Lower Camp Creek and Beyond

We went back to Seven Springs in Tonto National Forest a few days ago. We had been there in December but we totally missed the turnoff to one area that I have since found out is really birdy called Lower Camp Creek, an interesting foresty area down in a canyon with a lot of really nice cabins. There were a ton of birds in all the trees and I got 4 lifers there!!!! Sadly, I am embarrassed to post most of the blurry, branch-obstructed photos I got of those four but they were:

Cordilleran Flycatcher

The other three were:

Hammond’s Flycatcher
Bell’s Vireo
Yellow Warbler (which I have been wanting for a long time)

We also saw many other birds including Bushtits, Ruby-crowned Kinglets, a Cooper’s Hawk, Black-throated Gray Warblers, a MacGillivray’s Warbler…tons and tons of tiny, fast-moving birds that didn’t want to come out in the open, plus:

Rock Wren

Lots of these guys flying around:

Red-tailed Hawk

Sad, petrified owl

And we saw this huge, beautiful butterfly which is Arizona’s State Butterfly:

Two-tailed Swallowtail

We then continued on the dirt road that leads to Seven Springs itself but, first, we took a turnoff on FR 562 to Humboldt Mountain where there is a FAA Radar Facility. You can drive all the way to the top on a nice, paved road that is also very narrow, wide enough for one vehicle only, full of hairpin turns, switchbacks, and dropoffs but it has guardrails and frequent pull-outs in case you meet anyone coming from the other direction. Fortunately, we didn’t. This is a photo of the mountain with the “Golf Ball” from the last time we went (here).

Golf Ball and Fire Tower

The Guard

It was spectacularly beautiful up there with 360 degree views. From the Golf Ball looking down:

We could see Horseshoe Reservoir, the Verde River, farm fields, mountains as far as you could see:

And finally the road heading back down:

Really, that was my favorite part of the day, even more than getting all those lifers. We then headed back on the dirt road to Seven Springs.

Heading into Seven Springs, you cross a creek that flows over the road so this photo, above, was taken from inside the SUV. Very pretty.

Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher

Northern Cardinal, male

Common Raven

Guess what? I got one more lifer at Seven Springs, bringing the day’s total to FIVE!

Cassin’s Kingbird

All in all, an awesome day!

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Cave Creek

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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.

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

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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

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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.

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