It is amazing that sometimes when you do something routine, you get a big surprise ending. That is what happened to me on Monday afternoon. Recently I have been going straight to my favorite hiking spot from work to get my exercise, and believe me, it is so much more enjoyable taking a 3 to 4 mile hike in Pima Canyon Wash on South Mountain Park, than doing 1½ mile on the treadmill at home. Monday was just like about every other day on this hike; seeing the usual Black-throated Sparrows, Black-tailed Gnatcatchers, Rock Wrens, Northern Mockingbirds, a Curve-billed Thrasher, and hearing a Gilded Flicker and a Gila Woodpecker. I was very excited that I re-found an Ash-throated Flycatcher from a couple of weeks ago and then found another further down the trail. Of course I got photos of some of these along the way, but about 50 to 75 yards shy of the parking lot I noticed a small bird flitting about in a Mesquite Tree and at first glance I thought of a Ruby-crowned Kinglet, which is so common this time of year, as parts of Arizona is their winter home. But once I caught a glimpse of the head, I knew it was not a Ruby-crowned Kinglet, and its counterpart, the Golden Crowned Kinglet entered my mind. But I was thinking that species was not possible as it is a bird of higher elevations and favors Pine trees in coniferous forests. This was a desert canyon wash with no Pine trees in sight. As it moved about, I finally caught a good look at the top of the head and knew then that I had found a Golden-crowned Kinglet. What was a normal everyday hike just turned into a wonderful hike and seeing this bird forage in the Mesquite Trees was really special. It even showed itself well enough to capture some photos of this bird I had not seen before, so it was one to add to my life list. Checking with eBird, this appears to be the first sighting of this species in Maricopa County for this year. (Obviously, not everyone records their findings on eBird, so there could have been others.)
Kind of made the rest of the photos seem quite trite after seeing this awesome bird. Even though this little one stole the show, there were a few other birds that made their presence known and also brightened my day. My favorite sparrow, the Black-throated Sparrow, obliged by showing off its stunning black throat. A Rock Wren was on the opposite side of the wash from me sounding off its dry trill, ti-keer call. And a Curve-billed Thrasher was in a small tree only about 10 feet away from me but was playing a game of hide and seek thinking I could not see it in those branches.
And last, but definitely not least, one of the Ash-throated Flycatchers presented itself well on the opposite side of the wash as well. The 2nd one I found was about ¼ mile further down the wash from the first one and I actually hear its single note prrt call before I saw the bird. I knew it was there but it was hard to find deep inside the tree.
And to just add a bit of variety to this post, I found a Queen Butterfly that seemed a bit out of place in this dry wash, but it definitely added some color to the landscape.