Arlington

This steel truss bridge was built in 1927 over the Gila River downstream from the Gillespie Dam on what is now Old US Highway 80. It’s about an hour west from our house and sounded like an interesting little trip.

You can see the dam in these shots, above and below. It was constructed in 1920 but on January 9, 1993, due to record heavy rainfall, 120 feet of the dam collapsed. It was never repaired and nature has now taken over much of the area. The remnants of the dam remain in place and the area is largely accessible to the public. A small earthen embankment exists to divert water into nearby canals.

Before we headed over for a closer look at the dam, we were treated to an airshow!

American White Pelicans

You can get right up to the dam and, if you want to climb a little (we didn’t), you can even walk across it~until you hit the broken area.

Great Egret and Snowy Egrets

Apparently liability isn’t a concern for the County. I wouldn’t want to be under this building next time there is a record rainfall. It was an unusual, bizarre kind of place but in a good way. The whole area of Arlington is very agricultural. I wish we had gotten some shots of all the fields.

This place is now partially owned by the state and there were some trucks going in and out. I don’t believe it’s for cattle anymore but it is picturesque. We were then going to head to Arlington Wildlife Area but the dirt road we were on was way beyond rutted and we didn’t think it was wise.

Red-tailed Hawk

Instead we drove a few more miles west to a nondescript area known to birders as the “Thrasher Spot.” It’s just on the corner of 2 roads and rare thrashers and sparrows seem to congregate there in the desert brush. It was late afternoon by then and not too active but I did get my final lifer of 2017, a Sagebrush Sparrow!

Here’s a short article on the dam and bridge.

 

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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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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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Road Trip South

cactus-wrenCactus Wren

picacho-peak-1

On our too infrequent road trips, we usually head north of Phoenix but one day last week we headed south. Of course, I was in search of birds, one particular bird, and Tony was willing to come along. We saw places we had never been before so that’s always interesting.

First stop was Picacho Peak State Park.

picacho-peak-2

While there, I got my first Lifer of the day, and there were several of these guys!

black-throated-sparrow-2

black-throated-sparrow-1Black-throated Sparrow

picacho-peak-3

Unfortuately, I didn’t think to take a photo of Picacho Peak itself until we had already moved on to our next destination. It’s a rugged mountain but we didn’t climb it, of course. The “easy” trail we were on was hard enough and I’ve decided to not do any climbing again. I’ll stick to flatter areas especially when carrying a big camera and lens.

Our next destination was Red Rock where there is a large feedlot. There were a lot of cows, of course, and a lot of birds (mostly Red-winged Blackbirds, Yellow-headed Blackbirds, Brown-headed Cowbirds, House Sparrows, and Starlings). This was where I got my second Lifer of the day but I didn’t know what it was until we got home later that night and I could do some research (meaning people in my Facebook birding group ID’ed it).

lark-bunting-1

lark-bunting-2Lark Bunting

Next we were on to the location where I hoped to find my “Target Bird.” This region is called Santa Cruz Flats, a large area of farmlands, dusty fields, and dirt roads. There are a lot of birds but they can be pretty far off in the fields so it’s hard to get close views.

santa-cruz-flats-map

We drove around a lot of dirt roads since we didn’t have a specific location where the target bird might be as they are found all along that area. But, guess what? We spotted ONE of the birds pretty quickly which is a good thing because in all our continued driving in search of more, that was the only one we saw. They are bizarre-looking critters.

crested-caracaraCrested Caracara

“A tropical falcon version of a vulture, the Crested Caracara reaches the United States only in Arizona, Texas, and Florida. It is a bird of open country, where it often is seen at carrion with vultures” (from Cornell’s All About Birds, where you can see some better shots of them).

We did see quite a few flying raptors but I’m not good at identifying them high up in the sky.

rt-hawkRed-tailed Hawk

says-phoebeSay’s Phoebe

Already happy to have 3 Lifers in one day, as we were nearing the end of our dirt road trek, we spotted my 4th Lifer!

loggerhead-shrikeLoggerhead Shrike

These guys impale their kills of insects, birds, lizards, and small mammals on barbed wire or thorns. I was glad to not witness that part of their behavior.

Quite a successful day and a good start to my 2017 goal of 60 Lifers. We definitely will need to go on more road trips to accomplish that.

Raptors

Hawk 12

Skye, Red-Tailed Hawk

Falcon 3

Jester, Peregrine Falcon

Vulture

Quanah, Turkey Vulture

Kestrel Crop

Vito, American Kestrel

Owl Crop_edited-1

Diego, Burrowing Owl

These are all rescue birds from Liberty Wildlife that were imprinted on humans so are unable to live in the wild and are used for education purposes. We saw them last weekend at a birding event put on by a Facebook group I belong to (Birding–Arizona and the Southwest) at Gilbert Riparian Preserve at Water Ranch. They were all beautiful and kindly posed for photos for hours.

More of Skye:

Hawk 8

Hawk 9

Hawk 11

The sky in Skye’s eye…

Hawk 13

Hawk Full

And more of Jester:

Falcon

Falcon 2

Diego:

Owl Full_edited-1