Out of Range

Chestnut-sided Warbler

Some rare birds have been at the Gilbert Riparian Preserve (Riparian Preserve at Water Ranch) for the last few weeks and are still there. They are very unusual for Arizona as they are eastern U.S. birds. My birding friend, Marika, and I went there two weeks ago. I knew exactly where they were reported in the preserve~down to the exact trees and bench by the trees. We sat on the bench and all 3 of them came to us. They were all extremely fast and flighty and blended in with the cottonwood leaves so it was still challenging to get some photos.

Northern Parula

Black-and-White Warbler

It was pretty exciting to find them all. There were a couple more rare birds also reported there but we were unable to find those. Nevertheless, we were very pleased. I still may go back there soon.

Orange-crowned Warbler

This bird, above, is not uncommon here in the winter but I always like to see them. Last March Marika and I also went birding at the preserve and didn’t have as lucky of a day but I never posted any photos from that visit, basically because I had so few but here they are…

Northern Rough-winged Swallow

Snowy Egret

Song Sparrow

Black-necked Stilt

And I also have a few photos from a trip I took to the Scottsdale Xeriscape Garden back in late October. I was happy to see the bird below. It’s only the third time I’ve seen this species. They are not very common here but they are not considered rare. This particular bird posed very nicely for me for several minutes.

Hermit Thrush

Here are a couple more from that day…

Desert Cottontail

Black Phoebe

Anna’s Hummingbirds

Northern Mockingbird

Trying to catch up with the surplus of photos I have from 2017…hard to believe the year is coming to a close, isn’t it?

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Verde River

We went to two recreation areas along the Verde River in Tonto National Forest last week: Box Bar and Needle Rock. These areas are less than an hour from our house and we had never been there. In fact, I’d never even heard of them until recently and no one else I’ve mentioned them to has either. It was like stepping into Autumn all over again. It was gorgeous there.

Excuse the way-too-many photos. I’ll try not to blabber too much.

Great Blue Heron

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

As we walked down a path to the river’s edge at Needle Rock, I saw something move behind a tree. I thought a person was fishing or something but, no, this is who was there:

We were about 3 feet from him/her! I thought she had stuff from the river on her head from having her head in the water…

But it was a ton of cockleburs! Altogether we saw 9 wild horses there (and they all had cockleburs in their manes and tails).

The horses are used to people but still wary…fortunately.

These horses are part of the herd of Salt River Wild Horses mentioned in a previous post. They have a pretty large territory they cover. The ones we saw on the Salt didn’t appear to have these cockleburs, though. I hope there is some way they work off eventually.

The birding wasn’t good but the scenery and the horses more than made up for that!

Full disclosure: I have 2 cameras that we take on our trips so Tony takes many of the landscape photos. 🙂

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Saguaro Lake

After exploring the Lower Salt River, we headed to Saguaro Lake, set in the Sonoran Desert and rimmed with canyon walls. It is only about 40 miles northwest of downtown Phoenix.

Eared Grebe

And…I got a lifer (below)!

Western Grebe

Red-winged Blackbird, immature male

The lake is divided into two sections connected by narrows between canyon walls. The above is considered the marina side and the other side is my favorite, Butcher Jones Beach.

The Salt River wild horses, mentioned in my last post, often congregate here on hot, summer days. A lot of people also congregate at this lake all summer long. As you can see, we beat the rush by waiting.

Pied-billed Grebe

Redhead

There was a really nice trail there but it was almost dusk so we were not able to go very far on it…maybe next time…it seemed pretty “birdy.”

Great Blue Heron

Northern Cardinal

Black-tailed Gnatcatcher

 

 

Lower Salt River

This is Four Peaks as seen from the Phon D. Sutton Recreation Area on the Lower Salt River. This area is less than an hour’s drive from our house so we headed there one day last week. We drove through and hiked around several of the recreation areas along the river, ending at Saguaro Lake.

This is the confluence of the Verde and Salt Rivers, behind those rocks:

Our next stop was Coon Bluff Recreation Area, below, my favorite. This is where we hiked the most, looking for the herd of Salt River Wild Horses, often seen there.

We were fortunate to find a few of them, 4, to be exact.

“The Salt River wild horses are the beloved and majestic mustangs who have been roaming free along the lower Salt River in Arizona, for centuries. Arizona State Archives hold historic evidence of their existence in the Salt River Valley, back in the 1800s. Today, they are the pride of this community, a favorite subject of photographers, and the icon of the wild free spirit of the American West.” (SRWHMG website)

There are over 100 horses in this herd and the herd is growing at 12% per year, according to the Salt River Wild Horse Management Group, over 100 dedicated volunteers who constantly monitor the horses, making sure they are safe and ensuring that the public is safe from them. The horses often cross the Bush Highway so the group works to make these crossings safe for everyone concerned. They sometimes find injured horses or young horses separated from their bands and take them to their sanctuary for treatment, re-releasing them later, if at all possible, or allowing them to live out their lives at the sanctuary, if not.

Wild horses are controversial in the U.S. and these horses were slated for roundup by the U.S. Forest Service in 2015. There was a huge public outcry against this and, “in 2016, through the SRWHMG’s continued work with AZ State Legislators, the Salt River Horse Act (HB2340), was passed and was signed by Governor Doug Ducey, who had been supportive since the very beginning. This bill establishes that the Salt River wild horses are not stray livestock, makes harassing them illegal and requires a codifying of their humane management between the Forest Service, the State Agriculture Department and a private party. The bill paves the way for their humane management protocol that is geared towards achieving a reduced and stabilized population, so that each horse born in the wild can stay in the wild.” (SRWHMG website)

I’ve seen some beautiful photos of bands charging through the river, splashing water everywhere, but these four were intent on eating for the whole hour or so we watched them. No one ever raised their head. They have adapted to eating river grass which must taste really delicious. We were happy to see them at all, though. Not everyone does.

Here’s a short video of them on a recent day at the river:

That bluff in the center is Coon Bluff.

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Phainopepla

This photo, above, was taken at the last recreation area, Water Users. Next stop is Saguaro Lake, after one last peek at Four Peaks.

 

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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