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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Bring on the Buses

Orange-crowned Warbler

I love this bird, who I used to call “Yellow Bird,” but now call “Tink,” because of the sound she (might be a “he”) makes. As I’ve mentioned before, this is her third year to winter in our yard. I’m assuming it’s the same one because it’s always only one bird and they do often migrate to the same place.

A couple weeks ago, Tink became Lifer #390 for a local birder that I know, Karen. Karen’s life count is way ahead of mine but, after seeing Tink’s photo on Facebook, Karen told me she needed this bird for her life list and I told her it was pretty much guaranteed that Tink would show up if she came over. Whew, Tink did eventually show up! That was my first experience delivering a life bird to someone in my own backyard.

But, coincidentally, the day before Karen came over, there was a lot of bird action in my yard. That day I got yard bird species #34, 35, and 36! Sadly, some of the pics are lacking in quality but I’ll show you anyway:

What Am I?

I went out to put out the daily bird food quota and heard a very light drumming sound. This bird was in our pine tree and flew off just as I noticed it. I got my camera and came back out and a couple hours later, it showed up again, just briefly enough to fire off a few bad shots. I thought it was a Red-naped or Red-breasted Sapsucker and asked the ABA (American Birding Association) experts what they thought. Some thought Red-breasted and some thought a hybrid of the two and requested more photos. Well, the bird never showed up again while I was out there…until today but when I ran in to get my camera, it flew off again! At any rate, I know it’s still in the area so I still have hope that I get a good shot soon. Neither of those birds would be lifers for me but if it’s really a Red-breasted Sapsucker, they are uncommon for the area and it’s possible that some local birders might want to come to see it if it’s a regular visitor. Hence, the buses…I like to think of busloads and van loads of birders dropping over to catch a glimpse. 🙂

Species #35 was this guy circling overhead:

Red-tailed Hawk

And, of course, a few days ago, it landed right in a tree in our front yard! Once again, cameraless, I ran inside to grab my camera and off it flew. It would have been a great closeup.

The day was so fruitful for me in my yard that I stayed outside for a few hours, hoping the sapsucker would return again. Just as I was getting ready to go inside, 2 of these showed up, species #36:

Lesser Goldfinch

I’ve not seen them since but I was certainly surprised to have 3 new bird species in quick succession. I think I saw 17 different species in my yard that day. Here are a few more:

White-crowned Sparrow, male

He’s all alone and has been here for several weeks, just hanging out with the House Sparrows.

Anna’s Hummingbirds, male

Verdins

House Finches, male and female

Gila Woodpecker, male

And, I believe this particular bird is now spending its second winter in our yard:

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Now I really have to hope that Sapsucker will show up again and let me get a good diagnostic shot so the buses can start rolling in…

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Fall in the Desert

Swiss Chard

Orange Sulphur (I think)

Painted Lady

Our lantanas are filled with butterflies now, mostly Painted Ladies. I have never seen so many before at one time. This article might explain it.

Jeremiah

Costa’s Hummingbird, female

Creosote Seed Pods

Blue Dasher

Flame Skimmer

Lesser Goldfinch, bathing

Queen

I don’t like taking photos of butterflies with torn and tattered wings, too sad to know their lives are ending very soon, but it’s part of nature…

These photos were taken in our yard, the Desert Botanical Garden, and Dig It Gardens, my local urban nursery.

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Jinxed on the Mountain

You can see the forest reflected in the squirrel’s eye.

Arizona Gray Squirrels (endemic to eastern AZ and northern Mexico)

Last Thursday, September 13, we headed back up to Willow Springs Lake on the Mogollon Rim. Last time we went, which happened to be on July 13, it rained a lot and Tony fell into a creek, necessitating a trip to the Payson ER. This was going to be a do-over. As we drove north, our new-to-us SUV’s a/c quit functioning and, as we were still in low elevations, it was pretty uncomfortable. We were coming up on the Mt. Ord turnoff and decided to just go there instead. Last time we were there, we took our car and I had vowed to not go up the winding, rutted 6 mile road again until we had a SUV. No problem, right?

