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


Central Arizona - Salt River and North (27 Feb 2013)

by AJ 27. February 2013 21:31

The first order of business today was to try for better photos of the Red-breasted Sapsucker at Blue Point RA along the Salt River north of Mesa.  Unfortunately I didn't even notice the small branch in the way until I got home and began viewing my photos, but it's not too bad.  What a beauty!

Birding was a bit slow at most areas.  A few days ago, when I first visited Saguaro Lake, there were lots of Western Grebes on the water and without my scope along I wondered what else might be out there.  Today I had my scope but there was a total turnover in birds.  With so little activity I headed further north towards Payson and first stop was the road to Mt. Ord.  After driving through a few snow patches in the lower elevations, I felt it prudent to turn around and not get too high.  Looked like it could get a little dicey up there.

The next stop was just down the road along Sycamore Creek.  Again birding was a bit slow but I did pick up a pair of Red Crossbills and a pair of Eastern Bluebirds for the trip.  The only thing that wanted to pose for a bit was this Red-tailed Hawk.

Sycamore Creek is really picturesque but just wasn't terribly birdy this afternoon.

With plans to have dinner with Uncle Ron and Aunt Betty, I spent the rest of the afternoon back along the Salt River watching such mundane birds as Bald Eagle, Vermilion Flycatcher, Phainopepla, Marsh Wren, and even Common Mergansers.  It looked like a perfect afternoon for kayaking the river.

The late afternoon lighting on Red Mountain is superb!

I pulled into Ron & Betty's drive and finally had a chance for a photo of my lifer for this trip - Rosy-faced Lovebird.  I've seen them many times before but just last summer the ABA deemed them established in the US and thus countable on my life list.


Birds | Travel


Central Arizona - Gilbert Water Ranch (26 Feb 2013)

by AJ 26. February 2013 20:10

After a day of running around doing other fun things (OK, watching the ISU game with Kurt was excruciating), today I finally got out for a little birding.  I'm about three miles from one of my favorite places and still hadn't made it there so it was off to Gilbert Water Ranch where I found my first dragonfly of 2013 - a Variegated Meadowhawk.  It was afternoon so the sun and lighting weren't great but I got some passable photos I guess.  First up was this Snowy Egret having a bad hair day.  In reality I think his hormones were beginning to crank up since he was chasing a presumed female around the pond.


There were a few shorebirds around such as Long-billed Dowitchers, Least Sandpipers, several American Avocets changing into colorful breeding plumage, and perhaps my favorite - Black-necked Stilt.


Other water birds included Great Egrets, Great Blue Herons, several dabbling ducks, both Double-crested and Neotropic Cormorants, and this Green Heron who did his level best to stay behind branches and in the shadows just to make photography nearly impossible.


Great-tailed Grackles are everywhere and this female posed nicely for a moment.


Today I finally saw my first Inca Doves of the trip.


The common winter birds of the riparian include Yellow-rumped (Audubon's) Warblers, Northern Mockingbirds, Anna's Hummingbirds, the occasional Black Phoebe, and plenty of White-crowned Sparrows.


And of course, the ubiquitous Verdins which nest in all months of the year.


Two common birds of this area that can be hard to photograph well because at least for me they tend to bury themselves in shady vegetation - Abert's Towhee


and Curve-billed Thrasher.


I even managed to see a couple of mammals - this Desert Cottontail


and what I believe is a Cotton Rat.  Someone can correct me if I'm wrong.


This was the longest walk I've taken since the last leg break so we'll see if an overnight recovery will happen so I can get back out tomorrow.  The time is going much too quickly!


Birds | Travel


Central Arizona - Desert Botanical Garden, Papago Park, Seven Springs (24 Feb 2013)

by AJ 24. February 2013 21:51

A busy day began with meeting friend Pete Moulton at the Desert Botanical Garden where the cold wind made the fleece necessary.  The wind pretty much kept the birds down but we saw a few things and it was great to catch up with Pete.  The prize was probably this Great Horned Owl, but we found a few other birds as well.  My shots of the Gambel's Quail were all worthless and the Curve-billed Thrashers insisted on staying in the shade and under the brush. The little Costa's Hummingbird just wouldn't pose for me.

Great Horned Owl


Anna's Hummingbird


Cactus Wren



Pete then took me down to the ponds in Papago Park to do a little duck shooting.  The wind was cold and I didn't stay long but it was a good place to get up close and personal with a few things.


American Coot


Female Canvasback


Young male Hooded Merganser


Ring-necked Duck

I then headed north to meet up with Angie and her friend Liz and we went for a ride north into the mountains to the Seven Springs area.  The beautiful rolling hills are such a quiet and peaceful place and only a few miles away from the bustling city.  The recent rains made the road a bit rough and washboarded but what a great afternoon.  I think Liz said it was in the 40's so we keep the top on!  Cold, windy, but still beautiful.  What a fun day!



