Adios, Midwest!

The mighty and muddy St. Joe River

The St. Joseph River is approximately 206 miles long, zigzagging through southern Michigan and northern Indiana, draining a primarily rural farming area into the watershed of Lake Michigan. You really can’t drive very far without continually crossing over it.

So I am now back home again in Arizona, out of Indiana, hoping that all will be well with my mother for quite awhile, for her sake as well as mine. These first few photos were taken at St. Patrick’s County Park in South Bend, IN. It’s really a beautiful park.

Eastern Bluebird, juvenileRed-Winged Blackbird, femaleWhite-breasted Nuthatch

Great Blue Heron

I got 7 lifer birds total while back there. Some are in my last post. Some are in neither post as I either got no photos or blurry photos. Those ones are Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Baltimore Oriole, and American Goldfinch (seen several times with no photos). Seven isn’t that great for 5 weeks but, considering I was only out in nature for about a total of 8 hours, pretty good. If I had spent more time and had my birding lens with me, it would have been awesome, I’m sure, but I had many other things to do on this trip. I did not get my target Pileated Woodpecker nor the fairly common Red-headed Woodpecker. Someday…

One day, a friend, Judy, and I went to Fernwood Botanical Garden and Nature Preserve in Niles, MI. What a beautiful place. The birding was slow and we got caught in a downpour about 2 hours in but it was lovely before that.


This stick structure was awesome. At the time, we saw no signage so did not know what it was made from but I have since found out that the artist is Patrick Dougherty and the sticks are willow twigs. This piece is called Take Five and was done in 2014. Here is more info on it.

This park is also on the St. Joe River and had some creeks draining into it.

They have had a very wet spring and summer (so far) back there so everything is very lush but we also saw many big trees down.

Jeremiah (he had many friends)

There was a bird viewing area and that is where I saw the lifer hummingbird mentioned earlier. Here are a few photos taken there, through glass that was very reflective on a cloudy day, so they look a little funky.

Blue JayWhite-breasted NuthatchRose-breasted Grosbeak, femaleBlack-capped Chickadee

Many, many flowers there were being visited by many, many bumble bees.

The other places I visited while back there, with photos in my last post, were Rum Village Park and Nature Center in South Bend, IN, and Madeline Bertrand County Park in Niles, MI.

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Spring’s Arrival

Verdin

Happy Spring! I know it may not look like spring everywhere but it does here in Arizona. These first 3 shots were taken in our yard on the Vernal Equinox and the others were taken close to it.

Painted Lady on Lantana

There are actually 4 critters in the above photo, 2 besides the obvious butterfly and bee, which I didn’t see until editing the photo. The answers to this puzzle will appear at the end of this post.

Fiery Skipper on Lantana

Black-chinned Hummingbird, male

We only have Black-chinned hummers in the spring. I don’t know if this is the same one that has been coming for the last couple of years but he arrived on schedule and usually stays until May. It’s very hard to get a shot with the purple collar showing but here is one from last year. I hope he will be cooperative again this year. Right now he is very shy and skittish.

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Giant Swallowtail

Anna’s Hummingbird, male

Yesterday I was at the Desert Botanical Garden, specifically looking for this one particular bird that has been there for several weeks. I’m always amazed when I can find one little bird in a big place but this time I actually did within about 10 minutes and not where he normally hangs out. He should be migrating to California soon but maybe he has decided to stay. He is molting right now so his throat feathers will be more resplendent in coming weeks but he’s still pretty cute right now.

From Granada Park in Phoenix:

Yellow-rumped Warbler, female

American Wigeon,male

Rosy-faced Lovebird

From Lake Margherite in Scottsdale:

Northern Shoveler couple

From Evelyn Hallman Park in Tempe:

Green Heron

What says “Spring” like baby ducks?

Mallard ducklings

The four critters in the butterfly and bee photo:

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Verde River

We went to two recreation areas along the Verde River in Tonto National Forest last week: Box Bar and Needle Rock. These areas are less than an hour from our house and we had never been there. In fact, I’d never even heard of them until recently and no one else I’ve mentioned them to has either. It was like stepping into Autumn all over again. It was gorgeous there.

Excuse the way-too-many photos. I’ll try not to blabber too much.

