Phoenix 150

Rosy-faced Lovebird, juvenile

Gila Woodpecker

House Finch family

Brown-headed Cowbird

Gambel’s Quail, male

I have a few photos saved up for times like these, the dog days of summer, when it’s just too hot to get motivated to go anywhere. By using these five photos, all taken in local parks (above), I am drastically depleting my reserve. So we have to get back on the road again very soon…

We traded Tony’s 2003 Mustang, which needed some expensive work, in and got a new-to-us Ford Escape. We had been using my car for our day trips but we really needed more clearance for some of the rougher roads.

We have a lot of pets, including a diabetic cat that needs insulin every 12 hours so it’s easiest for us to go on day trips since it would be a lot to require of a pet-sitter. It’s best if the places we go are less than 2.5 hours away so we can spend a few hours at our destination before heading home. I used this online tool (freemaptools.com) to draw a radius of 150 miles around Phoenix to see what all might be included. But I noticed that these distances are “as the crow flies” and to really get to some of them would take up to 4 hours or so depending on the roads.

So I modified the parameters to 150 minutes from Phoenix, driving an average of 70 mph, and came up with this map, below:

Fortunately, there are a lot of beautiful places within these boundaries and we need to get exploring. There are birds and all sorts of fascinating things out there.

Here’s Google, our diabetic cat, posing as a Currency Manipulator. He’s doing well, having been diabetic for almost 2 years now.

 

Hot Town

Hibiscus, its 7th year

Summer in this city means photographing my yard because it’s too hot to go anywhere else…

Anna’s Hummingbirds

Fiery Skipper

Verdins, adult and juvenile

Abert’s Towhees, adult and juvenile

Water is life, we have plenty out for the critters…

Ornate Tree Lizard

Northern Mockingbird, juvenile

Rough Stink Bug

Curve-billed Thrasher, juvenile

House Sparrow, fledgling

House Finch, juvenile

Brown-headed Cowbird, juvenile

Svengali

Hot town, summer in the city
Back of my neck getting dirty and gritty
Been down, isn’t it a pity
Doesn’t seem to be a shadow in the city

All around, people looking half dead
Walking on the sidewalk, hotter than a match head.

(Summer in the City, written by Steve Boone, Mark Sebastian, John Sebastian, 1966)

Usery Mountain and Red Mountain

Red-tailed Hawk on Saguaro

We’ve been fortunate to have some cool days in Phoenix lately, before the true summer heat begins, so last week we took a local trip about 30 miles away to Usery Mountain Regional Park (a county park). It was very pretty. We made another stop first that I didn’t care for as much so I’ll put that at the end of this post…

I was glad to finally see this sign above. It has been around since the 1950s (although I’ve also heard it was already present during WWII) when a Boy Scout troop built it to help direct pilots to the Phoenix airport, 20 miles west. It’s made of rocks from Usery Mountain: each letter is about 100 feet high and 12 feet wide. The sign is 1,000 feet across and it took 5.5 years to assemble. More on this marker here.

Pass Mountain

Viewing Pond

This little pond and waterfall draws wildlife in for drinks and baths.

House Finches, male and female

Gambel’s Quail

Curve-billed Thrasher on Saguaro

Lesser Goldfinch

The Nature Center at the park had feeders set up behind it. I always appreciate feeders to draw birds in. No lifers but lifers aren’t everything…I guess.

This is the view looking south toward Apache Junction.

Our original destination that day was Red Mountain Park in east Mesa, where we went first. We had heard they have a wetlands area. Well, sort of, but not really. This park did not thrill me at all. I’m sure it’s nice for a city park if you live close by but it wasn’t worth the drive (to us).

The place was dominated by grackles and doves. We saw a few other birds but they’re the sort of birds we see at most of the ponds and lakes around town.

