Bringing in the New Year for me is a day to go birding to see what I can find to start off the year on the right foot. This year, birding friend Jason Morgan and I headed off to some spots along the Lower Salt River near Mesa. Finding and photographing Bald Eagles was kind of our objective, but we also knew that it is never a sure thing. We did manage to see one adult fly over at the Granite Reef area early in the morning and later on a return stop, we also saw a fly by of an immature Bald Eagle as well. Guess photos on this day were not going to happen. Our first stop though at Granite Reef was rather special in the fact that we found 2 Mountain Chickadees in the pre-dawn darkness. We actually heard them before we saw them. This is the same place that I discovered 2 of these charmers back in October. Were they the same 2 or a different 2? Guess we will never know, but this is a bird that is not usually found in such low elevations, but apparently this must be a bit of a minor irruption year for this species as a few more have been found in other low elevations in Arizona. At our next stop which was Phon D Sutton, with very little protection from the cold north wind, we did not linger, but continued up to Coon Bluff which is always a favorite for birding. Finally the sun had rose up over the eastern low mountains allowing for some better chances for photos and the temps started improving. On the road to the campground we had to pull over to check out the birds and a small flock of Western Bluebirds were forging on some berries and really gave us some great looks and some of the males were stunningly colorful.
Finally making our way to the campground we were greeted by a pair of Ladder-backed Woodpeckers. This is a fairly common bird at this location and can often be heard by the 'peek' call which will assist in leading a person to locating them.
Ladder-backed Woodpecker - Female
Ladder-backed Woodpecker - Male
And a male Vermilion Flycatcher made a brief appearance for us.
Across the river we observed a Green Heron flying along the shore line and it landed then took off scampering along the water's edge, which we assumed it was chasing a fish in the water just out of reach. This bird can get quite excited and when it does it will raise its crest and that is just what it was doing. Considering the distance from us, I made an attempt at a few photos and now I have an idea of what a green Mohawk might look like if someone chose to get one from their local barber.
A couple of other birds that were not in short supply were the Ruddy Ducks and the Yellow-rumped Warblers. We get both of these species in the winter time when they are at their least colorful time of the year. But still worthy of photos all the same.
(Audubon's) Yellow-rumped Warbler
Finally we had to call is quits due to some previous commitments and we returned to our meeting place and Jason headed for home while I had one more stop to make in Scottsdale. An odd trio of birds had been found in some Cottonwood trees by an urban lake that is full of bikers, walkers, and runners to name a few. Reported a few days earlier by another excellent birder, Magill Weber, and re-confirmed by a couple more people I just had to make an effort to see if I could locate this Odd Trio. The trio consisted of a Brown Creeper (fairly common in Arizona), a Northern Parula, and an American Redstart. The later 2 species are very uncommon in the winter as migrants. I concentrated on the Cottonwood trees and it was not long that another couple of birders told me that they found the Brown Creeper, so I joined them at that tree and within 2 minutes I was able to locate the other 2 flitting around in the very same tree. If one moves to a new tree, it appears the other two follow. Guess there is safety in numbers for them. While they did not present great photo opportunities, I managed to get identifiable photos and since the American Redstart was a new life bird for me, that is the one I was concentrating on most of all.
A new life bird on the first day of a new year? Could not have asked for a better start.