Phoenix 150

Rosy-faced Lovebird, juvenile

Gila Woodpecker

House Finch family

Brown-headed Cowbird

Gambel’s Quail, male

I have a few photos saved up for times like these, the dog days of summer, when it’s just too hot to get motivated to go anywhere. By using these five photos, all taken in local parks (above), I am drastically depleting my reserve. So we have to get back on the road again very soon…

We traded Tony’s 2003 Mustang, which needed some expensive work, in and got a new-to-us Ford Escape. We had been using my car for our day trips but we really needed more clearance for some of the rougher roads.

We have a lot of pets, including a diabetic cat that needs insulin every 12 hours so it’s easiest for us to go on day trips since it would be a lot to require of a pet-sitter. It’s best if the places we go are less than 2.5 hours away so we can spend a few hours at our destination before heading home. I used this online tool (freemaptools.com) to draw a radius of 150 miles around Phoenix to see what all might be included. But I noticed that these distances are “as the crow flies” and to really get to some of them would take up to 4 hours or so depending on the roads.

So I modified the parameters to 150 minutes from Phoenix, driving an average of 70 mph, and came up with this map, below:

Fortunately, there are a lot of beautiful places within these boundaries and we need to get exploring. There are birds and all sorts of fascinating things out there.

Here’s Google, our diabetic cat, posing as a Currency Manipulator. He’s doing well, having been diabetic for almost 2 years now.

 

Mogollon Rim

With temperatures hovering right around 120° this week in Phoenix (it only hit 119 officially yesterday), it’s nice to remember what it was like when we went to Woods Canyon Lake on the Mogollon Rim a couple weeks ago.

The Mogollon Rim is a topographical and geological feature cutting across Arizona. It extends approximately 200 miles, starting in northern Yavapai County and running eastward, ending near the border with New Mexico. It forms the southern edge of the Colorado Plateau in Arizona (Wikipedia).

You can walk right to the edge and it just drops off! You wouldn’t want to stumble around in the dark up here.

These teenagers were braver than me.

This was as close as I dared get, about a foot from the edge.

It is so beautiful and so cool up there at about 7,500 feet elevation.

There are other lakes on the Rim and, next time, which I hope will be fairly soon, we will try one of them. Woods Canyon Lake was pretty crowded although we were able to get away from the crowd and find a little clearing (above) where we just sat and enjoyed the cool breeze and quiet. We put out some peanuts to see who might drop by.

Grey-collared Chipmunk

And I got the target bird I had been hoping to get in Flagstaff a few days before but failed.

Steller’s Jay (lifer)

I think Jays, in general, are so pretty but these are especially stellar!

Williamson’s Sapsucker, female

We saw the male Williamson’s Sapsucker, too, but I couldn’t get a shot. Too bad because they are beautiful and look entirely different from the female. That was my first sighting of a male.

Western Tanagers, female and male

Common Raven

Yellow-rumped Warbler, Audubon’s, female

These warblers are plentiful in the Phoenix area in the winter and now I know where some of them go to breed. This girl was working on a nest.

I got 2 other lifers here. One was a Plumbeous Vireo but the shot I got is very mediocre. The other was a bird I really didn’t think I would ever see…because they’re almost impossible to see!

See it? They’re so tiny and blend in so well with the bark of trees that it’s very hard to spot one. I was pretty excited to add it to my list.

Brown Creeper (lifer)

There was a forest fire on the other side of the lake that was lightning-caused but they were letting it burn to clear out the area. Unfortunately, another fire, the Highline Fire, has started in the area since then but is now 92% contained, with acreage burned posted at 6,854. Always so sad this time of year…

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

Usery Mountain and Red Mountain

Red-tailed Hawk on Saguaro

We’ve been fortunate to have some cool days in Phoenix lately, before the true summer heat begins, so last week we took a local trip about 30 miles away to Usery Mountain Regional Park (a county park). It was very pretty. We made another stop first that I didn’t care for as much so I’ll put that at the end of this post…

I was glad to finally see this sign above. It has been around since the 1950s (although I’ve also heard it was already present during WWII) when a Boy Scout troop built it to help direct pilots to the Phoenix airport, 20 miles west. It’s made of rocks from Usery Mountain: each letter is about 100 feet high and 12 feet wide. The sign is 1,000 feet across and it took 5.5 years to assemble. More on this marker here.

Pass Mountain

Viewing Pond

This little pond and waterfall draws wildlife in for drinks and baths.

House Finches, male and female

Gambel’s Quail

Curve-billed Thrasher on Saguaro

Lesser Goldfinch

The Nature Center at the park had feeders set up behind it. I always appreciate feeders to draw birds in. No lifers but lifers aren’t everything…I guess.

This is the view looking south toward Apache Junction.

Our original destination that day was Red Mountain Park in east Mesa, where we went first. We had heard they have a wetlands area. Well, sort of, but not really. This park did not thrill me at all. I’m sure it’s nice for a city park if you live close by but it wasn’t worth the drive (to us).

The place was dominated by grackles and doves. We saw a few other birds but they’re the sort of birds we see at most of the ponds and lakes around town.

Canada Goose gosling

Cooper’s Hawk

Pied-billed Grebes, adult and immature

Western Wood-Pewee

Brown-headed Cowbird

Snow Goose

The highlight of that park was seeing this Snow Goose, which should really not be in the area and shows up on the rare bird alert regularly. It must either like it there or it can’t fly although it certainly looked fine. I’ve seen a migrating flock of these before but never one up close like this. It is a handsome bird.

Oh, the very first shot of the hawk on the saguaro? It cost me $24. I took it from the side of the road and laid my lens cap on my car. Hours later I remembered. It’s a big cap, 95mm. The replacement just arrived now.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Goldwater Lake

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

White-breasted Nuthatch

American Robin

Mallard, drake

Great Blue Heron

Chipping Sparrow

Marine Blue Butterfly

This slideshow requires JavaScript.