Canada Goose gosling

Cooper’s Hawk

Pied-billed Grebes, adult and immature

Western Wood-Pewee

Brown-headed Cowbird

Snow Goose

The highlight of that park was seeing this Snow Goose, which should really not be in the area and shows up on the rare bird alert regularly. It must either like it there or it can’t fly although it certainly looked fine. I’ve seen a migrating flock of these before but never one up close like this. It is a handsome bird.

Oh, the very first shot of the hawk on the saguaro? It cost me $24. I took it from the side of the road and laid my lens cap on my car. Hours later I remembered. It’s a big cap, 95mm. The replacement just arrived now.

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Potato Creek State Park

Forest Path 2

Cove

A variety of natural habitats await the visitor to Potato Creek State Park in northwest Indiana including the 327 acre Worster Lake, old fields, mature woodlands, restored prairies, and diverse wetlands. I know there were a ton of birds there but I was with my 95 year old mother so my opportunities for birding were limited (plus I didn’t take my birding lens back there).

I did get 3 lifers relatively easily so I can imagine what a few hours there would yield.

Chickadee

Chickadee 2Black-capped Chickadee

Chipping Sparrow_edited-1

Chipping 2Chipping Sparrow

CrowAmerican Crow

Cowbird 1Brown-headed Cowbird, young

Skiers Trail

Forest Path

Trail Erosion 2

Trail Erosion

It rained 8 inches the day I got to Indiana so there was much flooding in many places. The park suffered damage to some of the trails and the lake was closed.

SwallowtailTiger Swallowtail

Green DflyEastern Pondhawk

No Vehicles

Lush

It was very lush, very humid, and pretty buggy. I’d forgotten that feeling of something cold and slimy flying right into your eye that I used to experience in midwest summers in the woods.

Years ago, I wrote about this same place.

So This Happened…

Mulb 1

…It was a lonely early spring evening, maybe a year ago, maybe more. The delicious mulberries were slightly fermented…it was hard to stop eating them…

Thrash Perch 4.2.16Curve-billed Thrasher

Mock 7.22.15Northern Mockingbird

“Hey, we’re both in the Mimidae family, why would it be wrong?”

Mock x Thrasher 1Mockingbird x Thrasher Hybrid?

Here’s the facts:

  1. Mulberries do ferment and birds can get “drunk.”
  2. Mockingbirds and Thrashers are in the same family of birds and, if they live in close proximity, they can mate but it’s quite rare.
  3. We have mulberries, mockingbirds, and thrashers in our yard.

Did it happen?

Mock x Thrasher 2

Mock x Thrasher 3

Probably not. The expert birders in my Facebook group all agree that this is a Northern Mockingbird with a bill deformity. Sad, but it is busily building a nest with another mockingbird so it must have adapted. It certainly threw me for a loop when I first started seeing this bird, though.

In other less R-rated news in my yard…I hit yard bird species #26 with this bird:

WC Sparrow 3.27.16White-crowned Sparrow

WCSP 4.13.16

There were at least 4 of them here for 2-3 weeks but they don’t summer in Phoenix and I think they moved on a few days ago. I saw one lagging behind but it’s gone now, too.

WCSP Mulberry

Speaking of mulberries, they loved them. I don’t know if it led to any R or X-rated behavior, though.

WCSP

And then yard bird species #27 stopped by:

CowbirdBrown-headed Cowbird, female

Cowbirds are parasitic nesters. “Females forgo building nests and instead put all their energy into producing eggs, sometimes more than three dozen a summer. These they lay in the nests of other birds, abandoning their young to foster parents, usually at the expense of at least some of the host’s own chicks” (Cornell Lab of Ornithology). Looks like she’s looking for nests…

I’m almost sure I saw another bird in my yard that would have been a Lifer but I didn’t get a photo and I saw it for only a few seconds. It was a Plumbeous Vireo. I spent hours sitting in my yard waiting for it to reappear but it never did.

Oh, and the little Black-chinned Hummingbird that I mentioned a few posts back is still here. This tiny guy is speedy but I finally was able to capture a glimpse of his purple collar:

BCHU #.26.16

BCHU Purp Show

See? It’s barely visible, above.