This past weekend I headed north to the Rim Country of Arizona. Thanks to a good friend, Wayne who has a cabin in Heber, it turned out to be a great day for birding. This is an area in Arizona that is often overlooked by birders, but it should not be ignored. One of my future posts from this trip produced a very nice find for me and for the state of Arizona as well. More on that on a later post. Wayne and I started the day traveling to Woods Canyon Lake which is located about halfway between Heber and Payson, but above the Mogollon Rim. This lake is fairly well known for is pair of nesting Bald Eagles, but during our visit on Saturday morning, we were not able to find them. However we did have an Osprey that kept us well entertained by its foraging flight over the lake and a couple of failed plunges to catch fish. We got there while it was still very chilly and the steam was rising off the lake and we viewed 3 Common Mergansers before they disappeared into the fog over the water. Once we moved away from the water area is when we started finding birds. I think the crowds of people fishing at the lake edge might have kept the birds away from the water.
Going to make my first photo one of some Red Crossbills. This is a species that I thought I was fortunate enough to find a single bird in August in the White Mountains near Greer, AZ. This time was a complete different story. We came upon a small puddle on the side of the road in a clearing in the pines and saw several birds flying from the tops of the pines on the side of the road down to the pond of water. We stopped the car and I was amazed at all the Red Crossbills coming in for bathing and drinking. We stopped counting after 20 birds and I tried to concentrate on photos from the car. What is interesting to see in this first photo is the color variations on these 3 males. The one on the right is a mature adult in all its red splendor, but the 2 on the left are probably first year males which are in the process of molting from yellow to red. This is a bird that is fairly nomadic as it wanders in search of its food source, pine seeds. They use their crossed bills to pry open the pine cones and extract the seeds which is their chief diet. It is thought that there are as many as 9 sub-species or races of this bird and they do vary in bill size and location. But they are very difficult to identify from one another. Not always an easy bird to find; in this case it was a bit of luck being in the right place at the right time.
Also during our wanderings around the woods, we found many Dark-eyed Juncos, which makes me think that I should maybe do a blog on Juncos alone. So that will be a future post. We did manage to find a pair of Hairy Woodpeckers and I was able to capture a photo of the male. Females do not have a red spot on their head.
And during this time of activity from the birds a Brown Creeper made an appearance. These birds are very hard to photograph. They are very active, and they blend in so well with the tree bark most of the time that it is difficult to get a single focus point on the bird. This is a small bird with a curved bill that it uses to probe in bark of trees searching for insects, eggs and larvae. The photo kind of shows why it is difficult. Kind of reminds me of the 'Where's Waldo' photos from some time back.
We did spot a Red-tailed Hawk on the edge of the lake in a very tall pine that kind of gave me an evil eye as I was trying to capture photos.
We also found quite a few squirrels and of course I am a sucker for just about every living creature, so the camera comes to the rescue. One of these squirrels turns out to be an Abert's Squirrel and one that I do not recall seeing before. It was quite handsome in its gray and white suit. The other squirrel appears to be a Golden-mantled Ground Squirrel, often confused as a chipmunk. However it is not a chipmunk as all chipmunks have stripes on the face and squirrels do not.
Golden-mantled Ground Squirrel
Mores post will be forth coming on my adventures in Rim Country.