

Page Springs and Sedona Christmas Bird Count

While in the Sedona and Page Springs area (which is close to Sedona), I did a little Arizona birding.  I also participated in the Sedona Christmas Bird Count on December 14th.  I was lucky to be paired up with three excellent birders.  Ron has only been birding for about four years.  His skills are amazing.  Nanette has the ears of Aaron Lang (a very good Alaska birder).  While my hearing is pretty good, she heard things I didn’t hear at all.  Matt was a first time CBC counter, although he has been birding for awhile.  His enthusiasm was enjoyable.  He was always ready with his bird app to help in any bird ID crisis – like was that a Pacific Wren or a Winter Wren.

Our count area was around Red Rocks State Park.  I didn’t have much time to photograph birds, since I was supposed to be counting them instead; but I did get a few photos.  Our four-person group saw (or heard) 55 different species.  Not too bad of a day of birding.

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Anna’s Hummingbird seen at the feeder at Red Rocks State Park

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Anna’s Hummingbird

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The highlight bird for our group was the White-throated Sparrow. This is not a common bird for Arizona.

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Oak Creek – which helped us increase the total number of different species observed

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Oak Creek

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Western Bluebird found at the Sedona High School

Christmas Bird Count – Birds Seen or Heard

  • Anna’s Hummingbird
  • White-throated Sparrow
  • White-crowned Sparrow
  • Chipping Sparrow
  • Song Sparrow
  • Lincoln’s Sparrow
  • Hermit’s Thrush
  • Western Meadowlark
  • Lesser Goldfinch
  • American Goldfinch
  • Bridled Titmouse
  • Bewick’s Wren
  • Winter Wren
  • White-breasted Nuthatch
  • Townsend’s Solitaire
  • European Starling
  • Woodhouse’s Scrub Jay
  • Common Raven
  • Cedar Waxwing
  • Ring-necked Duck
  • Mallard
  • Gadwall
  • American Coot
  • Canada Goose
  • Yellow-rumped Warbler
  • Dark-eyed Junco (four different subspecies)
  • Western Bluebird
  • White-winged Dove
  • Eurasian Collared Dove
  • Mourning Dove
  • Northern Cardinal
  • Spotted Towhee
  • American Robin
  • Canyon Towhee
  • Abert’s Towhee
  • Gambell’s Quail
  • Say’s Phoebe
  • Black Phoebe
  • Great Blue Heron
  • Peregrine Falcon
  • Cooper’s Hawk
  • American Kestrel
  • Sharp-shinned Hawk
  • Red-tailed Hawk
  • Red-naped Sapsucker
  • Ladderback Woodpecker
  • Northern Flicker
  • House Finch
  • House Sparrow
  • Verdin
  • Ruby-crowned Kinglet
  • Brown Creeper
  • Juniper Titmouse
  • Brewer’s Blackbird
  • Red-winged Blackbird

Page Springs Fish Hatchery and Bubbling Ponds

I went here twice this December, about a week apart.  Walked the Black Hawk Trail birding to my heart’s content  This is my favorite place to bird in the Verde Valley.  Page Springs is located 20-30 minutes from Sedona.

The weather both days was warm (low 60s), and partly cloudy, which made for a pleasant walk along the Black Hawk Trail.

In the ponds were the requisite ducks.  While there were more ducks here in December, than when in early October, there still wasn’t as many ducks as I’ve seen in these ponds in previous years during this time of year.   Only three Canvasback were spotted – one male, two females were spotted on my first December visit, but a few more spotted during my second December visit.

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Trail Map

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One of the hatchery ponds, favored by the ducks

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The “do not feed” bucket refers to feeding of the hatchery fish in the ponds, but ducks can’t read…

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This pond was drained last December (2015) and work on it continues – but the birds still use it

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Not sure what this is/ was in the pond

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The Killdeer like this pond

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This pond is adjacent to the drained pond

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One of the Canvasback males using the pond

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Male Canvasback

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Ring-necked Duck

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Pair of male Ring-necked Duck

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American Wigeon

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Black Hawk Trail – traverses a nice stand of Mesquite favored by songbirds

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On the first visit this tree held 9 roosting Great Blue Heron

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Can you see the little bit of orange on the head of this Orange-crowned Warbler?                                         (click on photo to expand it)

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Orange-crowned Warbler

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Orange-crowned Warbler

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Abert’s Towhee

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Cedar Waxwing – I found a small water hole where the waxwings and American Robin were drinking and bathing. Fun to watch all the activity.

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This robin didn’t have the typical robin coloring

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Cedar Waxwing

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Lots of tall Fremont Cottonwood Trees – I love them

Birds Species Seen or Heard at Page Springs and Bubbling Ponds

  • American Wigeon
  • Ring-necked Duck
  • Mallard
  • Black Phoebe
  • Great Blue Heron
  • Killdeer
  • Green-winged Teal
  • Canvasback
  • Belted Kingfisher
  • Cedar Waxwing
  • American Robin
  • Spotted Towhee
  • Abert’s Towhee
  • Northern Cardinal
  • White-crowned Sparrow
  • Dark-eyed Junco
  • Ruby-crowned Kinglet
  • Common Raven
  • Gila Woodpecker
  • Verdin
  • Gadwall
  • American Coot
  • Lesser Scaup
  • Bewick’s Wren
  • Orange-crowned Warbler
  • Red-tailed Hawk
  • Great Egret
  • Northern Pintail
  • Song Sparrow
  • Yellow-rumped Warbler
  • Canyon Towhee
  • Anna’s Hummingbird
  • Hermit Thrush
  • Great-tailed Grackle
  • Western Bluebird
  • Eurasian Collared Dove

We are headed to southern Arizona on January 3, 2017, health permitting (Jack is just getting over a cold and mine is just starting.  His knocked him out for three days so who knows what is in store for me).  Until then …

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

GET OUT AND BIRD BECAUSE …

IT’S ALWAYS A GREAT DAY TO BIRD

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