I Got Lucky!

This is a male Pyrrhuloxia, sometimes called the “Desert Cardinal.” It is a cousin to the Northern Cardinal. He has been a nemesis bird for me. Their range is more in southern Arizona, southern New Mexico, southern Texas, and Mexico so they are not very common in the Phoenix area. However, this particular bird is now spending his 3rd (at least) winter at the Desert Botanical Garden and I’ve been chasing him that whole time but he was very elusive. I kept seeing photos of him in my Facebook birding group from many other people. He hangs out in a specific area quite a bit and, a few days ago, I sat there for 2 hours waiting for a glimpse. No show. I was getting discouraged but decided to go over one afternoon this past week and get disappointed again. I sat down and, within about a minute, he appeared! And he seemed to do a lot of posing just for me, probably recognizing me from all the times I’ve been looking for him:

Isn’t he beautiful/adorable/unusual? During breeding season, his bill is also bright yellow so he’s even more colorful then but he doesn’t breed up here so I’ll have to try to catch one in southern Arizona sometime.

Gilded Flicker, male

Northern Mockingbird

Queen

A couple days before finally seeing the Pyrrhuloxia, I went to Gilbert Riparian Preserve (Riparian Preserve at Water Ranch) in search of some rarities being seen there. I never have good luck there unless I’m with an experienced birder. Fortunately, one showed up and, when the bird finally appeared, helped me find it. It was a Prairie Warbler, very unusual for this part of the country, but my picture is not good at all. There are now several more rare (for Arizona) birds there so I should try to make it out there one day this coming week and hope someone can help me find them, too.

Desert Cottontail

And I saw a ton of these fast, little guys:

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Say’s Phoebe

Western Meadowlark

And these little warblers were energetically flitting about right in the same area as the Prairie Warbler giving me false hope several times as they have the same coloring.

Yellow-rumped Warbler, Audubon’s

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Theodore Roosevelt Lake

Roosevelt Lake Bridge

I’ve liked every place we’ve gone on our day trips but some are a little more special than others (to me) and this is one of them. I love this area. This bridge was completed in 1992. Prior to this, people could drive over the dam itself. I had not been here since the mid-1980s and it was even more impressive than I remembered…although we were able to drive over the dam when I was first there and it was far more “historic-looking.”

The dam was completed in 1911 after several years of work and mishaps. Former President Theodore Roosevelt dedicated the dam which had the primary purpose of providing water storage for the Salt River Project and flood control through the Salt River Valley. In 1989, renovations and reconstruction began until completion in 1996. As a result of the reconstruction, the dam has a completely altered appearance from when it was originally listed as a National Historic Landmark. The original rubble-masonry dam was completely encased in concrete, and the structural height was extended from 280 feet to 357 feet. Since the dam no longer had the integrity of the design, materials, workmanship, feeling, or association that it had when it was originally listed, the National Historic Landmark designation was withdrawn on March 10, 1999.

This majestic guy was perched on the outcropping in the far right of the above photo, overlooking the dam:

Here is a public domain photo of the original dam:

The following photo shows an aerial view (by the Bureau of Reclamation). Wish I could have gotten this shot!

State Route 188 had to be reconfigured when the new bridge was built.

In the aerial view of the dam, you can see a winding road on the lower right side. That is the old Apache Trail. It starts out paved at the dam but soon changes to an unpaved, winding road with hairpin turns and sheer drop-offs. It is apparently really beautiful but since it lasts for about 40 miles, we opted not to go. Plenty of people do take it, though, or parts of it, and the canyon floors are littered with cars that went over.

It runs along the glittering Salt River to Apache Junction.

There is a part of it that is paved out of Apache Junction to beyond Tortilla Flat, a remaining stagecoach stop. That is going on our list of future “to-dos.” The unpaved, winding part? Not so sure I’ll ever see that. That’s okay, I watched a YouTube video of it.

We also stopped at Tonto National Monument, right along the lake: well-preserved cliff dwellings from the Salado culture 850 years ago. It’s a half-mile hike up to the dwellings with a 350 foot ascension. There’s very little shade so even though the temperatures were in the upper 70s, it was pretty hot. The unique thing about these dwellings is that you can actually go inside them. There is a ranger stationed there asking you to not touch the walls but it’s pretty cool to actually be able to go inside.

This is what the Salado people saw looking out from their home:

A handprint from 850 years ago

Another photo that is not mine of the cliff dwellings (Wikipedia):

We didn’t see many birds but it was awesome, nevertheless.

Great Blue Heron

Here’s a short video of the dam’s history if you’re interested:

 

 

 

The Halloween Ball

Curve-billed Thrasher with treat

The birds (and other critters) have been having a ball in our yard the last few days leading up to Halloween. In addition to their regular oranges, grape jelly, and suet, they’ve been enjoying bird seed packed with fruits and nuts that I recently won in the Pennington Wild Bird Photo Contest (with this photo). Plus they find extra goodies in the yard like insects, berries, and pomegranates.

