Sunday, June 17, 2012
Ventured out to a new destination early this morning. Ellen joined me once again and we took off at 5:00 am for this man-made lake located in the surrounding mountains just north and east of the Phoenix metro area. We had planned on visiting the Riverside Campgrounds just below the Bartlett Dam, but found out the road has been closed off to vehicles due to budget cuts. This is a fairly long lake and has a lot of boaters on it and I think in the winter it is probably a very good refuge for a lot of water birds. We walked around the parking lot for just a bit before deciding to move on to other areas and one of the first birds we saw was a Yellow-headed Blackbird. This bird just seemed to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. They are quite numerous in the winter months in southern Arizona and are usually seen in large flocks of other Yellow-headed and also Red-winged Blackbirds. Usually they spend their summer in more northern areas. The habitat at this lake was not the normal habitat for these birds, nor was it the right time of the season. However, it was a welcomed sight and it was a male in his very bright colored breeding plumage, but he was alone and just seemed out of place on the edge of this desert lake.
And now a photo of the tail with the black feathers on the underside. Captured in the process of hopping from one branch to another.
We then drove to the boat ramp area to check out what might be there and as we pulled into a parking stall and were getting out of the car, we noticed a Northern Cardinal on another vehicle in the row behind us. It was perched on one of the side mirrors of the vehicle, then it would hop down to the window edge and look at itself in the side mirror. Then it would fly to the next vehicle and do the same thing and it followed the same pattern onto the third vehicle. I have never seen a Northern Cardinal behave in that manner, so it was actually quite hilarious to think he was making sure he was looking good for the females!
Right at the end of the parking lot, we found this Desert Spiny Lizard basking in the early morning sunshine. It is amazing how this species colors can vary from one area to another.
Desert Spiny Lizard
The trees were alive with the sound of music, Bell's Vireos to be more precise. We had adults and recently fledged young just about everywhere we went today. As usual, not always an easy target for the camera, but did manage a couple of photos and I thought this one was a bit unique.
Another very common bird we found today were Black-tailed Gnatcatchers and in many instances parents were feeding newly fledged offspring. Below are a couple of photos that definitely show they truly do have black tails. I think the photos are of a juvenile and not an adult.
Black Tailed Gnatcatcher
Black Tailed Gnatcatcher
Just had to capture a photo of a Common Raven as we had a couple let us approach fairly close without taking off.
The final photo is one of a Zebra-tailed Lizard. It blended into the sand and gravel so well that if you took your eyes off it for a short time, it was hard to find again. At least until in moved again in the search for insects on the ground. When it stopped it would flash its zebra striped tail in the air.
The Arizona heat started warming up around 9:30 and that is when we decided it was time to call it a day. We have already decided that this is a place worth revisiting in cooler temps and maybe we might even attempt to hike down to the campground if the road is still closed to vehicles.