Call me crazy, but this last weekend with only 2 days for birding, I went to the same place twice. Not something that I would normally do, but there were reasons for it this time. On Saturday, I had made plans to take Scott and Fonda Christopher to Mt Ord to show them around and in the process we also had the honor of being joined by Ellen Hairston and Muriel Neddermeyer. Thankfully Scott volunteered to drive and I am glad he did as his vehicle has a higher clearance than my car and without his vehicle, we might not have been able to make it all the way to the top. After we left Mt Ord, we made a stop at Sunflower as well. The 5 of us had an awesome day of birding!
The day started off very overcast and cloudy and a bit chilly at first, but as the day progressed, we found sunny skies and warmer temperatures. The first birds in the morning were the Black-chinned Sparrows. This is perhaps one of the best places to find this species in Arizona, or at least in Maricopa County. These birds were singing throughout the hills; their song is unmistakable, sounding a bit like a bouncing ball. Once you hear it, it is easy to remember. It is also a bird that does not always shows off very well, tending to stay low in shrubbery. With the overcast sky, photos were a bit tricky, but some got some great photos and my best of the lot is pictured below. And the Rufous-crowned Sparrows were another of our target birds. My photo below was taken further on up the mountain, but we also found them at the top of the Mountain.
In the same area where I photographed the Rufous-crowned Sparrow, a pair of Blue-gray Gnatcatchers were actively foraging. This bird was found and heard at several spots on the mountain. At only about 4¼ inches in length, they can be difficult to photograph. Always a challenge, but in this case I think the photos paid off.
We encountered several warblers including the Painted Redstart and Grace's Warbler. Warblers can also be a challenge to photograph, and my photo of a Grace's Warbler leaves a lot to be desired. But when they land right above you and it is shady and overcast, sometimes you take what you can get. The Painted Redstarts for most of the day showed off in the shade on the higher reaches of the trees without much chance for photos. But I started lagging behind when we were descending from the top and one flew into some dry grasses on the trail right beside me giving me a chance to snap off a couple of shots.
The Spotted Towhees were seen and at this elevation, they also breed here. Quite a handsome bird even though they also prefer to skulk in the low vegetation. Even caught one in the act of launching itself into flight. The Violet-green Swallows were checking out nesting cavities in the trees near the top. The overcast sky really does not do them justice as they are much more brilliant than the photo suggests.
At the very top we found a pair of Hairy Woodpeckers, and par for the course, a twig just had to spring up in front of my camera's field of view.
Finally down on the road at Sunflower, we were hoping to find the common Black Hawk along with Zone-tailed Hawk. We found the latter, but the Black Hawk eluded us. The Zone-tailed Hawk look a lot like a Turkey Vulture as it soars over the land riding the thermals.
Other birds we found in this area included a Bewick's Wren that presented itself high in a tree for us. And then 2 'First of the Season' birds made their debut; the Yellow Warbler and the Cassin's Kingbird. This tells us that migration is in full swing.
Springtime is Arizona is wonderful as the birds return, many of them in their bright breeding plumages.