Granite Mountain Trailhead

These photos might look a lot like those I posted a couple weeks ago at Brown’s Ranch Trail. We went back to the beautiful McDowell Sonoran Preserve in north Scottsdale. We were a few miles northeast of Brown’s Ranch at Granite Mountain Trailhead. The difference was this day was cloudy, there were almost no birds, and there was a ton more granite. Oh, and the views of the surrounding mountains were pretty awesome.

Four Peaks

Granite Mountain

Cactus Wren

Curve-billed Thrasher

Verdin

We saw a few squirrels but we also think we saw a Bobcat…no photo, of course.

Weaver’s Needle in the Superstition Mountains

It was a great day for a hike, though, as the weather was very pleasant and the views were great.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Advertisements

Brown’s Ranch Trail

Brown’s Ranch was founded in 1917 by E.O. Brown, a Scottsdale entrepreneur, and encompassed 44,000 acres at its peak, supporting 3,000 to 5,000 head of cattle. His descendants lived on the ranch until 1970. After changing hands several times, the remainder of the ranch was acquired by the City of Scottsdale in 1999 for inclusion in the Scottsdale McDowell Sonoran Preserve. The Preserve is a large, permanently protected, sustainable desert habitat that includes an interconnected network of non-motorized, multi-use trails (hike/bike/horse) accessed from multiple trailhead locations over 30,500 acres. It is the largest urban park in the U.S.

Brown’s Mountain

It was a sunny, windy day and the 3 mile Brown’s Ranch Trail just got prettier and birdier the farther we went. We’d never been to any part of the Preserve before and I had no idea it was so beautiful. The trails were great. We’ll be exploring more of it soon.

White-crowned Sparrow (on agave stalk)

Ocotillos

I imagine in the spring, when the desert is in bloom, that it is even more spectacular.

Cactus Wren (on agave stalk)

Cholla, glowing

Cone Mountain

Phainopepla, male (on agave stalk)

Saguaro skeleton

Harris’s Hawk

Gilded Flicker couple

Curve-billed Thrasher

Red-tailed Hawk

Yes, those are bullet holes even though shooting is not allowed in the Preserve. But this is Arizona, the Wild West.

Mount Humboldt with FAA Radar Facility

Northern Mockingbird (on agave stalk)

There were no lifers but it is definitely on the “return to” list, at some point. And I learned that birds love dried agave stalks so I am in search of one for my backyard photo props.

Cave Creek

michelin-man-horizontal

Now that Tony and I are both retired, we’re trying to get out and go to places in our area and state that we’ve never seen before (and I’m always trying to find new birds). Maybe every state is this way, but Arizona has a ton of city, county, state, and national parks.

Last week we went to Cave Creek Regional Park. We stopped at the Nature Center and the staff suggested we check out the “Michelin Man” saguaro so we hiked an easy trail and found it.

michelin-man_edited-2

Pretty amazing compared to the other saguaros. I’d like to see this in a couple months when the saguaros are blooming.

michelin-man-2

horseback-rider

It’s a very nice park with hikers, bikers, and horseback riders but not very birdy so we went to a nearby riparian area known as Jewel of the Creek Preserve. “The Jewel of the Creek is a desert oasis filled with towering cottonwood and willow trees along Cave Creek, at the northern edge of the Town of Cave Creek and bordering the Spur Cross Ranch Conservation Area. This property holds one of the last remaining perennial streams in Maricopa County. The unusual year-round presence of water supports a myriad of plant and animal species.

sign

Every time I see one of these signs, it never bodes well for birding and it didn’t. This is a beautiful, lush place, though, along the banks of Cave Creek. The hike, which was listed as “moderate” was awful. I just don’t enjoy clambering over giant rocks and logs for almost 3 miles and I was pretty sure my camera was going to be smashed before the end. It wasn’t. 🙂

But everything was glowing in the late afternoon light…

cactus-wren-glowingCactus Wren

yellow

rckiRuby-crowned Kinglet

jotc

I didn’t take many photos when we were down along the banks, fighting to survive. These were all taken when we were safely up and almost done with the hike.

jotc-4

jotc-2

jewel-of-the-desert

A lovely place that I probably won’t be going to again…

Road Trip South

cactus-wrenCactus Wren

picacho-peak-1

On our too infrequent road trips, we usually head north of Phoenix but one day last week we headed south. Of course, I was in search of birds, one particular bird, and Tony was willing to come along. We saw places we had never been before so that’s always interesting.

First stop was Picacho Peak State Park.

picacho-peak-2

While there, I got my first Lifer of the day, and there were several of these guys!

black-throated-sparrow-2

black-throated-sparrow-1Black-throated Sparrow

picacho-peak-3

Unfortuately, I didn’t think to take a photo of Picacho Peak itself until we had already moved on to our next destination. It’s a rugged mountain but we didn’t climb it, of course. The “easy” trail we were on was hard enough and I’ve decided to not do any climbing again. I’ll stick to flatter areas especially when carrying a big camera and lens.

Our next destination was Red Rock where there is a large feedlot. There were a lot of cows, of course, and a lot of birds (mostly Red-winged Blackbirds, Yellow-headed Blackbirds, Brown-headed Cowbirds, House Sparrows, and Starlings). This was where I got my second Lifer of the day but I didn’t know what it was until we got home later that night and I could do some research (meaning people in my Facebook birding group ID’ed it).

lark-bunting-1

lark-bunting-2Lark Bunting

Next we were on to the location where I hoped to find my “Target Bird.” This region is called Santa Cruz Flats, a large area of farmlands, dusty fields, and dirt roads. There are a lot of birds but they can be pretty far off in the fields so it’s hard to get close views.

santa-cruz-flats-map

We drove around a lot of dirt roads since we didn’t have a specific location where the target bird might be as they are found all along that area. But, guess what? We spotted ONE of the birds pretty quickly which is a good thing because in all our continued driving in search of more, that was the only one we saw. They are bizarre-looking critters.

crested-caracaraCrested Caracara

“A tropical falcon version of a vulture, the Crested Caracara reaches the United States only in Arizona, Texas, and Florida. It is a bird of open country, where it often is seen at carrion with vultures” (from Cornell’s All About Birds, where you can see some better shots of them).

We did see quite a few flying raptors but I’m not good at identifying them high up in the sky.

rt-hawkRed-tailed Hawk

says-phoebeSay’s Phoebe

Already happy to have 3 Lifers in one day, as we were nearing the end of our dirt road trek, we spotted my 4th Lifer!

loggerhead-shrikeLoggerhead Shrike

These guys impale their kills of insects, birds, lizards, and small mammals on barbed wire or thorns. I was glad to not witness that part of their behavior.

Quite a successful day and a good start to my 2017 goal of 60 Lifers. We definitely will need to go on more road trips to accomplish that.