Made another trip to the Pinal Mountains on Saturday and this time I was joined by Bernie Howe, another avid birder and great photographer. Wanted to see what might be occurring there at this time of year, hoping some of the migrants might still be passing through and they were. On Friday the east valley in the Mesa area was hit with some very heavy rains and the Pinal Mountains also received some decent rains, so we were really not sure what we might find. There were places where the road up the mountains had been flooded with lots of water coming down the canyons and going was a bit slower than normal, but we were still able to make it to the top and back in my Chevy Impala. We did not spend too much time in the lower elevations, but instead concentrated more about where the pines start on the way up. It did not take long to find a spot that was high in bird activity. The first birds to catch our attention and caused us to make a stop was a pair of Hairy Woodpeckers. I was able to capture a photo of the female, but the male eluded me. While Bernie was about 20 yards further away on the road he was capturing photos of a female Black-headed Grosbeak, but my spot was visited by Bridled Titmouse, Painted Redstart, and a Cassin's Vireo. Only managed to get photos of the redstart and the vireo.
We also had a White-breasted Nuthatch come in and it seemed to have no fear of us and let us get up close an personal with it and I came away with one of my best photos of this species. They do have some nice color to the rump area which is not always seen very well. It had found a morsel of food on that pine tree trunk and just did not want to vacate the spot on the tree.
White-breasted Nuthatch with morsel
After the birds dispersed from this area we travelled up the road a bit further to place where past rains had really washed across the road and we found another hot spot of bird activity. Had about 6 Acorn Woodpeckers in the area and found a Black-throated Gray Warbler, a Western Tanager and some Yellow-eyed Juncos. I believe the Juncos were a new life bird for Bernie, so it was nice to find some and had one give a couple of poses for us. There is no mistaking that yellow eye.
We continued further up into the mountain, all the while the skies were dark and gloomy and looked like rain at any time. When we got to where the road was exposed on the west side, the winds were very strong and we knew the birding in those conditions would not be too good. And of course some rain did start falling, but it was light rain. Once we crossed over to the eastern side where it was sheltered we again started finding some birds. Had a small flock of Band-tailed Pigeons fly overhead and found some more warblers, including some Yellow-rumped Warblers and a Hermit Warbler. I almost hate to post the photo of the Hermit Warbler, but decided to go ahead with it as it is not a bird we see real frequently in Arizona, only passing through on migration. The photo is a nice close-up of some pine needles, but that warbler is hiding behind them.
At the top the rain was coming down pretty good and the hummingbird feeders were very quiet and the clouds rolled in giving us fog on the mountain; a very eerie feeling. We made one more stop on the way down and I had a pair of Lesser Goldfinches come in close to check on me and the male was bolding showing off his vibrant colors.
It is always a treat to visit the Pinals, but when winter approaches it becomes a bit cold up there and snow can occur. Not sure what birding might be like up there in the winter, but maybe it might be worth a trip up there to find out.