Lower Camp Creek and Beyond

We went back to Seven Springs in Tonto National Forest a few days ago. We had been there in December but we totally missed the turnoff to one area that I have since found out is really birdy called Lower Camp Creek, an interesting foresty area down in a canyon with a lot of really nice cabins. There were a ton of birds in all the trees and I got 4 lifers there!!!! Sadly, I am embarrassed to post most of the blurry, branch-obstructed photos I got of those four but they were:

Cordilleran Flycatcher

The other three were:

Hammond’s Flycatcher
Bell’s Vireo
Yellow Warbler (which I have been wanting for a long time)

We also saw many other birds including Bushtits, Ruby-crowned Kinglets, a Cooper’s Hawk, Black-throated Gray Warblers, a MacGillivray’s Warbler…tons and tons of tiny, fast-moving birds that didn’t want to come out in the open, plus:

Rock Wren

Lots of these guys flying around:

Red-tailed Hawk

Sad, petrified owl

And we saw this huge, beautiful butterfly which is Arizona’s State Butterfly:

Two-tailed Swallowtail

We then continued on the dirt road that leads to Seven Springs itself but, first, we took a turnoff on FR 562 to Humboldt Mountain where there is a FAA Radar Facility. You can drive all the way to the top on a nice, paved road that is also very narrow, wide enough for one vehicle only, full of hairpin turns, switchbacks, and dropoffs but it has guardrails and frequent pull-outs in case you meet anyone coming from the other direction. Fortunately, we didn’t. This is a photo of the mountain with the “Golf Ball” from the last time we went (here).

Golf Ball and Fire Tower

The Guard

It was spectacularly beautiful up there with 360 degree views. From the Golf Ball looking down:

We could see Horseshoe Reservoir, the Verde River, farm fields, mountains as far as you could see:

And finally the road heading back down:

Really, that was my favorite part of the day, even more than getting all those lifers. We then headed back on the dirt road to Seven Springs.

Heading into Seven Springs, you cross a creek that flows over the road so this photo, above, was taken from inside the SUV. Very pretty.

Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher

Northern Cardinal, male

Common Raven

Guess what? I got one more lifer at Seven Springs, bringing the day’s total to FIVE!

Cassin’s Kingbird

All in all, an awesome day!

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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

 

 

Fall in Page Springs

Oak Creek

We were in Page Springs the other day, which is technically in Cornville, close to Cottonwood. It’s known for having Page Springs Hatchery where they raise rainbow trout for sport fishing and for Bubbling Ponds Native Fish Research Facility. Both are owned by Arizona Game and Fish Department and are surrounded by a preserve where AZGFD and the Northern Arizona Audubon Society are engaged in conservation projects for the plants and animals. It is located on Oak Creek and has several miles of well-maintained trails which we were on.

For those of you who have real autumns, these shots won’t be that exciting to you but, in Phoenix, where fall doesn’t produce many changing leaves, we all get excited at fall colors. This area was not at peak yet, unfortunately, but it was still pretty. So here are too many fall shots of the area.

Rainbow Trout

Maybe that was too many…sorry. The Important Bird Area was not full of plentiful birds, of course. No lifers here.

White-crowned Sparrows, male and female

Red-winged Blackbirds

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Northern Cardinal, female

Nor did we see the River Otters which are sometimes spotted there.

This area is also known for its many vineyards and wineries.

We didn’t feel right not getting some souvenirs to make up for the lack of birds. It’s always nice to support the local economy…

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Three of Four Seasons

This is the Darden Road Bridge in South Bend, Indiana, over the St. Joseph River. The only known truss bridge in the county, this bridge is noted for its multi-span length and unusual deck placement. It was built in 1884 by P. E. Lane of Chicago, Illinois. I came upon it by accident and it was really pretty.

I just got back from there; my 95 year old mother was in Rehab. She’s fine now and will be released in a couple days. I didn’t have much time for birding, understandably, nor did I take my birding lens but, even so, I got 5 lifers!

These first few photos were taken at St. Patrick’s County Park, also on the river.

Black-capped Chickadee

There is a Bald Eagle nest at this park that has been inhabited for the last couple of years. The eagles took over an existing Red-tailed Hawk nest (I didn’t know they did that). Below is the nest.

And my mom and I saw one of the eagles in a nearby tree! Wish I had my birding lens for that. Here’s their Bald Eagle Live Cam.

On another day, I went to Madeline Bertrand County Park in nearby Niles, Michigan, and that’s where I got 4 lifers in less than an hour! These are birds we don’t see in Arizona.

White-breasted Nuthatch

Tufted Titmouse

Red-bellied Woodpecker

Dark-eyed Junco, Slate-colored

I also saw a beautiful Blue Jay but the photos are pretty blurry.

Northern Cardinal, Indiana State Bird

We have Great-tailed Grackles in AZ but in Indiana, they have these guys all over the place (my 5th lifer):

Common Grackle

The robins were in abundance everywhere, pudgy little things.

American Robin

In the 2 weeks I was there, I experienced all the seasons but summer. The temperatures ranged from 19 to about 65. We had rain, snow, sleet, hail (golf ball-sized), tornados all around us, and a little sun. I prefer Arizona’s 2 seasons, beautiful and hot. I’m fortunate it was “mild” while I was there, for the most part. Bye, snow.

Lookout Park

SJ Lookout 1

SJ Lookout 2

SJ LO 3

As my mother and I left St. Joseph, Michigan, we stopped at another spot along the shore called Lookout Park. This park is along a cliff overlooking the lake and is a beautiful spot for just sitting and gazing out over Lake Michigan. You can park right along there and we saw many locals pulling in and eating dinner in their cars.

There used to be houses along this stretch but, in 1954, after a prolonged rain and previous erosion, the houses started to slide into the lake. I guess a couple of them did. Others were moved to other locations and this park was created to memorialize that event. Fortunately, no lives were lost. Across the street from this park are a lot of beautiful old homes from the same era that overlook the lake, too.

Gull Flying

Another point of interest in St. Joe is this railroad swing bridge that is still in operation a couple of times a day. Years ago, I saw it working.

Swing Bridge 2

Swing Bridge

Here’s a short video of it in operation:

And, to finish off my trip to the midwest, I saw a bird that is seldom seen in Phoenix but all over the midwest:

RobinAmerican Robin

Cardinal BlessingNorthern Cardinal, male

The Northern Cardinal is Indiana’s State Bird and I did see them everywhere…as flashes of red darting through trees. I didn’t get one good photo of any!

Cardinal Silhouette

Cardinal 2

Baby CardinalNorthern Cardinal, fledgling

Woodpecker Holes

I never saw the woodpecker that is often in my mother’s Sweet Gum tree, unfortunately, because it would have been a different kind than we have in Arizona.

Fungus Among Us

Her tree also had a pretty fungus.

Grass

Bye, Indiana and Michigan, where everything is lush and green.