Northern Beardless Tyrannulet
Handsome Ruddy Duck
Western Wood Pewee
Deborah and I are really enjoying winters and springs in Mesa. We even manage to do a bit of birding between swimming, hiking, biking, working out at LA Fitness, and let's not forget my favorite non-travel time fun... Pickelball!
Only minutes from our home, these shots were taken at Granite Reef along the Salt River
On our seemingly traditional April trip to Patagonia St. Pk. we managed to get our favorite site #12. Right at the head of the legendary birding trail.
Coot with it's "cute" Coot chicks
For my birthday, Deborah gave me a most excellent gift! A "Big Day" with renowned local bird guide Richard Fray.
On April 28th Richard arrived at our site at 5:30 AM. We began what turned out to be an outstanding day by birding the Patagonia Lake Birding Trail. There we (mostly Richard) quickly identified over 60 birds. The list included such nuggets as Neotropic Cormorant, White-faced Ibis, Black Vulture, Gray Hawk, Common Ground Dove, Pacific Slope, Brown-crested and Vermillion Flycatchers, Rufous-winged Sparrow, Summer Tanager, Lazuli Bunting, and my first "lifer" of the day, a Black-capped Gnatcatcher!
Driving out the access road of the park we also added some nice birds including my second lifer of the trip... a Botteri's Sparrow.
At the also-famous Patagonia roadside rest we added the sought after breeding Thick-billed Kingbird.
From the rest stop we quickly visited the Paton Center.
There we added close to a dozen more birds including Inca Dove, Violet-crowned Hummingbird, Lark Sparrow, and Western Tanager.
After Paton's we moved onto Las Cienegas Grasslands. There among others we checked off Greater Roadrunner, Loggerhead Shrike, Horned Lark, Lark Bunting, Grasshopper Sparrow and Eastern Meadowlark. After searching through Prairie Dogs for a quite a while, we also picked up a Burrowing Owl. Lastly near the end of the grasslands we saw a pair of Scaled Quail.
As our count neared 100, the day was quickly flying by so we rushed toward Carr Canyon.
On the way we stopped at Home Depot in Sierra Vista to view the resident Great-horned Owl in the rafters of the garden center. Of all places!
Richard "claimed" he enjoyed the drive as I raced up Carr Canyon around turn after turn on a precarious one lane road. Near the top we stopped at the camp ground. It was the highlight of the day so far.
Arizona Woodpecker, Hammond's Flycatcher, Plumbeous and Hutton's Vireos, Mexican Jay, Bridled Titmouse, Bushtit, Brown Creeper, Canyon, Cactus, and House Wrens, Olive, Virginia's, Grace's, Townsend's, and Black-throated Gray Warblers, Yellow-eyed Junco, Hepatic Tanager, and Pyrrhuloxia were all among the highlights.
There I also added lifers 3 and 4 for the day in a Greater Pewee and a Buff-breasted Flycatcher. What a stop indeed!
Next up... Miller Canyon and Beatty's Guest Ranch. There we "captured" Magnificent, Anna's, and White-eared Hummingbirds. The White-eared was my 5th lifer of the day! We also added Rock Wren and Scott's Oriole to the tally there.
Each time we neared civilization we searched for a European Starling, one of the seemingly easiest birds to find anywhere in the USA. It turned out to be the nemesis bird of the day. Embarrasing!
Running behind schedule we really needed to hustle north to get to Wilcox-Twin Lakes before we ran out of light. Chihuahuan Raven and a Swainson's hawk were added along the way.
We arrived at Twin Lakes just as the sun was setting. There was not enough light for photography but there was enough to add many water birds. These included Gadwall, Northern Pintail, Eared Grebe, Black-crowned Night Heron, Sora, American Avocet, Marbled Godwit, Baird's, Least, and Western Sandpipers, Long-billed Dowitcher, Yellow-headed Blackbird and Wilson's Phalorope. Savannah and White-crowned Sparrows capped it off.
As it grew pitch dark we turned back toward Patagonia State Park exhausted and exhilarated. One last bird was added to the total as we passed by a Border Patrol checkpoint near Whetstone. Richard pointed out a Lesser Night Hawk bug-hunting in lights. A fitting end to a most outstanding day.
The final total for me was 143 different species setting a new personal best for one day. Thank you so much Richard Fray for your friendship and expertise. And thank you Deborah for such a thoughtful gift!
It was probably the most full and fun day of birding of my life.
June 1st marked the departure for our annual escape-the-heat adventures. We headed up into the White Mtns. and stayed in Show Low, Arizona. There we enjoyed a lot of quality pickelball, our son and grandson visiting and some good birding too. First stop was Pintail Lake north of town. Additions to the year's list here included Townsend's Solitaire and Juniper Titmouse.
At Fool's Hollow Park we had a wonderful morning. Pygmy Nuthatch, Bullock's Oriole, Black-headed Grosbeak, Western and Mountain Bluebirds, Bushtit, and Lewis's Woodpecker were among the nicer finds.
Next was an adventurous walk around and near Woodland Lake Pk. in Pine Top, AZ. I kept assuring Deborah we were never really lost despite misplacing the trail for most of an hour.
Great Blue Heron
Our last birding outing in Arizona was to the South Fork of the Little Colorado River on June 13th. There we added Broad-tailed Hummingbird, Warbling Vireo, Swainson's Thrush, Pinyon Jay, and our first of many Gray Catbirds to come.
Next we hustle across the Great Plains to the North East!