Sunday, September 23, 2012
Agua Fria National Monument, 22 Sept 2012
On Saturday, 22 September 2012, I joined the forces with another 14 members of the AZFO (Arizona Field Ornithologists) group to conduct a birding summary of the Agua Fria National Monument just a short distance north of Phoenix but in Yavapai County. This is a place that does not get much attention from birders and we wanted to document what the bird diversity might be in this location. There were 15 of us that showed up to partake in this adventure and we were led by Troy Corman. We split up into 3 groups of 5 each and birded different areas. The group as a whole did manage to find close to 70 species of birds altogether. This area is a bit more difficult to bird. One can get by with a smaller vehicle to the Horseshoe Ranch area, but beyond that a 4 wheel drive vehicle with a higher clearance is definitely recommended. As this was more of an exploration excursion than a personal birding excursion, taking photos was not the most pressing issue. However, we needed people with cameras to document anything unusual. And my group did find an unusual bird and glad I was there to capture a couple of photos. We came across an Eastern Phoebe. This is a bird of Eastern United States and the Great Plains area and breeds as far north as the Northwest Territory in Canada. As they migrate south for the winter, usually one or two show up in Arizona and are considered a rarity for AZ. Along with this Phoebe, our groups also found Black Phoebes and Say's Phoebes to give us a 3 Phoebe day.
Eastern Phoebe with morsel
Queen Butterflies were in abundance and of course I could not resist taking a shot of one while it was feasting on the nectar of the blossoms.
The river valley was full of Summer Tanagers and they won't be around much longer either. I had never seen so many bright red males is such a small area before. As is the case most often than not with this species, this bird is a bit camera shy and generally are tough to photograph. This time I only had one female that gave me an ample shot.
The last photo is one of a Desert Grasslands Whiptail Lizard and to my knowledge the first one of this species that I have seen. Unfortunately, I did not get the privilege of seeing the complete lizard. It appears that a predator had tried to make this one its lunch earlier in the day and ended up with probably a small piece of a wriggling tail. This is a defense mechanism for these lizards, as their tails will regenerate in time. Many predators end up with a bit of tail only and not the whole lizard.
Desert Grasslands Whiptail Lizard
While this was my first venture into this wilderness area, I do plan on returning in the future. I do think there is a lot of potential for sighting new birds and next time maybe I can try for a few more photos. One has to get out and walk through the bush to find the wildlife; very few trails exist. so it is also a great place to get in some good exercise.