Category Archives: Arizona

Cave Creek

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Now that Tony and I are both retired, we’re trying to get out and go to places in our area and state that we’ve never seen before (and I’m always trying to find new birds). Maybe every state is this way, but Arizona has a ton of city, county, state, and national parks.

Last week we went to Cave Creek Regional Park. We stopped at the Nature Center and the staff suggested we check out the “Michelin Man” saguaro so we hiked an easy trail and found it.

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Pretty amazing compared to the other saguaros. I’d like to see this in a couple months when the saguaros are blooming.

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horseback-rider

It’s a very nice park with hikers, bikers, and horseback riders but not very birdy so we went to a nearby riparian area known as Jewel of the Creek Preserve. “The Jewel of the Creek is a desert oasis filled with towering cottonwood and willow trees along Cave Creek, at the northern edge of the Town of Cave Creek and bordering the Spur Cross Ranch Conservation Area. This property holds one of the last remaining perennial streams in Maricopa County. The unusual year-round presence of water supports a myriad of plant and animal species.

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Every time I see one of these signs, it never bodes well for birding and it didn’t. This is a beautiful, lush place, though, along the banks of Cave Creek. The hike, which was listed as “moderate” was awful. I just don’t enjoy clambering over giant rocks and logs for almost 3 miles and I was pretty sure my camera was going to be smashed before the end. It wasn’t. 🙂

But everything was glowing in the late afternoon light…

cactus-wren-glowingCactus Wren

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rckiRuby-crowned Kinglet

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I didn’t take many photos when we were down along the banks, fighting to survive. These were all taken when we were safely up and almost done with the hike.

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A lovely place that I probably won’t be going to again…

Road Trip South

cactus-wrenCactus Wren

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On our too infrequent road trips, we usually head north of Phoenix but one day last week we headed south. Of course, I was in search of birds, one particular bird, and Tony was willing to come along. We saw places we had never been before so that’s always interesting.

First stop was Picacho Peak State Park.

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While there, I got my first Lifer of the day, and there were several of these guys!

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black-throated-sparrow-1Black-throated Sparrow

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Unfortuately, I didn’t think to take a photo of Picacho Peak itself until we had already moved on to our next destination. It’s a rugged mountain but we didn’t climb it, of course. The “easy” trail we were on was hard enough and I’ve decided to not do any climbing again. I’ll stick to flatter areas especially when carrying a big camera and lens.

Our next destination was Red Rock where there is a large feedlot. There were a lot of cows, of course, and a lot of birds (mostly Red-winged Blackbirds, Yellow-headed Blackbirds, Brown-headed Cowbirds, House Sparrows, and Starlings). This was where I got my second Lifer of the day but I didn’t know what it was until we got home later that night and I could do some research (meaning people in my Facebook birding group ID’ed it).

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lark-bunting-2Lark Bunting

Next we were on to the location where I hoped to find my “Target Bird.” This region is called Santa Cruz Flats, a large area of farmlands, dusty fields, and dirt roads. There are a lot of birds but they can be pretty far off in the fields so it’s hard to get close views.

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We drove around a lot of dirt roads since we didn’t have a specific location where the target bird might be as they are found all along that area. But, guess what? We spotted ONE of the birds pretty quickly which is a good thing because in all our continued driving in search of more, that was the only one we saw. They are bizarre-looking critters.

crested-caracaraCrested Caracara

“A tropical falcon version of a vulture, the Crested Caracara reaches the United States only in Arizona, Texas, and Florida. It is a bird of open country, where it often is seen at carrion with vultures” (from Cornell’s All About Birds, where you can see some better shots of them).

We did see quite a few flying raptors but I’m not good at identifying them high up in the sky.

rt-hawkRed-tailed Hawk

says-phoebeSay’s Phoebe

Already happy to have 3 Lifers in one day, as we were nearing the end of our dirt road trek, we spotted my 4th Lifer!

loggerhead-shrikeLoggerhead Shrike

These guys impale their kills of insects, birds, lizards, and small mammals on barbed wire or thorns. I was glad to not witness that part of their behavior.

Quite a successful day and a good start to my 2017 goal of 60 Lifers. We definitely will need to go on more road trips to accomplish that.

