Seven Springs

The other day we went to a place in Tonto National Forest called Seven Springs. We drove 8 miles on a washboardy dirt road to get there. Unfortunately, due to a long drought, the drive was not overly pretty; the area was fairly dry and sparse. However, it was very birdy at our destination. There were hundreds of birds flying around. American Robins are not seen in the Phoenix area very often so, even though they are a common bird in so many parts of the U.S., they are fun for us Phoenicians to see and they are really such pretty birds. Well, this place had tons of them!

The area is full of pinyon pines and junipers so berries and nuts abound.

Western Bluebirds were also very plentiful there.

Western Bluebirds, male and female

Cave Creek

Red-naped Sapsucker

Phainopeplas

Dark-eyed Junco (Pink-sided subspecies~new to me)

Dark-eyed Junco (Oregon subspecies)

And, yes, there were lifers involved! I saw a Juniper Titmouse and have a bad photo of it. And the other lifer was:

Sage Thrasher

This is Humboldt Mountain that has a FAA radar facility at the top and is located right by Seven Springs. You can see how dry some of the area is now:

And, if you celebrate…

A Berry, Merry Christmas to you!

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Lower Salt River

This is Four Peaks as seen from the Phon D. Sutton Recreation Area on the Lower Salt River. This area is less than an hour’s drive from our house so we headed there one day last week. We drove through and hiked around several of the recreation areas along the river, ending at Saguaro Lake.

This is the confluence of the Verde and Salt Rivers, behind those rocks:

Our next stop was Coon Bluff Recreation Area, below, my favorite. This is where we hiked the most, looking for the herd of Salt River Wild Horses, often seen there.

We were fortunate to find a few of them, 4, to be exact.

“The Salt River wild horses are the beloved and majestic mustangs who have been roaming free along the lower Salt River in Arizona, for centuries. Arizona State Archives hold historic evidence of their existence in the Salt River Valley, back in the 1800s. Today, they are the pride of this community, a favorite subject of photographers, and the icon of the wild free spirit of the American West.” (SRWHMG website)

There are over 100 horses in this herd and the herd is growing at 12% per year, according to the Salt River Wild Horse Management Group, over 100 dedicated volunteers who constantly monitor the horses, making sure they are safe and ensuring that the public is safe from them. The horses often cross the Bush Highway so the group works to make these crossings safe for everyone concerned. They sometimes find injured horses or young horses separated from their bands and take them to their sanctuary for treatment, re-releasing them later, if at all possible, or allowing them to live out their lives at the sanctuary, if not.

Wild horses are controversial in the U.S. and these horses were slated for roundup by the U.S. Forest Service in 2015. There was a huge public outcry against this and, “in 2016, through the SRWHMG’s continued work with AZ State Legislators, the Salt River Horse Act (HB2340), was passed and was signed by Governor Doug Ducey, who had been supportive since the very beginning. This bill establishes that the Salt River wild horses are not stray livestock, makes harassing them illegal and requires a codifying of their humane management between the Forest Service, the State Agriculture Department and a private party. The bill paves the way for their humane management protocol that is geared towards achieving a reduced and stabilized population, so that each horse born in the wild can stay in the wild.” (SRWHMG website)

I’ve seen some beautiful photos of bands charging through the river, splashing water everywhere, but these four were intent on eating for the whole hour or so we watched them. No one ever raised their head. They have adapted to eating river grass which must taste really delicious. We were happy to see them at all, though. Not everyone does.

Here’s a short video of them on a recent day at the river:

That bluff in the center is Coon Bluff.

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Phainopepla

This photo, above, was taken at the last recreation area, Water Users. Next stop is Saguaro Lake, after one last peek at Four Peaks.

 

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

 

Spring Sprung at the DBG

In March, this female Williamson’s Sapsucker showed up at the Desert Botanical Garden for a few days. She really loved the aloe nectar so she stayed in one area and was easy to find. They are rare here (preferring western mountains) so many birders went out to see her.

She looked very pretty foraging through the blooms.

Zebra Longwing

Common Buckeye

These are from the new Butterfly Pavilion at DBG. I guess I don’t enjoy photographing them in a controlled setting like that; it’s more challenging to get them in their native environments. Apparently both these species can be found in Arizona but I’ve never seen them.

Desert Spiny Lizard

Lesser Goldfinch, female

Gambel’s Quail, male

Phainopepla, male

And just in time for Easter!

Desert Cottontail

Apache Junction

meadowlark-1

meadowlark-2

A couple of weeks ago, Tony and I spent a lovely day in Apache Junction. I found my target bird, a Western Meadowlark, at Prospector Park, pretty quickly. Such big, handsome birds.

There were a few other pretty birds there:

quailGambel’s Quail, male

vfcVermillion Flycatcher, male

finchHouse Finch, male

phoebe-flySay’s Phoebe

We were already almost there so we went on to my new favorite park, Lost Dutchman State Park, in the Superstition Mountains. It was gorgeous!

superstitions

treasure-loop

posts

Although I didn’t spot any lifers there, I was able to get my best ever shots of these plentiful Phainopeplas, striking birds with red eyes.

phainopepla-malePhainopepla, male

phainopepla-femalePhainopepla, female

mtn-close-1

mtn-closeup-2

phain-silhouette

And no visit to Apache Junction is complete without a stop at the Elvis Presley Memorial Chapel, a movie memorabilia museum showing the movies that were filmed at Apacheland, including Charro, starring Elvis.

elvis-chapel-1