In 2013, I took part in the Navajo County North American Migratory Bird Count and was assigned some designated areas in and around the Heber/Overgaard area in Navajo County which I covered by myself. This year I got lucky and had a couple of birding friends ask to join me which is great to have when taking part in one of these exercises. This year Barb Meding and Wayne Manske asked to come along, for which I was thankful to have the assistance. We departed early on Friday to get in some extra birding before the big day which was Saturday. We stopped at several places along the way including the Tonto Fish Hatchery Road, which is a beautiful drive and at one spot a House Wren was very vocal and allowed us some up close views.
Next stop was Willow Springs Lake, which is a bit new for me as I now know how to access the main part of the lake. At one of the parking areas we found some male 'Audobon's' Yellow-rumped Warblers. This species is one that is so common in the winter in and around the Phoenix area and is the first warbler that I learned the single note chip call since they are so common. But there is a big difference in what we see in winter in the Phoenix area compared to what we see on their breeding grounds. We found males in full breeding plumage and what a stunning bird they are.
'Audubon's' Yellow-rumped Warbler - showing its yellow rump
'Audubon's' Yellow-rumped Warbler
From there we ventured on to Black Canyon Lake, which is a spot I always visit every time I take a trip up to the Heber Area. The parking lot has a population of Golden-mantled Squirrels that thrive on human handouts. I have started carrying peanuts in the shell with me and it is always fun to watch them approach hoping for a hand out and of course I obliged. It scampered down a tunnel, but shortly returned to feed on one that it had extracted from the shell and pose for me. Guess this was my reward.
Of course there were birds to be seen as well. Brewer's Blackbirds are almost a given at this location as well as American Robins and 'Red-shafted' Northern Flickers. And on this day the water bird specialty was an Eared Grebe.
'Red-shafted Northern Flicker
Eared Grebe - Now you see it
Eared Grebe - Now you don't
Other interesting creatures were a Common Buckeye Butterfly and across the lake was a small herd of horses including a mare and her foal.
Mare and foal
We had a great time birding on our way to Heber and that night we met up with 4 more volunteers, including the leader for some fine dining in Heber on Friday night the day before the big day of counting. Great way to start the weekend!