Finally after completing my 5th and final CBC, (Christmas Bird Count), for the year I should now have more free time to go birding on my own. But what I am finding is that it is easier said than done. Seems I have this guilt complex of not getting anything done around the house like I think I should. But then it dawned on me that the chores around the house are not on a time schedule, so there is no rush on getting them completed. So on Saturday, I met up with Joe Chernek to do some birding on the Salt River. We only made it to 3 of the locations, but those 3 locations are my favorite spots for casual birding.
I arrived at our meeting spot a little early and got to witness a Yellow-rumped Warbler that had discovered its reflection on the passenger side mirror of a parked car. It would fly down and land on the door frame of the car and then see its reflection and fly up to the mirror as if to attack it and then land on the top of the mirror. By the string of photos and the droppings on the side of the car frame, this bird has been at it for awhile. It would take breaks from this activity and go forage for insects for awhile and then return.
Our first stop on the Salt River was Coon Bluff, which is one of my favorite spots. We made attempt to see if the Rusty Blackbirds might still be around that had been reported in December. But due to the recent week of on and off rain, the river was quite full and the sand bars in the river were completely submerged. They had been associating with some Great-tailed Grackles on these sand bars, but we could not even find any of the grackles, so it was a miss on the Rusty Blackbird. However, we did take advantage of a couple of photo ops of a Song Sparrow and a Ladder-backed Woodpecker.
Next stop was Butcher Jones Beach at Saguaro Lake. It was here that I got my most favorite photo of the day of a White-throated Swift. This is a bird that never perches except on its nest in the crevices in rock cliffs, so they are constantly in motion when out feeding on flying insects. Their fast and erratic flight makes photos tough to come by. Most of the time when I attempt photos of them in flight, I just get a photo of blue sky. But on this day, I captured a very lucky shot of one, and was quite surprised.
A few other birds that we enjoyed were Ruby-crowned Kinglets, a Ring-billed Gull, a Redhead, and a tailless empid, that I suspect is a Gray Flycatcher, due to the color of the lower bill.
Epidonax Flycatcher - Most likely a Gray Flycatcher
On the road out of Butcher Jones, we stopped to marvel at the snow cover on Four Peaks. The rains that feel in the lower elevations, fell as snow in the higher elevations. Really enjoyed this view of the Sonoran Desert with snow-clad peaks in the distance and clouds enshrouding the peaks.
At our feet while taking our scenic photos, we had Cholla cactus plants at our feet, which can be very nasty if one brushes up against one or even steps on one of the heads lying on the ground. This is one method of how this plant reproduces, as these spiny pieces can take root fairly easy. These broken off pieces can be relocated to new areas by wildlife or humans. They are hard to remove from clothing and shoes and those spines can be very painful if they break skin.