Mingus Mountain

We went somewhere we’d never been before!

Mingus Mountain Vista overlooking Cottonwood

The only problem is that it rained and was threatening more storms the whole time we were there…

And those impending storms prevented us from climbing the fire tower, which would have been totally cool and now is one of my goals. We did spend about an hour with the very colorful fireguard, “Johnny Mingus,” and got some Smokey the Bear memorabilia. We hope to see Johnny again (and Smokey).

Mingus Lake (or Elk Well) was more like a puddle as the rain up there has been sparse but, oddly, there were people fishing.

They leave their lures.

There were meadows and wildflowers everywhere, something we don’t always see in the mountains.

And the birding wasn’t great or at least the photographing of birds wasn’t great with the cloudy skies. Plus they kept their distance.

Acorn Woodpecker

Spotted Towhee

The warblers are now heading south! Some will be wintering in Phoenix, others will be heading further down. Hope to see some in our yard soon.

Orange-crowned Warbler

Yellow-rumped Warblers

Wilson’s Warblers, male and female

Western Bluebird overlooking a meadow

Target even though no hunting or shooting allowed

Tent Caterpillars everywhere!

Dark-eyed Juncos, Red-backed subspecies

Interesting to see ocotillos amidst the pines.

A perfect pine among the others…

…is really a cell tower.

I’d love to go back sometime on a sunny day.

Edit: I made a panorama out of the first 2 shots in this post.

Untitled_Panorama3_edited-1

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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.

Seven Springs

The other day we went to a place in Tonto National Forest called Seven Springs. We drove 8 miles on a washboardy dirt road to get there. Unfortunately, due to a long drought, the drive was not overly pretty; the area was fairly dry and sparse. However, it was very birdy at our destination. There were hundreds of birds flying around. American Robins are not seen in the Phoenix area very often so, even though they are a common bird in so many parts of the U.S., they are fun for us Phoenicians to see and they are really such pretty birds. Well, this place had tons of them!

The area is full of pinyon pines and junipers so berries and nuts abound.

Western Bluebirds were also very plentiful there.

Western Bluebirds, male and female

Cave Creek

Red-naped Sapsucker

Phainopeplas

Dark-eyed Junco (Pink-sided subspecies~new to me)

Dark-eyed Junco (Oregon subspecies)

And, yes, there were lifers involved! I saw a Juniper Titmouse and have a bad photo of it. And the other lifer was:

Sage Thrasher

This is Humboldt Mountain that has a FAA radar facility at the top and is located right by Seven Springs. You can see how dry some of the area is now:

And, if you celebrate…

A Berry, Merry Christmas to you!

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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Mount Ord

See that little camouflaged cutie singing his heart out?

It’s my most recent lifer, a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, which we saw on Mt. Ord.

Mt. Ord is the highest point in Maricopa County, the huge county in which Phoenix is located. It is 7,129 feet tall and is located off the Beeline Highway on the way to Payson. It is accessible by Forest Road 626. There are communication towers and a ranger station up there. So we drove my poor Ford Fusion up this 6 mile long, bumpy, rutted, narrow, winding dirt road, with no guardrails (and back down). It was do-able but a 4WD would have certainly been preferable and would be the only way I would do it in the future. But it was worth it because it was beautiful up there.

There are a ton of birds up there, and many that would be lifers for me, if we had found them…the only other “lifer” I found was this Dark-eyed Junco, Gray-headed variant. Technically, it is not a lifer as I’ve seen Dark-eyed Juncos before, but since I’m trying to hit 60 lifers in 2017, I’m counting variants, too.

A few views from the top:

Beeline Highway (SR 87)

Bartlett Lake

Theodore Roosevelt Lake

There was a fire on Mt. Ord last September, burning 1335 acres, so there are many burned trees.

You can park 1/2 mile from the top of Mt. Ord and then take this trail the rest of the way to the top.

There are other hiking trails on the mountain, as well as an old mine (we didn’t see it).

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Woodhouse’s Scrub Jay

Black-throated Gray Warbler

In my Facebook birding group (Birding–Arizona and the Southwest), another member and her husband went the day before Tony and I did. She was posting several birds that I didn’t see and I mentioned that to her. She said, “Oh, we had a guide.” So…next time, I want a 4WD with someone else driving and a guide!

Here’s a short Arizona Highways article about Mt. Ord.

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