It's a Great Day to Bird

Month: October 2016

Utah – Birding

October 19, 2016

Today we left Nevada and entered Utah – the beehive state.  I wanted to visit Antelope Island State Park, which lies within the Great Salt Lake.  In previous years we have come here and found thousands of birds. We hope to see that many again.

We traveled through some beautiful countryside in Utah, including the eastern portion of the Great Basin – wide open country for miles, with some hills/mountains.  Breathtaking beauty.



As for birds, about the only thing we saw was Common Ravens, but that is okay we will take any bird.  And a “Shoe Tree”.


Shoe Tree near Hinckley, Utah


We have no spare shoes to add to the tree


Getting close to the Salt Lake City area – Wasatch Mountains

When we got to the Salt Lake City area (boy are the towns along the Wasatch mountain range spread out, but are contiguous with each other) we saw a lot of new homes.  And these houses are not small, but then maybe Mormans need large homes for their many children.  Okay, I know I am generalizing, but why else would you want something so big?

And speaking of kids, I am going to get on my soap box and say we have too many people in this world, including in the United States.  Soon we will reach carrying capacity and then our ecosystems will collapse.  We are already starting to see there demise.  While there death may be slow at first, it will accelerate as more people demand more resources.  We need to find a balance now before we lose what is most precious – our natural environment, and our birds (because it’s all about the birds).  Okay, I’m done for now.

As for the drive over the causeway to the island, we saw a lot of land that in previous years was underwater, but is now dry (droughts – climate change???).  However, the closer we got to the island we saw rafts of ducks – primarily Northern Shoveler, with a few Ruddy Ducks mixed in for good measure.  There were also small flocks of American Avocets (one of my top 5 shorebirds).



Not much water, and few birds here –mostly gulls


The Great Salt Lake – or what is left of it


American Avocet in non-breeding plumage


Those black dots on the lake are mostly Northern Shoveler

We took most of the day getting to Antelope Island, although it was only an estimated 5.5-hour drive from Great Basin National Park.  We found a good campsite (#26) and right now I am looking at the bison on the nearby horizon.  There are five in my immediate view, with another five nearby.   On Saturday the park is having a Bison Roundup.  Bison Burgers anyone?


This guy was near our campground with about 10 other bison …


… including this fellow

Tomorrow we will go to the Bear Lake Migratory Bird Refuge to check out the birds.  We hope to stay another two nights, but with the Bison Roundup on Saturday the campground might be booked for Friday night.

October 20, 2016

Cold again this morning, but not as bad as the previous two mornings.  We ate breakfast and decided to visit the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge north of here.  We stopped at the entrance gate to Antelope Island State Park to reserve a campsite for tonight and tomorrow.  Well as expected no campsites available for tomorrow (Friday) night.  So guess we will have to cut this visit short and head back to Nevada tomorrow.  I suspect the campground is full to accommodate either those who are participating in the round-up or those who want to watch.

At the entrance gate I saw a large bird fly up onto a post adjacent to the road.  I got my binos out and on the post was a Barn Owl!  I haven’t seen a Barn Owl in ages.  We parked nearby, but when I got out of the van to photograph the bird, it turned its head, saw me, and flew off.  Dang.  I so wanted a photo for the blog – of the birds head full on.


Barn Owl flying away from us

We got to the refuge and walked around a small wetland area adjacent to the Wildlife Education Center/Visitor Center.  Not a lot of bird life, although I did hear a Virginia Rail close to the boardwalk – too much vegetation for me to see this secretive bird.


We did see this sparrow


Lots of vacant housing at the refuge available for swallows


Great art work at the entrance to the visitor center. This is just one of several metal work art.

After our short walk we jumped back into the van and went in search of some of the 500,000 waterfowl that spend the fall in the refuge.  We took the auto tour route and I imagine we saw about 100 ducks total, if that many.  Not sure if the birds were hiding from the hunters, had not arrived yet, or had left already.  It was a little disappointing.  We did see a fair number of American Coots, and in one area there were shorebirds present.  Most of the shorebirds were Killdeer.  I estimate around 100 or more Killdeer feeding here.  Also saw Lesser Yellowlegs, Long-billed Curlews (in-flight, can’t miss those long bills), Black-bellied Plover, Least Sandpipers, and Pectoral Sandpipers.  Not bad for shorebirds.  I just wish they would have been a little closer.



