Friday, June 27, 2014
The Kaibab Plateau
Friday night was my first night camping out in a tent after a one night stay in the far southern fringes of Arizona in the ghost town of Ruby. This time I was a bit better prepared with better camping equipment and supplies (and an air mattress!). The winds were blowing all night long which did put a damper on our owling prospects; however we did hear a single Great Horned Owl, a Northern Saw-whet Owl, a Flammulated Owl, and at dawn a Northern Pygmy Owl. We had picked out a very remote camp site just for this reason; owling is best done at night without a lot of other campers nearby.
On Staurday, we were divided up into 3 teams and Chris and I took off and headed up to Jacob Lake to meet up with the 2 members that were not camping out; Mary Williams and Ann Hilliard. Our team was to head west from Jacobs Lake and cover the areas from there to the Big Springs area. We covered several miles with various stops along the way. We got to see and count many different species of birds including a small flock of Bushtits, Cordilleran Flycatcher, Hermit Thrush, Lesser Goldfinch, MacGillivray's Warbler, Mountain Chickadee, and a lot of Broad-tailed Hummingbirds at the feeders at a cabin at Big Springs Lookout Tower.
One of the saddest things that was found was a deceased Common Poorwill, which was found by Mary and Ann along one of the roads. We can only speculate that it may have gotten hit by a vehicle at night. They are a nocturnal bird and sometimes love to land on gravel roads at night. Since they are nocturnal, it is not a bird that is often seen by the naked eye and even though this was an unfortunate find, we all got to get good looks of this awesome bird up close and really admire its dynamic plumage pattern and the whiskers around its beak.
Common Poorwill - deceased
Common Poorwill - deceased
Birds were not the only things that grabbed my attention. Found several species of butterflies and some of them were new to me. (Finally broke down and purchased a butterfly guide book after this trip!)
Weidemeyer's Admiral Butterfly
Once we returned to our base camp that evening, we were able to locate a couple of Downy Woodpeckers before nightfall. This was a new Arizona bird for me. They were quite common in Nebraska in my youth and I also found one in New Mexico earlier this year, so finding them in Arizona is just icing on the cake.
What incredible 2nd day spent on the Kaibab Plateau. The 3rd and final day was a short one since many of had a long trip home, but it was equally wonderful and a 3rd post is forthcoming on that last day.