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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The Top of Mount Ord

This was our third trip to Mt. Ord. The first time we drove as high as we could but did not finish hiking the road to the top. The second time, we had car problems and only drove about halfway up the mountain. This time, we drove as high as allowed, and hiked the road (almost) to the top. We did not climb the lookout tower, though. Sometimes you can, sometimes you can’t.

The crystal ball came along…

“Pima” Desert Orangetip

Hoverfly and “Pima” Desert Orangetip

There’s a place about halfway up the mountain, Forest Road 1688, referred to as the “saddle,” where I got 5 of 6 (technically 7) lifers! Sadly, the photos are pretty bad for most of them. It’s dark in the forest and it was cloudy anyway. Here’s what I got:

Cassin’s Finch
Painted Redstart
Evening Grosbeak
Olive Warbler
Lewis’s Woodpecker
Dusky/Hammond’s Flycatcher
Grace’s Warbler (heard only)

We met the nicest birder, Anne, at the saddle. If it were not for her, I probably would have only gotten 3 lifers that day. Still good, but 7 is better. The one that we heard only, I am not really going to count as I would rather see it. Someday…

These lifer photos are all pretty bad…the other 2 are even worse so I’m not posting them here:

Evening Grosbeaks (lifer)

Painted Redstart (lifer)

Dusky/Hammond’s Flycatcher (impossible to tell which it is but lifer either way)

Lewis’s Woodpecker (lifer)

A deer ran across the road in front of us!

Theodore Roosevelt Lake

White-breasted Nuthatch

Woodhouse’s Scrub Jay

Yellow-rumped Warbler, Audubon’s, male

Hutton’s Vireo

Bridled Titmouse

Black-throated Gray Warbler

The top of Mount Ord

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Mount Ord

See that little camouflaged cutie singing his heart out?

It’s my most recent lifer, a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, which we saw on Mt. Ord.

Mt. Ord is the highest point in Maricopa County, the huge county in which Phoenix is located. It is 7,129 feet tall and is located off the Beeline Highway on the way to Payson. It is accessible by Forest Road 626. There are communication towers and a ranger station up there. So we drove my poor Ford Fusion up this 6 mile long, bumpy, rutted, narrow, winding dirt road, with no guardrails (and back down). It was do-able but a 4WD would have certainly been preferable and would be the only way I would do it in the future. But it was worth it because it was beautiful up there.

There are a ton of birds up there, and many that would be lifers for me, if we had found them…the only other “lifer” I found was this Dark-eyed Junco, Gray-headed variant. Technically, it is not a lifer as I’ve seen Dark-eyed Juncos before, but since I’m trying to hit 60 lifers in 2017, I’m counting variants, too.

A few views from the top:

Beeline Highway (SR 87)

Bartlett Lake

Theodore Roosevelt Lake

There was a fire on Mt. Ord last September, burning 1335 acres, so there are many burned trees.

You can park 1/2 mile from the top of Mt. Ord and then take this trail the rest of the way to the top.

There are other hiking trails on the mountain, as well as an old mine (we didn’t see it).

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Woodhouse’s Scrub Jay

Black-throated Gray Warbler

In my Facebook birding group (Birding–Arizona and the Southwest), another member and her husband went the day before Tony and I did. She was posting several birds that I didn’t see and I mentioned that to her. She said, “Oh, we had a guide.” So…next time, I want a 4WD with someone else driving and a guide!

Here’s a short Arizona Highways article about Mt. Ord.

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