Mingus Mountain

We went somewhere we’d never been before!

Mingus Mountain Vista overlooking Cottonwood

The only problem is that it rained and was threatening more storms the whole time we were there…

And those impending storms prevented us from climbing the fire tower, which would have been totally cool and now is one of my goals. We did spend about an hour with the very colorful fireguard, “Johnny Mingus,” and got some Smokey the Bear memorabilia. We hope to see Johnny again (and Smokey).

Mingus Lake (or Elk Well) was more like a puddle as the rain up there has been sparse but, oddly, there were people fishing.

They leave their lures.

There were meadows and wildflowers everywhere, something we don’t always see in the mountains.

And the birding wasn’t great or at least the photographing of birds wasn’t great with the cloudy skies. Plus they kept their distance.

Acorn Woodpecker

Spotted Towhee

The warblers are now heading south! Some will be wintering in Phoenix, others will be heading further down. Hope to see some in our yard soon.

Orange-crowned Warbler

Yellow-rumped Warblers

Wilson’s Warblers, male and female

Western Bluebird overlooking a meadow

Target even though no hunting or shooting allowed

Tent Caterpillars everywhere!

Dark-eyed Juncos, Red-backed subspecies

Interesting to see ocotillos amidst the pines.

A perfect pine among the others…

…is really a cell tower.

I’d love to go back sometime on a sunny day.

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On the Road Again

We finally got started on our AZ day trips again. I’ve been back from IN for about 6 weeks and, with a sick kitty (who now feels better), monsoons, and other assorted issues, it seemed hard to get going. But we went back to Woods Canyon Lake on the Mogollon Rim (one of our many favorite places) yesterday. The temperature was 68 degrees, quite a nice relief from the constant Phoenix heat. Cool, refreshing, beautiful, peaceful. Here are some of our sights in semi-chronological order.

Golden-mantled Ground Squirrel

We were feeding these guys peanuts, which you can see are stuffed in this one’s cheeks, but we also dropped the occasional piece of popcorn. This one was particularly greedy and unafraid of us so kept begging for more.

Golden-mantled Ground Squirrel and Grey-collared Chipmunk (in foreground)

Most Jays are very loud, very pretty, and fun to watch and these are no exception.

Steller’s Jay

I was very surprised to see this guy land quite close to me before he took off in a hurry. We also saw several members of its family flying over the lake.

Bald Eagle, immature

It was so lush in the forest after all the monsoon rains. No mosquitoes, though!

Speaking of loud and boisterous:

Common Raven

It was not real birdy, though, oddly. Other than hearing the Jays and Ravens, it was pretty quiet. We did also see, briefly, some sort of wren, warbler, and woodpecker but not long enough for photos.

Then we stopped on the Rim for the views before we left and there we saw more birds. There were many Turkey Vultures riding the currents.

This is the very edge of the Rim, looking down, glad I didn’t trip:

Lesser Goldfinch

There were several varieties of pine (or fir?) trees here.

Dark-eyed Junco, Red-backed subspecies, juvenile

Plateau Fence Lizard

Mountains as far as you can see. It was great to be out again and to have something different to blog about again! Hopefully, we are back in our routine of regular adventures.

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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In Exile (in IN)

I’m still in Indiana for a few more days, cut off from the real world or at least it feels that way. Last night my laptop croaked. I knew its days were numbered as I had been told a couple months ago when I went to get it a new battery that the particular year that it was (2011) was known for its bad video component and to not bother sinking more money into it. Sure enough, that’s what happened so I went out and bought a new MacBook Pro today. My old one was a 15″ but those are pricy so I downgraded to a 13″. I actually like it quite a bit so far and think the smaller screen won’t be an issue.

I have not gone birding much. I hope to get out another time or 2 but it rains a lot here so I just don’t know. Anyway, I’ve stopped briefly at a couple parks and I also went to a nature center in another park so here are a few photos I got. The nature center and feeders are right by the viewing area so the birds came in really close. That was nice as I don’t have my long lens with me. I still hope to see a Pileated Woodpecker and a Ruby-throated Hummingbird while here and anything else I can find without too much time expended. I’m open to anything, especially lifers!

Blue Jay RVBlue Jay

Hairy Woodpecker

I have seen a Hairy Woodpecker before, in Scottsdale, but I didn’t get a good shot. And looking very similar to Hairys are Downy Woodpeckers and that was a lifer! They are smaller and have a few other subtle differences, bill length, head size, tail feather markings.

Downy Woodpecker (lifer)

And I was very excited to see this lifer, too:

Red-breasted Grosbeak (lifer)

I don’t know if the whole midwest is like this but these squirrels are everywhere! I must see 30 a day and then a bunch of chipmunks, too, with a groundhog and bunny here and there. Also saw 2 deer yesterday.

House Finch
Red-bellied WoodpeckerNorthern Cardinal

Eastern Bluebird (lifer)

Eastern Phoebe (lifer)

Song Sparrow

St. Joseph River

I have many more photos but they are all on my old hard drive which I will get downloaded when I get back to Phoenix. I also have Carbonite backup and I can see that everything is available to me there; it would just take forever to download it all. I had to use it to just get these few photos off my old hard drive. And I backed up my laptop in November. Should have done it since but I think I pretty much have everything covered this way. Don’t forget to back up.

Back to Madera Canyon

It’s a penguin!

Not really.

Acorn Woodpecker

Last week we were back at one of our favorite places, for the second time ever. We had been there almost exactly one year prior (last year’s post). Last year I got 5 lifers; this year I got 5 more. Many consider Madera Canyon the third hottest birding spot in the U.S. as it is a very diverse environment (part of the Madrean Sky Islands). This was my favorite and the target bird for the day:

Arizona Woodpecker, male (lifer)

He was accommodating and came right to the feeders at Santa Rita Lodge a couple of times while we sat there in their bird viewing area. This is the only brown woodpecker in the world and is only found in southeastern Arizona and part of Mexico.

Pine Siskins, Lesser Goldfinches, House Finches

The Pine Siskins were also lifers but I have a feeling they were there last year, too, and that I thought they were finches.

Rufous-crowned Sparrow (lifer)

We also saw a Red-faced Warbler (lifer) but my photo does not do it justice. They’re a fairly uncommon bird.

Then we also heard the bird that is almost everyone’s target when going to Madera Canyon, the Elegant Trogon. We hiked a little with another couple looking for him and, after not locating it where we heard it might be, we split up. We kept hearing it calling as it has a very loud and distinctive call. We found the other couple again and, of course, they had gotten views of it! The American Birding Association considers heard-only birds to be as countable as seen birds. I don’t really agree as I would have loved to have seen it but I’m still counting it as my fifth lifer. This is what they look like and, in the U.S., are only found in Arizona and occasionally southern Texas. They’re really a Mexican bird and look very exotic and tropical. Someday we’ll see one!!!!

I love these birds and they are plentiful there. They are also a Mexican bird found only in southern AZ and southern TX:

Mexican Jay

They’re loud and boisterous like other Jays.

View from Old Baldy Trail

Santa Rita Lodge also has hummingbird feeders. I think these are the most beautiful of the hummers I’ve seen:

Broad-billed Hummingbirds (last one is a female)

Cordilleran Flycatcher

Chipping Sparrow

Black-headed Grosbeak

Just like last year, as we were getting ready to leave, we saw a couple of these guys:

Coues White-tailed Deer

The weather was perfect and it was another great day in Madera Canyon!

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