Sunday, July 10, 2016
White Mountains of Arizona
After my return to Arizona, I had the privilege to escort a birding friend from New York to the White Mountain area of eastern Arizona. A trip to this area in the middle of summer is always welcomed. It is a great place to escape the unbearable heat of central Arizona and also a fantastic place to see some really cool birds that cannot be found in the lower elevations amidst all the heat.
Ernie Welsh and I met on the same trip to Chiapas, Mexico, last July. Those kind of trips are awesome in the fact that one meets other birders from other parts of the country and it is nice to know these people as they can assist in finding birds in their own turf if one should ever decide to visit. Ernie is an accomplished birder and was approaching the mystical number of 800 on his life bird list. So the pressure was on for me to help him hit that magical number. Our route to the Greer area took us through the communities of Pinetop/Lakeside where I knew we could most likely find a Lewis's Woodpecker, which was one of Ernie's target birds. Just driving on the main highway through town, Ernie quickly spied a Lewis's Woodpecker. We got amazing views of it, even though we were parked on a busy street. We then headed to Woodland Lake Park, where I figured we would get much better views and they did not disappoint us. A rather unusual colored bird, especially for a woodpecker, but one this is highly sought for many birders.
Pygmy Nuthatches seemed to not be concerned with us as well. They were bold and brazen while feeding just a few feet from us in some low bushes.
In Greer we were treated to a Red-naped Sapsucker that also seemed unconcerned about us and was busy tapping away on these saplings along the Little Colorado River.
Gosh I love Golden-crowned Kinglets! They are such a nice treat to see especially having seen many of their counterparts, the Ruby-crowned Kinglets in the winter.
Bridge over the Salt River between Globe and Show Low.
After checking out both the East and West Forks of the Little Colorado River in Greer, and srriking out, we finally made it to Sheep's Crossing at the Old Baldy Trailhead in the search for an American Dipper. Congratulations go out to Ernie when he spied one flying down the river and in the process, we also discovered they had a nest under the bridge. They were making forays to the river to find food for the babies in the nest. This bird was number 800 for Ernie on his life list and I was happy to be with him to celebrate the occasion. Even went so far to write it on the rear window of my vehicle for documentation purposes!
American Dipper nest and babies.
And here is the traveling billboard!
When we got to South Fork, just west of Eager, we found a bit of a surprise. As we were walking the road we found a couple small birds flitting around in trees overhead. Once I got my binoculars on them, I realized that they were American Redstart juveniles! (This can be determined by the small patches of dark feathers in the chest area.) Normally this is a bird that I see in Arizona in migration and casually in winter. All the range maps of this species indicate it breeds much further east. The general western limit of its breeding range only extends to the far eastern part of Texas and the eastern part of the United States. To see juveniles in Arizona at this time of year indicates they were hatched in AZ. After returning home and consulting the Arizona Breeding Atlas, it appears there has been a history of this species breeding in this area in Arizona irregularly since 1936. But has been some time since any evidence had been discovered, It is experiences like this that goes to show how the study of birds is an ongoing and fact finding of research. Every little bit of data collected and notated, is immensely helpful to the trends of avian knowledge.
One other bird that caught my attention was this Brown-headed Cowbird with food in its beak. Normally not much to ponder with most species as it would appear it is fetching food for some nestlings. However, since this species is a brood parasite and it lays it eggs in the nests of other species for the unsuspecting other species to raise, it should not have a nest of babies to feed. Quite puzzling to me, but I am sure there is a logical explanation for this.
Another life bird for Ernie was this pair of Clark's Nutcrackers.
This Townsend's Solitaire was also a welcome sight at the river where it took a bath.
This was a much needed short break to an area of the state that I dearly love. And to see all the diversity of these different birds is always exciting. I think I assisted Ernie in getting about 6 or 7 life birds on this trip.