On April 12th, I ventured out to visit Mt Ord for an early spring bird outing and hike. This is a spot that I have come to love to visit as it is the highest elevation in Maricopa County and much of it lies within Maricopa County while part of it also lies in Gila County. I discovered this place only because of a great website designed by a good friend and great birder, Tommy DeBardeleben. His website was my primary tool for birding Maricopa County when I first became very active in birding in Arizona. First couple of visits to this place by myself and I will admit that I was a bit timid about wandering around up there by myself, but now, I feel quite at home and very comfortable. A great place to get away and enjoy some solitude and some great birds. The elevation of this wonderful spot creates a whole new habitat not found elsewhere in Maricopa County. The pine forests are a breath of fresh air. On this trip I devoted most of my time to the 1688 trail which is totally in Maricopa County.
Warblers were my main objective and they did not disappoint. By far the most numerous species was the Black-throated Gray Warbler and was basically what I expected. Par for the course, warblers are one of the trickiest group of birds to photograph as they are usually quite energetic and many species can be only found high in the trees. With all the pine needles around this bird, I was quite surprised to actually capture a couple of view-able photos.
Black-throated Gray Warbler
Black-throated Gray Warbler
I also had Grace's Warblers and Painted Redstarts, but they proved to be much more difficult and did not allow any photos. A Virginia's Warbler did allow some photos but made it a bit trickier.
It seems that I am always learning something new about birds on just about every outing, even on places I have visited frequently and this day was no exception. The 1688 trail is rather unique in that it passes through tall Ponderosa pines, but is also on the upper reaches of the desert scrub oak, so it is kind of on the fringe of 2 different habitat zones. Along this road I had several Black-chinned Sparrows and a few Gray Vireos. Normally I stop at points lower on the mountain to observe these birds, but this time I was finding them in this higher elevation. At least 2 Gray Vireos made themselves seen, not necessarily providing the best pose for photos, but just seeing them is very positive.
A couple of other very numerous species were the Spotted Towhee and the Blue-gray Gnatcatcher. Both species do breed in these habitats, so seeing them and hearing them throughout the hike was very much welcomed.
One last photo to share is my FOS (first of the season) Broad-tailed Hummingbird, which is a hummer usually found in higher elevations in Arizona.
This place is always a fresh new place to visit after spending so many birding excursions in and around the Phoenix desert spots as the variety of bird life is very different and such a great change.