31 December 2018

We woke to ‘frost on the pumpkin’ frigid temperatures; 30 degrees Fahrenheit.  Brrrrrrrrrrr.  I didn’t sleep well last night.  I was in the fetal position trying to stay warm.  We don’t run our heater at night.  I kept thinking I should get up and plug in the electric blanket, but I didn’t.   However, today it is sunny and nice out, which always helps.

Yesterday we were told if we wanted to hike the park (Hueco Tanks State Park), we should come to the office at 7:30 a.m. and get a permit.  We decided not to hike the park (to cold for me), so we exited the park.  However, during our video presentation it was suggested that we notify the park staff of our departure.  So I decided to be a good park user and notify the office we were leaving.  When I arrived there were probably about 15 people in the small office waiting to get their permits.  All of these people were campers, and many of them rock climbers.  Yes, you can climb certain areas of the park, with a permit, but without any equipment – only free hold.  So everyone has what they call “crash pads” so if they fall, their fall is cushioned – they hope.  I quickly cut to the front of the line and dropped off the receipt we were given to place on our windshield and told the park ranger we were checking out.  Oh and the park requires everyone to sign a form acknowledging the rules.  And “everyone” must sign the form – well adults that is.

I’m not sure how many people they allow into the park at one time, but as we were driving out we saw six cars drive in.  And when we got to the entrance, there were an additional 25 cars waiting to enter the park.  The purpose of limiting the number of people who can go into the park is to protect the cultural (pictographs) and natural resources.  The park was so popular people were adding their own drawings to the rock walls (or vain signatures) and they were trampling the vegetation, so the park decided to restrict access to only a certain number of people at a time and, in some areas, people are restricted to guided hikes only.

This Loggerhead Shrike was all puffed out – trying to stay warm in the cold morning

We spent much of the remainder of the day driving from the park to our campground for the next two nights – Catalina State Park, just outside of Tucson.  There is a winter storm warning for here as well, with the possibility of snow.  Great way to start the New Year –NOT!!!  We were actually pretty lucky to get a spot at all.  When I went online they showed no openings in the loops that have electricity but when we called the timing was right as they just had a cancellation – we’re in!  And with temperatures dropping into the low 30s, we want to be able to run our heater before bed and first thing in the morning.

We got to the park around 3:00 p.m., set up, and decided to check out the trails and see what birds might be out-and-about on a blustery cold day.  Luckily here you don’t need a permit to use the trails.  So what birds did we see?  By the time we went out and back, we saw a total of 13 different species.  Going out, the birding was slow, but coming back we had one area with at least six different species – almost half of what we saw.  The surprise was finding a Lawrence’s Goldfinch.  I wish the bird would have cooperated and let me take a photograph.  I’ve only seen this species of goldfinch in Arizona four times.  You might think that is a lot, but I’ve been to Arizona many times birding and failed to see it (birders are never satisfied).  The first time I saw this species was on a Christmas Bird Count in Sedona.  A beautiful little bird.  Look it up and see for yourself.

Our campsite at Catalina State Park (Site #38)

This is a path that leads to the restrooms so we get a lot of traffic near our site

Snow threatening

Trail between campground and main trailhead

White-crowned Sparrow

Pyrrhuloxia (aka pyrex – our shorthand name for this species )

Lots of Saguaro cactus – many with multiple arms and it takes 50 years to have an arm appear

The river bed has always head water in it when we’ve been here in the past, although not much water.  Now dry.

I like this – sunscreen dispensers. I didn’t check to see if there was anything in them.

I was able to add five First of Year species to my final 2018 North American Bird list:  Lawrence’s Goldfinch, Gambell’s Quail, Rufous-winged Sparrow, Black-tailed Gnatcatcher (thank you Jack for spotting this bird), and the ever popular Green-tailed Towhee.  The towhee likewise was not very cooperative when it came time for getting a photo of the bird.  Although it was close, there was always too much vegetation in the way.

We had to leave this birdy spot as it had started to rain.  Earlier Jack has seen a snowflake or two.  Plus, it was coming on 5:00 p.m., with the sun setting about a half hour after that.  And we still had dinner to cook and flannel sheets to put on the bed.

