Cool Pines of Flagstaff

San Francisco Peaks, Humphreys Peak, highest point in AZ at 12,633 feet   (click to enlarge panorama)

It’s heating up in Phoenix now so our local adventures will be on hold and we’ll have to take our day trips to higher altitudes. Last week we were in  Flagstaff, elevation 6,909 feet. We were primarily at The Arboretum at Flagstaff located on 200 acres deep within the Coconino National Forest.

Western Bluebirds, male and female

There were many nesting boxes throughout. I think they appeal to the Western Bluebirds especially.

Say’s Phoebes

American Robin

And I got 4 lifers!

House Wren (lifer)

Pygmy Nuthatch (lifer)

Violet-Green Swallows (lifers)

Broad-tailed Hummingbird (lifer)

House Finch

Mountain Short-horned Lizard

The Botanical Blacksmiths exhibit features many metal sculptures at the Arboretum.

Western Wood-Pewee

Flagstaff Fun Fact:

This is the U.S. Naval Observatory Flagstaff Station. Visible from The Arboretum, it is the national dark-sky observing facility under the United States Naval Observatory. Flagstaff is also home to Lowell Observatory (where non-planet Pluto was discovered) and Northern Arizona University’s Barry Lutz Telescope and was the first jurisdiction on Earth to enact a light-pollution-control ordinance. Arizona has the densest grouping of dark-sky communities in the world, according to the International Dark-Sky Association: Flagstaff, Oak Creek and Sedona. Most people in the U.S. cannot see the Milky Way. We are fortunate to have many places in Arizona where one can do so.

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Veteran’s Oasis Park

Western Wood-Pewee

On another recent day when we had a reprieve from Phoenix’s heat, we headed to a destination about 30 miles away…Chandler, AZ…and Veteran’s Oasis Park, a new-to-us park. It’s a Chandler City Park with a community fishing lake but it also has several recharge (water treatment) ponds that are very wild. In fact, they are almost too wild to be able to see much wildlife but I’m sure the animals appreciate it. This is a very pretty park.

Black-tailed Jackrabbits galore

Turkey Vultures galore

Flame Skimmer Dragonfly

Desert Cottontail

San Tan Mountains

Killdeer

Great Blue Heron

Common Gallinule

Blue Dasher Dragonfly

They have blinds scattered around to observe/photograph the wildlife but the reeds and other plants are so overgrown that there isn’t much of a view.

From the recharge ponds, you can look out over farmland…from arid desert to green crops.

Homes with a farm view

Late Afternoon Sunlight

Gila Woodpecker, female

A few days ago, when it was unseasonably cool, I wandered over to the Desert Botanical Garden around 5 pm. It was not crowded at all, the birds were happily chirping and eating, everything was blooming, and the sun made it all glow. The Garden is always beautiful but this evening it seemed that everything came together to make it extraordinary. These photos don’t begin to capture the way it looked.

Mexican Fencepost Cactus

Sunflower

Coneflower and bonus bug

Flame Skimmer Dragonfly

Gambel’s Quail nibbling in herb garden

Gaillardia

Lesser Goldfinch

Anna’s Hummingbird

Verdin dining

Queen Butterfly

It was really quite spectacular!

Usery Mountain and Red Mountain

Red-tailed Hawk on Saguaro

We’ve been fortunate to have some cool days in Phoenix lately, before the true summer heat begins, so last week we took a local trip about 30 miles away to Usery Mountain Regional Park (a county park). It was very pretty. We made another stop first that I didn’t care for as much so I’ll put that at the end of this post…

I was glad to finally see this sign above. It has been around since the 1950s (although I’ve also heard it was already present during WWII) when a Boy Scout troop built it to help direct pilots to the Phoenix airport, 20 miles west. It’s made of rocks from Usery Mountain: each letter is about 100 feet high and 12 feet wide. The sign is 1,000 feet across and it took 5.5 years to assemble. More on this marker here.

Pass Mountain

Viewing Pond

This little pond and waterfall draws wildlife in for drinks and baths.

House Finches, male and female

Gambel’s Quail

Curve-billed Thrasher on Saguaro

Lesser Goldfinch

The Nature Center at the park had feeders set up behind it. I always appreciate feeders to draw birds in. No lifers but lifers aren’t everything…I guess.

This is the view looking south toward Apache Junction.

Our original destination that day was Red Mountain Park in east Mesa, where we went first. We had heard they have a wetlands area. Well, sort of, but not really. This park did not thrill me at all. I’m sure it’s nice for a city park if you live close by but it wasn’t worth the drive (to us).

The place was dominated by grackles and doves. We saw a few other birds but they’re the sort of birds we see at most of the ponds and lakes around town.

Canada Goose gosling

Cooper’s Hawk

Pied-billed Grebes, adult and immature

Western Wood-Pewee

Brown-headed Cowbird

Snow Goose

The highlight of that park was seeing this Snow Goose, which should really not be in the area and shows up on the rare bird alert regularly. It must either like it there or it can’t fly although it certainly looked fine. I’ve seen a migrating flock of these before but never one up close like this. It is a handsome bird.

Oh, the very first shot of the hawk on the saguaro? It cost me $24. I took it from the side of the road and laid my lens cap on my car. Hours later I remembered. It’s a big cap, 95mm. The replacement just arrived now.

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A May Day Bouquet

Black-chinned Hummingbird

A bouquet of birds, I mean. When I was little, living in Illinois, on May Day, we would make construction paper baskets, fill them with flowers (wildflowers, dandelions, flowers from our mothers’ gardens), leave them on a neighbor’s doorstep, ring the doorbell, and run and hide to watch them find their bouquets. Hardly anyone I mention this to knows what I’m talking about but we thought it was very exciting way back then and it really was a tradition (see NPR article). We would also have a May Pole at school. Now May Day is nothing special, I guess.

I just got this pretty copper hummingbird feeder, made by an Arizona artist. She has an Etsy shop where she sells a few different styles. The hummingbirds have been enjoying it even though I have several other feeders out, too, and it’s very easy to maintain. (Disclaimer: I don’t know her personally, I paid for mine, and am not getting a kickback.) 

We have Verdins building nests again in our pine tree. Their nests have the entrance on the bottom.

Curve-billed Thrashers, adult and fledglings

House Finch, male

Costa’s Hummingbird, immature male

House Finch, fledgling

Anna’s Hummingbird

Gambel’s Quail chick

Wilson’s Warbler, male

Lesser Goldfinch, female

These photos were taken in our yard and the last 6 at the Desert Botanical Garden.

Happy May Day!