On Sunday, I decided to check out a couple of spots along the lower Salt River outside of Mesa. Had not been there for a while and with the government shut down, most of the sites along the Salt River had been closed for about a week and a half. I had a limited time for birding that day due to other commitments so I planned my arrival to coincide with sunrise. Arrived at the Granite Reef Recreation Site about 6:30 am and immediately started seeing several Yellow-rumped Warblers and was hearing their single note calls that are so common here in the winter. They are very numerous and seen just about everywhere until next spring. Within a few minutes I detected a different call that told me that there was something different among all those warblers and I could see something very small flitting about high up in the mesquites, but with all the leaves and twigs and it still being dark I was having trouble getting a good view of it. Then I saw a brief glimpse of it and saw that it had a black throat. It was about that same time that I heard someone calling my name and I looked down in the parking lot to find that Muriel Neddermeyer had decided to visit the same place that morning. I quickly got her up to the same tree to help locate this bird again and it was about that time the bird just called out its name (chick-a-dee-dee-dee) to us, which confirmed the identity that I was thinking, a Mountain Chickadee. What on earth was a Mountain Chickadee doing in this location? Habitat and elevation were all wrong and it was foraging in a Mesquite Tree of all things. They are usually found at much higher elevations and in pine forests. But this bird kept calling and singing and we followed it from one end of the picnic ground to the other and we came to realize that there were actually 2 of them. By now the sun had come up a bit and one of them came out and perched in the sun just long enough for both of us to get some photos of it. This was quite an exciting find for Maricopa County in Arizona and I was really happy that Muriel arrived in time to enjoy this unusual sighting with me.
After such an exciting start to the morning for both us, we then decided to head up the road to the Coon Bluff Recreation Site to what we might find there and shortly after we got out of our vehicles, a flock of Bushtits flew over our heads briefly landing in a tree and quickly moving on. Such a short sighting we did not have an opportunity to get photos, but this is another species that I have not seen at this low of an elevation and certainly not this close to the metropolitan area. They can be found at lower elevations and in different habitat than the chickadees, but this was the lowest I have seen them. We had 3 species of woodpeckers at this location, Red-shafted Northern Flicker (no photos), Gila Woodpecker and Ladder-backed Woodpecker. These last 2 species can be seen at his location on just about every visit.
Gila Woodpecker - Male
Ladder-backed Woodpecker - Female
We also had a couple flycatchers in and around the area. Both are residents here and can be seen quite regularly, the Black Phoebe and the Vermilion Flycatcher.
Vermilion Flycatcher - Male
Also discovered a couple of Green Herons and one of them flew in and perched for us. Would have liked to have gotten a bit closer, but considering the distance we still got some decent photos.
A couple of non-avian critters also delighted us; a beautiful Monarch Butterfly and a Red-spotted Toad. (If the toad is mis-identified, please feel free to email me or post it in comments and I will correct the name.)
Red Spotted Toad
Since my day was shortened due to other commitments, I headed home from Coon Bluff. But on the way, I decided to stop at the ponds along Power Road to look for the Redhead drake that Lindsey Story had seen earlier in the morning on their way up to look for the chickadees. He was easy to find, but a bit of a distance away, but what a gorgeous duck to see.
Redhead - Male
This was definitely a worthwhile adventure and shows that rarities show up in some unusual places from time to time.