Birds | Travel


Central Arizona - Red Mountain Park and the Superstitions (22 Feb 2013)

by AJ 22. February 2013 22:18

This was a short afternoon out with the first goal of finding the Bendire's Thrasher in a Mesa city park nearby.  Although the habitat was a little strange for this species, as I started walking around this urban fishing lake I heard it singing.  The bird was obviously used to people as it let me walk close and get some great shots.


From there it was on to Apache Junction to survey the incredible snow on the Superstitions.  I've seen a light dusting on them before but never anything to this extent and lasting so long.  While at Lost Dutchman State Park I managed to get the best photo I've taken to date of one of my favorite birds of this area - Phainopepla.





Birds | Travel


Central Arizona - Salt River Valley (21 Feb 2013)

by AJ 21. February 2013 22:05

After hanging out with Dick and Gerry for a bit, I decided to get out of their hair so they could pack and headed up the Salt River in search of the lingering Red-breasted Sapsucker, a rare visitor from California.  As luck would have it, I ran into a group of gals who had just seen the bird so at least I knew the general location.  After about a half hour wait it reappeared.



Other places birded along this road included Granite Reef, Phon D. Sutton, Coon Bluff, Saguaro Lake, and Butcher Jones.  The lake had both Eared and Western Grebes.  Six Bald Eagles were playing over Coon Bluff and I found a Gray Flycatcher there as well.  The snow on the mountains created some dramatic landscapes.


Of course one of my favorites is Red Mountain standing high above the Salt River.




SE Arizona - The Snow Arrives (20 Feb 2013)

by AJ 20. February 2013 21:06

At dinner the night before Bob had told me I might have trouble finding a room in north Tucson because of the Accenture Golf Tournament.  He was prophetic because I got one of the last four rooms.  The place was crawling with golf fans anticipating Tiger's return to the tournament.  It was a fairly pleasant evening and hard to believe that a snow storm was imminent.

I had hoped to maybe be just enough ahead of the front to bird Catalina State Park on the way north and the prospects were looking OK when I checked out.  The road to Mt. Lemmon had already been closed and looking up that direction to a mountain enshrouded in clouds it made sense.  But we were much lower in elevation so there was hope.  It didn't take too many miles, however, before rain drops started falling and by time I got to the entrance to Catalina the wipers were on.  Being a wimp I couldn't see any reason to get cold and wet searching for a Golden-crowned Sparrow.  Onward.

Rather than deal with Interstate traffic, I took the scenic route through Florence.  The rain went from intermittent to steady and in places the desert had standing sheet water.  Just after I reached US Hwy. 60 east of Apache Jct. the heavy snow began.  The whole thing was a bit bizarre because this is a 65 mph highway and people were driving 30.  The roadway was just wet but I wonder if the curiosity of it all slowed folks down.  The heavy wet stuff began sticking to vegetation on the roadside.

It was about 11:00 am and there was time to try to meet Kurt for lunch of he was available so the plan became a judgement call based on what was happening by time I got into Mesa.  If it was still snowing, all bets were off and it was go to plan B.  Miraculously the rain and snow stopped although streets were flooded as I made my way to a safe spot to call Kurt.  About an hour later I got to spend a little time with number one son.

Later in the afternoon, while getting lost trying to find Dick and Gerry's house where I would be staying for a couple of weeks, I did manage to bump into a pair of Rosy-faced Lovebirds, the first I've seen since the ABA ruled they are now established in this area.  Lifer!

Watching the news was almost surreal.  The golf course in Tucson was covered with snow and play was suspended.  Friends Sheri and Tom were really getting hammered down in Bisbee.  No doubt Madera Canyon had been blanketed.  Mesa was chilly but snowless.




SE Arizona - Sweetwater Wetlands (19 Feb 2013)

by AJ 19. February 2013 19:00

With plans for dinner with old friend Clarice and her husband, and the likelihood of nasty weather the following day, I decided to bird Sweetwater before backtracking for dinner.  The thousands of mostly Northern Shovelers were in constant motion.  Cinnamon Teal are always a treat.  Both Yellow-rumped and Orange-crowned Warblers bounced around in the wind.  A juvenile Harris' Hawk posed nicely for me.  After dinner, despite the nice invitation from Bob and Clarice to stay at their place, I headed to the north side of Tucson for the night in hopes of beating the weather the next day.

Here are some photos from Sweetwater:


Black Phoebe


Common Gallinule


Harris' Hawk


Lincoln's Sparrow


Northern Shoveler


Birds | Travel

Powered by BlogEngine.NET
Original Design by Laptop Geek, Adapted by onesoft