Saturday, August 25, 2012
Greer, AZ--19 August 2012
Greer, Arizona is a small community in the White Mountains of eastern Arizona. The elevation in this small community is about 8500' and there is a lot of outdoor activities available for just about everyone. The Wallow Fire of 2011 came close to the southern part of the town, but it was spared from the ravages of fire. Obviously the birding at this high elevation with forests of Ponderosa Pine and other trees is going to be much different than in the Sonoran Desert areas to the south and east. This is one of the reasons Arizona has such a large diversity of bird life and many are year-round residents, some are summer or winter residents, and it is a great place for many migrants to pass through. The morning that I arrived in Greer to check out the bird life turned out to be one of those days where the monsoon season was producing many intermittent rain showers. By about noon the showers had let up and the sun was starting to peek through.
One of my target birds on this trip was the Clark's Nutcracker. They are not very common in Arizona, but the White Mountains is usually the best place to find them and I did eventually find 4 of them in the pines but in a residential area that did not provide easy access, so I had to settle observing them from a distance. They are very noisy and just knowing their calls can help locate them when searching. One of the most common birds I found in Greer were the Pine Siskins. They were all wearing their bright summer plumage which amounts to extensive yellow on the wings and on the sides of the tail. The yellow coloring is not quite as noticeable on the winter plumage. In fact, they look a bit like female House Finches, all brown and streaky. But they have a different body and bill shape and size than the House finch. These birds were very much enjoying the thistle heads that had already flowered.
One of the most unexpected finds was a Gray Catbird along the edges of the Little Colorado. I only saw my first of these birds earlier in August on a trip to Nebraska and then to find one in less than 3 weeks right in Arizona was a very pleasant surprise.
Very close to the Gray Catbird, I stumbled upon a couple of Green-tailed Towhees which are always a welcomed sighting no matter where they show up on a birding trip.
Also found in the same area, was a Belted Kingfisher and a Blue Grosbeak. Both were seen a distance away and neither one wanted to come any closer, so I just enjoyed them from a distance.
Another fairly common bird in the forest area was the Steller's Jay. They were noisy and gregarious and apparently were a bit camera shy. But what a beautiful bird with the bright blue body and black crest.
At the edge of where the fire stopped just outside of town, I found a juvenile Red-tailed Hawk and it was during one of the rain showers, hence the gray sky background.
And finally to end this post, I selected a photo of a snake that was swimming in one of the small springs that was flowing though an alpine meadow area that emptied into the Little Colorado. I t appears to be a Terrestrial Garter snake which is a very common non-venomous snake for this area.
Terrestial Garter snake
What a peaceful (and cool) place to visit. Maybe next time I will look into renting a cabin in this community for my stay. Just be warned that in the winter this place does receive a lot of snow, and if you do not like cold and snowy conditions, you might want to plan your visit for the summertime.