Clark’s Grebe


Pied-billed Grebe


Double-crested Cormorant


Where are the ducks?


Red-winged Blackbird in Reed Grass


American White Pelicans

One thing we did notice is that the Great Salt Lake’s water level is much lower than we’ve seen it in previous years.  There were portions of the refuge that were dry where during our previous visit a couple of years ago there was water.  Climate change???

After the refuge we headed back to our campsite on Antelope Island.   Although we did see an airboat use the marina earlier in the day, not much else can use the marina except for a canoe or kayak or paddleboard or …..  Not enough water for most boats.  I wonder if it is enough water for a jet ski.  I hope not.


Marina on Antelope Island

img_8928 img_8926 img_8787Bison Art

When I first saw this vehicle I said to myself ‘A European’, however the license plates are Montana.  The vehicles we see from Europe are generally heavy duty, almost like they are expecting trouble and want to have armored vehicles to prevent people from entering their vehicles.  This vehicle has what looks like ‘three’ levels.  I would love to see inside of it.


Ready for anything or anybody


My favorite view from the campground – near dusk



Tomorrow we will do a short hike before heading to Ruby Lake NWR in Nevada – a 282-mile drive from our present location.  A long slog.

October 21, 2016

 Before leaving Antelope Island State Park we thought we would take a short hike on a trail that leads from the historic ranch site.  On the way to the ranch we must have seen over 100 bison.  Wow!!!  Also saw Mule Deer, Elk, Pronghorn Antelope, and Coyote.  Not bad for a morning.  But the true highlight was the discovery of a Burrowing Owl.  We so love these owls.  They are so cute.


Burrowing Owl


Road Hazard


Pronghorn Antelope


This guy was right next to the road

At the ranch we noticed a lot of horse trailers, horses, and their owners.  Remember I mentioned a bison roundup.  Well it begins tomorrow so the people doing the rounding up are getting ready.  The docent at the ranch said an estimated 200-300 people pay $50.00 each to participate in the roundup.  They also have professional cowboys because not all who participate know what they are doing – that would be Jack.  Once the bison are rounded up they check their health, find out which ones are pregnant, inoculate those needing vaccinations, and then decide which ones to auction off.  They keep about 500 and auction off the rest.  The docent said there are around 750 bison on the island.


Bison Roundup participants

The docent also showed us evidence of a tornado that touched down on the island on September 22 (the day my mother died).  The tornado tore the roof off a barn (see photos).  Amazing what damage a tornado can do.

img_9008 img_9010

Listed as uncommon permanent resident.  I think the park should change it brochure to “common permanent”.


Eurasian Collared Dove

The dark brown area in the middle of the photo is lakebed.  When we were here last – several years ago – there was water in this part of the lakebed.  A smoggy day, but you can see what little “water” remains.  It would be a shame to lose this important ecosystem that birds are dependent upon.


Near the Bonneville Speedway.  Now in previous trips this area had little or no water.


So now we head back to Nevada for a few days and then on to Oregon.

Antelope Island State Park – Birds Species Observed or Heard

  • Northern Shoveler (tens of thousands)
  • Ruddy Duck
  • American Avocet
  • Ring-billed Gull
  • Barn Owl
  • American Kestrel (okay just outside the park)
  • Black-billed Magpie
  • Common Raven
  • White-crowned Sparrow
  • Dark-eyed Junco
  • Red-winged Blackbird
  • Western Meadowlark
  • House Sparrow
  • Burrowing Owl
  • Eurasian Starling
  • Eurasian Collared Dove

Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge – Birds Species Observed or Heard

  • Pied-billed Grebe
  • Western Grebe
  • Clark’s Grebe
  • American White Pelican
  • Double-crested Cormorant
  • Great Blue Heron
  • Canada Goose
  • Mallard
  • Gadwall
  • Northern Shoveler
  • Ring-necked Duck
  • Ruddy Duck
  • Northern Harrier
  • Red-tailed Hawk
  • American Coot
  • Virginia Rail
  • Black-bellied Plover
  • Killdeer
  • American Avocet
  • Lesser Yellowlegs
  • Long-billed Curlew
  • Least Sandpiper
  • Pectoral Sandpiper
  • Ring-billed Gull
  • Black-billed Magpie
  • Common Raven
  • Marsh Wren
  • American Pipit
  • Song Sparrow
  • Red-winged Blackbird
  • Western Meadowlark
  • American Goldfinch




