Friday, October 30, 2015
Saguaro Lake: A Huge Oasis in the Desert
Recently, I decided to head out to Saguaro Lake on the Salt River to take in a much needed hike for exercise and of course do some birding in the process. Now that fall has arrived in the Sonoran Desert, the temperatures are so much more inviting for long hikes. Saguaro Lake is a man-made lake on the Salt River and is surrounded by some incredible scenery. On the north side of Saguaro Lake is a picnic/campsite known as Butcher Jones Beach and from this site is probably one of the most scenic hiking trails in Maricopa County, at least in my opinion, but then, I have not hiked every trail in the county, so I could be wrong. This trail was the focus of my hike and it surely did not disappoint. I started my hike early in the morning and apparently was the first person of the day to set out on this trail as I did not run into any other hikers until on my return. Here are some photos from various points along the trail.
Birding was actually pretty good along with many of the expected species such as Black-tailed Gnatcatchers and Black-throated Sparrows.
One bird that I was not expecting at this location was the Sagebrush Sparrow. It is not a rarity by any means, but the habitat just did not seem quite right for this species. It is a wintering bird in Maricopa County and I have observed this species in many other spots in the county. But on the other hand, this habitat is not that too far off, so maybe they are around, but have just gone undetected in the past. (Once I returned home, I checked eBird and found that they had not been reported there in the past, at least in eBird. So I got to add a new species to eBird for this location.)
Near my turn-around point, I discovered a gorgeous female Belted Kingfisher. They can be a very shy bird and this one was no different, quickly flying across a small inlet when I flushed it. Considering the distance, I was kind of surprised I got a photo that was recognizable.
Belted Kingfisher - Female
By the time I returned to the beach area, the waterfowl were much more active than when I started, so I sat myself down on a rock along the shoreline and noticed that mixed in with the hundreds of American Coots was a Redhead duck. This was my first of the fall sighting of this handsome drake and he looked a bit out of place with all those coots and a few Pied-billed Grebes.
Not sure what was going on with the coots that morning, but many of them were flying high over the water. Usually, when I see a coot in-flight, it is low and near the surface of the water and quickly sets down in the water at a different location. With them flying over my head, I asked myself, 'Why not?' in reference to taking a photo of one in-flight. Really gives a different perspective on this oh-so-common bird.
One last walk through the picnic area before heading home, in the search for a Gray Flycatcher. The past couple of winters have had one or two residing in this location. And sure enough, I found it, or maybe I should say, it found me, as it flew into a tree right above me.
A great overall hike of about 4½ miles with some incredible scenery and some great birds along the way. Even some of the flora along the trail is pretty amazing. I am always amazed at how some of the cacti dispersed seeds can germinate and survive in and among the rocks.
My hike, from my GPS app,
Some type of a fishhook cactus.