Gilded Flicker, female, yard bird species #33

This girl, above, has started dropping by for a drink now and then. She’s so pretty.

Honey Bees enjoying pine sap

Anna’s Hummingbird, male

Northern Mockingbird

House Finch, female

White-crowned Sparrow, first of season

Eurasian Collared-Dove

House Finches, male

Gila Woodpecker, male

Queen Butterfly in Mesquite

Orange-crowned Warbler

If this is the same warbler, this will be its third year to winter in our yard. He or she is also over a month early so I’m not positive it’s the same one yet. Time may tell…I hope it is or, if not, I hope the other one will show up later and I’ll have 2. There is grape jelly in this feeder and this bird loves it.

House Sparrow,male

Abert’s Towhee

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Fall in Page Springs

Oak Creek

We were in Page Springs the other day, which is technically in Cornville, close to Cottonwood. It’s known for having Page Springs Hatchery where they raise rainbow trout for sport fishing and for Bubbling Ponds Native Fish Research Facility. Both are owned by Arizona Game and Fish Department and are surrounded by a preserve where AZGFD and the Northern Arizona Audubon Society are engaged in conservation projects for the plants and animals. It is located on Oak Creek and has several miles of well-maintained trails which we were on.

For those of you who have real autumns, these shots won’t be that exciting to you but, in Phoenix, where fall doesn’t produce many changing leaves, we all get excited at fall colors. This area was not at peak yet, unfortunately, but it was still pretty. So here are too many fall shots of the area.

Rainbow Trout

Maybe that was too many…sorry. The Important Bird Area was not full of plentiful birds, of course. No lifers here.

White-crowned Sparrows, male and female

Red-winged Blackbirds

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Northern Cardinal, female

Nor did we see the River Otters which are sometimes spotted there.

This area is also known for its many vineyards and wineries.

We didn’t feel right not getting some souvenirs to make up for the lack of birds. It’s always nice to support the local economy…

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Accruing Garden Hours

Harris’s Antelope Squirrel

I’ve mentioned before that I volunteer at the Desert Botanical Garden and that one of my 2017 goals was to get 100 hours in this year (because you get a pin if you make 100 and they’re custom-made every year)! Well, it’s looking uncertain but I’m not losing hope yet; I can still get there. Keep in mind that it’s awfully hot here for several months so the Garden doesn’t have as many offerings in the areas I’m trained to volunteer in during the summer which only leaves about 7-8 months. So, in addition to laziness, not many opportunities were available. But they are now and one of the many advantages is that I can walk around before or after my shifts and see the sights.

Last Monday I was there for a meeting and, after that, I went to find some people I know who participate in the Monday morning Bird Walk. So I got to spend some time with them and meet some other birders. This little guy was happy to catch a few grapes. He buried one and dined on this one.

We went off to try to locate the Green-tailed Towhees that have been spotted there lately. I’ve seen one there before but they are often reluctant to come out in the open so we were glad this one cooperated. They are such a pretty bird and not seen very often.

They love lantana berries! And everyone loves to see the roadrunners:

Greater Roadrunner

Yesterday I was an Instructor Aide at the Garden for a local well-known photographer, Lisa Langell, who has a very engaging personality. She not only teaches classes several places but does regular workshops including two every summer in Alaska, which sound unique and wonderful. She guarantees bears and much more. Check out her website if you’re interested. She also sells her prints and one of the ways she displays them to potential clients is by using interior mockups so they can better visualize how the prints might look in their own spaces. I’ve seen a couple other people doing this lately. Although I don’t really sell prints, the mockups looked fun to me so I tried to find some free ones today to play around with. Lisa licenses hers and they’re a little more sophisticated but I didn’t want to spend any money so here are a couple of freebies I found:

Created using Free Wall Mockup in Gorgeous Living Room Environment from ZippyPixels.

I don’t know where the above one originated, found it here.

Shortly after playing around with those for awhile, I found a free WallApp from OhMyPrints. It’s got several different rooms and is really easy to use.

Almost makes me want to sell some prints so I have a good excuse to play around with these. Actually, a man contacted me yesterday and asked if he could purchase a print of the above photo, something I made in 2012 to commemorate Arizona’s centennial. It’s a 1912 AZ map superimposed with a saguaro. Since I don’t have any prints, I just sent him the jpg and told him he could get it printed. Maybe it will look like that.

Anyway, I’ll be spending more time at the DBG over the next couple months. I work on Special Events, too, and they have a ton of them. Coming up will be Music in the Garden, Dia de Los Muertos, Chiles and Chocolate, The Strange Garden, and Las Noches de las Luminarias. So I hope I can get to 100…