Reach 11 Nature Trail

Roadrunner_edited-1Greater Roadrunner with lunch

Reach 11, in north Phoenix, is part of the city’s Parks and Recreation Department but it exists for flood control. A 7-mile long earthen dam keeps flood waters out of the nearby canal and out of housing developments to the south. The area where the nature trails are is only about 1 mile wide. Amazingly, this place is not well-known at all. I only heard about it from some birders recently. Driving down the busy street where the entrance is, one would never know what a beautiful place it is. Someone described it as a “hidden gem,” and it really is. From the street it just looks like desert scrub.

This poor, old, decrepit saguaro is at the beginning of the trail. We saw a bird fly into it so stopped to watch.

Saguaro R11

Who’s that?

Gila in Cactus 1

Gila in Hole_edited-1

It’s a male Gila Woodpecker. There must be a nest in there.

Gila Bill in Hole_edited-1

He was kind of shy. But then we saw more action…

Starling in Hole_edited-1

A European Starling. It had a nest in one of the center holes and kept flying in and out with food. We could hear babies chirping every time a delivery was made.

Then we saw someone else fly in the other side…

Flicker on Cactus_edited-1

A Gilded Flicker (male) seems to have a nest, too…

Flicker Butt in Hole_edited-1

Flicker in Hole_edited-1

We stayed on the trail and didn’t disrupt the nesters but I’m sure they were pleased we left. We also saw another Starling head into a hole in the back so this saguaro is home to at least 4 different nests now. Who knows what else might be living in there? The wind was really blowing hard and gusting while we were there so I hope when that poor saguaro falls that there are no nests left.

After we walked a little more, we started to see the “hidden gem” part of this area. It was very lush back in there, all sorts of grasses, wildflowers, etc.

Wild Plants

Thru the Trees

There was a mesquite bosque and a little hidden pond in there, full of tadpoles, called Bullfrog Pond. It was really peaceful and pretty. No one was around but one biker.

Pond 1

Tree Tunnel

Globe MallowGlobe Mallow

LizardCommon Side-blotched Lizard

BTGCBlack-tailed Gnatcatcher

Hummer R11Anna’s Hummingbird

I know this place is teeming with birds and other wildlife but it was so windy that day that the birds were having a hard time staying airborne. It’s definitely a place we will return to as it’s only about 20 minutes from our house and very unique.

*The reason this recreation area is called “Reach 11” is because it’s on the 11th reach of the Central Arizona Project canal. Across the street from the nature trail is a huge sports complex with 20 soccer fields, an equestrian area, and more.

 

Lake Pleasant

Burros 2

Burro Tracker

Burros Running

Burros Cavorting

Burros in Field

Burro 1

Burro 2_edited-1

Burro in Field

Burros 4

We went to Lake Pleasant Regional Park, northwest of Phoenix, last week. What I mostly wanted to see were the wild burros and we did! The herd is managed by the Bureau of Land Management and there are anywhere from 480-600 from what I’ve read. They are descendants of burros brought over from South Africa in the 1600s. 100 wild burros (jacks) were freeze marked and 55 jennies (female burros) were radio collared to help study and monitor the herd. Some are removed at times and put up for adoption while living and being cared for at a BLM facility. You can read more about this program here.

WB Trail Sign

This is the trail we hiked to try to find them. We didn’t see any there but, fortunately, we saw them even before we started hiking. It was extra nice to see them with some wildflowers around; they looked especially cute frolicking through the flowers.

And we actually saw a few birds!

Say's Phoebe

Say's Phoebe on Flowers_edited-1Say’s Phoebes

Rock Wren

Rock Wren Singing

Rock Wren Ocotillo

Rock Wren in BranchesRock Wrens

Red-winged Blackbird FRed-winged Blackbird (female)

Black-tailed GnatcatcherBlack-tailed Gnatcatcher (at least the flowers are in focus)

And a few other critters crossed our path:

Painted LadyPainted Lady Butterfly

Checkered White ButterflyCheckered White Butterfly

Common Side-blotched LizardCommon Side-blotched Lizard (check out his tongue!)

And we saw the lake, too, of course! This is a lake I used to go sailing on back in the mid-1980s…all the time…almost every weekend for 3-4 years. Since then it has been enlarged a lot so it didn’t really look at all familiar. The lake now covers 10,000 acres and is fed by the Central Arizona Project Aqueduct which diverts water from the Colorado River as well as the Agua Fria River. It was pretty cloudy when we were there and not many boats were on the lake.

