Mount Ord

See that little camouflaged cutie singing his heart out?

It’s my most recent lifer, a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, which we saw on Mt. Ord.

Mt. Ord is the highest point in Maricopa County, the huge county in which Phoenix is located. It is 7,129 feet tall and is located off the Beeline Highway on the way to Payson. It is accessible by Forest Road 626. There are communication towers and a ranger station up there. So we drove my poor Ford Fusion up this 6 mile long, bumpy, rutted, narrow, winding dirt road, with no guardrails (and back down). It was do-able but a 4WD would have certainly been preferable and would be the only way I would do it in the future. But it was worth it because it was beautiful up there.

There are a ton of birds up there, and many that would be lifers for me, if we had found them…the only other “lifer” I found was this Dark-eyed Junco, Gray-headed variant. Technically, it is not a lifer as I’ve seen Dark-eyed Juncos before, but since I’m trying to hit 60 lifers in 2017, I’m counting variants, too.

A few views from the top:

Beeline Highway (SR 87)

Bartlett Lake

Theodore Roosevelt Lake

There was a fire on Mt. Ord last September, burning 1335 acres, so there are many burned trees.

You can park 1/2 mile from the top of Mt. Ord and then take this trail the rest of the way to the top.

There are other hiking trails on the mountain, as well as an old mine (we didn’t see it).

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Woodhouse’s Scrub Jay

Black-throated Gray Warbler

In my Facebook birding group (Birding–Arizona and the Southwest), another member and her husband went the day before Tony and I did. She was posting several birds that I didn’t see and I mentioned that to her. She said, “Oh, we had a guide.” So…next time, I want a 4WD with someone else driving and a guide!

Here’s a short Arizona Highways article about Mt. Ord.

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Spring Sprung at the DBG

In March, this female Williamson’s Sapsucker showed up at the Desert Botanical Garden for a few days. She really loved the aloe nectar so she stayed in one area and was easy to find. They are rare here (preferring western mountains) so many birders went out to see her.

She looked very pretty foraging through the blooms.

Zebra Longwing

Common Buckeye

These are from the new Butterfly Pavilion at DBG. I guess I don’t enjoy photographing them in a controlled setting like that; it’s more challenging to get them in their native environments. Apparently both these species can be found in Arizona but I’ve never seen them.

Desert Spiny Lizard

Lesser Goldfinch, female

Gambel’s Quail, male

Phainopepla, male

And just in time for Easter!

Desert Cottontail

Spring Fling

Anna’s Hummingbird, male

Giant Swallowtail

Aloe

Black-chinned Hummingbird, male

It is definitely spring here in Phoenix. Sorry if it isn’t where you are. Soon enough, we will be trying not to be miserable while you are basking in lovely weather. We had a lot of rain (for us) this winter so it’s extra vibrant this year. These photos are mostly from my yard but a few are from Scottsdale Xeriscape Garden (the first one and the last 3).

Hibiscus

Geranium

Painted Lady

Lantana

Palo Verde Sap

I noticed this colorful Yellow-rumped Warbler, below, feeding off the aloe and thought he looked unusual. He seems to have the characteristics of two different subspecies, the Myrtle and the Audubon’s. When I got home, I checked with my bird experts and they agreed that he is what is known as an “intergrade.” I think that’s a fancy word for “hybrid.” Anyway, these 2 subspecies only breed in a small area of Alberta, B.C., so he had a long trip down here. They are somewhat uncommon but not really “rare” in Arizona. Nevertheless, I was excited.

Yellow-rumped Warbler Myrtle x Audubon’s Intergrade, male

Hassayampa and Sherwood Heights

Vermilion Flycatcher, male

We had not been to Hassayampa River Preserve for 4 years so we went one day last week. I was hoping for some new birds, of course, as I know there are some reported there that I’ve never seen. Luck was not with me. We heard a ton of birds but just didn’t see many. It’s pretty dense there with a lot of very tall trees so the hiding is good. The first time we went all I saw were Vermilion Flycatchers and that’s pretty much all we saw this time, too. They are beautiful, though. Here are the posts I made back in 2013 where you can get a better idea of what the preserve looks like (1, 2, 3). This trip was photo-lite.

Palm Lake

Vermilion Flycatcher, female

Hassayampa has been a Nature Conservancy preserve for over 25 years and will soon become part of the Maricopa County Parks and Recreation Department. Their parks are very well-maintained so I imagine some improvements will be occurring soon to this former ranch. It will become part of the new Vulture Mountains Recreation Area. Here’s a link if you’re interested.

Mistletoe clumps in Mesquite

So…I never post only 4 photos! A couple days before I left on my Indiana trip, I had heard about a very rare bird for our area in a neighborhood not too far from me, on the border of Phoenix and Scottsdale. The bird also visited the same yard last year at just about this time, just for a couple weeks. He has now left on his migration again but I was able to get some shots before he left.

Orchard Oriole, male

He was very flighty and spent a lot of time deep in the homeowner’s mesquite tree eating from her chuparosa (the reddish flowers). I was lucky to get one clear shot…and he was a lifer!

I also spotted this Gila Woodpecker couple checking out prime Scottsdale real estate. They usually nest in saguaros.

This was in the homeowner’s yard. She makes metal and clay wildlife sculptures.

Winter’s Over Here

Even though some of you may be buried in snow, winter has definitely left Phoenix: it’s been in the 90s. That is unseasonably warm and most of us hope it cools off again before it’s supposed to be that hot. But before winter is officially over, I wanted to post some of the birds that wintered in our yard.

Orange-crowned Warbler

Without a doubt I enjoyed this little guy, above (“Yellow Bird”), the most. He was here last winter, too, and I hope he comes back next year. It’s a drag getting attached to a wild animal, not knowing if you’ll ever see them again. The above photo was taken a couple days ago and I haven’t seen him since so maybe he has begun migration. Safe travels, little dude.

Yellow-rumped Warbler, Audubon’s

This warbler, above, was the first time I’ve seen this species in our yard. It and the Orange-crowned Warbler were chasing each other around the mesquite tree the other day.

White-crowned Sparrow

I only saw this bird, above, for one day. Last year we had several come in the spring when our mulberry trees got berries…that will happen in the next couple of weeks so maybe they will be back. Hoping for some other berry-eaters, too.

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Rosy-faced Lovebirds

House Finches, male and female

Anna’s Hummingbirds, male and female

Gila Woodpecker, male

Northern Mockingbird

House Sparrow, female

Verdins

Curve-billed Thrasher

Migration will be in full swing soon so I hope to see some new and exciting birds.

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