Willow Springs Lake/Christopher Creek

We headed back up to the Mogollon Rim one day last week to go to a different lake…Willow Springs Lake (elevation 7,513 feet). It was beautiful…but raining. The birds were hiding, I didn’t want to get my cameras wet, and it was cold! At the same time that it was 109° in Phoenix it was 50° cooler there.

Abert’s Squirrel

So we left…to return another day. We headed down the hill to Christopher Creek for lunch, hoping it would clear up afterwards.

This is what the Mogollon Rim looks like from below as opposed to what it looks like from above in a previous post.

Christopher Creek is a tiny (3 square miles) census-designated place in northern Gila County. Situated at the base of the Mogollon Rim, the community lies at an elevation of 5,961 feet and is located approximately 23.5 miles northeast of Payson. The population as of the 2010 U.S. Census was 156 (Wikipedia). There were at least 100 homes there so the population must not take into consideration part-time residents. It’s a beautiful little town with some lodges, a couple restaurants, and a market or 2. I was very surprised to see this large, new LDS church there, too.

It’s now the town I wish we could have a 2nd home in (I keep changing towns but it’s just a dream anyway).

It didn’t really clear up, the rain let up a little but it was still very overcast and threatening to rain more so we took a walk on the creek. I heard there are a ton of birds there but they didn’t want to get wet, I guess.

Lots of slippery rocks in the creek as Tony climbed around on them attempting to get that award-winning photo. And this is it:

It’s very pretty. And then he fell on the slippery rocks. He had sprained fingers, we went to the ER in Payson because he thought one was broken, and then we headed home. And this is why you should always have a filter on your lens:

So we will return another day to further explore the area but this is monsoon season so you never know when you’re going to get a non-rainy day, especially up north.

 

 

Late Afternoon Sunlight

Gila Woodpecker, female

A few days ago, when it was unseasonably cool, I wandered over to the Desert Botanical Garden around 5 pm. It was not crowded at all, the birds were happily chirping and eating, everything was blooming, and the sun made it all glow. The Garden is always beautiful but this evening it seemed that everything came together to make it extraordinary. These photos don’t begin to capture the way it looked.

Mexican Fencepost Cactus

Sunflower

Coneflower and bonus bug

Flame Skimmer Dragonfly

Gambel’s Quail nibbling in herb garden

Gaillardia

Lesser Goldfinch

Anna’s Hummingbird

Verdin dining

Queen Butterfly

It was really quite spectacular!

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

Three of Four Seasons

This is the Darden Road Bridge in South Bend, Indiana, over the St. Joseph River. The only known truss bridge in the county, this bridge is noted for its multi-span length and unusual deck placement. It was built in 1884 by P. E. Lane of Chicago, Illinois. I came upon it by accident and it was really pretty.

I just got back from there; my 95 year old mother was in Rehab. She’s fine now and will be released in a couple days. I didn’t have much time for birding, understandably, nor did I take my birding lens but, even so, I got 5 lifers!

These first few photos were taken at St. Patrick’s County Park, also on the river.

Black-capped Chickadee

There is a Bald Eagle nest at this park that has been inhabited for the last couple of years. The eagles took over an existing Red-tailed Hawk nest (I didn’t know they did that). Below is the nest.

And my mom and I saw one of the eagles in a nearby tree! Wish I had my birding lens for that. Here’s their Bald Eagle Live Cam.

On another day, I went to Madeline Bertrand County Park in nearby Niles, Michigan, and that’s where I got 4 lifers in less than an hour! These are birds we don’t see in Arizona.

White-breasted Nuthatch

Tufted Titmouse

Red-bellied Woodpecker

Dark-eyed Junco, Slate-colored

I also saw a beautiful Blue Jay but the photos are pretty blurry.

Northern Cardinal, Indiana State Bird

We have Great-tailed Grackles in AZ but in Indiana, they have these guys all over the place (my 5th lifer):

Common Grackle

The robins were in abundance everywhere, pudgy little things.

American Robin

In the 2 weeks I was there, I experienced all the seasons but summer. The temperatures ranged from 19 to about 65. We had rain, snow, sleet, hail (golf ball-sized), tornados all around us, and a little sun. I prefer Arizona’s 2 seasons, beautiful and hot. I’m fortunate it was “mild” while I was there, for the most part. Bye, snow.

The Locals

eagle-young-2

eagle-young

eagle-young-3Bald Eagle, immature

This is either Hope or Joy, one of 2 Bald Eagles hatched in a nest in a Scottsdale golf course last spring (in a densely populated area). They were well-known locally then and each of them fell from their nest as nestlings and were placed back in by Arizona Game and Fish and Liberty Wildlife rehabbers. You can read their story and see them as babies here and here. I never saw them last year as their exact location was a secret, for their safety.

Anyway, I was at Lake Marguerite, which isn’t far from that golf course, a couple times recently looking for a Hairy Woodpecker and the second time I looked up and Hope or Joy was watching me! It’s always exciting to see a bald eagle, I think, and he/she took off right as I watched, zipped over the lake, swooped down, grabbed a fish, and flew off right by me. And I even saw the Hairy Woodpecker (which was my 12th lifer this year) but the photo is basically a black and white blur so I won’t show it here. However, I got a couple shots of this girl:

lbwp-4

lbwp-2Ladder-backed Woodpecker, female

ruddy-ducks-lmRuddy Ducks

I was also at Granada Park recently, my old standby park that I don’t visit much anymore, and I was surprised to see this beautiful guy watching me from the trees. While not a lifer, it was the best shots I’ve ever gotten of one.

coop-hawk-1

coop-hawk-2Cooper’s Hawk

cormy-1Neotropic Cormorant

ring-necked-duckRing-necked Duck

yrwa-1Yellow-rumped Warbler, Audubon’s

And when I was recently volunteering at the Desert Botanical Garden, I walked around afterwards and saw a few more critters.

gila-wp-1-17-17Gila Woodpecker, male

costas-1-17-17Costa’s Hummingbird, male

costas-girl-1-17-17Costa’s hummingbird, female

squirrel

squirrel-2Rock Squirrel

thrasher

thrashers-1-17-17Curve-billed Thrashers

towheesAbert’s Towhees