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.

Apache Junction

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meadowlark-2

A couple of weeks ago, Tony and I spent a lovely day in Apache Junction. I found my target bird, a Western Meadowlark, at Prospector Park, pretty quickly. Such big, handsome birds.

There were a few other pretty birds there:

quailGambel’s Quail, male

vfcVermillion Flycatcher, male

finchHouse Finch, male

phoebe-flySay’s Phoebe

We were already almost there so we went on to my new favorite park, Lost Dutchman State Park, in the Superstition Mountains. It was gorgeous!

superstitions

treasure-loop

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Although I didn’t spot any lifers there, I was able to get my best ever shots of these plentiful Phainopeplas, striking birds with red eyes.

phainopepla-malePhainopepla, male

phainopepla-femalePhainopepla, female

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mtn-closeup-2

phain-silhouette

And no visit to Apache Junction is complete without a stop at the Elvis Presley Memorial Chapel, a movie memorabilia museum showing the movies that were filmed at Apacheland, including Charro, starring Elvis.

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The Locals

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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

Cave Creek

michelin-man-horizontal

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.

michelin-man-2

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.

sign

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

yellow

rckiRuby-crowned Kinglet

jotc

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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jotc-2

jewel-of-the-desert

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

A Red Letter Day

gb-heron_edited-1Great Blue Heron

great-egretGreat Egret

stilt_edited-1Black-necked Stilt

Despite mentioning in my last post that the Glendale Recharge Ponds are not my favorite place, I was back there one day last week. My birding friend, Samantha, wanted to look for the Long-tailed Duck reported there (that I could not find a few days prior when I went). She’s really good at finding birds so I wanted to go, too. We actually had 2 other target birds that day, at other locations farther west of the ponds: White-tailed Kites (2 have been reported) and a Tundra Swan. I was also really hoping to find some Western Meadowlarks and Western Bluebirds as they have been seen in the places we were going. All would be Lifers for me. But…

large

However, I had a 6 lifer day anyway! Samantha has more birds on her life list than I do so she was not so lucky. Here’s what I got at Glendale Recharge Ponds:

greater-yellowlegs-2Greater Yellowlegs

solitary-sandpiperSolitary Sandpiper

I was most excited about these two:

savannah-sparrow

savannah-sparrow-2

savannah-sparrow-3Savannah Sparrow

pipit-1_edited-1American Pipit

I saw these cute guys before we left:

ocwa-creosote-2

ocwa-creosoteOrange-crowned Warbler

says-phoebeSay’s Phoebe

black-phoebeBlack Phoebe

sparrow-songSong Sparrow

We then drove several miles to our second location in search of Kites. No such luck but I did get one other lifer there and have a really bad shot to prove it:

vesper-sparrow_edited-1Vesper Sparrow

Then we drove several more miles to where we hoped to see the Tundra Swan. No such luck again but we did see these guys and there were lifers, for me, among them. I saw them slightly better with my binoculars than these photos show.

snow-geeseSnow Geese

Since we had already gone so far, we decided to make one other stop a few more miles away referred to as the “Thrasher Spot.” I had never been there but Samantha had with much success. It’s a nondescript little area known for a variety of thrashers, Horned Larks, and a few other less common birds but they all seemed to be taking afternoon naps by the time we got there. We saw hardly any birds and nothing unusual.

The most exciting thing I saw there was this mistletoe cluster in a mesquite tree with a tiny bird in the upper right corner. However, despite getting zero target birds, 6 lifers in one day was awesome!

mistletoe-in-mesquite