The other day we went to a place in Tonto National Forest called Seven Springs. We drove 8 miles on a washboardy dirt road to get there. Unfortunately, due to a long drought, the drive was not overly pretty; the area was fairly dry and sparse. However, it was very birdy at our destination. There were hundreds of birds flying around. American Robins are not seen in the Phoenix area very often so, even though they are a common bird in so many parts of the U.S., they are fun for us Phoenicians to see and they are really such pretty birds. Well, this place had tons of them!
The area is full of pinyon pines and junipers so berries and nuts abound.
Western Bluebirds were also very plentiful there.
Western Bluebirds, male and female
Dark-eyed Junco (Pink-sided subspecies~new to me)
Dark-eyed Junco (Oregon subspecies)
And, yes, there were lifers involved! I saw a Juniper Titmouse and have a bad photo of it. And the other lifer was:
This is Humboldt Mountain that has a FAA radar facility at the top and is located right by Seven Springs. You can see how dry some of the area is now:
And, if you celebrate…
A Berry, Merry Christmas to you!
San Francisco Peaks, Humphreys Peak, highest point in AZ at 12,633 feet (click to enlarge panorama)
It’s heating up in Phoenix now so our local adventures will be on hold and we’ll have to take our day trips to higher altitudes. Last week we were in Flagstaff, elevation 6,909 feet. We were primarily at The Arboretum at Flagstaff located on 200 acres deep within the Coconino National Forest.
Western Bluebirds, male and female
There were many nesting boxes throughout. I think they appeal to the Western Bluebirds especially.
And I got 4 lifers!
House Wren (lifer)
Pygmy Nuthatch (lifer)
Violet-Green Swallows (lifers)
Broad-tailed Hummingbird (lifer)
Mountain Short-horned Lizard
The Botanical Blacksmiths exhibit features many metal sculptures at the Arboretum.
Flagstaff Fun Fact:
This is the U.S. Naval Observatory Flagstaff Station. Visible from The Arboretum, it is the national dark-sky observing facility under the United States Naval Observatory. Flagstaff is also home to Lowell Observatory (where non-planet Pluto was discovered) and Northern Arizona University’s Barry Lutz Telescope and was the first jurisdiction on Earth to enact a light-pollution-control ordinance. Arizona has the densest grouping of dark-sky communities in the world, according to the International Dark-Sky Association: Flagstaff, Oak Creek and Sedona. Most people in the U.S. cannot see the Milky Way. We are fortunate to have many places in Arizona where one can do so.
Acorn Woodpecker, female
If you don’t live in the purple range below at an elevation over 4500 feet, maybe you’ve never seen one of these comical woodpeckers before. I hadn’t~at least not since I’ve been paying attention to birds. So I was excited to see a lot of them the other day when we went to Goldwater Lake in Prescott, AZ.
This is a granary tree, above, the main food storage “pantry” created and used by communal groups of these fascinating woodpeckers. They have a complex social system where family groups hold territories, and young woodpeckers stay with their parents for several years and help the parents raise more young. Several different individuals of each sex may breed within one family, with up to seven breeding males and three breeding females in one group (Cornell Lab). There can be up to 50,000 holes in one tree!
Acorn Woodpecker, male
This whole area was very birdy and beautiful! The dam separates the upper and lower lakes.
Western Bluebird, female
Western Bluebird, male
The Bluebirds were also lifers and the female was very accommodating. I have many shots of her. Also easy to photograph were the Juncos. I got a new subspecies, below. I also got another lifer, a Bridled Titmouse, but my photos are very blurry.
Dark-eyed Junco, Red-backed
This is actually a Prescott city park but it is part of Prescott National Forest. Nice trails.
Common Raven, snacking
Ruddy Duck, with blue bill in breeding plumage
Great Blue Heron
Marine Blue Butterfly
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.
As my mother and I left St. Joseph, Michigan, we stopped at another spot along the shore called Lookout Park. This park is along a cliff overlooking the lake and is a beautiful spot for just sitting and gazing out over Lake Michigan. You can park right along there and we saw many locals pulling in and eating dinner in their cars.
There used to be houses along this stretch but, in 1954, after a prolonged rain and previous erosion, the houses started to slide into the lake. I guess a couple of them did. Others were moved to other locations and this park was created to memorialize that event. Fortunately, no lives were lost. Across the street from this park are a lot of beautiful old homes from the same era that overlook the lake, too.
Another point of interest in St. Joe is this railroad swing bridge that is still in operation a couple of times a day. Years ago, I saw it working.
Here’s a short video of it in operation:
And, to finish off my trip to the midwest, I saw a bird that is seldom seen in Phoenix but all over the midwest:
Northern Cardinal, male
The Northern Cardinal is Indiana’s State Bird and I did see them everywhere…as flashes of red darting through trees. I didn’t get one good photo of any!
Northern Cardinal, fledgling
I never saw the woodpecker that is often in my mother’s Sweet Gum tree, unfortunately, because it would have been a different kind than we have in Arizona.
Her tree also had a pretty fungus.
Bye, Indiana and Michigan, where everything is lush and green.