With decidedly cooler temps in the Phoenix area, I have been taking advantage of the nice weather and going straight to South Mountain Park when I leave work. That way I get much more exercise hiking 3 to 4 miles than I do on the treadmill at home. And it sure is a lot more fun being out with nature! So Thursday and Friday I went to my regular haunt and although most of the birds I found were the regulars, I did find a surprise waiting for me on Friday. Ash-throated Flycatchers are a fairly common bird in Arizona in the spring and summer, but they migrate south for the winter and I had not seen one for about 6 weeks until Friday and then I was quite surprised to find one in Pima Canyon Wash and it was a beautiful specimen at that. Guess it had not got the memo to fly south!
Also found on both days were some Gilded Flickers, but my Friday adventure proved a bit more fruitful for photos as I was able to get both a male and a female in the same tree. The Gilded Flicker's range in the United States is pretty much limited to Arizona and the extreme southern parts of Nevada and eastern fringes of California. So it is another one of those birds that birders in other states try to find when they make a trip to Arizona
The Black-tailed Gnatcatcher is a bird I see on just about every trip to this area and they happen to be one of my favorite birds of South Mountain Park. Hopefully no one tires of my photos of these 4" little dynamos as it is always a challenge to capture them in photos.
This male House Finch was tucked down in a bush preparing for a pretty chilly night (at least chilly by Phoenix standards!)
This Killdeer photo really does not fit the mold of this visit, but it just happened to be hanging around the golf course that borders the entrance to Pima Canyon Wash.
The Black-throated Sparrow is probably my favorite sparrow and I can always find them on my trips to this area. Sometimes they are a bit harder to find than other times, but they can be easily overlooked. And this time I witnessed a new behavior from this species. They can raise their head feathers into a crest, similar to some of the flycatchers. I had not seen this until now.
And of course we can't forget the ever popular Cactus Wren and this one obliged by parking itself within some cactus just as their name implies.
And if some of you think I am only interested in birds, every once in a while some other critter makes themselves visible and allows a photo or two such as this Harris' Antelope Ground Squirrel.
Harris's Antelope Ground Squirrel
For those of you that are a bit more interested in history, this canyon and park is full of petroglyphs which were created long ago by the Hohokum people that inhabited the Salt River Valley thousands of years ago. There are hundreds to be found in the park and unfortunately some of them have been marred by current humans. If you go hiking, please enjoy these unique wonders and leave them for future generations to admire. They are a living tribute to the Hohokum people.