Northern Arizona and Nevada (Part 1)

October 12, 2016

After a morning of packing and leaving my Father’s house in good order (linens washed, dishes done, scones made) we left Sedona and headed north to Jacob Lake campground near the north rim of the Grand Canyon.  We read this campground fills fast, and they were right.  Of course the loop with the largest number of campsites was closed for the winter and it is only early October – go figure.  Not sure why the closed one loop as there were plenty of campers looking for a place to stay.   We made it to the campground around 2:30 pm and got, what we feel, is the best site in Loop A – Site #23.

Lots of scenery along the way …





We did make a few stops enroute to the campground, including the Navajo Bridge, which crosses the Colorado River near Lee’s Ferry.  We were not blessed with any California Condor sightings unfortunately, however the scenery – Vermillion Cliffs and Marble Canyon were GORGEOUS.  This is my first trip to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, and along the Vermillion Cliffs highway.  I could not stop taking photos of the cliffs.


Walking Bridge and Driving Bridge over the Colorado River


Colorado River


Jack and Doodblebug on the pedestrian bridge


Looking down from the pedestrian bridge to the river below – it was a long way down


Beautiful countryside

Vermillion Cliffs …





The rock formations and colors were dazzling.  The camera just doesn’t capture the beauty I saw.

The campground has a short (approximately one-mile) trail called the KAI-VAV-WI trail.  We hiked this trail several times.


Kav-vav-wi Trail – adjacent to Jacob Lake campground


Signage along the trail


The Kaibab Squirrel – I love the tail and ear tuffs


Tree-hugger me – hugging my favorite coniferous tree – Ponderosa Pine


Western Bluebird …


… taking a stretch


Pygmy Nuthatch – there were a lot of these guys around the campground and along the trail


This tree had a strange box like structure attached to it. We think it may be for bats.


Up close view of the added structure.  It looked to be made of natural material.

The trail goes through a Ponderosa Pine forest.   Ponderosa Pines are my favorite coniferous tree.  I love these giants, and the Kaibab squirrels love them too.  We enjoyed checking out the Pygmy Nuthatches, Western Bluebirds, and Dark-eyed Juncos.  The true delight was the Kaibab Squirrel, a subspecies of the Abert’s Squirrel.  This squirrel is funny, but cute looking with a dark body, tuffed ears, and a white tail – and is the second largest squirrel in North America.  My favorite squirrel yet.  Oh a lifer too.  The evening ended with a beautiful sunset, and a sky full of stars.


Sunset from our campground site

October 13, 2016

After breakfast we headed to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.  What a beautiful area.  Every turnoff (once in the park) provided for spectacular scenery.  The Grand Canyon is one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World.  I agree, but I feel it is the GREATEST wonder of the world – bar none.

Prior to entering the park we drove through the Kaibab National Forest.  The forest  experienced a burn some time back – don’t know if it was intentional (arson or prescribed) or accidental.  There was a lot of evidence of the burn.  Red-tailed Hawks were abundant.  Most were perched on the dead, burned trees.  Better to see their prey, I presume.


Nearby forest had suffered a recent burn


Dark Morph Red-tailed Hawk


Our national forests are multiple-use.  Cows anyone?


Nice meadows along the way, but alas no deer or elk. They were probably hiding from the hunters.


Another Kaibab Squirrel at the North Rim. This was a brave one. Has probably been fed by people in the past.

At the North Rim, we walked out to Bright Angel Point view point.  This short walk is not for the faint of heart.  My heart was beating a mile a minute in a few locations.  If you don’t like heights, then this hike might cause you some concern.  But how can one pass up looking out over the canyon at the different rock formations, the beautiful green and various shades of red.


Trail to Bright Angel Viewpoint


Majestic Views


Beautiful vistas …


… for as far as the eye could see


Breathtakingly beautiful


Trail narrow at times – not for the faint of heart


The Aspen Trees were beautiful


Once we left the North Rim we drove to Cape Royal to get more views of the canyon.  Stunning scenery here, including a view of Angel’s Bridge – which you can walk over.




