The Last Lap

by AJ 15. March 2013 21:32

Hmmmm... it is now Wednesday and I intend to be home by Friday but am still in Arizona.  It's time to drive!  Leaving Willcox about 8:30 I dead-head east to Deming, NM and catch the shortcut to Hatch.  It was tempting to stop and buy a bunch of Hatch chili peppers but what would I do with them all?  North through Albuquerque, Las Vegas, and Raton.  The weather was great and I really enjoyed the drive through Raton Pass.  Prior to hitting the town I saw numerous pronghorns grazing in the grasslands.  Going through the mountains I was intrigued by all the signs warning of deer, elk, and bear but wasn't lucky enough to see any of these critters.  The New Mexico side of the pass is beautiful, but once one crosses into Colorado the scenery becomes spectacular.  There had obviously been a significant snowfall not so long ago.  It was getting dark by time I got to Colorado City (680 miles) so it was time to stop for the night.  This was the view from my motel.

The next morning it was off to Nebraska.  After getting through Colorado Springs and around Denver it was smooth sailing.  Once I reached Ogallala I took a short break and birded Lake Ogallala where the most significant bird was probably a Horned Grebe. There was also a good movement of primarily Snow Geese moving to the northwest.

Next stop was Sutherland Reservoir where the light was miserable and few birds outside of some geese and Mallards were identified.  Pushing further east, seeing a few cranes and large numbers of geese, I stopped for the night in Kearney,NE and spent the twilight hours watching Sandhill Cranes coming in from their feeding fields.  Another 500 miles under the belt.

The last stretch saw many flocks of geese flying overhead - mostly Snow Geese but also some Canadas.  The last stop was in Iowa and Lake Manawa SP.  Not all of the eagles have left yet.  This guy had a nice fish for lunch.

Home in time to pick up the mail and another adventure comes to a close.


Birds | Travel


Heading for Home (Birder's Direct Route) Part 2 - 12 Mar 2013

by AJ 13. March 2013 00:01

One of the purposes of heading south was to experience the Common Black Hawk migration along the Santa Cruz River.  After breakfast I headed for Tubac and immediately found a good number of birders waiting for action.  The first bird was a Prairie Falcon which was a nice omen.  Next up were two buteos, one of which was a Red-tail but the other was a beautiful Ferruginous that was pretty unusual for this area.  Magically those two were joined by the target - a Common Black Hawk.

It was soon joined by three others and they drifted lazily to the north.  I turned my attention to the pair of Vermilion Flycatchers and a few other passerines when another eight materialized from nowhere and headed north.  I worked so hard in 100+ degree heat for my first one and now there were 12 easy to see.  What a cool experience.

From there it was south to Nogales and then back north to Patagonia where I took a little break at the Paton House.  The birds were about the same as when I was there almost a month ago now but the hummers are beginning to return.  This Broad-billed was beautiful.

I had seen a Cooper's Hawk sitting on a sign along the frontage road and there was a Sharp-shinned terrorizing the neighborhood at Paton's so the next destination was the San Pedro House near Sierra Vista in hopes of seeing the Gray Hawk.  No joy there but it was fun to just enjoy a few birds I don't see at home such as these Lesser Goldfinch, Pyrrhuloxia, and White-winged Dove.  The dove numbers have increased over the month.


Next stop would be Whitewater Draw which necessitated going south through Bisbee and then back north.  In a couple of days I will be seeing migrating cranes along the Platte River in Nebraska but there are still a few thousand wintering here.  They were joined by Snow Geese, Ross' Geese and one Gr. White-fronted Goose.  A few ducks also presented some photo opportunities.

It was now about 3:00 PM so there was still time to visit Chiricahua National Monument and get some feel for the effect of the Horseshoe 2 fire.  An added benefit was to have one more chance to see birds like Mexican Jay.

The drive through Sulphur Springs Valley as the sun was setting brought out numerous Northern Harriers and Red-tailed Hawks.  The day ended at Willcox with one lap around Lake Cochise.  There was nothing very unusual but the sunset was nice.  Another nice end to birding in Arizona.


Birds | Travel


Heading for Home (Birder's Direct Route) Part 1 - 11 Mar 2013

by AJ 11. March 2013 23:46

It's time to leave the Phoenix area and head towards home but it's a mess in the mountains to the north and Iowa is getting it again.  What to do?  Only one choice - head south.  After breakfast with Kurt I tried one more time to find a caracara in the Santa Cruz Flats with no luck. On to Green Valley and an afternoon once again birding Madera Canyon.  I found that when I left there earlier it was a good choice - they had seven inches of snow the next day!  It was great to enjoy Hepatic Tanager, Painted Redstart, etc. one more time.  New trip birds included Gould's Wild Turkey and Hutton's Vireo.

Wild Turkey (Gould's) 

Yellow-eyed Junco

Lesser Goldfinch

Acorn Woodpecker


Birds | Travel


Central Arizona - Just Meandering (3 Mar 2013)

by AJ 3. March 2013 14:51

The last few days have been spent just meandering around the Phoenix area exploring new places and old.  Even waiting until after rush hour was over, it was a brutal drive across the city to the thrasher place out past Buckeye.  The thrashers were no where to be found in my limited time wandering through the creosote and the recently reported Tundra Swans were also MIA.  I did manage to find a few Loggerhead Shrikes, however.

I next explored an area I'd never visited and took Old Hwy. 80 to Gila Bend where I saw a huge solar generating station, looped around back through the Sonoran Desert National Monument, through the town of Maricopa, and back to Mesa.  Since the afternoon was still far from dusk, I rode up to Canyon Lake.  It's just so pretty up there.

On Saturday I spent quite a bit of time wandering around Boyce-Thompson Arboretum, always one of my favorite places to visit.  The birding wasn't great but how can you not enjoy hearing a Canyon Wren sing from the cliff side?

I thought this guy was pretty entertaining.  When a guy's in the desert and thirsty, you just have to find water wherever you can!

Tonight I get to celebrate Kurt's birthday with him for the first time since he left for college oh so many years ago!


Birds | Travel

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