Reach 11 Nature Trail

Roadrunner_edited-1Greater Roadrunner with lunch

Reach 11, in north Phoenix, is part of the city’s Parks and Recreation Department but it exists for flood control. A 7-mile long earthen dam keeps flood waters out of the nearby canal and out of housing developments to the south. The area where the nature trails are is only about 1 mile wide. Amazingly, this place is not well-known at all. I only heard about it from some birders recently. Driving down the busy street where the entrance is, one would never know what a beautiful place it is. Someone described it as a “hidden gem,” and it really is. From the street it just looks like desert scrub.

This poor, old, decrepit saguaro is at the beginning of the trail. We saw a bird fly into it so stopped to watch.

Saguaro R11

Who’s that?

Gila in Cactus 1

Gila in Hole_edited-1

It’s a male Gila Woodpecker. There must be a nest in there.

Gila Bill in Hole_edited-1

He was kind of shy. But then we saw more action…

Starling in Hole_edited-1

A European Starling. It had a nest in one of the center holes and kept flying in and out with food. We could hear babies chirping every time a delivery was made.

Then we saw someone else fly in the other side…

Flicker on Cactus_edited-1

A Gilded Flicker (male) seems to have a nest, too…

Flicker Butt in Hole_edited-1

Flicker in Hole_edited-1

We stayed on the trail and didn’t disrupt the nesters but I’m sure they were pleased we left. We also saw another Starling head into a hole in the back so this saguaro is home to at least 4 different nests now. Who knows what else might be living in there? The wind was really blowing hard and gusting while we were there so I hope when that poor saguaro falls that there are no nests left.

After we walked a little more, we started to see the “hidden gem” part of this area. It was very lush back in there, all sorts of grasses, wildflowers, etc.

Wild Plants

Thru the Trees

There was a mesquite bosque and a little hidden pond in there, full of tadpoles, called Bullfrog Pond. It was really peaceful and pretty. No one was around but one biker.

Pond 1

Tree Tunnel

Globe MallowGlobe Mallow

LizardCommon Side-blotched Lizard

BTGCBlack-tailed Gnatcatcher

Hummer R11Anna’s Hummingbird

I know this place is teeming with birds and other wildlife but it was so windy that day that the birds were having a hard time staying airborne. It’s definitely a place we will return to as it’s only about 20 minutes from our house and very unique.

*The reason this recreation area is called “Reach 11” is because it’s on the 11th reach of the Central Arizona Project canal. Across the street from the nature trail is a huge sports complex with 20 soccer fields, an equestrian area, and more.

 

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Lake Pleasant

Burros 2

Burro Tracker

Burros Running

Burros Cavorting

Burros in Field

Burro 1

Burro 2_edited-1

Burro in Field

Burros 4

We went to Lake Pleasant Regional Park, northwest of Phoenix, last week. What I mostly wanted to see were the wild burros and we did! The herd is managed by the Bureau of Land Management and there are anywhere from 480-600 from what I’ve read. They are descendants of burros brought over from South Africa in the 1600s. 100 wild burros (jacks) were freeze marked and 55 jennies (female burros) were radio collared to help study and monitor the herd. Some are removed at times and put up for adoption while living and being cared for at a BLM facility. You can read more about this program here.

WB Trail Sign

This is the trail we hiked to try to find them. We didn’t see any there but, fortunately, we saw them even before we started hiking. It was extra nice to see them with some wildflowers around; they looked especially cute frolicking through the flowers.

And we actually saw a few birds!

Say's Phoebe

Say's Phoebe on Flowers_edited-1Say’s Phoebes

Rock Wren

Rock Wren Singing

Rock Wren Ocotillo

Rock Wren in BranchesRock Wrens

Red-winged Blackbird FRed-winged Blackbird (female)

Black-tailed GnatcatcherBlack-tailed Gnatcatcher (at least the flowers are in focus)

And a few other critters crossed our path:

Painted LadyPainted Lady Butterfly

Checkered White ButterflyCheckered White Butterfly

Common Side-blotched LizardCommon Side-blotched Lizard (check out his tongue!)

And we saw the lake, too, of course! This is a lake I used to go sailing on back in the mid-1980s…all the time…almost every weekend for 3-4 years. Since then it has been enlarged a lot so it didn’t really look at all familiar. The lake now covers 10,000 acres and is fed by the Central Arizona Project Aqueduct which diverts water from the Colorado River as well as the Agua Fria River. It was pretty cloudy when we were there and not many boats were on the lake.

Dam

Dam ControllerNew Waddell Dam

Waddell Dam

The new dam submerged the older, much smaller dam.

Lake View_edited-1

Lake View 2

Panorama x 4_edited-1

This is a 4 shot panorama of the lake. You can see a larger version of it on my Flickr. It was fascinating to see how the lake has changed, I loved everything we saw.

RoseGlobe Mallow

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Humming, Buzzing, Chirping

Hummer Diag 3.24

Anna's Feeder 3.24

Anna's F 3.23

Anna's Boy 3.24

Anna's 3.24

Anna's 3.17

Anna's 3.13Anna’s Hummingbirds, female and male

It’s migration season and breeding season so birds are very active right now. Our yard is full of sights and sounds of spring. There is lots of territorial aggression going on at the hummingbird feeders. The rare Broad-billed Hummingbird stayed for 3-4 weeks but she has now moved on.

