Tuesday, May 27, 2014
Navajo County NAMBC 2014
Saturday morning arrived and we were up and on the road early as we had a lot of ground to cover. This year, we were assigned some different areas; Twin Springs near Heber, Zeniff agricultural area, and then several spots in the Pintop/Lakeside area. This is the second year for me taking part in the Navajo County NAMBC (North American Migratory Bird Count). This is a day where the main focus is to count every bird one sees or hears at your designated spots within the county. So photography and photos were secondary on this day. Since we were birding in places at over 7000' elevation and there was a stiff wind out of the southwest, in spots it was quite chilly. The winds also kept many birds low and hiding and made the counting a bit more difficult.
At Twin Springs, a small spot off Highway 260 and FR122, we found a couple of Olive Warblers. Before this year I had only seen 3 Olive Warblers, but now this year I have seen 4 of them. This is a bird that is not found on a regular basis in the United States outside of the states of Arizona and New Mexico. Always a treat to find and see and I call it the warbler with a Zorro mask.
In the Zeniff area, the only photo that I able to get was one of a Horned Lark. They were quite plentiful in the area along with both Eastern and Western Meadowlarks, a Bullock Oriole and several others.
From there we headed east and south to the Pinetop/Lakeside community where we have several spots to visit. The first was Jacques Marsh, which was a new spot for me. Rather tricky finding the way into this area but quite the spot for birds associated with water. On this day, the wind made the birding a little more difficult as the wind gusts were quite strong, up to 35 mph. It is quite an extensive area with several ponds of water and lots of marshy areas. I discovered a small flock of Canada Goose that included a leusictic one (a genetic mutation that occurs resulting in partial absence of melanin). It occurs with some regularity in birds, but unfortunately many of the bird born with this fail to live to adulthood. An odd colored one in a flock is an easier target for predators to focus on.
Canada Geese - one leucistic
Canada Geese - one leucistic
We also had several Cinnamon Teal in this area and they are pretty darned close to being one of the best looking ducks around. I have always found them a bit skittish and not always easy to capture in photos but at least one of them cooperated to some degree for me.
And Yellow-headed Blackbirds were in abundant numbers at this location.
At Woodland Lake Park, we expected to see Lewis's Woodpeckers and were not disappointed. This is one of the most reliable spots to find this oddly colored woodpecker with its pinkish belly and its red facial patch.
A Northern Rough-winged Swallow took some time out for a rest from the normal incessant flying like most swallows.
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
At Billy Creek Trailhead we had several smaller birds including a Acorn Woodpecker and a Mountain Chickadee. This is a spot that will need more attention in next year's count.
Also near the trail head and the residential area, an Abert's Squirrel attempted to hide from us by blending in with the branch of a tree. Those ear tufts are quite an eye catching look.
We had a totally enjoyable day of birding and counting, even with the strong winds, so it was back to Heber for the night and a glass of wine for the evening. The next day we were to head home, so we got up early to go to breakfast at one of the best little cafes around and found out they were not yet open, so with about 10 to 15 minutes to kill, we headed to the Navajo County Park in Overgaard and it was lucky that we did as we got to witness a fairly large flock of Pinyon Jays moving through. Must have been 40 to 50 of them and I was finally able to get a photo of one of them to add to my photo gallery.
Anytime one ends a birding trip with a Pinyon Jay is ending with a great bird!