1 January 2019

Happy New Years Everyone

Woke to another cold morning: 35 degrees, so slightly warmer.   All relative I guess.  The skies were overcast and we had rain last night.  Jack thinks about ¾ – 1 inch based on the amount in a pan we left out.  There was a lot of snow on the nearby mountains.  A beautiful scene and luckily none in the campground.

After a slow morning getting started, we headed off to bird the campground and nearby trails.  This is a new year and so for me another yearly list of birds observed.  Everything today is a “First of Year”  (FOY) species for 2019.  I have 27 species for my list.  My favorite???  Hard to name just one or two.  We got to see the Cactus Wren, and well you should know by now how I feel about wrens (love them, my favorites).  We also got to see the Green-tailed Towhee again.  This isn’t a bird we see regularly so always happy to see the bird.  And the Lawrence’s Goldfinch were back, this time six of them rather than the two we saw yesterday.  I got a decent photo of the male.  And for the first bird of the year – a Cooper’s Hawk that was in the tree right outside our van calling to another Cooper’s Hawk nearby.  What a great bird to start the year.

Cooper’s Hawk

Our campsite

A “California” van – nicely painted with an albatross

This Gila Woodpecker …

… was busy drumming on the metal post  and making lots of racket

Snow on the Catalina Mountains

Cactus Wren

Green-tailed Towhee – more cooperative today photowise


Western Bluebird

Female Phainopepla

Abert’s Towhee


Lawrence’s Goldfinch (male)

The Birding Trail (what goes up, must go down)


We went for another walk shortly near the campground before dusk, and observed two additional First of Year birds: Lark’s Sparrow and Ruby-crowned Kinglet, bringing the day’s total to 29 species.  Not too shabby.

Lark Sparrow

Phainopepla – male

Gila Woodpecker – the have an easy call “he, he, he, he, he, he, he”

Lawrence’s Goldfinch

I hope this year promises to be a continuation of “Year of the Bird” – every year should be a year for birds.  Yay Birds!!!

2 January 2019

Another cold morning.  I’m so glad we brought our portable heater and we are staying in a campground with electricity.

We decided to check out the Sweetwater Wetlands (part of the Tucson Waste Water Treatment Plant).  We were surprised at how many cars we saw in the parking lot, although not many people on the trails.  We ventured out, but wished we had dressed a little more warmly.  I think my toes were ready to break off, and if I took my gloves off to better use my camera – well let’s just say I didn’t take many photos.

We were surprised we didn’t see a lot of birds braving the cold, other than waterfowl, although we had 21 different species.  The real treat for us was to have two Sora rails near the trail.  Both stayed out in the open (well enough so we could watch them, but always behind some reeds so couldn’t get a decent photo) for longer than is typical for rails.  Rails are skulkers.  I usually hear them more than I see them.  Of the 21 birds we did see, 15 of them were First of Year (FOY) birds.

American Coot

Northern Shoveler (male)

Ruddy Duck

Ruddy Ducks

Hummingbird nest box

Anna’s Hummingbird

We did a little shopping afterwards stopping at Costco (a typical madhouse), Trader’s Joe’s (I had to remember we were traveling and didn’t have a lot of room in the van otherwise I would have bought more), and Target (we love their blue chips).  We then returned to the campground.

Once we got back to the campground we stored our stash, then headed out on the trails to look for more birds.  The most productive birding area for us is and around the campground and the trail between the campground and the main trailhead.  We took a nature trail near the main trailhead and didn’t see or hear a single bird.  Depressing.  But on our walk back to the campground, once we were off the nature trail, we did see 16 different species, so that was nice.  New birds (FOY) for the park were: Hutton’s Vireo and Vermillion Flycatcher.

Rufous-winged Sparrow

Most likely an old Cactus Wren nest

3 January 2019

Today was essentially a travel day.  We did spend two hours waiting to have the oil changed in the van (we didn’t have an appointment but worth the wait as the oil change was free – dealership where we bought the van).

