Fan-tailed Warbler

Fan-tailed Warbler

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Tom's Thumb Trail - 31 May 2013

Finally, today was the day to take part in the McDowell Sonoran Preserve transect survey.  This transect survey covers a length of the Tom's Thumb trail that can be found between emergency markers EE1 to TT9.  This is a length of about a 1 mile, but it is at almost the top of saddle area near Tom's Thumb Peak, so one has to navigate a little over 1½ miles of the steep trail to actually get to EE1.  Glad I made this trip a week ago as a scouting trip, this journey was much easier with fewer sore muscles at the end.  I joined Mike Nolan, the Executive Director of the McDowell Sonoran Conservancy on this survey.  I felt honored that Walter Thurber invited me to join Mike on this trip.  Not sure how much I really contributed to the overall effort, but the extra set of eyes is always an asset when observing and counting birds is involved.

Since this was a hike that was more focused on the survey, my photography took a second seat and since the lizards were easier to photograph than the birds, I actually took more photos of them and more scenic photos to show how beautiful this place really is.  The Tom's Thumb Trail is considered a difficult trail, so if one is a novice to hiking, you might want to reconsider the hike.  And as always, when hiking in the desert, always carry an ample supply of water.

First off, I will start off with a couple of photos of Tom's Thumb which stands out from miles around.  Both photos were taken in the parking lot of the trail head before the start of the hike; one with my point-and-shoot camera and then one with my DSLR camera with my zoom lens attached.  Kind of puts the distance into perspective a bit more.

Photos of birds only included Canyon Towhee, Black-throated Sparrow, and Brown-headed Cowbird.  The Towhees and Sparrows are birds that are fairly common in the right habitats in Arizona.  But this location has to have one of the highest concentrations of Canyon Towhees that I have seen.  Both of these species were found at the lower elevations and all the way to the top.  Some of the other species were found only at certain elevations.  And the last photo of a bird was a female Brown-headed Cowbird which greeted us at the trail head area when we returned.

 Black-throated Sparrow

Canyon Towhee

Brown-headed Cowbird

Lizards were seen at every elevation and today were a little less time consuming for taking photos.  They are always an interesting creature and the more I see them, I think I will get better at identifying them in the field. Currently, many of my lizard identifications take place when I see their photos on my computer at home where I can study them a bit closer.

 Common Side-blotched Lizard

Ornate Tree Lizard

And we had one Rock Squirrel that posed for us on a distant rock, or should I say boulder!

Rock Squirrel

The next photo is the back side of Tom's Thumb.  This rock formation juts up from the ridge about 300' and the photo does have a giant Saguaro Cactus in it down below and to the right of center, which helps to put the size of the rock formation into perspective.

Tom's Thumb-backside

At various spots along the trail, the views of the surrounding areas are incredible.  

 Mountains to the east of the transect area

 Scottsdale and its airport

Pinnacle Peak-upper left center

And finally during our descent, one photo to show the valley to the north.  This photo also shows the trail head where our vehicles are parked.  You can see the trail head on the right part of the photo in the center, the low dark brown shelter looking building with the parking lot behind it.  To get to the trail head, the road is now an improved road as seen by the black top road coming in from the north.

North valley-the road in and trail head center right.

We did have lots of nice birds including Black-chinned Sparrows and Rufous-crowned Sparrows and numerous hummingbirds especially in the higher elevations.  If nothing else, the beauty of this place is remarkable and after visiting many places in Arizona, this one is not littered with the garbage and signs of human trash.  The hikers that frequent this place have, for the most part, done a great job of 'Pack it In - Pack it Out'.


  1. Now Gordon, this looks way too hot to be birding. Now that's dedicated birding!!!

  2. Hey Gordon, I sent an earlier comment and wonder if you'd contact me about letting us use one of your images from the Pinals in a Chamber ad I'm designing for their Go Wild Program. My name is Linda Gross, Publisher, GlobeMiamiTimes. Your images are great! plse email me: Thanks! ps: its for the summer issue so I need to know asap!