Great Blue Heron

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

As we walked down a path to the river’s edge at Needle Rock, I saw something move behind a tree. I thought a person was fishing or something but, no, this is who was there:

We were about 3 feet from him/her! I thought she had stuff from the river on her head from having her head in the water…

But it was a ton of cockleburs! Altogether we saw 9 wild horses there (and they all had cockleburs in their manes and tails).

The horses are used to people but still wary…fortunately.

These horses are part of the herd of Salt River Wild Horses mentioned in a previous post. They have a pretty large territory they cover. The ones we saw on the Salt didn’t appear to have these cockleburs, though. I hope there is some way they work off eventually.

The birding wasn’t good but the scenery and the horses more than made up for that!

Full disclosure: I have 2 cameras that we take on our trips so Tony takes many of the landscape photos. 🙂

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Saguaro Lake

After exploring the Lower Salt River, we headed to Saguaro Lake, set in the Sonoran Desert and rimmed with canyon walls. It is only about 40 miles northwest of downtown Phoenix.

Eared Grebe

And…I got a lifer (below)!

Western Grebe

Red-winged Blackbird, immature male

The lake is divided into two sections connected by narrows between canyon walls. The above is considered the marina side and the other side is my favorite, Butcher Jones Beach.

The Salt River wild horses, mentioned in my last post, often congregate here on hot, summer days. A lot of people also congregate at this lake all summer long. As you can see, we beat the rush by waiting.

Pied-billed Grebe

Redhead

There was a really nice trail there but it was almost dusk so we were not able to go very far on it…maybe next time…it seemed pretty “birdy.”

Great Blue Heron

Northern Cardinal

Black-tailed Gnatcatcher

 

 

Theodore Roosevelt Lake

Roosevelt Lake Bridge

I’ve liked every place we’ve gone on our day trips but some are a little more special than others (to me) and this is one of them. I love this area. This bridge was completed in 1992. Prior to this, people could drive over the dam itself. I had not been here since the mid-1980s and it was even more impressive than I remembered…although we were able to drive over the dam when I was first there and it was far more “historic-looking.”

The dam was completed in 1911 after several years of work and mishaps. Former President Theodore Roosevelt dedicated the dam which had the primary purpose of providing water storage for the Salt River Project and flood control through the Salt River Valley. In 1989, renovations and reconstruction began until completion in 1996. As a result of the reconstruction, the dam has a completely altered appearance from when it was originally listed as a National Historic Landmark. The original rubble-masonry dam was completely encased in concrete, and the structural height was extended from 280 feet to 357 feet. Since the dam no longer had the integrity of the design, materials, workmanship, feeling, or association that it had when it was originally listed, the National Historic Landmark designation was withdrawn on March 10, 1999.

This majestic guy was perched on the outcropping in the far right of the above photo, overlooking the dam:

Here is a public domain photo of the original dam:

The following photo shows an aerial view (by the Bureau of Reclamation). Wish I could have gotten this shot!

State Route 188 had to be reconfigured when the new bridge was built.

In the aerial view of the dam, you can see a winding road on the lower right side. That is the old Apache Trail. It starts out paved at the dam but soon changes to an unpaved, winding road with hairpin turns and sheer drop-offs. It is apparently really beautiful but since it lasts for about 40 miles, we opted not to go. Plenty of people do take it, though, or parts of it, and the canyon floors are littered with cars that went over.

It runs along the glittering Salt River to Apache Junction.

There is a part of it that is paved out of Apache Junction to beyond Tortilla Flat, a remaining stagecoach stop. That is going on our list of future “to-dos.” The unpaved, winding part? Not so sure I’ll ever see that. That’s okay, I watched a YouTube video of it.

We also stopped at Tonto National Monument, right along the lake: well-preserved cliff dwellings from the Salado culture 850 years ago. It’s a half-mile hike up to the dwellings with a 350 foot ascension. There’s very little shade so even though the temperatures were in the upper 70s, it was pretty hot. The unique thing about these dwellings is that you can actually go inside them. There is a ranger stationed there asking you to not touch the walls but it’s pretty cool to actually be able to go inside.

This is what the Salado people saw looking out from their home:

A handprint from 850 years ago

Another photo that is not mine of the cliff dwellings (Wikipedia):

We didn’t see many birds but it was awesome, nevertheless.

Great Blue Heron

Here’s a short video of the dam’s history if you’re interested: