Pacific Wren

Pacific Wren
Pacific Wren

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Black Canyon City, Arizona

Probably not considered much of a birding spot in the past and just a community to pass through on I-17 between Phoenix and Flagstaff (except for the pies!), but that is probably going to change in the near future due to an AZFO Field Expedition to the riparian area in this area, this past weekend.  I had the pleasure of taking part of this field expedition which was to focus on the reports of a breeding population of Broad-billed Hummingbirds.  There have been reports of a fairly stable population of these birds at this location for 5 years or longer.  The focus of the expedition was to try and document if this is a breeding population with substantial numbers.  Some of the residents have had this bird come to their feeders year-round and if this is a true breeding population then, this will be the northern most known breeding range for this species.

So early on Saturday morning, I met up with Nick Vendehei in Mesa, then we travelled to northern Phoenix where we picked up Jason Morgan and continued on our way to Black Canyon City where we met the rest of the team of about 12 individuals.  One of the local residents then led us to the riparian area on the west side of town and showed us where the access point was located.  It did not take long for us to be amazed at this riparian area of cottonwoods and willows with the Agua Fria River with running water and pools of water.  We divided up into teams, with one team heading north and our team heading south.  Since there really are no well marked trails, much of our progress was a bit of bushwhacking through the brush and trees.  Our finally tally came up to about 50 species of birds in just the southern section only, including Broad-billed Hummingbirds.  We observed and recorded males in the riparian area, but no females, but we also surmised that it is possible that females might be nesting at this time of year.

 Broad-billed Hummingbird - Male

Broad-billed Hummingbird - Male
 
More photos of these stunning hummers will follow later in the post.  We also had Anna's Hummingbirds and discovered a nest with a single pinkish colored egg.  They usually lay two, so I am sure she is now incubating her eggs in her nest.  One of the photos has one of our party off to the left of the photo which helps to put the size of the nest into perspective.
 
Anna's Hummingbird Nest

Anna's Hummingbird Nest - Close up
 
We also had other birds that were also fun to see and observe such as a Phainopepla that had his territory staked out.  But if he thought he was going to blend in with the catkins on the tree, he was obviously very mistaken. 
 
 Phainopepla - Male

Phainopepla - Male
 
This area was flourishing with Northern Cardinals, and at least one of them gave me a short photo opportunity.  We had this birding singing constantly from the beginning to the end of the hike.
 
Northern Cardinal - Male
 
A Red-tailed Hawk also was found along the dry west side desert slopes,  peering down into the lush river valley. 
 
Red-tailed Hawk
 
After both groups met up, we then ventured to the back yard of one of the residents where he has a few bird feeders set up.  And boy did he have the hummers visiting along with a few others as well.  Four species of hummingbirds; Anna's, Black-chinned, Costa's, and our target species the Broad-billed Hummingbird.  With 12 people in the back yard, the birds were a bit more cautious so I had to settle on some photos of them visiting the feeders.  Always like to get photos in a more natural setting, but sometimes this will do.  Several Broad-billed males were seen and at least twice we also had females show up at the feeders which makes for a bit better of a confirmation that this species is breeding in this area.  Since we did not find any active nests, we don't have proof positive, but you can bet that the general consensus is they are breeders in this area. 
 
 Broad-billed Hummingbird - Female on the right
Black-chinned Hummingbird - Female blurred on the left

Broad-billed Hummingbird - Female, note red underside of bill

 Broad-billed Hummingbird - Male

 Broad-billed Hummingbird - Male, What a stunning bird!!!

Broad-billed Hummingbird - Male
 
 Black-chinned Hummingbird - Female

Black-chinned Hummingbird - Female
 
A male Hooded Oriole also came in to probably get a sip of sugar water, but I think it might have been a bit intimidated by the number of people as it did not stay long after it noticed the crowds near the feeders.
 
 Hooded Oriole - Male

Hooded Oriole - Male
 
One last place we visited before we headed back to the city was some high desert terrain.  Compared to the huge numbers of birds we had in the lush riparian area, this was sparse as far as numbers of birds.  But we did discover a nest of a Curve-billed Thrasher which contained 3 lovely blue speckled eggs.  We snapped a couple of photos and then got out of the area to leave it alone.
 
Curve-billed Thrasher Nest
 
Definitely a spot that needs more exploration and several of us already know we will be returning to check it out.  Not the easiest place to find access to, but now that I know, I will return sometime and hope to show a few others how to gain access to the lush riparian riverbed. 
 
 
 
 
 
 
  

4 comments:

  1. The nesting going on right now is pretty exciting. Sounds like an awesome project. Excellent finds!

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  2. The possibility of an expanded range for any species is exciting and fun to be part of the investigation. Beautiful photos, Gordon.

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  3. Really love your birds. Thanks for sharing another birding area to explore.

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  4. Great Post and photos Mr. Gordon! That's pretty cool having that many BBHUs that far north. It will be awesome once they confirm this bird as a breeder near Black Canyon.

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