The Green Corral

Deer Doe

We went somewhere finally! Back to Mount Ord (previous visits 1, 2, 3). It was 108° in Phoenix and only 93° there…it was still really hot to be walking around. But we got a change of scenery, some photos, some birds.

Queen

Cairns, the top one has a little critter, maybe a grasshopper?

Cairn 1

Cairn 2

We saw a man that we had met a couple years ago who lives up there; he’s a nice guy and we got his contact info this time. We also met another couple and talked to them for quite a long time. The woman knew a lot about birds.

Acorn WPAcorn Woodpecker

Hairy WPHairy Woodpecker

Dirt

Thistle

We didn’t go all the way to the top this time; we stayed in the ‘saddle,” which is a good place for birds. We heard a lot but the visuals weren’t very fruitful.

Mt. Ord Top

Top Closeup

So we headed back down the mountain.

Road Down

Agave

Far View Down

The views were pretty. We decided to stop at one more place before getting back on the highway…the green corral…

Green Corral

Saw this guy but had the wrong camera…

Hooded OrioleHooded Oriole

I went to switch cameras and tried to chase him down to get a better shot. I never saw him again but saw this guy instead:

Scott's Oriole 1

Scott's Oriole 2

Scott's Oriole 3_edited-1Scott’s Oriole

They were both lifers (birds I’ve never seen before)! And there was another lifer there, too, a Black-chinned Sparrow but I only have a blurry shot. So, in just a few minutes at this one stop, I got 3 lifers. What was a bad birding day became an excellent birding day.

And then we headed back to Phoenix at 108°

SR 87 Far

We turned left (south)…back to the stifling heat…but we’re used to summers in Phoenix, I guess.

SR 87 Close_edited-1State Route 87

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Mingus Mountain

We went somewhere we’d never been before!

Mingus Mountain Vista overlooking Cottonwood

The only problem is that it rained and was threatening more storms the whole time we were there…

And those impending storms prevented us from climbing the fire tower, which would have been totally cool and now is one of my goals. We did spend about an hour with the very colorful fireguard, “Johnny Mingus,” and got some Smokey the Bear memorabilia. We hope to see Johnny again (and Smokey).

Mingus Lake (or Elk Well) was more like a puddle as the rain up there has been sparse but, oddly, there were people fishing.

They leave their lures.

There were meadows and wildflowers everywhere, something we don’t always see in the mountains.

And the birding wasn’t great or at least the photographing of birds wasn’t great with the cloudy skies. Plus they kept their distance.

Acorn Woodpecker

Spotted Towhee

The warblers are now heading south! Some will be wintering in Phoenix, others will be heading further down. Hope to see some in our yard soon.

Orange-crowned Warbler

Yellow-rumped Warblers

Wilson’s Warblers, male and female

Western Bluebird overlooking a meadow

Target even though no hunting or shooting allowed

Tent Caterpillars everywhere!

Dark-eyed Juncos, Red-backed subspecies

Interesting to see ocotillos amidst the pines.

A perfect pine among the others…

…is really a cell tower.

I’d love to go back sometime on a sunny day.

Edit: I made a panorama out of the first 2 shots in this post.

Untitled_Panorama3_edited-1

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Back to Madera Canyon

It’s a penguin!

Not really.

Acorn Woodpecker

Last week we were back at one of our favorite places, for the second time ever. We had been there almost exactly one year prior (last year’s post). Last year I got 5 lifers; this year I got 5 more. Many consider Madera Canyon the third hottest birding spot in the U.S. as it is a very diverse environment (part of the Madrean Sky Islands). This was my favorite and the target bird for the day:

Arizona Woodpecker, male (lifer)

He was accommodating and came right to the feeders at Santa Rita Lodge a couple of times while we sat there in their bird viewing area. This is the only brown woodpecker in the world and is only found in southeastern Arizona and part of Mexico.

Pine Siskins, Lesser Goldfinches, House Finches

The Pine Siskins were also lifers but I have a feeling they were there last year, too, and that I thought they were finches.

Rufous-crowned Sparrow (lifer)

We also saw a Red-faced Warbler (lifer) but my photo does not do it justice. They’re a fairly uncommon bird.

Then we also heard the bird that is almost everyone’s target when going to Madera Canyon, the Elegant Trogon. We hiked a little with another couple looking for him and, after not locating it where we heard it might be, we split up. We kept hearing it calling as it has a very loud and distinctive call. We found the other couple again and, of course, they had gotten views of it! The American Birding Association considers heard-only birds to be as countable as seen birds. I don’t really agree as I would have loved to have seen it but I’m still counting it as my fifth lifer. This is what they look like and, in the U.S., are only found in Arizona and occasionally southern Texas. They’re really a Mexican bird and look very exotic and tropical. Someday we’ll see one!!!!

I love these birds and they are plentiful there. They are also a Mexican bird found only in southern AZ and southern TX:

Mexican Jay

They’re loud and boisterous like other Jays.

View from Old Baldy Trail

Santa Rita Lodge also has hummingbird feeders. I think these are the most beautiful of the hummers I’ve seen:

Broad-billed Hummingbirds (last one is a female)

Cordilleran Flycatcher

Chipping Sparrow

Black-headed Grosbeak

Just like last year, as we were getting ready to leave, we saw a couple of these guys:

Coues White-tailed Deer

The weather was perfect and it was another great day in Madera Canyon!

