It's a Great Day to Bird

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



  1. Robin Edwards

    Hi Michele. I am enjoying your blog, especially since my husband and I are traveling down to Arizona this winter also. We left Homer on the 26th of September, and drove down along with our cat Rocket arriving in Sacramento to visit family, not knowing that visit would involve a unexpected need to move my Dad to a new care home. We hope to be on our way to Arizona by the end of the month and I am keeping a list of your stops, in the hopes we can also bird those areas. Thanks for all the great info, and maybe our paths will cross somewhere along the way.

    Robin Edwards

    • alaskabirder


      Page springs – Bubbling Ponds is a favorite around Sedona. Also Deadhorse Ranch in Cottonwood (near Sedona). Other favorites spots in Arizona include Gilbert Ranch in Gilbert (suburb of Phoenix). Lots of walkers there too. Madera Canyon, Whitewater Draw, Patagonia Lake State Park, Sonita Prserve in Patagonia, Paton’s in Patagonia (Tucson Audubon property), Sweetwater in Tucson (wastewater treatment plant), Catalina State Park, and Cave Creek Canyon – to name a few. We love Arizona for birding.

      Will you be camping? We head north today and then will be back in Sedona for Christmas, then down to southern Arizona after the first of the year. Will keep in touch. Maybe our paths will cross.

  2. Nina Faust

    Could the rock fall have been caused by a bighorn sheep? Any in the area? I have been in circumstances as you describe in the desert and that is what caused the rock fall.

    • alaskabirder

      We didn’t see any evidence of wildlife. However, those stealth animals could have been there.

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