More beautiful views




Are they crazy – don’t jump


Angel’s bridge

In both the National Forest and the National Park there were a lot of aspen stands sans leaves.  However, I think the aspen died as there were no leaves on the ground to indicate the trees had recently dropped their leaves.  Aspen need fire to survive and when fire is suppressed, the trees die.  This is too bad as there is nothing more beautiful than aspen trees when they turn yellow, reds, and golds.  Surprisingly, the meadows in the National Forest were in better condition than the meadows in the National Park, and the USFS allows grazing in this forest as evidenced by the previous photo of a cow in a stand of trees.  Maybe the cows are kept off the meadows in the national forest.  Also, I can’t swear that the grasses in the meadows are native grasses so even though the meadows look to be in good condition, that might not be the case.

Walhalla Overlook – a stop along the park road



Then off to Point Imperial where we saw, what I consider to be one most beautiful views from the north side of the canyon.  And I wasn’t alone.  I heard another person say the same thing.  On the way, much of the hillside showed evidence of a recent burn – natural or human-caused (arson, accident, or prescribed burn?).  We did see a road sign indicating a prescribed burn in progress and not to report the fire.  However, we did not see any fire or smoke.


Another fire disturbed area




This was one of my favorite stops – beautiful views

On the way back to our campground we observed several Red-tailed Hawks.  These two hawks were near one another.  Notice the different chest and belly colors and  patterns.  Both are Red-tailed Hawks.


Red-tailed Hawk Juvenile


After leaving the park we headed back to our campground and another walk/hike on the campground trail.   We got more good looks at the Kaibab Squirrel.  This one was eating what looked like a mushroom of sorts – a food source they do eat, but not their primary food source.  The squirrels prefer the cambium and bark of Ponderosa Pines and their green cones.  The Kaibab Squirrel does not cache food.


Eating a mushroom ???

Lots of Western Bluebirds in the campground – flying to and fro.


The Western Bluebirds were very cooperative re: photographs


Western or Mountain Bluebird

And a Hairy Woodpecker.  We were hoping to see a woodpecker along the trail – success!


Hairy Woodpecker

October 14, 2016

After walking Doodlebug on the trail for her daily exercise we broke camp and headed to Pahranagat National Wildlife Refuge in Nevada.  This refuge is located north of Las Vegas.


Just another Western Bluebird at our campsite in the morning


Love old abandoned pickup trucks


Starting to get into “Zion” country

We decided to travel to the refuge through Zion National Park.  We made a few stops along the route to marvel at the scenery, rock formations, and beauty of the area.  If you’ve been to Zion National Park you know there is a long tunnel you must go through.  Only one-way traffic is allowed in the tunnel due to the size of vehicles (including RVs) today.  We proceeded through the tunnel and upon reaching the other side I happened to look at the second vehicle waiting in line.  The driver of the vehicle was Karl Stoltzfus from Homer!  No mistaking Karl.  My sighting was confirmed when I emailed him and asked if he was in the park.  He said yes, but they were headed to Bryce Canyon NP.





A selfie

We stopped off at the Nature Center and walked the Pa’rus trail.  This is a paved trail that is dog-friendly.  Not many trails in National Parks are dog-friendly.  Despite the heat, we saw a surprising number of birds, including large flocks of American Robins, Yellow-rumped Warblers, and Cedar Waxwings.


American Robin – there were a lot of robins near the campground


Pa’rus trail – paved , Zion National Park


Views from the trail


Doodlebug getting a much needed stream drink  off-leash and out of sight……


Ground Squirrel


Butterbutt. The Yellow-rumped Warblers were busy in search of food making it hard for me to get a decent photograph

We left the park and continued on our way to the refuge arriving around 4:00 pm.  We were lucky and found a spot to camp.  This refuge allows free camping.  They have vault toilets; each campsite has a picnic table, but no other amenities so bring lots of water if you come.


Jack reading the refuge signs


Cooper’s Hawk in the dried reeds waiting for the unsuspecting bird to fly by


The view from our campsite


The view from our campsite in another direction


Just beautiful here

The evening was spectacular – warm, breezy, and with partly-cloudy skies.  We were concerned it might be too hot, but sleeping wasn’t a problem.  The highs in Las Vegas have been in the low 90s – ouch!!!  Hot, Hot Hot.

