The second day we wanted to get an early start for another reason than just the birds. September is the rut season for Elk and we were hoping to find a bull Elk or two and maybe witness some bugling. As we were driving we happened to come upon a lone bull on the highway, but it bolted quickly through the meadow and into the pine forest before we even got a chance to get our cameras out. But it wasn't much further down the road when we came upon a herd of about 30 cows and calves and one large bull. They were quite a distance from the highway, making photos a bit tough, but the bugling was an awesome sound and we did witness a couple of smaller bulls that first appeared to maybe try challenging the large bull, but they turned away and we did not see any fighting.
Elk herd - large bull on the right
After enjoying this for a short while, we headed to South Fork for some birds and what a great place this was. This will always be on my list of stops on any future trips. Of course we were back to seeing and counting Wilson's and MacGillivray's Warblers again, but no complaints about that especially since one of the MacGillivray's Warblers actually came out and into the sunlight for photos. This bird is a skulker and likes to hide and forage deep the foliage of shrubs and trees, so sometimes it can be a bit difficult to see and photograph.
We had a Willow flycatcher the day before in Wenima Wildlife Area, and one again on this day and this one proved to be a bit more photogenic. Western Tanagers were also quite numerous and even though the bright colors of the males were not to be found, the bird is still a great one to see anytime.
Once we started heading out of this place in the car, I spied a Downy Woodpecker in a small tree along the road, that was doing quite a number on chipping away at small branch on the tree. It had sawdust and wood chips flying all around.
A pair of White-tailed Deer walked out of the woods near us as we were walking the roadway.
White-tailed Deer - Buck
White-tailed Deer - Doe
Our next stop was Grasslands Wildlife Area which is a place that is easy to drive by if one is not looking for it. The road into the area passes through grasslands pretty much void of trees, but here is where the habitat is just right for Burrowing Owls that have made their home here and we found one in a natural setting which is rather satisfying. Man made nest cavities are wonderful as it has really assisted in the increased numbers of this species, but it is always fun to see one in a natural setting and this one was definitely skittish and not used to humans near its domain.
Once we took off on the trail from the parking area, we were greeted by Pinyon and Western Scrub Jays. Speaking of Pinyon Jays, this bird was a nemesis bird for me for a long time, but on this weekend I saw and heard well over 100 of these birds at various places. A nemesis bird no more! A Western Wood-Pewee and a Cooper's Hawk provided my only decent photo opportunities.
From there we started checking out many of the lakes in the White Mountains. A stop at Crescent Lake produced a few first of the fall American Pipits which were still sporting a bit of their more colorful breeding plumage. We also had a Prairie Falcon at this location.
At Lee Valley Reservoir we found a couple of Gray Jays which was great to see once again after my first sighting in July. Also had a Red-naped Sapsucker and Red Crossbills.
At Big Lake we had a nice flock of White-faced Ibis, but our greeter was this very handsome Mountain Bluebird.
One of the last places we visited on this day was Benny Creek. We had walked along the creek to the turn around point all the while with the threat of rain nearby. The overcast cloudy sky made the trail fairly dark and Tommy had mentioned that the habitat seemed ideal for Spotted Owls and we were focused on finding one. On the return hike Tommy did spot an owl deep in the shade in front of us, but it was not the Spotted Owl that we had been looking for. It turned out to be a Long-eared Owl! After having one of these visiting our campsite in late July in the Greer area, it was awesome to find another one. It was daytime, and I attempted photos, but had a hard time getting focus on the bird in the heavy shade. Might be a crappy photo, but it is one of my own photos for this bird and I am sure there will be more and better chances in the future for photos.
This would normally be where I would end this post so I could finish with a third post covering the final day. Sad to say that early the next morning, my camera had an accident so I was without a camera the whole day on Monday. Tommy graciously gave me permission to use one of his photos from Monday from a new place called Concho Lake. I love this photo because it is one with 3 different species of sandpipers all in the same frame and is a great photo for comparison on the 3 species. It contains a Baird Sandpiper, a Western Sandpiper, and a Least Sandpiper. The 'peeps' are known to be a difficult bunch of birds to sometime identify and this photo really helps to learn and study the differences in these 3 species. Definitely will help me for future birding trips.
Baird's Sandpiper - rear center, Western Sandpiper - front center, and a Least Sandpiper - on the right.
Photo courtesy of Tommy DeBardeleben.
A couple of flowers to add some color and end this blog post.
From Sunrise lake
I started out this trip with only 108 species in Apache County, but I gained 59 species and now have 167 species. Pretty awesome trip with a lot of birds!