Brown’s Ranch Trail

Brown’s Ranch was founded in 1917 by E.O. Brown, a Scottsdale entrepreneur, and encompassed 44,000 acres at its peak, supporting 3,000 to 5,000 head of cattle. His descendants lived on the ranch until 1970. After changing hands several times, the remainder of the ranch was acquired by the City of Scottsdale in 1999 for inclusion in the Scottsdale McDowell Sonoran Preserve. The Preserve is a large, permanently protected, sustainable desert habitat that includes an interconnected network of non-motorized, multi-use trails (hike/bike/horse) accessed from multiple trailhead locations over 30,500 acres. It is the largest urban park in the U.S.

Brown’s Mountain

It was a sunny, windy day and the 3 mile Brown’s Ranch Trail just got prettier and birdier the farther we went. We’d never been to any part of the Preserve before and I had no idea it was so beautiful. The trails were great. We’ll be exploring more of it soon.

White-crowned Sparrow (on agave stalk)


I imagine in the spring, when the desert is in bloom, that it is even more spectacular.

Cactus Wren (on agave stalk)

Cholla, glowing

Cone Mountain

Phainopepla, male (on agave stalk)

Saguaro skeleton

Harris’s Hawk

Gilded Flicker couple

Curve-billed Thrasher

Red-tailed Hawk

Yes, those are bullet holes even though shooting is not allowed in the Preserve. But this is Arizona, the Wild West.

Mount Humboldt with FAA Radar Facility

Northern Mockingbird (on agave stalk)

There were no lifers but it is definitely on the “return to” list, at some point. And I learned that birds love dried agave stalks so I am in search of one for my backyard photo props.


Eat or Be Eaten

American Kestrel, male

I know everyone needs to eat but please don’t eat any of the sweet birdies I feed, Mr. Kestrel.

Orange-crowned Warbler

And this is what I feed “my” birds daily:

  1. Suet Cake (1)
  2. Orange (1~halved)
  3. Grape Jelly
  4. Black Oil Sunflower Seeds (BOSS)
  5. Thistle
  6. Sugar water for the hummingbirds (4 feeders)

The Orange-crowned Warbler (above) really only eats the jelly anymore.

Abert’s Towhee

The towhees eat everything but the thistle and hummingbird food.

Curve-billed Thrasher

Same for the thrashers and they seemed to be working on a nest the other day although I couldn’t locate it.

Anna’s Hummingbirds, males and female

Bugs and nectar for these guys.

Northern Mockingbird

Mockingbirds are bold, aggressive birds yet they seem shy around the food. They will eat everything but the thistle but I don’t see them come to the feeders very often at all. They watch and wait before they come in to have a bite.

White-crowned Sparrows, adults and immature

These guys eat nothing I put out but do like mulberries. It will be a couple months until we have mulberries, though, so we’ll see if they stick around. There seem to be 4 of them.

Gila Woodpeckers, female and male

These woodpeckers love the oranges but will also eat suet and BOSS. I don’t think I’ve seen them in the jelly yet. But the male is so loud when he arrives, announcing to everyone that he is here, and the female sneaks in without a chirp. Many people I know say they drink from their hummingbird feeders but I’ve never seen them do that in our yard.


Pretty much oranges only for the Verdins now that the only hummingbird feeder I had that they could drink from broke.

Eurasian-collared Dove

These doves are hogs, especially in the BOSS feeder, knocking all the seed to the ground. When they leave in the summer, the White-winged Doves show up and they’re just as obnoxious. Oh, yes, we have pigeons, too; same for them, obnoxious.

House Sparrow, male

Everyone’s favorite invasive species eats everything I put out except the thistle. They’re raucous and plentiful but I don’t really mind them much. This guy was after peanuts which I put out once in awhile for a special treat.

House Finch, male

The finches eat everything, including thistle, but they’re so pretty, I enjoy them.

European Starling

I guess I’m lucky because some people complain that starlings, another invasive species, are feeder hogs. We have a few starlings but I’ve never seen any eat any of the food. I do enjoy the sounds they make; it sounds like a happy circus when they’re around.

Lesser Goldfinches, males and females

And these little cuties, so different from the House Finches, eat only thistle. I love that they like the swings. They sit on them while they wait for an opening on the thistle socks.

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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


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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The Halloween Ball

Curve-billed Thrasher with treat

The birds (and other critters) have been having a ball in our yard the last few days leading up to Halloween. In addition to their regular oranges, grape jelly, and suet, they’ve been enjoying bird seed packed with fruits and nuts that I recently won in the Pennington Wild Bird Photo Contest (with this photo). Plus they find extra goodies in the yard like insects, berries, and pomegranates.

Gilded Flicker, female, yard bird species #33

This girl, above, has started dropping by for a drink now and then. She’s so pretty.

Honey Bees enjoying pine sap

Anna’s Hummingbird, male

Northern Mockingbird

House Finch, female

White-crowned Sparrow, first of season

Eurasian Collared-Dove

House Finches, male

Gila Woodpecker, male

Queen Butterfly in Mesquite

Orange-crowned Warbler

If this is the same warbler, this will be its third year to winter in our yard. He or she is also over a month early so I’m not positive it’s the same one yet. Time may tell…I hope it is or, if not, I hope the other one will show up later and I’ll have 2. There is grape jelly in this feeder and this bird loves it.

House Sparrow,male

Abert’s Towhee

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Fall in Page Springs

Oak Creek

We were in Page Springs the other day, which is technically in Cornville, close to Cottonwood. It’s known for having Page Springs Hatchery where they raise rainbow trout for sport fishing and for Bubbling Ponds Native Fish Research Facility. Both are owned by Arizona Game and Fish Department and are surrounded by a preserve where AZGFD and the Northern Arizona Audubon Society are engaged in conservation projects for the plants and animals. It is located on Oak Creek and has several miles of well-maintained trails which we were on.

For those of you who have real autumns, these shots won’t be that exciting to you but, in Phoenix, where fall doesn’t produce many changing leaves, we all get excited at fall colors. This area was not at peak yet, unfortunately, but it was still pretty. So here are too many fall shots of the area.

Rainbow Trout

Maybe that was too many…sorry. The Important Bird Area was not full of plentiful birds, of course. No lifers here.

White-crowned Sparrows, male and female

Red-winged Blackbirds

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Northern Cardinal, female

Nor did we see the River Otters which are sometimes spotted there.

This area is also known for its many vineyards and wineries.

We didn’t feel right not getting some souvenirs to make up for the lack of birds. It’s always nice to support the local economy…

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