On the Road Again

We finally got started on our AZ day trips again. I’ve been back from IN for about 6 weeks and, with a sick kitty (who now feels better), monsoons, and other assorted issues, it seemed hard to get going. But we went back to Woods Canyon Lake on the Mogollon Rim (one of our many favorite places) yesterday. The temperature was 68 degrees, quite a nice relief from the constant Phoenix heat. Cool, refreshing, beautiful, peaceful. Here are some of our sights in semi-chronological order.

Golden-mantled Ground Squirrel

We were feeding these guys peanuts, which you can see are stuffed in this one’s cheeks, but we also dropped the occasional piece of popcorn. This one was particularly greedy and unafraid of us so kept begging for more.

Golden-mantled Ground Squirrel and Grey-collared Chipmunk (in foreground)

Most Jays are very loud, very pretty, and fun to watch and these are no exception.

Steller’s Jay

I was very surprised to see this guy land quite close to me before he took off in a hurry. We also saw several members of its family flying over the lake.

Bald Eagle, immature

It was so lush in the forest after all the monsoon rains. No mosquitoes, though!

Speaking of loud and boisterous:

Common Raven

It was not real birdy, though, oddly. Other than hearing the Jays and Ravens, it was pretty quiet. We did also see, briefly, some sort of wren, warbler, and woodpecker but not long enough for photos.

Then we stopped on the Rim for the views before we left and there we saw more birds. There were many Turkey Vultures riding the currents.

This is the very edge of the Rim, looking down, glad I didn’t trip:

Lesser Goldfinch

There were several varieties of pine (or fir?) trees here.

Dark-eyed Junco, Red-backed subspecies, juvenile

Plateau Fence Lizard

Mountains as far as you can see. It was great to be out again and to have something different to blog about again! Hopefully, we are back in our routine of regular adventures.

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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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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.

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…

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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

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