White Tank Mountains

Looking east toward Phoenix and beyond

Our first day trip of 2018 was to the far west side of the valley to the White Tanks. In 1963, Maricopa County acquired the land that makes up the north end of the White Tank Mountains from the Bureau of Land Management and opened up the White Tank Mountain Regional Park. The park is currently the largest and most primitive park in the Maricopa County Park System with over 29,000 acres and elevation ranging from 1,370 to 4,087 feet.*

We walked the Waterfall Trail. It had rained the night before but not nearly enough for the waterfall to run. Neverthelss, it was a remarkable sight. The park is also full of petroglyphs from the Hohokam period, the prehistoric culture that occupied the Salt River Valley and surrounding area between AD 100 and 1450. Most of the artifacts there have been dated from AD 500 to 900.*

There is a large concentration of petroglyphs in a fenced area called “Petroglyph Plaza” and others are scattered throughout.

The end of this particular trail is at the waterfall.

There was water in a small pool at the base of the waterfall but, even without running water, one can see the sediment and erosion from thousands of years of flowing water. It was pretty awesome looking.

Where were all the birds???? We hardly saw any. This is the only photo I got.

Black-throated Sparrow

Hopefully, our future trips will be more birdful.

*Some of the information was obtained from this publication.

 

 

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Cacophony and Color

Anna’s Hummingbirds, male

Our yard has been pretty active lately but it seems to have gotten even more so the last few days. Some new, colorful birds have been dropping by and sometimes it is so loud out there that it sounds like we’re deep in a busy, bird-filled forest.

Verdins

Orange-crowned Warbler

“Tink,” above, is no longer the yellowest bird in the yard! Since I hung a thistle sock a few days ago, a whole flock of these guys, below, have moved in. There must be at least 20 of them and they are very chatty. I only recently saw a couple in the yard and, once the thistle was out, the word apparently got out among their friends. I love watching them, they’re so bright and pretty.

Lesser Goldfinches, male and female

I was hoping the thistle would draw some other kinds of goldfinches or some Pine Siskins (which would be lifers) but, so far, the only new birds I’ve gotten are:

Rosy-faced Lovebird

The lovebirds were originally escapees from a pet store back in the 1980s but they were able to flourish here and now there is a large, feral population. I had seen them pass through our yard now and then but now they are dropping bu more regularly. They also like black oil sunflower seed and they like the swing, too, but I haven’t gotten a photo of that yet. You can always hear when they are around.

Gila Woodpeckers, male and female

The male is very loud and raucous but the female has just started showing up to eat oranges and she is very quiet.

Gilded Flicker, female

Yard bird #37:

Northern Flicker (Red-shafted), male

House Finches, male

Some of these male House Finches are soooo bright red that I keep thinking I’m seeing Cardinals. We have many, many more bird species in our yard as regulars but these are the most colorful of the bunch.

Hope your New Year is off to a great start and that you have all sorts of fun plans ahead. These were my 2017 Goals and the results:

  1. Volunteer 100 hours at Desert Botanical Garden. Volunteered 102.75 hours.
  2. Find 60 new Lifers (new birds). Found 58.
  3. Go on many AZ day trips with Tony. Went on 23.

2018 Goals are about the same: 100 hours, 50 Lifers, 25 day trips.

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Arlington

This steel truss bridge was built in 1927 over the Gila River downstream from the Gillespie Dam on what is now Old US Highway 80. It’s about an hour west from our house and sounded like an interesting little trip.

You can see the dam in these shots, above and below. It was constructed in 1920 but on January 9, 1993, due to record heavy rainfall, 120 feet of the dam collapsed. It was never repaired and nature has now taken over much of the area. The remnants of the dam remain in place and the area is largely accessible to the public. A small earthen embankment exists to divert water into nearby canals.

Before we headed over for a closer look at the dam, we were treated to an airshow!

American White Pelicans

You can get right up to the dam and, if you want to climb a little (we didn’t), you can even walk across it~until you hit the broken area.

Great Egret and Snowy Egrets

Apparently liability isn’t a concern for the County. I wouldn’t want to be under this building next time there is a record rainfall. It was an unusual, bizarre kind of place but in a good way. The whole area of Arlington is very agricultural. I wish we had gotten some shots of all the fields.