October 15, 2016

Today we walked the three-mile loop trail around the Upper Pahranagat Lake.  With waterfowl hunting season upon us (heard the guns going off early in the morning), the ducks knew to fly from Lower Pahranagat Lake to the Upper ‘no-hunting’ Pahranagat Lake.  There were hundreds of Redheads, Canvasbacks, Mallards, American Wigeons, and Northern Pintail, with a few Ruddy Ducks and Northern Shovelers.  Canada Geese and American White Pelicans were also present.  Oh and for waders – Great Blue Heron and Great Egret.


Canada Geese


Eared Grebe


Great Blue Heron


White-crowned Sparrow


Mule Deer


Joshua Tree


Joshua tree flowers


Yerba Mansa flowers – dried. Very sweet smelling.


Nest box


This nest box was near the other one. This one looks more like a nest box for waterfowl. The other looks more like a nest box for an Accipiter (raptor).


Lizard. Despite the size in the photograph this guy was small.

After our morning walk we hung around our campsite.  I even took a short nap before lunch.  So unlike me, but my 10-15 minute snooze did the trick.  Following lunch, we went to the refuge’s new (January 2015) visitor center.  A beautiful “green” building.  We then drove portions of the refuge to check out the middle portion of the refuge and the lower lake.  On the lower lake there must have been around 10,000 American Coots.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many Coots.  Amazing spectacle.


New Visitor Center


refuge lands


Lower Pahranagat Lake – where all the Coots were

In addition to the Coots there were Long-billed Dowitchers with their sewing machine bills working the mud flats, Least Sandpipers, and Killdeer on the lakebed.  At the upper lake we had two Greater Yellowlegs with their distinctive Tu, Tu, Tu call.

So about this refuge (Paharangat – means Sticking Feet in Water in Paiute).  The refuge, an Important Bird Area, was established in 1963, and consisted of 5,380 acres of lakes, marshes, wet meadows, and desert uplands.  And based on the number of waterfowl we observed at the refuge, an important migratory stopover or wintering area.

October 16, 2016

Another beautiful morning at Pahranagat National Wildlife Refuge.  We took the 3-mile lake trail again, spotting an additional eight birds to add to our refuge list.


Morning has broken


American White Pelicans



Great Blue Heron in flight

Birds Observed or Heard at the Pahranagat National Wildlife Refuge

  • Canada Goose
  • American Wigeon
  • Mallard
  • Northern Shoveler
  • Northern Pintail
  • Canvasback
  • Redhead
  • Ring-necked Duck
  • Ruddy Duck
  • Eared Grebe
  • Clark’s Grebe
  • Western Grebe
  • American White Pelican
  • Double-crested Cormorant
  • Great Blue Heron
  • Great Egret
  • Osprey
  • Cooper’s Hawk
  • Red-tailed Hawk
  • Ferruginous Hawk
  • American Coot (just a few – ha ha ha)
  • Killdeer
  • Spotted Sandpiper
  • Greater Yellowlegs
  • Killdeer
  • Least Sandpiper
  • Long-billed Dowitcher
  • Mourning Dove (in a tree, tree, tree)
  • Red-naped Sapsucker
  • Northern Flicker
  • Marsh Wren
  • Common Raven
  • Orange-crowned Warbler
  • Yellow-rumped Warbler (Audubon’s)
  • Song Sparrow
  • White-crowned Sparrow
  • Red-winged Blackbird
  • Western Meadowlark
  • House Finch
  • Lesser Goldfinch
  • Flycatcher sp. (I think a Western Wood-Pewee, but not sure enough to count)
  • Snowy Egret
  • Pied-billed Grebe
  • Belted Kingfisher
  • Chipping Sparrow
  • Green-winged Teal
  • Barn Swallow
  • Bewick’s Wren
  • Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Reluctantly we left the refuge and continued on our way headed to Cathedral Gorge State Park.  Once we got here we realized we had stopped by this spot once before – not to camp but to check out the site, which the state says is a photographer’s dream.  The area does have interesting geology (check out my photos and you will see why).
The campground is small.   There is water and for a fee – electricity ($10.00 per night extra), but free showers.  That is always nice after staying at federal facilities which lack such amenities (showers and electricity).  So we will recharge both ourselves (with a shower) and our electronics.  Tomorrow we head to Great Basin National Park.


