Friday, January 31, 2014
Payson CBC - 29 Dec 2012
Continuing on with more CBC's (Christmas Bird Count's), this year for the first time I signed up for the Payson CBC. Payson is a city about 1½ hour north and a bit east of the Phoenix area and is located at an elevation of about 5200 feet. Being that high in elevation makes it a mountainous community and we knew that the weather would be sharply colder there than in the valley. But the prospect of seeing birds other than desert dwellers and getting to count them as well was very enticing. Ellen and I got the far north section called Control Road, which is a maintained dirt/gravel road situated just below the Mogollon Rim. Yes, it was cold and lots of snow in places. In fact, we drove down into the small settlement of Geronimo Estates and almost did not make it out due to snow pack and ice. Thankfully we did get out and was able to continue our trek in an easterly direction, but we did finally reach a point where we observed a couple of pickups having a lot of difficulty getting up a hill, so we decided we were not going to tempt fate twice and we back tracked the way we came in.
We did manage to find some wonderful birds in spite of the cold. The best find for me was a Merlin, and it was my first ever as well. And to top it off, it had recently captured a House Finch for its breakfast. Sorry for the House Finch, but that is how nature works. Not a rare bird by any means, but usually only seen in Arizona in the winter and until this day it had eluded me.
Other birds that I was able to capture photos were the American Robin, the Western Bluebird, and a Red-naped Sapsucker. The sapsucker was our reward for almost getting stuck in the residential area.
On our way back to town in the afternoon, we stopped at a place along the Verde River and were greeted by a flock of Bushtits. To find one of these flocks of birds is simply wonderful. They are always in small flocks and they will cover a tree gleaning it for every little insect or morsel they can find and then one by one, they move to the next tree, kind of like a wave. They are not real skittish around humans and once one gets a feel for the direction the flock is moving, one can quickly move down their obvious path and get ahead of them and then wait for them to to come to you. This is exactly what I did and when they arrived, I started shooting photos. Below are photos of several of them in their acrobatic poses. I cropped one photo a bit larger so that a second bird could be seen in the same frame.
One other positive thing to come out of this trip was the fact that I was able to learn more of the area around Payson and I know I will be making future trips to this beautiful area at different seasons of the year.