We stopped in Apache Junction to have lunch with good friends Carla and Wayne.  They are Homerites who spend the winter in Arizona.  We had the best ham and bean soap I’ve ever tasted.  They have several bird feeders so we sat and watched the feeders, enjoying the Gambel’s Quail and the Anna’s Hummingbird.  Of course there were plenty of House Sparrows, Rock Pigeons, and Eurasian Collared-Doves too.  We even had a Bald Eagle fly over, which is unusual for this area (the eagle, not the fly-overs).  And yes, I did get five First of Year bird’s here.

We left Apache Junction around 2:30 p.m., and proceeded to drive to Sedona, making our way through the megatropolis of the Phoenix metro area.  That alone took almost an hour on the freeways.  Yikes!!!  Glad I don’t live here.  We got to Sedona a little after 5:00 p.m., with the sun just getting ready to set so the glow on the red rocks was beautiful.

4 January 2019

The morning was spent on mindless busywork around my dad’s house.  We will be here through January 12th, for sure and maybe longer if my eye glasses don’t come back.  I’m having new lens put in because the ones I have now always seemed to be smeared.  When I clean them it is almost like I am smearing the smudges, not really cleaning the lens.  I guess that is what you get when you only pay $100 for both the lens and the frames.

In the afternoon we headed over to the Page Springs Fish Hatchery/Bubbling Ponds to check out the birds.  I was able to add another 13 birds to my 2019 Bird List (i.e., First of Year).  I was surprised at how few songbirds we have observed on this trip.  What is happening to our songbirds, especially our sparrows?

The fish hatchery has a number of open-air ponds that are frequented by ducks – the “Bubbling Ponds”.  The winner in shear numbers was the Ring-necked Duck, which I estimated  at over 300 between the various ponds.  Near the end, we finally saw the bird I had been searching for – Bridled Titmouse.  We saw five of these little birds working furiously in the trees feeding on seeds or bugs.  All of sudden, all the birds in the trees and on the ground (titmouse, bluebird, towhee, sparrow) scattered in a mad flurry.  That can only mean one thing – RAPTOR!!!  Sure enough in the tree we spotted a Merlin, which at first I mistook for a Sharp-shinned Hawk.  Thanks Jason for setting me straight.  I thought it was a Sharp-shinned Hawk due to the color of its leg feathers.  They are a reddish color – the same color as the breast of the sharpie.   After Jason said it looked like a Merlin, I took my photo and uploaded it to Merlin ID app (an amazing app) and it came back as “Merlin” or “Eurasian Kestrel”.  Well it wasn’t a kestrel.

We really enjoyed the crisp air, sun, and walk watching all the birds.  In total we had 33 different species.

Lots of Black Phoebes at Page Springs, including this one

Can you find the Great Blue Heron in this photo?

Maybe this will help?

Ring-necked Duck

Redhead (and Ring-necked Duck)


Canvasback (male)

American Wigeon

One of the “bubbling ponds”

Say’s Phoebe

American Pipit

Black Hawk Trail

Snow on the shaded portion of the trail

Western Bluebird

Bridled Titmouse


5 January 2019

The morning was spent working on my blog – Texas Part 2 and other miscellaneous tasks.  In the afternoon we went for a 4-mile hike (out-and-back) on the Turkey Creek Trail (#92) in the Coconino National Forest near the Village of Oak Creek.  We like this scenic and gentle hike, although we usually don’t see a lot of birds.  Today we had a total of 5 different species, and only 8 total birds.  Pretty quiet.  The hike started out with partly sunny skies, temperatures in the low 50s, and no wind.  However, by the end of the hike the clouds had come with the threat of snow late tonight/early tomorrow.  We did hear gunshots off in the distance.  Sounded like someone was firing a semi-automatic weapon.

6 January 2019

Today was a lazy day.  It was raining most of the day, so other than a short walk around the neighborhood, we only went out for  breakfast and dinner.  I did get a number of tasks accomplished, like working on my blog.  Surprisingly I did see a First of Year bird today – a Mountain Chickadee came to the feeder.

7 January 2019

Finally got my blog done (Texas Part 2) and posted – woohoo!!!  Nice to have that done.

