It's a Great Day to Bird

Month: March 2015

Sedona (Arizona) Area Birding

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.


Bell Rock and Courthouse Rock



Anna’s Hummingbird



Spotted Towhee



Female Northern Cardinal



Male Northern Cardinal



Mourning Dove



Female Lesser Goldfinch



House Finch



Canyon Towhee



Western Scrub Jay



Habitat along Morningside Drive – very birdy habitat



Ruby-crowned Kinglet – please flash your crown around



A few rabbits hopping around the neighborhood too



White-crowned Sparrow



Female Gambel’s Quail



The trees are in bloom



And it’s snowing



Feeder Crow



Feeder Gambel’s Quail and Mourning Dove



Bell Rock after a rain shower

Baldwin Trail

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.


Trail sign



Love the old dead twisted trees



Beautiful view from the trail






Townsend’s Solitaire


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.


Common Black Hawk



Common Black Hawk



One of the Bubbling Ponds

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.


Killdeer in one of the dewatered ponds

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.


Mallard Drake roosting at one of the ponds

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.


One of the giant Cottonwood Trees



Ladderback Woodpecker



Northern Flicker

The area has a lot of nice trails along the creekside and nearby.  Birds are abundant throughout the area.


One of the trails



Say’s Phoebe



Same Say’s Phoebe

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.


Black Phoebe

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.


Adult Bald Eagle

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.



A great “Important Bird Area”



Ring-necked Duck pair



Female Mallard



Mallard Drake



Great Blue Heron – you can usually see three or four heron in this area



Bubbling Ponds – IBA



Bewick’s Wren – one of my favorite birds



I love the Arizona Sycamore trees



Lots of White-crowned Sparrows in search of food



House Wren holding on



Trail along Oak Creek riparian area



Name that Flycatcher – Possibly Dusky, Hammond’s or Cordilleran???



Gila Woodpecker sitting in a tree



A flock of American Pipit stopped for a quick visit – heading northward

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?


One of the ponds at the Sedona Wetland Preserve



Male Northern Shoveler



Pied-billed Grebe



American Coot and Bufflehead (male)



Male Ruddy Duck Preening

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.

Seward Birding

On my way to Anchorage to catch a flight to Sedona Arizona in late February, Jack and I made a stop off in Seward to visit with my brother and his lovely wife, to bird, and to visit the Alaska SeaLife Center (free on Wednesdays to Alaska residents in the winter). The day was sunny, but breezy.

No trip to Anchorage or Seward is complete, at least for me, without a stop off at Tern Lake. You can usually find an American Dipper hanging out in the stream near the rest area.  And find one we did. This bird was singing its heart out as it searched for food along the frozen lake shore where it empties into the stream. The bird would be on the ice bobbing and then it would dive into the water, splash around, and then jump out and fly back to the ice. Fun to watch and I was able to capture it on video as well.


American Dipper on ice edge



American Dipper “Dipping”



American Dipper

We arrived in Seward about noon – under beautiful sunny skies.  The next day proved to be just as beautiful as the day before.  You just can’t beat Alaska sunshine during the winter – it warms the soul.


Seward from Lowell Point



Mountains across Resurrection Bay from Seward. As you can see the snow is only half way down the mountains – an anomaly for February.



Resurrection Bay

Seward we visited the Alaska SeaLife Center. One of the main purposes of the visit was to check out the octopus that had recently laid eggs. I was surprised at how small the mother octopus was. After laying her eggs, the female octopus stops eating and dies of starvation after her eggs have hatched.  The males die several months after mating.



Alaska SeaLife Center in Seward Alaska



Beautiful mural across the street from the Alaska SeaLife Center

The center does research on Stellar and Spectacled Eiders. There were a fair number in the open air pens. Jack and I are hoping to see all four of the eiders, in the wild, this spring in Barrow. Beautiful birds.

Our next stop at the center was the area where all the birds held in captivity hang out. Lots of Tufted Puffins and Common Murres, along with a pair of SMEW (might be the only ones I ever see) and a Red-legged Kittiwake (same thing – only one I may ever see, unless I visit the Pribilof Islands). Fun to go downstairs and watch the birds diving for food, bathing, or play.  And what a great place to get “up-close” views and photos of these birds.


Rhinoceros Auklet



Non-breeding Pigeon Guillemot



Molting Pigeon Guillemot



Red-legged Kittiwake






Ma and Pa Harlequin Ducks



Long-tailed Duck



Male King Eider



Black Oystercatcher



Common Murre



Rhinoceros Auklets



Tufted Puffin



Male Smew. These are “Asian” birds

Of course that isn’t all we saw at the Alaska SeaLife Center.  There are lots of marine mammals and marine life for viewing, including a female octopus that had recently laid rice-shaped white eggs.


Momma Octopus and babies (the white stuff)



Basket Sea Star





Harbor Seal




And one cannot forget about the marine debris artwork.  Marine debris is an issue near and dear to my heart.  Whenever I am out on the beach I dutifully pickup whatever debris I can find and carry back to my vehicle, provided I have a bag in which to carry the debris.  The students who created this work of art are so creative.  I would love to have something like this in my yard.  Call me crazy.


Marine Debris Masterpiece

At my brother’s house I found a Varied Thrush hiding on the ground. The bird was a little shy and flushed whenever I opened the window to try to get a better photograph. They also had Dark-eyed Juncos and a Downy Woodpecker coming to their feeders.


Female Downy Woodpecker working both the suet feeder and the tree



Varied Thrush

The next morning before we left town for our drive to Anchorage we stopped off at a few birding hotspots: Lowell Point, Ava’s Feeders, Nash Road, and the lagoon along the road into town. I suspect it has a name for locals and other birders. At the lagoon we saw several pairs of Common Goldeneye. The males were doing their display calls and behaviors – throwing their heads back. Fun to watch their efforts to woo the females.


Female White-winged Crossbill



Common Merganser



Song Sparrow – all puffed up



Common Mergansers in the bay



Barrow’s Goldeneye Male – in the bay



Male and Female Barrow’s Goldeneyes – is courtship beginning?



Male Belted Kingfisher

There have been several Purple Finches in town, but we missed them. Maybe next time.  Here is a list of the species we (Jack and I) observed while we did a quick visit of Seward:

Common Merganser

Common Goldeneye

Barrow’s Goldeneye


Varied Thrush

Song Sparrow

White-winged Crossbill

Red-breasted Nuthatch

Rock Pigeon

Belted Kingfisher (always a favorite)

Bald Eagle

Common Raven

Dark-eyed Junco

Common Murre

Marbled Murrelet

Harlequin Duck

Pine Siskin

Pine Grosbeak

Surf Scoter

Pelagic Cormorant

Mew Gull

Glaucous-winged Gull


It was definitely “A Great Day to Bird” in Seward.


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