Friday, January 16, 2015
The Diversity of Maricopa County - Part 2
On Sunday of this past weekend, I teamed up with Jason Morgan and we headed to the Seven Springs Recreation area north of Cave Creek, AZ. This place is a totally different habitat than where I spent Saturday and it involved a couple of miles of hiking. And the morning started out as a very cold morning where one could see their breath. It was one of those days where the sun would appear and then disappear creating some warmth then coolness. Plus the fact that we also spent most of our time in the washes of canyons and some shade, reminded us to bring a jacket where ever we went.
We were welcomed at Seven Springs Rec Area by a huge number of Cedar Waxwings that were hanging out in the trees with large numbers of American Robins and Mountain and Western Bluebirds. A couple of Sage Thrashers were also found as well as a Red-naped Sapsucker, which I believe was a new bird for Jason. Typical for most sapsuckers, this one was well in the shade of a tree and photos were a bit scare. Most of the other birds were a bit of distance away and did not allow for photos except for one lone Cedar Waxwing.
Spotted Towhees were fairly common as their calls gave them away. Usually a skulker and hiding in the undercover, at least one of them made an appearance for at least one photo.
As we followed the trail along Cave Creek we watched for the sign that designated the crossing to the south which used to be marked by cairns placed in the streambed to assist people as where to cross. The summer monsoons had washed away all those cairns and someone was kind enough to tie some pink ribbons on the trees in the streambed to mark where to go. Shortly after we crossed the first small stream of running water, I heard a double 'chimp' call. And mentioned to Jason that there might be a Winter or Pacific Wren nearby. I have not had a lot of experience with either one of these birds having only seen one of each in the past. The Winter Wren from my past was the one that wintered at the Gilbert Riparian Water Preserve three years ago and after some patience it showed itself and I was able to obtain photos. My only previous experience with a Pacific Wren was one at the Rio Salado in Phoenix two years ago and that one was so secretive that I only got about 3 glimpses of it dashing about deep in the brush and no photos. Well this time, this one was not so timid and once it showed itself, I knew it was a Pacific Wren because of its rich brown color. Both species have very short stubby tails. This little 4" bird was truly the find of the day.
Once we finished up in the Seven Springs area, we headed to Rackensack Canyon on the way back, which really turned out to be a bust. It was very quiet with very little bird activity and almost no singing. We did happen to find an Empidonax Flycatcher, which belongs to a family of hard-to-identify birds. The most common species at this time of year would normally be the Gray Flycatcher and they are usually one of the easiest to identify due to their behavior of dipping their tail downward like a phoebe. Well this one was not doing that and based on the fairly small bill, I initially thought this was a Hammond's Flycatcher. But after looking at my photos once I got home, I started leaning toward's a Dusky Flycatcher due to the short primary projections. Hammond's has longer primary projections. Both Hammond's and Dusky would both be considered rare at this time of the year, however, both have been reported in that vicinity this month, so it is not out of the realm of possibilities that this is one of them.
Jason and I both came away with some great birds, maybe not much in the way of photos except for my first photos of a Pacific Wren. By the time we left Rackensack Canyon, a few rain showers had started which was a sign to maybe call it a day to keep from getting our gear wet.