In the afternoon, we went for a hike on Bell Trail #13 near the Village of Oak Creek.  We try to do this trail every time we are in the area.  One of our favorite hikes.  We hiked for about 6 miles out and back, seeing 15 different species, of which five were First of Year.  This is usually a good place to see the Townsend’s Solitaire and we weren’t disappointed.  We had at least two.  We also had a sighting of two Rock Wrens and a Canyon Wren in the same area.  I so love my wrens.  The surprise bird was the Rufous-crowned Sparrow.  We’ve seen this bird in southern Arizona, but this is the first time we’ve seen this sparrow in the Sedona area.

The weather was good for the hike – partly cloudy, no wind (until then end, and then only light), and temperatures in the low 50s.  We encountered at least 10 other people and four dogs on the trail.  We did find a dead deer (buck) off the trail.  It looks as though it died within the last day or two (yet to be discovered by the ravens).  Its head was somewhat twisted in the brush. so maybe in a territorial battle?

White-crowned Sparrow – this bird was just off the trail at the trailhead

Start of the trail

Rocky in places

Townsend’s Solitaire

Woodhouse’s Scrub-Jay

Juniper Titmouse

A portion of the trail is in the Wet Beaver Wilderness – Wet Beaver Creek runs through the area.  Yes, there is also a Dry Beaver Creek.

Have to be careful where you walk. It would be easy to twist an ankle or fall and break a bone or two.

On the trail looking down at Wet Beaver Creek

Yes, this is the trail

Here too is the trail

A truly beautiful part of the trail.   Very scenic.  That’s Jack ahead of me.

Looked like a wreath someone would put on their door

Yours truly on the trail

Northern Flicker

Rock Wren

Looking both ways

8 January 2019

We are still in Sedona.  Today we went for a hike nearby – Courthouse Loop Trail (which includes the Bell Rock Trail).  We went just before 1:00 p.m., and there were a lot of people out enjoying the trails in the beautiful, warm sunshine (mid 50s).  Portions of the trail on the shaded north side of Courthouse Butte were muddy from melting snow, but not too bad.  There were some crazy people climbing Bell Rock.  Well I think they are crazy, but then again I am afraid of heights.

There wasn’t much bird activity at this time of day – only 5 species, and only seven total birds, although I did hear some off in the distance I could not identify.  I hope the lack of bird activity is because of the time of day and not because there are so many fewer birds.  We always hike this trail when we visit, and there have definitely been more birds in previous years.  We were last here in March 2017.

There are a LOT of trails in the Sedona area. A hiker’s paradise.

Courthouse Butte


Bell Rock

Yes, the trail traverses this area

Courthouse Butte – east side

Rabbit Ears – on the right

You can easily climb onto this rock

The trail can be quite rocky in places

And with the recent snow and rain, quite muddy too

North side of Courthouse Butte

Bell Rock – North side

Bell Rock

9 January 2019

I went on a guided bird walk in the morning at Red Rock State Park.  We began at the feeding stations near the visitor center and then walked the Kisva Traili (along Oak Creek), out and back.  We only saw one species – a Ruby-crowned Kinglet – along the the trail, although I did hear a Canyon Wren.

At the feeding stations, however, we had a lot of different species – plenty to eat at the feeders so why go out and search for food elsewhere.  There is a big field before you cross over Oak Creek and begin the Kisva Trail.  One the way back to the feeding stations, we did have a nice flock of Western Bluebirds and several Say’s Phoebe.  There were two young birders (I suspect in their 20s) and it was fun to watch them get excited about the birds.  They were from the Washington D.C. area.  The other two birders (there were only five of us, plus the leader), an older couple were from Pennsylvania.  They were only in Arizona for a couple of days and the guy wanted to see three specific birds: Common Black Hawk, Pinyon Jay, and Juniper Titmouse.  As soon as they left the park, and the young couple and I went back to the feeding station, in comes a Juniper Titmouse.  I felt bad that the Pennsylvania couple weren’t around to see the bird.  We got really good looks at the titmouse as it kept coming back to the feeder for food – cracked corn primarily.

