White Tank Mountains

Looking east toward Phoenix and beyond

Our first day trip of 2018 was to the far west side of the valley to the White Tanks. In 1963, Maricopa County acquired the land that makes up the north end of the White Tank Mountains from the Bureau of Land Management and opened up the White Tank Mountain Regional Park. The park is currently the largest and most primitive park in the Maricopa County Park System with over 29,000 acres and elevation ranging from 1,370 to 4,087 feet.*

We walked the Waterfall Trail. It had rained the night before but not nearly enough for the waterfall to run. Neverthelss, it was a remarkable sight. The park is also full of petroglyphs from the Hohokam period, the prehistoric culture that occupied the Salt River Valley and surrounding area between AD 100 and 1450. Most of the artifacts there have been dated from AD 500 to 900.*

There is a large concentration of petroglyphs in a fenced area called “Petroglyph Plaza” and others are scattered throughout.

The end of this particular trail is at the waterfall.

There was water in a small pool at the base of the waterfall but, even without running water, one can see the sediment and erosion from thousands of years of flowing water. It was pretty awesome looking.

Where were all the birds???? We hardly saw any. This is the only photo I got.

Black-throated Sparrow

Hopefully, our future trips will be more birdful.

*Some of the information was obtained from this publication.

 

 

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Arlington

This steel truss bridge was built in 1927 over the Gila River downstream from the Gillespie Dam on what is now Old US Highway 80. It’s about an hour west from our house and sounded like an interesting little trip.

You can see the dam in these shots, above and below. It was constructed in 1920 but on January 9, 1993, due to record heavy rainfall, 120 feet of the dam collapsed. It was never repaired and nature has now taken over much of the area. The remnants of the dam remain in place and the area is largely accessible to the public. A small earthen embankment exists to divert water into nearby canals.

Before we headed over for a closer look at the dam, we were treated to an airshow!

American White Pelicans

You can get right up to the dam and, if you want to climb a little (we didn’t), you can even walk across it~until you hit the broken area.

Great Egret and Snowy Egrets

Apparently liability isn’t a concern for the County. I wouldn’t want to be under this building next time there is a record rainfall. It was an unusual, bizarre kind of place but in a good way. The whole area of Arlington is very agricultural. I wish we had gotten some shots of all the fields.

This place is now partially owned by the state and there were some trucks going in and out. I don’t believe it’s for cattle anymore but it is picturesque. We were then going to head to Arlington Wildlife Area but the dirt road we were on was way beyond rutted and we didn’t think it was wise.

Red-tailed Hawk

Instead we drove a few more miles west to a nondescript area known to birders as the “Thrasher Spot.” It’s just on the corner of 2 roads and rare thrashers and sparrows seem to congregate there in the desert brush. It was late afternoon by then and not too active but I did get my final lifer of 2017, a Sagebrush Sparrow!

Here’s a short article on the dam and bridge.

 

Seven Springs

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

Cave Creek

Red-naped Sapsucker

Phainopeplas

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:

Sage Thrasher

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!

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