I thought this truck was interesting – Cannabis Marketplace “Thrive”.

We took a hike from the campground to the day-use/picnic area via the 0.50 mile loop nature trail.  At the day-use/picnic area there is “Canyon Caves”.  They actually allow you to walk into the caves.  Very cool.  Of course I kept thinking ‘what if they had an earthquake and all this rock came down on top of us’.


Trail from campground to the caves










The brochure says ‘birds are plentiful’, but we only saw White-crowned Sparrows (which were plentiful), Common Raven, and two Rock Pigeons riding the thermals.  They looked like they were surfing the thermals.  The lack of diversity of bird species may be due to the heat, wind, time of year … so many different variables or a combination.

It was really windy when we were here – gusts up to 16 mph.  The winds finally stopped around 3:00 am.

October 17, 2016

Woke to no wind (relief), sunny skies, warm temperatures (60s).  I understand in Homer temperatures were in the high 20s, low 30s.  Brrrrrrrrr.

We left Cathedral Gorge State Park and made our way to the Great Basin National Park.  This park is located in Nevada, close to the Utah Border.  At the visitor center we saw a map of the different deserts – Great Basin, Mojave, Sonoran, and Chihuahuan.  The entire state of Nevada – the only state – that is all desert, encompassing most of the Great Basin Desert, with the southern end of the state falling within the Mojave desert.


There was actual ‘termination dust’ on that mountain top – pretty faint, but still there


If you look very closely (that gray stuff at the top) you can see the termination dust on the mountains

We got to the park around noon and found plenty of camping spots.  We chose to stay in the Baker Creek campground.  We will be here for two nights.  So what is there to do in the park?  Lots of hiking opportunities.  Of course we are prohibited from doing that because of our dog.  We don’t want to leave her long in the vehicles (even though it is cool here), and we can’t leave her tied up (not that we would) at the campsite.  Having said that, there is also the Lehman Cave, and we will try to go see them in the morning.  I suspect it will be quite cool when we wake up.


View from our campground


This Mule Deer and two others were walking around our campground


Cute little chipmunk


Wild Turkeys

The Gray Cliffs – a group camp area with beautiful rock cliffs



Jack and I are always disappointed with the national park visitor centers.  The National Park Service is supposed to be known for their interpretive programs, but so many of their park visitor centers lack interpretive displays, instead filling the space with gift stores.  Personally I find the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to have better interpretive displays.

October 18, 2016

Boy was it COLD this morning.  I have this device called a ‘Kestrel’ that measures wind speed and temperature.  I took it out this morning to check the temperature outside – 29.5 degrees at 7:00 am.  Brrrrrrrr.  But being Alaskan I had the right clothes to keep me warm.


This guy was trying to stay warm


Jack made me this beautiful pinyon pine cone wreath


Dried cones from the Pinyon Pine tree – there were LOTS of cones in our campground

We left our campsite at 7:45 am and headed to the Lehman Visitor Center to see if we could get tickets for the 9:00 am Lehman Cave tour.  SCORE!!!  Jack and I, along with 20 other hardy soles went underground and into a beautiful cave.  I suspect most caves are beautiful.  I took lots of photos, but the photos don’t do justice to the beauty of this cave, famous for its ‘shield’ formations.






After the cave tour we drove the road up to the Wheeler Peak campground and the parking lot for several area trails.  The campground has better sites than our campground – Baker Creek.  However, Baker Creek is about 2,500 feet lower in elevation than the  Wheeler Peak campground.  I did mark down some of the sites I would select if we ever stayed at this campground.  Of the 35 sites, only one was occupied at 1:30 pm. – maybe the 10,000′ elevation has something to do with that.

Jack hiked the Alpine Lakes Loop Trail while I walked the dog in the campground.  Dogs on leash are allowed in park service campgrounds.  Yippee!!!  On one loop, I was coming around the bend and was startled to see a Ruffed Grouse in the road.  I think we scared each other. I gasped my surprise, which caused him to flush.




View from near the top

As I mentioned, our campground is at around 7,500 feet.  We are on a different side of the mountain than the Wheeler Peak campground.  Driving up to that campground we observed several Clark’s Nutcrackers.  However, we haven’t seen a single Clark’s Nutcracker near our campground.  I found that odd.

