Fan-tailed Warbler

Fan-tailed Warbler

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Sunflower, AZ

A few weeks ago, I was contacted by a birder, Dwight Molotsky, from Pennyslvania about birding in and around the Phoenix area.  He had contacted me through the Birdingpal website:  as he was going to be visiting the Phoenix area for a couple of day in early April and was wanting to discover some new birds in Arizona during his short visit.  First few days were spent in the Tucson area and when he arrived in the Phoenix area, I decided that maybe the spot on the map know as Sunflower might be the best bet to get the most birds for his one day adventure.  This place is about an hour northeast of the Phoenix metro area off the Beeline Highway.  Since this was the beginning of the migration season I had high hopes in finding some good birds for him and at the same time give good enough looks for a few photos and also allowed for a little bit of behavior observation as well.  

Shortly after we pulled off the highway we saw a fairly large flock of birds and discovered they were Cedar Waxwings. They had landed in a leafless tree and were taking turns about 2 or 3 at a time flying to a nearby Juniper and feeding on berries.  I have seen these most handsome birds many times and always get a big thrill every time I see them, but this flock was the largest I have ever seen.  I counted 43 of them and think I could only capture about 35 of them in one photo frame.

Cedar Waxwings

Slowly we made our way to the dead end where we parked the vehicle and then started walking on the paved barricaded road.  All along the way we were adding new life birds to Dwight's life list.  We had a fly over Common Black Hawk, many singing  Bell's Vireos, a lone Eurasian-collared Dove and a lone Inca Dove, Cassin's Kingbird, several Violet-green Swallows, several Lucy's Warblers, a couple of Canyon Wrens, and a bright red male Vermilion Flycatcher.  Further up the road we found the 2 resident Zone-tailed Hawks that were soaring the thermals and have not yet started the nest building process yet for the year.  

Zone-tailed Hawk

A couple of Red-tailed Hawks were in the area as well but at a higher elevation in the sky.

Red-tailed Hawk

The bird that gave us some of the best views was a stunning male Hooded Oriole.  He did not want to face the camera for us, but at least continued to forage in the same tree giving us a lot of time to enjoy him.

 Hooded Oriole

 Hooded Oriole

Hooded Oriole

With our time running short, I decided to make a short trip about 3 miles further north to the Mt Ord turnoff.  Great place for Black-chinned Sparrows and Gray Vireos in breeding season.  While we did hear one Gray Vireo calling down one of the canyons, it would not show itself, but one of the Black-chinned Sparrows gave us some great looks.

Black-chinned Sparrow

If I remember correctly, Dwight was able to add 11 new life birds to his list.  It is a lot of fun to show out of state birders some new life birds to add to their lists.  I know that I have been in reversed roles and I am always happy when I am in a new place and some of the locals help to show me around.  


  1. Such great spots...

    I was there last weekend and am tempted to go again, just can't get enough!
    Great shots too Gordon. Cheers!

    1. I agree this is a great spot and when time allows, it is a great place to add to a trip to Mr Ord. Your last post on Mt Ord has got me heading up there on Saturday this weekend. Hope I can have half the luck you did with all those warblers! Really awesome.

  2. I haven't seen you in years! You've been a good birder keeping tabs on all the local spots. I am a broke birder which means I will be staying home more this month. Migration is a lot of fun. Beautiful Hoodies! I bought an oriole feeder this weekend. I don't know why......but I want to at least try. I know they come through my area along with the Western Tanagers:) Talk to you soon. Maybe mid-May to Ord?