Fan-tailed Warbler

Fan-tailed Warbler

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

A Little Bit of AZ & UT

When Tuesday arrived, we headed north and west from Jacob Lake, AZ with a lot of ground to cover in one day.  I had found a spot on eBird that had a fairly substantial bird list, but a place that would be quite easy to drive right by.  Pipe Spring National Monument is a fairly small area where a natural spring exists and provides and small but continual flow of water.  It did not go unnoticed by the natives that lived here in years past and was also discovered and used by some of the first settlers once they discovered this source of water in the high desert.  Of course the water supply provided a great trap for migrants. I highly recommend anyone traveling by this spot on Highway 389 to stop in and check it out for birds.  I am sure that different times of the year will result in totally different species.  
Some of the highlights that I found on this day included a first year juvenile Cedar Waxwing.  Their breeding range is much further north and most generally we only see these birds in winter in their adult plumage.  Was interesting to see one with streaks on its breast and sides.  But that profile is definitely a Cedar Waxwing.  

Cedar Waxwing - Juvenile

Other birds that I was able to photograph included a posing and cute little Wilson's Warbler, some Western Tanagers, and some Brewer's Sparrows.

Wilson's Warbler

Western Tanager

Brewer's Sparrow

From there we headed to Zion National Park in Utah.  Great place for scenery, but the birding there did not appeal to me especially due to the large crowds and not having enough time to really explore the place to find some welcoming spots.  

Zion National Park

The next stop is a lesser known spot; Cedar Breaks National Monument.  Obviously it is on a much smaller scale than a national park, but the scenery here was outstanding.  Birding was not so great here either so we did not linger, but I was able to photograph a 'Gray-headed' Dark-eyed Junco and a couple of new butterflies.

Dark-eyed Junco

Hoary Comma Butterfly

Milbert's Tortoiseshell Butterfly

Next stop, Bryce Canyon National Park and this turned out to be my favorite stop.  Awesome scenery and some awesome birds including the Clark's Nutcracker.  This time this bird just flew into the pines at one of the viewing points where I stopped and put on quite a show for me.  Was quite fun to watch their antics and feeding on seeds from pine cones.  They can be quite the acrobats.

 Clark's Nutcracker

 Yep, still more of the Clark's Nutcracker

Common Ravens were evident everywhere and at one stop, there was a pair that had no fear of humans and I suspect they were used to many handouts by visitors as they waited for their next meal.  In the close-up photo, notice the bristles on the upper beak and how far down it extends on the beak.

 Common Raven

Common Raven, note the bristles on the upper mandible

Bryce Canyon National Park was also a fabulous place to find some really cool mammals.  Of course Elk are always awesome to see and this is probably the closest I have been able to get to them for decent photos.


But the most exciting was the small heard of Pronghorn that we found along the highway and they crossed the highway right in front of us while we sat in the car and watched.  The herd consisted mostly of females with a couple of young and one adult male that crossed the highway last after the rest of the herd went first.  Usually an animal that bolts at the sight of a human, but this herd might not spook so easily since they are on National Park land and hunting is not allowed.

 Pronghorn - Female

Pronghorn - Juvenile

 Pronghorn - Male

The second day was a full day and we covered a lot of ground, but it was definitely a day to remember.  More to come on future posts.  



  1. Great post and photos Gordon! Wow, what nice mammal shots you got there. And also, what killer Clark's Nutcracker shots. You take great pictures!

    1. Thanks Tommy,
      Definitely a great trip with some good birds. Would have liked to have had 100 bird species in Utah, but missed the mark. So the unexpected mammals sure made up for that.

  2. Now look at that Clark's!!!! Excellent!

  3. Pretty sweet Gordon, those Nutcrackers are great! They're damn impressive birds with all their memory capabilities, and it's both rare and riveting to see them so crushed!