Monday, July 21, 2014
Pinal Mountain Respite
On Saturday, July 19th, birding buddy and friend, Tommy DeBardeleben and I ventured east from the desert valley and the Phoenix area to check out the birding in this awesome place just a short distance to the east. The Pinal Mountains rise to an elevation just a little shy of 8000'. This place sort of reminds me of Mt Ord in Maricopa County but at a much larger scale as it covers a much larger area and has an elevation a little bit higher than Mt Ord. Consequently, this results in a larger diversity of wildlife.
Starting out on Russell Road in Globe, a person can make many stops along the way and it is amazing how the habitat changes as the road slowly gains in elevation. The birding is excellent in the lower elevations, and we did stop a few places to add birds to our list, but our ultimate goal was to reach the higher elevations and some of the specialty birds found there. One of the birds that we found was the Greater Pewee and both of us wanted to attempt to get some decent photos of this bird. Definitely easier said than done. These birds made us work for our photos and we still want better. But I know I at least got some better photos than any I had gotten in the past. Our first viewing was early morning where it was overcast (even a few drops of rain) and then the birds wanted to perch in some fairly dense shade and then usually up high. We even bushwhacked up the slopes hoping to get up higher than the birds, so we could look down on them while they perched in trees lower down. A couple of the males were singing which is how we located them, but they were a bit lazy in their song. Their song is one of the funnest to set to words, "Jose, Jose Maria". But the 2 we were hearing were dropping the last syllable and calling "Jose, Jose Marie". Twas actually quite funny.
Greater Pewee - finally one in the sunlight but still far away
While the Greater Pewee did provide better photos than any I had in the past, it will continue to be a bird that I want to observe more often in the future. Other birds that we encountered included Brown Creeper and Red-faced Warbler. The Brown Creeper is a master of disguise and can be easily overlooked and is often detected by its high pitched calls to make a person aware that they are in the area and also by their movement. They glean insects from the trunks of trees by landing close to the bottom of a tree then work their way up and around the trunk and once they are done with that tree they fly to the base of another nearby tree and start all over. And the Red-faced Warbler? Well, it kind of speaks for itself. Probably the most dynamic warbler in the United States in my opinion. Not very easy to get photos, but that is the case with most warblers.
At one place I walked back to the car while Tommy continued to do some bushwhacking and birding and a couple of birds made themselves available for photos; a male Black-headed Grosbeak and a Plumbeous Vireo.
A brief stop at Sulfide del Rey Picnic area gave us the Dusky-capped Flycatcher which is one of the sometimes hard-to-identify species in the myiarchus family. There are visual differences in the 3 to 4 species found in Arizona, but habitat and range along with the call notes is the most reliable way to ID these birds.
Once we reached the top of the mountain area, a visit to one of the cabins near the top really produced some great birds. It was here that we discovered a Hairy Woodpecker nest cavity that had a lot of activity taking place. This is woodpecker of higher elevations in Arizona and can be distinguished from the much more uncommon Downy Woodpecker by its large bill.
Hairy Woodpecker - at nest cavity
Hairy Woodpecker - nest cavity up and to the right
In this same area we were visited by a first year Olive Warbler which always a cool bird to find as they are limited in range to high elevations only in Arizona and New Mexico in the United States.
The hummingbird feeders were attracting a lot of attention by several Broad-tailed Hummingbirds along with a couple of Magnificent Hummingbirds and a couple of Rufous Hummingbirds. Obviously for me the Broad-tailed Hummingbirds provided me my best photos.
As we descended back down the mountain we pulled off at a couple of spots to see what we could find and react to our pishing and one spot we kind of hit the jackpot with a Red-breasted Nuthatch that was very inquisitive and was begging for attention. I have never before had a photo opportunity of this hyperactive little bird like this one. This nuthatch species is most generally the hardest of the 3 species in Arizona to be found.
Oh yeah, I almost forgot, we had Mountain Chickadees that came in to our pishing as well.
The scenery in this area is enough justification to travel here, and then with the bird life as well, it is an awesome place to visit. And to finish this post, I do have to thank Tommy DeBardeleben for sharing with me much of his knowledge about birding, especially in Maricopa County of Arizona. Thanks to his great web site; http://www.birderfrommaricopa.com/ I have learned much about birding in Maricopa County and beyond. I would not be as knowledgeable as I am today without his willingness to share and help me find birds.
Definitely a cool spot to visit when the heat of the desert gets to be too much!