This place is now partially owned by the state and there were some trucks going in and out. I don’t believe it’s for cattle anymore but it is picturesque. We were then going to head to Arlington Wildlife Area but the dirt road we were on was way beyond rutted and we didn’t think it was wise.

Red-tailed Hawk

Instead we drove a few more miles west to a nondescript area known to birders as the “Thrasher Spot.” It’s just on the corner of 2 roads and rare thrashers and sparrows seem to congregate there in the desert brush. It was late afternoon by then and not too active but I did get my final lifer of 2017, a Sagebrush Sparrow!

Here’s a short article on the dam and bridge.

 

Bring on the Buses

Orange-crowned Warbler

I love this bird, who I used to call “Yellow Bird,” but now call “Tink,” because of the sound she (might be a “he”) makes. As I’ve mentioned before, this is her third year to winter in our yard. I’m assuming it’s the same one because it’s always only one bird and they do often migrate to the same place.

A couple weeks ago, Tink became Lifer #390 for a local birder that I know, Karen. Karen’s life count is way ahead of mine but, after seeing Tink’s photo on Facebook, Karen told me she needed this bird for her life list and I told her it was pretty much guaranteed that Tink would show up if she came over. Whew, Tink did eventually show up! That was my first experience delivering a life bird to someone in my own backyard.

But, coincidentally, the day before Karen came over, there was a lot of bird action in my yard. That day I got yard bird species #34, 35, and 36! Sadly, some of the pics are lacking in quality but I’ll show you anyway:

What Am I?

I went out to put out the daily bird food quota and heard a very light drumming sound. This bird was in our pine tree and flew off just as I noticed it. I got my camera and came back out and a couple hours later, it showed up again, just briefly enough to fire off a few bad shots. I thought it was a Red-naped or Red-breasted Sapsucker and asked the ABA (American Birding Association) experts what they thought. Some thought Red-breasted and some thought a hybrid of the two and requested more photos. Well, the bird never showed up again while I was out there…until today but when I ran in to get my camera, it flew off again! At any rate, I know it’s still in the area so I still have hope that I get a good shot soon. Neither of those birds would be lifers for me but if it’s really a Red-breasted Sapsucker, they are uncommon for the area and it’s possible that some local birders might want to come to see it if it’s a regular visitor. Hence, the buses…I like to think of busloads and van loads of birders dropping over to catch a glimpse. 🙂

Species #35 was this guy circling overhead:

Red-tailed Hawk

And, of course, a few days ago, it landed right in a tree in our front yard! Once again, cameraless, I ran inside to grab my camera and off it flew. It would have been a great closeup.

The day was so fruitful for me in my yard that I stayed outside for a few hours, hoping the sapsucker would return again. Just as I was getting ready to go inside, 2 of these showed up, species #36:

Lesser Goldfinch

I’ve not seen them since but I was certainly surprised to have 3 new bird species in quick succession. I think I saw 17 different species in my yard that day. Here are a few more:

White-crowned Sparrow, male

He’s all alone and has been here for several weeks, just hanging out with the House Sparrows.

Anna’s Hummingbirds, male

Verdins

House Finches, male and female

Gila Woodpecker, male

And, I believe this particular bird is now spending its second winter in our yard:

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Now I really have to hope that Sapsucker will show up again and let me get a good diagnostic shot so the buses can start rolling in…

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Seven Springs

The other day we went to a place in Tonto National Forest called Seven Springs. We drove 8 miles on a washboardy dirt road to get there. Unfortunately, due to a long drought, the drive was not overly pretty; the area was fairly dry and sparse. However, it was very birdy at our destination. There were hundreds of birds flying around. American Robins are not seen in the Phoenix area very often so, even though they are a common bird in so many parts of the U.S., they are fun for us Phoenicians to see and they are really such pretty birds. Well, this place had tons of them!

The area is full of pinyon pines and junipers so berries and nuts abound.

Western Bluebirds were also very plentiful there.

Western Bluebirds, male and female

Cave Creek

Red-naped Sapsucker

Phainopeplas

Dark-eyed Junco (Pink-sided subspecies~new to me)

Dark-eyed Junco (Oregon subspecies)

And, yes, there were lifers involved! I saw a Juniper Titmouse and have a bad photo of it. And the other lifer was:

Sage Thrasher

This is Humboldt Mountain that has a FAA radar facility at the top and is located right by Seven Springs. You can see how dry some of the area is now:

And, if you celebrate…

A Berry, Merry Christmas to you!