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.

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Cacophony and Color

Anna’s Hummingbirds, male

Our yard has been pretty active lately but it seems to have gotten even more so the last few days. Some new, colorful birds have been dropping by and sometimes it is so loud out there that it sounds like we’re deep in a busy, bird-filled forest.

Verdins

Orange-crowned Warbler

“Tink,” above, is no longer the yellowest bird in the yard! Since I hung a thistle sock a few days ago, a whole flock of these guys, below, have moved in. There must be at least 20 of them and they are very chatty. I only recently saw a couple in the yard and, once the thistle was out, the word apparently got out among their friends. I love watching them, they’re so bright and pretty.

Lesser Goldfinches, male and female

I was hoping the thistle would draw some other kinds of goldfinches or some Pine Siskins (which would be lifers) but, so far, the only new birds I’ve gotten are:

Rosy-faced Lovebird

The lovebirds were originally escapees from a pet store back in the 1980s but they were able to flourish here and now there is a large, feral population. I had seen them pass through our yard now and then but now they are dropping bu more regularly. They also like black oil sunflower seed and they like the swing, too, but I haven’t gotten a photo of that yet. You can always hear when they are around.

Gila Woodpeckers, male and female

The male is very loud and raucous but the female has just started showing up to eat oranges and she is very quiet.

Gilded Flicker, female

Yard bird #37:

Northern Flicker (Red-shafted), male

House Finches, male

Some of these male House Finches are soooo bright red that I keep thinking I’m seeing Cardinals. We have many, many more bird species in our yard as regulars but these are the most colorful of the bunch.

Hope your New Year is off to a great start and that you have all sorts of fun plans ahead. These were my 2017 Goals and the results:

  1. Volunteer 100 hours at Desert Botanical Garden. Volunteered 102.75 hours.
  2. Find 60 new Lifers (new birds). Found 58.
  3. Go on many AZ day trips with Tony. Went on 23.

2018 Goals are about the same: 100 hours, 50 Lifers, 25 day trips.

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I Got Lucky!

This is a male Pyrrhuloxia, sometimes called the “Desert Cardinal.” It is a cousin to the Northern Cardinal. He has been a nemesis bird for me. Their range is more in southern Arizona, southern New Mexico, southern Texas, and Mexico so they are not very common in the Phoenix area. However, this particular bird is now spending his 3rd (at least) winter at the Desert Botanical Garden and I’ve been chasing him that whole time but he was very elusive. I kept seeing photos of him in my Facebook birding group from many other people. He hangs out in a specific area quite a bit and, a few days ago, I sat there for 2 hours waiting for a glimpse. No show. I was getting discouraged but decided to go over one afternoon this past week and get disappointed again. I sat down and, within about a minute, he appeared! And he seemed to do a lot of posing just for me, probably recognizing me from all the times I’ve been looking for him:

Isn’t he beautiful/adorable/unusual? During breeding season, his bill is also bright yellow so he’s even more colorful then but he doesn’t breed up here so I’ll have to try to catch one in southern Arizona sometime.

Gilded Flicker, male

Northern Mockingbird

Queen

A couple days before finally seeing the Pyrrhuloxia, I went to Gilbert Riparian Preserve (Riparian Preserve at Water Ranch) in search of some rarities being seen there. I never have good luck there unless I’m with an experienced birder. Fortunately, one showed up and, when the bird finally appeared, helped me find it. It was a Prairie Warbler, very unusual for this part of the country, but my picture is not good at all. There are now several more rare (for Arizona) birds there so I should try to make it out there one day this coming week and hope someone can help me find them, too.

Desert Cottontail

And I saw a ton of these fast, little guys:

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Say’s Phoebe

Western Meadowlark

And these little warblers were energetically flitting about right in the same area as the Prairie Warbler giving me false hope several times as they have the same coloring.

Yellow-rumped Warbler, Audubon’s

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The Halloween Ball

Curve-billed Thrasher with treat

The birds (and other critters) have been having a ball in our yard the last few days leading up to Halloween. In addition to their regular oranges, grape jelly, and suet, they’ve been enjoying bird seed packed with fruits and nuts that I recently won in the Pennington Wild Bird Photo Contest (with this photo). Plus they find extra goodies in the yard like insects, berries, and pomegranates.

Gilded Flicker, female, yard bird species #33

This girl, above, has started dropping by for a drink now and then. She’s so pretty.

Honey Bees enjoying pine sap

Anna’s Hummingbird, male

Northern Mockingbird

House Finch, female

White-crowned Sparrow, first of season

Eurasian Collared-Dove

House Finches, male

Gila Woodpecker, male

Queen Butterfly in Mesquite

Orange-crowned Warbler

If this is the same warbler, this will be its third year to winter in our yard. He or she is also over a month early so I’m not positive it’s the same one yet. Time may tell…I hope it is or, if not, I hope the other one will show up later and I’ll have 2. There is grape jelly in this feeder and this bird loves it.

House Sparrow,male

Abert’s Towhee

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