Birds Species Observed or Heard:

  • Townsend’s Solitaire
  • Mountain Chickadee
  • Northern Flicker
  • Hairy Woodpecker
  • Red-breasted Nuthatch
  • Yellow-rumped Warbler
  • Dark-eyed Junco
  • Cassin’s Finch ???
  • American Robin
  • Clark’s Nutcracker
  • Red Crossbill
  • Ruffed Grouse

We are staying tonight at the campground and tomorrow will be heading to Antelope Island and the Great Salt Lake.  We plan to stay there about 3 nights.  Then its back into Nevada.

Happy Birding


Fall Birding – Arizona

Jack and I had planned to leave Alaska on October 2nd and make our way down to the lower 48 for the fall, winter, and spring.  Plans changed when my mother, who lived in Sedona Arizona, passed away on September 22nd.  The past few years have been hard for her health wise.  While we hate to lose our loved ones, we hate to see them in pain.  We miss her very much.


Termination Dust on the mountains above Tern Lake


Fall colors – on the ground


Trumpeter Swan – pair on Tern Lake

I flew to Arizona to help my father and was joined by four of my six siblings.  One of my sisters later joined my father and I after everyone else had gone home.  My oldest brother came for a visit later.  Great to see family again.

Jack drove me to Anchorage to catch my flight and continued on down the highway, arriving in Sedona eight days later – quite the long slog.  He did have the company of our dog Joey (aka Doodlebug).  We are not sure how she will like life in our van.   Guess we will find out – she endured the trek across Canada okay.


Mountain Chickadee at feeder at my parents’ house


Gambell’s Quail come in to eat in the late afternoon


Male Gambell’s Quail


This Cooper Hawk has been flying around the neighborhood in search of food – songbirds.

Jack and I were able to get out and do several hikes in the Sedona area:  Bubbling Ponds Preserve trails,  Bell Trail, Turkey Creek Trail, and Big Park Loop Trail.

Bubbling Ponds Preserve – Black Hawk Trail and Willow Point Loop Trail

This area, owned by the Arizona Department of Game and Fish, is an Important Bird Area.  I always love to come and walk the trails and check out the birds.   This  preserve is in the Page Springs Area near Sedona.  If you are ever in the area add this site to your list of places to visit.  It is well worth it.


Bubbling Ponds Preserve sign


Trail map


One of the ponds.  In the winter these ponds support a large number of waterfowl.  On the day of our visit we only observed four Mallards.


House Finch


Black Hawk Trail




I love the Fremont Cottonwood trees along Oak Creek.


Wetland area


Say’s Phoebe


Another pond at Bubbling Ponds Preserve

Birds observed or heard:

  • Black Phoebe
  • Turkey Vulture
  • Verdin
  • Bushtit
  • Gila Woodpecker
  • Mallard
  • Great Blue Heron
  • Pied Billed Grebe
  • Bewick’s Wren
  • White-crowned Sparrow
  • Ruby-crowned Kinglet
  • Osprey
  • Say’s Phoebe
  • House Finch
  • Common Raven
  • Lesser Goldfinch
Bell Trail

This trail is located to the east of I-17 and FS Road 618.  The trail is 6.8 miles one way (not that we went that far with a 13 year old dog in hot weather) – and is considered strenuous (but the first 2.3 miles is easy).   We really enjoy this trail that follows Beaver Creek (with many inviting pools of water) through a scenic canyon framed with majestic sycamore trees.


Rock Wren – right out of the chute                           (start of the trail)


Yes, this is Arizona. in Oct.  The trees were in full leaf out. Hard to see the birds at times.


Beautiful countryside


Saw several types of lizards


Lots of prickly (literally) cactus


The trail


Another lizard – where is my reptile id book???


Wet Beaver Creek


Jack’s contemplating the origins of the universe


Our third lizard


Cactus jelly anyone?


Don’t want to get too close – ouch!!!

While we were walking on the trail we heard a rock landslide and wondered what caused it as we couldn’t see anyone or anything nearby.  Was it a small tremor we couldn’t feel?  Was it the result of erosion?  Or did a dragonfly land on a rock and weigh just enough to cause a shift in the gravitational pull of the rock?  We will never know.