The Countdown

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I wasn’t going to get into the election because I don’t want to alienate anyone…but I changed my mind plus these are all the photos I have right now.

Both of these murals were done by local muralist Angel Diaz about voting against Maricopa County’s long-time, attention-grabbing, controversial Sheriff, Joe Arpaio. His opponent is ahead in the polls right now. Do you see the additional hidden message in the top mural? I didn’t notice it when I was there but see it now.

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I know tensions are running high on both sides so I won’t say much here. We voted early and dropped our ballots off at an early polling location a couple weeks ago.

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The Arizona Democratic Party has a sense of humor

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And they really had a taco truck there.

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Google’s PSA:

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You can probably guess who I’m voting for…

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At any rate, it will all be over in a couple days and we can get back to just the normal scary stuff like creepy clowns.

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Dead Horse Ranch

Dasher DHRBlue Dasher

Queen DHRQueen Butterfly

Yesterday we went to Clarkdale, AZ, to see an old friend of Tony’s who was visiting his parents there. After lunching in nearby Cottonwood, we went to Dead Horse Ranch State Park.

The developed portion of the park covers 423 acres with a 3,300 foot elevation. It is part of a six-mile reach of the river known as the Verde River Greenway State Natural Area. Its unique ecosystem, the Cottonwood and Willow riparian gallery forest, is one of less than 20 such riparian zones in the world. Life along the river changes with the seasons, giving visitors a glimpse of the numerous species of raptors, neotropical migrants, resident songbirds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and fish. (AZ State Parks)

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The story of the park’s name begins with the Ireys family, who came to Arizona from Minnesota looking for a ranch to buy in the late 1940s. At one of the ranches they discovered a large dead horse lying by the road. After two days of viewing ranches, Dad Ireys asked the kids which ranch they liked the best. The kids said, “the one with the dead horse, Dad!” The Ireys family chose the name Dead Horse Ranch and later, in 1973, when Arizona State Parks acquired the park, the Ireys made retaining the name a condition of sale. (AZ State Parks)

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Clear water makes the underwater world visible.

I had high hopes of adding many new birds to my life list but, no. We heard a lot of birds but mostly what we saw were Grackles, which we have in our own yard. With 3 lagoons and the Verde River, I was surprised to not see more water birds. All I saw were a Great Blue Heron, a Green Heron, a Mallard mom and her 2 young ones, and a Coot. We have more birds in our lakes in Phoenix so I don’t know why there weren’t more. The lagoons get stocked every other week so there are plenty of fish.

This bird, below, is a Lifer, though, the only one I got yesterday. This is an immature Bullock’s Oriole. A gust of wind blew and the bird took off right after this.

Bullocks Oriole DHR

DHR SparrowSong Sparrow

Lizard DHRArizona Striped Whiptail Lizard

Widow Skimmer DHRWidow Skimmer

Ants DHR_edited-1The Stuff of Nightmares

Tons of ants everywhere so we didn’t want to stand still too long.

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Once again, wrong time of year to be at this park. It was only a few degrees cooler than Phoenix so it was still over 100°.  We did get some exercise, though, and saw a beautiful new-to-us park. I’m sure in the fall it will be very “birdy.”

Black Canyon City

Sag Flower

Sag Distance

Black Canyon City is about 50 miles from our house in central Phoenix. Today I felt like seeing something different and had hopes I would find some lifer birds (nope). I’ve never actually gone into the town before. It’s about 5° cooler there. If I had gone about 15 miles further north to Cordes Junction, it would have been about 10° cooler. Maybe next time.

Vermilion FlycatchersVermilion Flycatchers, female and male

Vermilion FVermilion Flycatcher, female

CW BCCCactus Wren

CW NestCactus Wren Nest (I think)

I do think I saw a lifer, a Summer Tanager, a bright rosy-red bird, but I didn’t get a photo and only got a brief look so I’m not positive. It flew onto private property so I couldn’t pursue it.

BCT Sign

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BCC CarMy trusty companion of 9 years

It’s a really pretty area. Just south of Black Canyon City on I-17 is Rock Springs, a small touristy area that is very popular because of its pies…Rock Springs Cafe and General Store.

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So I brought one home…

Pie 2Chocolate Cream Pie

If you don’t see me around here for several more days, this is the reason…lack of photos due to this:

Weather 10 Day