In March I am headed to Colombia in search of Andean and Santa Marta Endemics. However, before heading to Colombia I made a stop in Arizona to visit relatives who live near Sedona – Red Rock Country. If you have never been here before it is well worth the visit, especially under blue skies with the sun shining on the red rocks.
My first full day in Arizona, I took a short walk around the neighborhood which netted me (not the birds) 16 different species. Wow!!! So great to see more than the 3-4 species that come to my feeder in the winter months. House Finches were singing their hearts out – with their ending notes of “Right Here” Hard to miss that song. Then one of my perennial favorites – the Bewick’s Wren- was scolding me for getting too close. An Anna’s Hummingbird was buzzing from tree top to tree top, a Canyon Towhee was skulking through the bushes, and a Cooper’s Hawk was flying overhead. Lots of great birds.
This trail is located off Verde Valley School Road in the Village of Oak Creek. Jack and I love this trail, as do mountain bikers. The trail is a loop trail with connections to other area trails, including the Templeton trail that takes you along Oak Creek. I didn’t see a lot of birds on the trail, but the views are spectacular. I did have a small flock of Bushtits (I love those birds) flitting about in the trees feeding.
Page Springs Fish Hatchery
This is one of my favorite places to go birding around the Sedona area. This area never disappoints. When I drove up on a beautiful, sunny morning I noticed a large bird sitting in the trees that drape over one of the ponds frequented by waterfowl. I could not believe my eyes – a Common Black Hawk. While this species nests in the immediate area, this is the first time I have seen the hawk in any of my many visits to the hatchery.
After spending a little time photographing the ever patient hawk, I took a walk around the fish hatchery, which has a number of short trails. Lots of birds were out and about seeking food and shelter. After I finished with my walk around the hatchery, I headed over to the Bubbling Ponds, another section of the hatchery grounds on the west side of Oak Creek.
I found a pair of vocal Killdeer in one of the ponds recently dewatered. Two of the ponds frequented by waterfowl were being excavated. Let’s hope this will improve habitat for the birds. Lots of birds seem to be pairing up – getting ready for breeding season. I suspect breeding season starts early in the year in Arizona compared to mid Spring for Alaska.
Many species of ducks can be found at the Bubbling ponds. I spotted this Mallard drake, along with Lesser Scaup, American Widgeon, Canvasbacks, Green-winged Teal, and Ring-necked Ducks.
I love the cottonwood trees in the area. Some are huge!!! The leaves are just starting bud out on these magnificent trees so the birding is still somewhat easy. Usually find woodpeckers in these trees, including Northern Flicker and Ladderback Woodpeckers.
The area has a lot of nice trails along the creekside and nearby. Birds are abundant throughout the area.
I don’t think I’ve ever been to Page Springs and not seen a Black Phoebe. They are usually flitting along the creekside in search of food.
As I was walking back towards my car a guy came up to me and asked me if I had a camera. He then pointed to the tree where there was a roosting Bald Eagle. Of course he had no idea I was from Alaska where eagles are a dime a dozen. Jack and I have encountered a lot of people in the lower 48 who get so excited when the see Bald Eagles. In the lower 48 Bald Eagles are generally a rare sighting.
Page Springs – Part Two
I decided to try another day of birding at the Page Springs Fish Hatchery. I went around noon, and was wondering if the birds might be taking a siesta. Some may have, but I still observed 31 different species in a 2.5 hour time span. The day was sunny (woohoo!!!) and warm (mid 50s). Having spent the winter in Alaska the 50 degree weather seemed quite mild.
This area has been designated as the “Oak Creek Important Bird Area – Page Springs”. I birded both the north and the south wildlife viewing areas. I did not see the Common Black Hawk again, but did encounter several people with cameras. Maybe they were looking for the bird too. Afterwards, I headed over to the “Oak Creek Important Bird Area – Bubbling Ponds” area to continue birding.
Sedona Wetland Preserve
These wetlands are water treatment ponds and a great place to observe waterfowl in the winter months. I wasn’t disappointed. The largest concentration of waterfowl in the ponds were the Ruddy Ducks. Don’t you just love the blue bills on the males?
In Arizona at this time of year the weather is always variable. Prior to my visit the Sedona area had been experiencing above normal temperatures. I think Arizona wanted to welcome me and make me feel at home because the weather changed dramatically with lots of rain and even a few hours of a light snow dusting. Actually I could have done without that kind of welcome. Near the Village of Oak Creek is Dry Beaver Creek. With four days of rain the creek bed is anything but dry – more like a raging torrent. If there weren’t a lot of trees in the river bed or being carried down in the rushing water, it would be a great stream to kayak. Lots of white water. Despite the less than optimal temperatures (for me blue skies, temperatures in the high 60s), I’ve had a great stay.
I always love to go birding in Arizona, be it the Sedona area, Phoenix area, or Southern Arizona (Tuscon, Patagonia, Sierra Vista, Portal, Whitewater Draw areas). In Arizona, it is always a “Great Day to Bird”.
Tomorrow I leave for Colombia and 23 days of birding.