Fan-tailed Warbler

Fan-tailed Warbler

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Bushnell Tanks Exploration

On May 26th, I decided to visit a spot that I had only explored once before and that was about 3 years ago, Bushnell Tanks, which is located on the opposite side of Sycamore Creek from Sunflower.  I don't recall much about my first visit, so maybe it was the time of the year that I visited that did not leave me with such a wonderful experience.  But this time it was much different and now I know that I need to visit this area more often.  I spent a total of almost 3 hours exploring this spot and hiked a total of 5.6 miles in the process.  (At least that is what my GPS app recorded on my phone; see last photos in this post.)  

The Brown-crested Flycatchers have returned for the summer.  This is a species that many new birders confuse with the more common Ash-throated Flycatcher.  They are very similar in appearance and have some minor visual differences, but those can sometimes be hard to tell when in the field.  Another aspect is to note the time of the year the bird is seen.  Brown-crested are migrants that return every year late April and into May and are usually gone by the end of September.  Ash-throated can be found throughout the year in Maricopa County.  But the best way to identify the differences is by learning their songs and calls.  And at this location in the spring and summer, both species occur making it so easy to listen to the different calls and songs.  And this trip presented this once again to me. 

Brown-crested Flycatcher

Ash-throated Flycatcher

The flycatchers were well represented as I also found both Western Kingbirds and Cassin's Kingbirds.  These 2 species can also confuse many new birders, but once again, the songs will set them apart and in the case of the 2 kingbirds, there are enough visual things to look for to tell the difference, such as the white outer tail feathers of the Western Kingbird.  No other kingbird has outer white tail feathers.

Cassin's Kingbird

Western Kingbird

During the entire time on this excursion, I was constantly under the watchful eyes of a pair of Zone-tailed Hawks.  If they had a nest in the area, it was out of my views and mostly likely very well concealed in one of the many sycamore trees.

Zone-tailed hawk

Zone-tailed hawk

A pair of Warbling Vireos were apparently having a warbling match to see which one could sing the loudest; but do not think a winner was declared this time around.

Warbling Vireos

One of the the day's most colorful birds happened to be the Summer Tanager.  This is a bird that I always love to see each and every spring.  The male and its bright red mantle of feathers is such an eye-opener, but the female is no slouch either in its covering of golden-yellow feathers.  At least this time she showed off a bit better than the male by perching in the sunlight.

Summer Tanager - Male

Summer Tanager - Female

Lucy's Warblers were probably one of the most numerous species of birds in this location as they were singing everywhere.  Oftentimes this bird just appears as a dull gray bird, but they do possess a couple of patches of a brick-red coloration; one on their rump and one on the top of head.  Many times those markings are not well seen.

Lucy's Warbler

Lucy's Warbler

The bird the won the award for the least well groomed was a very vocal and loudly singing Blue Grosbeak.  He was definitely trying to call in a female, but not sure what his luck was going to be this year as he had a lot of new blue feathers still missing for the breeding season.  I do not believe I have ever seen one of these beautiful birds in such a dull coat of feathers.  But maybe by now, it has shed all those dull feathers and it sporting a nice bright blue covering of feathers.

Blue Grosbeak - molting

Blue Grosbeak - molting

Other photos of note include a honeybee on a nice white thistle flower, an Ornate Tree Lizard on a rusty pipe. a Tiger Whiptail Lizard, and a beautiful purple flower that I believe is a species of spiderwort.


Ornate Tree Lizard

Tiger Whiptail

After spending 3 hours with all of this beauty and wonder, you know I will be returning to this place in the future.  After all, it is a great place to get in a good hike and some great solitude with some incredible wonders of nature.  And just to show the distance, here is the final reading on my GPS app showing distance, time and elevation irregularities.  

My hiking route - distance and path I took

Hiking route with time and elevation measurements

This is definitely one of those places that needs to be explored a bit more in the future.

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