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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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!

Verde River

We went to two recreation areas along the Verde River in Tonto National Forest last week: Box Bar and Needle Rock. These areas are less than an hour from our house and we had never been there. In fact, I’d never even heard of them until recently and no one else I’ve mentioned them to has either. It was like stepping into Autumn all over again. It was gorgeous there.

Excuse the way-too-many photos. I’ll try not to blabber too much.

Great Blue Heron

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

As we walked down a path to the river’s edge at Needle Rock, I saw something move behind a tree. I thought a person was fishing or something but, no, this is who was there:

We were about 3 feet from him/her! I thought she had stuff from the river on her head from having her head in the water…

But it was a ton of cockleburs! Altogether we saw 9 wild horses there (and they all had cockleburs in their manes and tails).

The horses are used to people but still wary…fortunately.

These horses are part of the herd of Salt River Wild Horses mentioned in a previous post. They have a pretty large territory they cover. The ones we saw on the Salt didn’t appear to have these cockleburs, though. I hope there is some way they work off eventually.

The birding wasn’t good but the scenery and the horses more than made up for that!

Full disclosure: I have 2 cameras that we take on our trips so Tony takes many of the landscape photos. 🙂

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Saguaro Lake

After exploring the Lower Salt River, we headed to Saguaro Lake, set in the Sonoran Desert and rimmed with canyon walls. It is only about 40 miles northwest of downtown Phoenix.

Eared Grebe

And…I got a lifer (below)!

Western Grebe

Red-winged Blackbird, immature male

The lake is divided into two sections connected by narrows between canyon walls. The above is considered the marina side and the other side is my favorite, Butcher Jones Beach.

The Salt River wild horses, mentioned in my last post, often congregate here on hot, summer days. A lot of people also congregate at this lake all summer long. As you can see, we beat the rush by waiting.

Pied-billed Grebe

Redhead

There was a really nice trail there but it was almost dusk so we were not able to go very far on it…maybe next time…it seemed pretty “birdy.”

Great Blue Heron

Northern Cardinal

Black-tailed Gnatcatcher

 

 

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.