Sunday, August 26, 2012
Woodland Lake Park & Green's Peak, Arizona
For my final post on the trip to the White Mountains of Arizona, I am combining 2 different locations; Woodlands Lake Park in Pinetop and then Green's Peak near Greer. Going to begin with Woodlands Lake Park in Pinetop which is very easy to find, just a short distance off Highway 260. In my humble opinion, this has got to be one of the best places to view and observe Lewis's Woodpeckers which is probably the oddest colored woodpeckers in the United States. It feeds on many insects which it most generally finds by catching them in the air a bit like flycatchers. I found a dead tree with 6 of these woodpeckers perched on it and they would take turns flying out to catch an insect and then returning.
The park has a small lake/pond on the property with very good paved trails leading around the entire perimeter. Along the the way I found a Pygmy Nuthatch that appears to be collecting lichens or moss for maybe a nest? I also found a small flock of Lazuli Buntings in the grasses near the water's edge. My photo captured 2 males and 3 females and there were more hidden in the grass.
A female Hepatic Tanager also made an appearance, but was a bit camera shy.
Now on to Green's Peak which is located in the high mountain meadows. When driving up to it, it does not look like much of a 'peak', but since the meadow is already at about 9000' in elevation, the peak only rose about another 1000' from the meadow. The top is crowned with a ranger tower and some communication towers, with plenty of good paths for walking and birding.
Once again the Pine Siskins were plentiful and gave me plenty of chances for photos.
Also making an appearance was a Cliff Chipmunk and a deer. The chipmunk posed on a tree trunk for me. The deer was an interesting experience. As I was standing there scanning the trees and grasses for birds, I saw the deer come out of the woods very casually. Naturally when I saw it, I just froze to prevent spooking it off. It must have smelled me because it stopped and started scanning the area back and forth and then it locked its eyes on me and just stared at me. Of course, I remained motionless so as not to startle it. I did snap a couple of photos of it during this time, but it must have decided I was a threat but not a serious one as it turned around and casually walked back into the forest. Looks like it has had a couple of mishaps by the look of its ragged ears.
Finally decided to head back down to the meadow below and as I was driving down, that is when I got my 2 biggest surprises. Both of these birds were new life birds for me and I was trying to shoot photos from the car, and although they are not the photos I would like to have had, this is another case of 'a bad photo is better than no photo'! The first photo is a Red Crossbill; a bird that has been on my want list for a long time. This bird appears to be a first year male that has not yet obtained its full red color. They use their unique crossed bills to pry open pine cones for the pine nuts inside.
The second bird I found at the base of the peak in the meadow area was a Swainson's Hawk. Once again the distance and trying to photograph from the car did not make for a great photo. This hawk is not really a rare bird, but I just never went to the right place and time to find one before this trip. The crossbill is usually a bit tougher to find as they seem to be a bit nomadic and not staying in one place for any length of time.
The bad photos are just a reminder to look for these birds again and try to obtain better photos in the future.