Dam

Dam ControllerNew Waddell Dam

Waddell Dam

The new dam submerged the older, much smaller dam.

Lake View_edited-1

Lake View 2

Panorama x 4_edited-1

This is a 4 shot panorama of the lake. You can see a larger version of it on my Flickr. It was fascinating to see how the lake has changed, I loved everything we saw.

RoseGlobe Mallow

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McDowell Mountain Regional Park

This is Four Peaks as seen from McDowell Mountain Regional Park.  At 21,099 acres, it is one of the largest parks in the Maricopa County Parks System and is known for its stunning mountain views.

In a few more weeks, the daylight hours will be long enough to head farther out of town but we have been staying fairly local throughout the winter. We have a lot of new places on our list and several that we want to go back to again so this particular park and the one before it (White Tanks) will probably not go on our “repeat list.” It’s a nice park and I’m sure a lot of people love it but the 3 mile North Trail Loop that we walked seemed like a really long 3 miles, just not real exciting.

Black-throated Sparrow

It also was not overly birdy until we got to one small area toward the end of the hike that was very chirpy and busy. In addition to many of the above sparrows and the other birds in this post, we saw many House Finches, a Cardinal, a Ladder-backed Woodpecker, and several White-Crowned Sparrows.

Black-tailed Gnatcatcher

Loggerhead Shrike (the impaler)

Phainopepla, female

Common Raven

Packrat Nest

Weaver’s Needle in the Superstition Mountains

Gila Woodpecker, female

One of the best things about many County Parks, I’ve noticed (in at least AZ, IN, and MI), is that they often seem to have bird feeders as they did here by the Visitor Center. We spent a little time before we left watching who would come to the feeders and talking to a friendly bird-loving ranger. No lifers but it was only the second time I’ve seen the following bird (there were 2):

Canyon Towhee

I did learn something new…

The Four Peaks are named, from left to right: Brown’s Peak (the highest at 7,657 feet), Brother’s Peak, Sister’s Peak, and Amethyst Peak. There is an amethyst mine up there, very rustic, that produces beautiful amethysts. And I just found out that you can take a helicopter tour to the mine, according to this article! That sounds totally amazing and is pretty expensive as the article states. I do have a ring that has Arizona amethyst in it so now I know where it came from.

Granada Winter

Canvasback DrakeCanvasback Duck, drake

Canvasback HenCanvasback Duck, hen

While not technically a lifer because I saw a female Canvasback last year, I had never seen a male Canvasback until I was at Granada Park recently. I love those red eyes.

It was a gloomy day so the water looked murky. I didn’t know what the following duck was until later and he isn’t a lifer either but I had never seen a juvenile Redhead before:

Redhead Juvie

Redhead Juvie 3

This is what he will look like when he grows up (from the same lake last year), another handsome duck:

Redhead Drop

Redhead 1

And because they are so often overlooked because they are common, yet really pretty:

Mallard PerfectionMallard, drake

BTGC 2

BTGC FlyBlack-tailed Gnatcatcher

MockNorthern Mockingbird

Hum Red

Hum Chat

Hum Fly

HummerAnna’s Hummingbirds

BflyWestern Pygmy Blue

Fast and Furious

BT Gnatcatcher 2Black-tailed Gnatcatcher

BT Gnatcatcher 1

I think these little pudgy guys are about as cute as can be with their little eyebrows. They are very tiny, very fast, and flit rapidly from branch to branch, hardly ever giving a clear view to someone with a camera.

BT Gnatcatcher 3_edited-1

BT Gnatcatcher 4

They look a little different during breeding season when a black cap replaces the eyebrow look.

BT Gnatcatcher 5

OCWA 1Orange-crowned Warbler

OCWA 2

These warblers are common in the Phoenix area during the winter and leave for the summer. They, too, are very small and never stop moving. There are 2 who hang out in our yard, zipping through the mesquite tree, trying to avoid me.

OCWA 3

YRWA 1Yellow-rumped Warbler (Audubon’s)

YRWA 3

Same with these little warblers. They’re all over the place in the winter and also are very quick, preferring to place obstacles between themselves and photographers.

YRWA 4

Verdin 2 9.30.15Verdin

Verdin 9.30.15

Verdin_edited-1

And then there are our little acrobatic Verdin friends, not much larger than a hummingbird and always busy and on the go.

Verdin

It’s fun to watch all these little guys this time of year and very challenging to get a clear shot.

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