Feeding stations at the Visitor Center. You can actually look down onto the feeding stations.

White-crowned Sparrow – one of many

Oregon Dark-eyed Junco

Abert’s Towhee

Northern Cardinal contemplating whether to go to the feeder or not.  He went.

Female Northern Cardinal

Spotted Towhee

Juniper Titmouse

Trying to get the seed from its shell

Dark-eyed Junco and House Finch

Juniper Titmouse

Our group

Oak Creek


Kisva Trail


Western Bluebird (male)

Say’s Phoebe

Smoke Trail

Oak Creek adjacent to Smoke Trail

I continued birding at the park after leaving the feeding station, and in all saw 24 different species, of which five are First of Year birds:  Red-naped Sapsucker, White-breasted Nuthatch, Spotted Towhee, Bewick’s Wren (my favorite), and White-throated Sparrow.  The White-throated Sparrow is considered an “accidental” – meaning no seen in the area often.  I wonder if it is the same bird I saw two years ago when I was here doing the Christmas Bird Count?

Afterwards I went to Sedona to get my second Shingles shot.  The CVS store that had the shot had just lost their internet coverage so I was out of luck.  I ended up driving to the Safeway in Cottonwood, about 20 miles away, to get the shot, which I did after waiting about 40 minutes.  I guess they were busy filling prescriptions.

10 January 2019

Today was a day to hang around the house.  Remember the Shingles shot I mentioned?  Well around 8:00 p.m. last night I started feeling achy.  And when I went to bed my arms hurt down to and including my hands.  And today I woke up feeling like a Mack truck hit me.  I guess this feeling is better than getting Shingles.  So today was an easy day.

11 January 2019

Another lazy day.  For some reason I just couldn’t gather the energy to get outside and enjoy the sunshine and look for birds.  I had thought about going back to Page Springs to search for the Common Black Hawk that had been seen there lately (we missed it earlier), but ended out just staying home.

12 January 2019

Went to visit family (Jack’s son, daughter-in-law, and grandkids) in Flagstaff today.  Had a great visit and enjoyed catching up on their lives.  Kevin (son) has done an enormous amount of hard work fixing up their backyard and it looks great.  Amazing what he has accomplished in the two years since I last visited.

My granddaughter Molly made a Steller’s Jay and entered it into the Cococino County Fair where she won first prize.  I was lucky enough to be given this creative work of art as a Christmas present.  Thank you so much Molly.  Right now it is sitting in our van and will accompany us north.  Once we are home, it will hold a special place in our home.

Steller’s Jay

13 January 2019

Today is our final full day in Sedona.  We’ve had a great visit and had a chance to just sit back and relax a little.  I’ve been doing a little housecleaning today, helping out my 89 year-old father.   It will be sad to leave as I’ve enjoyed my visit with him.  Thanks Dad for everything.  Love you.

We haven’t gone birding in three days so it will be nice to get back on the ‘bird trail’ again.

Tomorrow we leave Sedona and head to Kofa National Wildlife Refuge where we hope to primitive camp for the next several nights.  We also hope to visit the Cibola National Wildlife Refuge nearby.  We don’t know what to expect since the partial government shutdown is still going on.  I really feel bad for those furloughed government workers.  It is unfortunate we have a president who is willing to use them as leverage to get something he should have been able to get his first two years in office – when his party was in control of Congress.  This isn’t right.  There are so many people who suffer because of his actions – government employees, businesses that support these employees, the public who depend upon these employees for so many things (managing our public lands, keeping our transportation system moving (TSA), keeping our waters safe (Coast Guard), and protecting our borders (Border Patrol)).  While some of these people are still working, asking them to work without pay is just wrong.  It doesn’t matter if they will be reimbursed once the impasse ends.  These people need their paychecks now.  And yes, personally I put full responsibility for this crisis on the president.  If you don’t agree with me that is your right.  I’m just so happy we live in a society where we can all freely express our opinions.  We can’t let anything or anyone change that freedom.

And we need to protect our environment and our wildlife, now and in the future, so it is always …

A Great Day to Bird