Sunday, September 22, 2013
Tom's Thumb Trail, McDowell Sonoran Preserve
Once again, I felt honored to be asked to assist Mike Nolan with one of the McDowell Sonoran Preserve transect bird counts. I believe most of these counts are put on hold in the hot part of the summer in Arizona due to the high heat. Not too many people would probably volunteer to do much of that in the heat. This was the first transect count of the fall and I remember well the last time I took part in late May. The hike to the transect starting point is not an easy hike. It consists of an almost 1000' gain in elevation in about 1½ miles and to many young people it is probably a piece of cake, but it is a bit strenuous for me and at the same time, a reminder for me to stay in shape so that I can explore all these wonderful places. When I participate in these counts, I try to focus on the purpose of the count and not so much on my photography or what I am interested in. So sometimes the photographing of birds definitely plays second fiddle. This time was no exception as I only came away with photos of 1 bird. We did find some great birds, including a Hermit Thrush, which was a new species for this area, but we also found a Green-tailed Towhee, a Spotted Towhee, a Sage Thrasher and a MacGillvray's Warbler. Sadly, we did not find any Black-chinned Sparrows on this trip, but we did find Rufous-crowned Sparrows, and it was one of those that gave me a chance at photos. This one flew up and landed on a rock in front of us and casually started preening.
In the transect area, we discovered many squirrels, including Rock Squirrels and Antelope Ground Squirrels, but no raptors of any kind, which made us wonder why no raptors as there seems to bee a good food supply. We did have one of the many Rock Squirrels pose for us while it was chowing down on some type of food morsel.
Finally the time had come when we could finally make our descent and head for the trail head parking lot. Going down can be just a tricky as some of the loose scree can make one lose their footing. We did notice some rather attractive orange colored flowers along the trail and was wondering what they might be blooming at this time of year. After getting home, I think I came to the conclusion that these flowers are called Arizona Poppy, but in reality they are not a true poppy. They bloom this time of year in correlation with the monsoon rain season that just ended. One of them was even being visited by a bee.
Arizona Poppy with Bee
Short blog post, but it was a trip definitely worthwhile. Always nice to explore different areas and see different habitats to see what is different in places surrounding the city of Phoenix and its suburbs that tend to be flanked by small mountainous areas.