We now have at least 3 Black-chinned Hummingbirds (2 males). I assume some may be the same ones who have come for the last few years because they always come from about March-May. The males are very aggressive around the feeders and chase each other and the several Anna’s hummers all over. Fortunately, there are 4 feeders so everyone is able to get a turn eventually. The Black-chinneds make a funny, buzzing sound, totally different from the sound of an Anna’s. The sun has to hit them just right to make the males’ purple collars visible so it’s a fun challenge to try.

BCHU 2 3.22

BCHU 2 3.15

BCHU 1 3.25

(These smaller photos can be clicked on to make larger; I just don’t like feeder shots that much.)

BCHU Branch 3.17

This is the female, below. She is lankier with a whiter underside than the Anna’s Hummingbirds. They also have longer, slightly down-curved bills.

BCHU Female 3.24_edited-1

Here’s a few more of the tiny birds currently in our yard:

Verdin 3.23_edited-1Verdin

We have at least 3 in our yard. They are here year-round, desert birds.

OCWA 3.17

Tink Mesquite 3.23

OCWA Crown 3Orange-crowned Warbler

My favorite bird in the world, “Tink,” is still here. She usually leaves by the second week of March but I’m afraid she’s hooked on grape jelly and doesn’t want to leave. Everything I’ve read said that having food out doesn’t affect migration so she will probably leave soon. I finally caught a glimpse of her orange crown a few days ago (you can see it in the last photo, above). It isn’t normally visible. This is her 4th winter in our yard so I hope she’ll have a safe summer and come back next year.

YRWA 3.23

YRWA Shy Girl 3.23Yellow-rumped Warblers, Audubon’s, male and female

These guys will probably be migrating soon, too, although some do stay year-round, apparently. We’ll see. They don’t really seem to be a couple. I see the male (“Chatty”) all the time and he likes to follow Tink around rather than the female of his own species (“Shy Girl”).

I’m hoping we’ll get a few more migrants coming through, someone new and exciting, maybe. I haven’t had much luck lately getting new birds.

Bartlett Lake

Wildflowers on Lake

It’s spring in the desert! We went to Bartlett Lake to see the wildflowers that everyone has been raving about. With all the rain we’ve had, it’s supposed to be a great year for them and it was really beautiful: the lake and the wildflowers. It was a perfect day, temperatures in the 60s, deep blue skies, and wispy clouds.

Field of Wildflowers

Bartlett Lake is a reservoir that was formed by the damming of the Verde River, completed in 1939.

Bartlett Lake

We could even see snow-covered Four Peaks in the distance.

4 Peaks in Distance

This is the Yellow Cliffs area:

Yellow Cliffs

Yellow Cliffs Longshot

Another Yellow Cliff

The rocks of the cliffs take on their yellow coloration due to an extensive colony of yellow “crustose” lichen.

Lake Circle

Lake Shot 2_edited-1

Lake Shot

We saw quite a few people taking photos of the wildflowers but the lake itself was very quiet. One of the best things about being retired is being able to go places during the week and avoiding the crowds. We didn’t even see any ducks or other water birds.

Poppies

Several PoppiesMexican Poppies and Lupines

White Poppies

White Poppy

The white poppies are rarer.

Longshot Lake Ord

You can barely see snow-covered Mt. Ord in the distance, above, but this is it closer, below. You can see all the towers on top.

Mt. Ord Closer

All-in-all, it was a very nice day.

Phoenix Sonoran Preserve

Glowing Cholla 3

Glowing Cholla PSP

Glowing Cholla 2

Longshot

Much like the McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, the Phoenix Sonoran Preserve, located in North Phoenix, has over 18,000 acres of beautiful desert views including 36 miles of exciting multi-use trails. The wildflowers were just beginning to bloom but the tons of Chollas were glowing in the sun.

We were at the Apache Wash Trailhead where a mountain biker crashed into a rattlesnake that same day and was bit. We did see an ambulance but didn’t know about this until seeing it on the news that night. It’s rattler season.

BTSP Gathering 2 PSP

BTSP 3

BTSP Gathering PSPBlack-throated Sparrows

The female Black-throated Sparrow is the nest builder (you can see her gathered materials in her bill) and a breeding pair is very territorial so the one on the nearby cactus must have been her mate.

CW PSP

Cactus Wren 3 SagCactus Wrens, Arizona’s State Bird

These two were also together so I imagine they are mates, too.

Painted Lady PSPPainted Lady Butterfly

Mexican Poppy PSPMexican Poppy

Purple FlowersScorpion Weed

Purple Wildflower

BrittlebushBrittlebush

Rock

Longshot 2

Another Longshot

There were really pretty views here.

Fat Sag PSPA perfect plump Saguaro after all our rain

4 Peaks in Distance

It was hazy but in the distance, we could see Four Peaks, 42 miles away, as the crow flies, still covered with the recent snow.

The day before, we drove around trying to get a good view of Four Peaks with the snow, away from houses and buildings. This was taken somewhere north of Fountain Hills…

4 Peaks 1

It’s been in the 80s the last couple of days; the snow has all melted. Spring is coming to the desert.