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.
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.
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
Coneflower and bonus bug
Flame Skimmer Dragonfly
Gambel’s Quail nibbling in herb garden
It was really quite spectacular!
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.
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
And just in time for Easter!
These first few photos were taken at St. Patrick’s County Park, also on the river.
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.
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):
The robins were in abundance everywhere, pudgy little things.
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.
Bald 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:
Ladder-backed Woodpecker, female
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.
Yellow-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 Woodpecker, male
Costa’s Hummingbird, male
Costa’s hummingbird, female