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Jinxed on the Mountain

You can see the forest reflected in the squirrel’s eye.

Arizona Gray Squirrels (endemic to eastern AZ and northern Mexico)

Last Thursday, September 13, we headed back up to Willow Springs Lake on the Mogollon Rim. Last time we went, which happened to be on July 13, it rained a lot and Tony fell into a creek, necessitating a trip to the Payson ER. This was going to be a do-over. As we drove north, our new-to-us SUV’s a/c quit functioning and, as we were still in low elevations, it was pretty uncomfortable. We were coming up on the Mt. Ord turnoff and decided to just go there instead. Last time we were there, we took our car and I had vowed to not go up the winding, rutted 6 mile road again until we had a SUV. No problem, right?

Well, we went a little over 4 miles up and an ominous warning appeared on the dash, “Transmission Failure. Service Now.” That kinda spooked us since it would be really bad to break down up there with no cell service and no easy access for a tow. So we stopped and walked around for a while. When we started the SUV again, the warning light wasn’t on anymore so we headed back down to an area referred to as the “saddle” with a corral and a cistern with running water where there should have been a lot of birds.

Lesser Goldfinch

Acorn Woodpecker

Bridled Titmouse

We met this guy, coming for a drink:

There are several up there. There were also many butterflies! A few held still long enough for photos.

Arizona Sister

Mournful Duskywing

Bauer’s Giant-Skipper

I also got a lifer bird, called a Hutton’s Vireo, but the photo is pretty bad. After spending a couple hours roaming around the saddle, we decided we should head back home since we were still concerned about the a/c and transmission.

Much of the forest road is not this nice.

As we were leaving, a man in a pickup truck stopped and came and talked to us. He was very friendly and chatty. Turns out, he has lived on Mt. Ord since 1992 (as there is private property in amongst the forest land) and he regaled us with colorful mountain tales of bears, lions, rattlesnakes, and other critters. We learned that hunting is legal up there and it is now hunting season (I had guessed that from seeing a couple guys in camouflage with bows). We learned there are plenty of black bears, that mountain lion meat is tasty, that there is all sorts of interesting history on the mountain, involving Spaniards and miners and more.

Okay, he didn’t quite look like that and it’s still a little hot to dress that way but you get the idea. He had removed the “F” from the back of his Ford pickup so that it read ORD. Meeting him made me realize, again, that as much as we like going to all these places and hiking around and thinking of ourselves as outdoorsy nature buffs, there’s city folk and there’s country folk, and they’re not the same.

Turkey Vultures

Next best surprise of the day was that our a/c worked just fine and the transmission light never came on again. Nevertheless, the SUV (not Ford-tough) is going in for a checkup Monday and we are not going to attempt any more trips on the 13th of any month, any day.

 

Madera Canyon

Mexican Jay (lifer)

Although I’ve lived in Arizona for over 40 years, I’ve never been to Madera Canyon before and only really became aware of it a couple of years ago from other birders. So, finally, I’ve experienced it and, like most of the other places in AZ that Tony and I have visited, it was beautiful!

Wikipedia says, “Madera Canyon is located in the Santa Rita Mountains, which is one of the largest of the Madrean Sky Islands. The canyon and its immediate surroundings are therefore home to a wide variety of flora and fauna, ranging from cactus covered desert in the lower reaches of the canyon to aspen and pine forest on Mount Wrightson.

With fifteen species of hummingbirds, elegant trogon, sulphur-bellied flycatcher, black-capped gnatcatcher, flame-colored tanager, thirty-six species of wood warblers, and over 256 species of birds documented in total, Madera Canyon is rated the third best birding destination in the United States. Other animals that can be found in Madera Canyon include black bear, mountain lion, bobcats, white-tailed and mule deer, foxes, coatis, ring-tailed cats, raccoons, wild turkeys, squirrels, and rabbits. Sixteen species of bats have also been recorded in the canyon.”

Unfortunately, we were only there for a few hours as we got a late start and, although it was several degrees cooler than Phoenix, we didn’t hike much because of the heat and time constraints. If you hike around, you can get some rare and unusual birds. We’ll go back in the fall and hike but, meanwhile, I did get 5 lifers and had a great time.

What we mostly did was hang out at the birdwatching area at Santa Rita Lodge. They are kind enough to let people who are not guests in their cabins also have access to this site for a donation to their bird food fund.

If you click on this photo (above), you can see the benches and chairs overlooking the feeding areas. We sat in the shade, a gentle breeze blowing, and watched the birds fly in to eat below…with cameras ready. It wasn’t even crowded since it was a weekday.

Broad-billed Hummingbirds, male and female (lifers)

Magnificent Hummingbird (lifer)

Magnificents are much larger than other hummingbirds but this guy stayed far away in a dark tree so I was lucky to get any photos at all of him. Someday I hope to get a good shot.

Hepatic Tanager (lifer)

Wild Turkey (lifer)

And I was able to get shots of some birds that were not lifers but ones I had never gotten decent shots of before.

Black-headed Grosbeaks, male and female

Bridled Titmouse

And a couple more:

Acorn Woodpecker

Black-chinned Hummingbird

Coues White-tailed Deer

As we were leaving in the late afternoon, we saw 3 deer together and another by itself. It had been many years since I came across a deer and was able to get a photo…the perfect end to a fun day.

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