Well, we went a little over 4 miles up and an ominous warning appeared on the dash, “Transmission Failure. Service Now.” That kinda spooked us since it would be really bad to break down up there with no cell service and no easy access for a tow. So we stopped and walked around for a while. When we started the SUV again, the warning light wasn’t on anymore so we headed back down to an area referred to as the “saddle” with a corral and a cistern with running water where there should have been a lot of birds.

Lesser Goldfinch

Acorn Woodpecker

Bridled Titmouse

We met this guy, coming for a drink:

There are several up there. There were also many butterflies! A few held still long enough for photos.

Arizona Sister

Mournful Duskywing

Bauer’s Giant-Skipper

I also got a lifer bird, called a Hutton’s Vireo, but the photo is pretty bad. After spending a couple hours roaming around the saddle, we decided we should head back home since we were still concerned about the a/c and transmission.

Much of the forest road is not this nice.

As we were leaving, a man in a pickup truck stopped and came and talked to us. He was very friendly and chatty. Turns out, he has lived on Mt. Ord since 1992 (as there is private property in amongst the forest land) and he regaled us with colorful mountain tales of bears, lions, rattlesnakes, and other critters. We learned that hunting is legal up there and it is now hunting season (I had guessed that from seeing a couple guys in camouflage with bows). We learned there are plenty of black bears, that mountain lion meat is tasty, that there is all sorts of interesting history on the mountain, involving Spaniards and miners and more.

Okay, he didn’t quite look like that (I wish) and it’s still a little hot to dress that way but you get the idea. He had removed the “F” from the back of his Ford pickup so that it read ORD. Meeting him made me realize, again, that as much as we like going to all these places and hiking around and thinking of ourselves as outdoorsy nature buffs, there’s city folk and there’s country folk, and they’re not the same.

Turkey Vultures

Next best surprise of the day was that our a/c worked just fine and the transmission light never came on again. Nevertheless, the SUV (not Ford-tough) is going in for a checkup Monday and we are not going to attempt any more trips on the 13th of any month, any day.

 

Globe

House Sparrow

This handsome sparrow posed so prettily for me that I had to take his photo.

Lesser Goldfinches

We went on a day trip to Globe last week. Once again, a trip with no lifers or even very unusual birds. I had a goal to get 60 lifers this year and I’m at 43, I think, but have not had good luck the last few trips.

Vermilion Flycatchers, male and female

Anna’s Hummingbird, male

Phainopepla, female

Besh Ba Gowah

Our main destination in Globe (other than trying, unsuccessfully, to find a good birding place) was Besh Ba Gowah, a partially restored ruin of the Salado people who occupied the site between AD 1225 and AD 1400.

First surveyed and mapped in 1883 by Adolph Bandolier, the ancient ruins occupied by both the Hohokams and the Rio Salado Indians beginning in AD 1600 came to be known as Besh Ba Gowah. It means “a place of metal” in Apache. Later in 1920, a local woman, Irene Vickery, supervised the excavation for the next 20 years and uncovered nearly 200 rooms and 350 burial sites. After her death in the 1940s, the site was left unattended.

But in the 1980s, a Globe councilman, Louie Aguirre, stepped in and rallied support from the city and local community to bring in the Department of Anthropology at Arizona State University to undertake a re-excavation and reconstruction of the site. Parts of it have been left in the excavated state and parts were reconstructed (which, apparently, is controversial in the archaeological world).

Anyway, it was interesting, inexpensive, the employees were very friendly, no one else was there but us for most of the time, and they had bird feeders. They also had a botanical garden and an ethno-botanical garden. They have some crops growing that are similar to crops grown when it was an active Salado community, including teosinte, an ancestor of corn and maize. It was also cooler than Phoenix with a nice breeze blowing…so, all in all, it was a good trip and a pretty drive.

Roasting pit