Birds observed or heard:

  • Rock Wren
  • Verdin
  • Bewick’s Wren
  • Bridled Titmouse
  • Ruby-crowned Kinglet
  • Sparrow sp.
  • Flycatcher sp.
  • Northern Flicker
  • Red-naped Sapsucker
Turkey Creek Trail

The Turkey Creek Trail is located off of the Verde Valley School Road in the Village of Oak Creek.  Trail length is 3.5 miles one-way, but we generally hike about 2-3 miles one-way, before turning around.  However, with Doodlebug, we shortened the hike to about 1.0 mile one-way.  The day was warm and sunny.   We only met a few people on the trail.


The newly named “Woodhouse’s Scrub Jay”


Beautiful morning – sunny, not yet too hot outside


Lots of flowering shrubbery


Trail marker


The trail


Doodlebug just off the trail


These trail markers are a necessity


Spotted Towhee


My, but that cactus has sharp spines

Birds observed or heard:

  • Spotted Towhee
  • Woodhouse’s Scrub Jay
  • Bewick’s Wren
  • Orange-crowned Warbler
  • Townsend’s Solitaire
  • Juniper Titmouse
  • Ladderback Woodpecker
  • Gila Woodpecker
Big Park Loop Trail

Our final hike was the Big Park Loop near Bell Rock.  Bell Rock is an icon of the Sedona area.  Lots of people hike to the top of the rocks (not me – I’m not crazy).  There are several trails in the general vicinity and we generally hike the Courthouse Butte Loop Trail.  Big Park Loop Trail covers part of the Courthouse Butte Loop Trail.  Since the Big Park Loop trail is shorter, we chose to take that trail.  When you have a 13 year old dog and you stop a lot for birds, the morning quickly heats up making it miserable for man or dog.

The Big Park Loop Trail is a moderate 2.6 mile hike.  Again we hiked under sunny skies, with great views of Bell Rock and Courthouse Butte.


Bell Rock – from the Big Park Loop Trail


Courthouse Butte – from the Big Park Loop Trail


Big Park Loop Trail


Anna’s Hummingbird


Big Park Loop Trail – open to hikers, runners, bikers, and horses


Another Anna’s Hummingbird (only birds I could get a photo)


Close up portion of Courthouse Butte. These photos do not do justice to this Butte. One of my favorite rock formations.

Birds observed or heard:

  • House Finch
  • White-crowned Sparrow
  • Mourning Dove
  • Anna’s Hummingbird
  • Yellow-rumped Warbler
  • Woodhouse’s Scrub Jay
  • Spotted Towhee
  • Juniper Titmouse
  • Chipping Sparrow
  • Woodpecker sp.  (only saw them briefly in flight)
What’s Next?

After a week in Sedona for Jack and two and a half weeks for me, we leave Wednesday morning.  I had thought we might head down to southern Arizona, but we aren’t much for the heat and the temperatures are expected to be in the high 80s and 90s.   At those temperatures not a lot moves – birds or humans.   Until next time ……..

It’s A Great Day to Bird


Rarity: Lesser Sand Plover

I get the ebird rare bird alerts.  Going through the alerts last week I noticed a Lesser Sand Plover was spotted in Arizona.  I checked the location of the siting and noted it was about 1.5 hours away from where we are staying (Sedona, Arizona).


Range Map for Lesser Sand Plover

So today, after a visit to see family in Flagstaff, we charted the drive to Round Cedar Lake on google maps and went in search of the Lesser Sand Plover.


Storm approaching

We made it to the site, located on the Navajo Reservation, and saw six other people watching and photographing the bird.  The bird was not difficult to spot being it was the only bird on the south pond (there are two ponds).  I was told by one person that he was able to get within twenty feet of the bird.  The bird did seem pretty tame.  We spent about 40 minutes watching the bird.  A small flock of ten Horned Larks subsequently joined the the plover.  What a pleasure to be able to see this amazing bird; and what adventures the bird must have had to get to a remote area in Arizona.


I love the clouds from this approaching storm.  This area will experience snow storms in the coming months.


The Lesser Sand Plover – a rarity for the United States


Lesser Sand Plover


Lesser Sand Plover


Lesser Sand Plover – there did to seem to be plenty of food for the bird


One of the ponds on which this little bird has been residing for the past week or so.

This was not a life bird for me as I saw this bird in Southeast Asia.  However,  I can add the bird to my North American list (if I had one).  Today was a really great day to bird.

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