Wednesday, January 28, 2015
Birding With Jim - Day 2
On Monday we decided to head up to the Seven Springs Recreation Area which is a totally different habitat than where we did our birding on Sunday. This spot is located north and east of the Phoenix metro area and is at a higher elevation. It consists of a stream of running water surrounded by low desert mountains. Temperature at this location is much colder and often has ice in many places in the winter. On the road up to Seven Springs right about sunrise, we found a couple of Harris's Hawks in a tree by Blue Wash. Nothing that is normally newsworthy. However, remember this small bit of information, as the day is not yet over.
Within a few minutes of stopping we already had 2 new life birds for Jim; Bridled Titmouse and a Mountain Chickadee. And about 15 minutes after that we got bird number 3, a Sage Thrasher. As it turns out, they were fairly common in this location. They can be found at the Thrasher Spot where we had visited the day before, but I think this location is a bit better for finding them consistently.
Another bird that I was hoping to find for Jim was the Mountain Bluebird. This is a good spot for them in the winter and we were finding a lot of Western Bluebirds and no Mountain Bluebirds. Must have had a little luck as we headed back towards the car, a pair of Mountain Bluebirds appeared in the tree above us. Success and one more new life bird for Jim.
From here, we decided to head for the various spots along the Salt River. On our way back towards Scottsdale, and while Jim was checking out his smart phone and the notices, I made a fairly sudden stop and pulled off the road and told him to look in the tree a bit behind us and on his side of the road. We had a family of 5 more Harris's Hawks. At least this time I was able to get a photo of one of them before they all took flight to the west. That brought our tally of Harris's Hawks up to 7 for the day. I have never seen that many in one day before, so this was quite exciting. (No, it is not over yet. You will have to keep reading!)
After lunch in Scottsdale and a brief visit to Fountain Lake, we then set out for the north end of Bush Highway to explore the Salt River from the north. Once we turned off the Beeline Highway and started south on the Bush Highway towards Saguaro Lake and Butcher Jones Beach and as we were driving through desert scrub populated by many Saguaro Cactus and just before the turn off to Butcher Jones Beach, we found another 2 more Harris's Hawks perched on a Saguaro Cactus off the road a ways. That brings our total of Harris's Hawks up to 9 for the day!!! Incredible? Yes, but nope, still not done; read on.
At Butcher Jones Beach, and as we were studying the various ducks one of the resident Ring-billed Gulls made a few passes over the water and it is always fun to try capturing photos of them in-flight.
We then headed back to the picnic area as I had another bird in mind that I wanted to find as I knew it would probably be another new bird for Jim, but I had not mentioned it yet. Jim spied one first and knew immediately that it was a flycatcher, but since it belongs to a family of flycatchers that can be hard to identify, the species, might be difficult. I quickly pointed out to him to notice a behavior of this bird as it perched; it was frequently dipping its tail downward like a phoebe. This is a great thing to know for this group of flycatchers as the Gray Flycatcher has this behavior. Some birds can be vary difficult to identify by what they look like alone and knowing behavior and calls can often make that ID a bit easier. One of my photos shows a morsel (insect) that it had just captured from near the ground.
A Black-tailed Gnatcatcher also made an appearance in the area and I almost never pass up a chance to photograph these busy little birds. They can be so curious and will allow fairly close viewing even though they are very busy and do not sit still very long.
From here we headed south on Bush Highway once more with the next destination being Coon Bluff. Guess what? Right on the highway we found an electrical pole with 2 crossbars and lo and behold, 2 more Harris's Hawks! What an incredible day with 11 Harris's Hawks in various locations. (OK, for those readers that have been following along just for the Harris's Hawk saga, you can now leave if you wish as that is the end of them for this day! But, if you leave now, you are going to miss the most colorful bird of the day.)
The stop at Coon Bluff was not as productive as I had hoped it would be with Phainopepla and Ladder-backed Woodpeckers being the easiest to photograph. Was hoping for something else, but it was not found at Coon Bluff on this day.
Ladder-backed Woodpecker - Female
Phainopepla - Female
Phainopepla - Male
The final stop was at Granite Reef and finally we found a bird that Jim was wanting to see in Arizona, the Vermilion Flycatcher. His only other sighting of one, was a vagrant rare one on the east coast of the US. So it was high time to finally see one where they belong.
In the two days that we spent birding in Maricopa County, I believe I was able to help Jim add 12 new life birds to his list. He continued bird for the rest of the week while I had to return to work and he added a few more on his own. It as a lot of fun spending these two days birding, and want to thank Jim for the good times.