I Got Lucky!

This is a male Pyrrhuloxia, sometimes called the “Desert Cardinal.” It is a cousin to the Northern Cardinal. He has been a nemesis bird for me. Their range is more in southern Arizona, southern New Mexico, southern Texas, and Mexico so they are not very common in the Phoenix area. However, this particular bird is now spending his 3rd (at least) winter at the Desert Botanical Garden and I’ve been chasing him that whole time but he was very elusive. I kept seeing photos of him in my Facebook birding group from many other people. He hangs out in a specific area quite a bit and, a few days ago, I sat there for 2 hours waiting for a glimpse. No show. I was getting discouraged but decided to go over one afternoon this past week and get disappointed again. I sat down and, within about a minute, he appeared! And he seemed to do a lot of posing just for me, probably recognizing me from all the times I’ve been looking for him:

Isn’t he beautiful/adorable/unusual? During breeding season, his bill is also bright yellow so he’s even more colorful then but he doesn’t breed up here so I’ll have to try to catch one in southern Arizona sometime.

Gilded Flicker, male

Northern Mockingbird

Queen

A couple days before finally seeing the Pyrrhuloxia, I went to Gilbert Riparian Preserve (Riparian Preserve at Water Ranch) in search of some rarities being seen there. I never have good luck there unless I’m with an experienced birder. Fortunately, one showed up and, when the bird finally appeared, helped me find it. It was a Prairie Warbler, very unusual for this part of the country, but my picture is not good at all. There are now several more rare (for Arizona) birds there so I should try to make it out there one day this coming week and hope someone can help me find them, too.

Desert Cottontail

And I saw a ton of these fast, little guys:

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Say’s Phoebe

Western Meadowlark

And these little warblers were energetically flitting about right in the same area as the Prairie Warbler giving me false hope several times as they have the same coloring.

Yellow-rumped Warbler, Audubon’s

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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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Mogollon Rim

With temperatures hovering right around 120° this week in Phoenix (it only hit 119 officially yesterday), it’s nice to remember what it was like when we went to Woods Canyon Lake on the Mogollon Rim a couple weeks ago.

The Mogollon Rim is a topographical and geological feature cutting across Arizona. It extends approximately 200 miles, starting in northern Yavapai County and running eastward, ending near the border with New Mexico. It forms the southern edge of the Colorado Plateau in Arizona (Wikipedia).

You can walk right to the edge and it just drops off! You wouldn’t want to stumble around in the dark up here.

These teenagers were braver than me.

This was as close as I dared get, about a foot from the edge.

It is so beautiful and so cool up there at about 7,500 feet elevation.

There are other lakes on the Rim and, next time, which I hope will be fairly soon, we will try one of them. Woods Canyon Lake was pretty crowded although we were able to get away from the crowd and find a little clearing (above) where we just sat and enjoyed the cool breeze and quiet. We put out some peanuts to see who might drop by.

Grey-collared Chipmunk

And I got the target bird I had been hoping to get in Flagstaff a few days before but failed.

Steller’s Jay (lifer)

I think Jays, in general, are so pretty but these are especially stellar!

Williamson’s Sapsucker, female

We saw the male Williamson’s Sapsucker, too, but I couldn’t get a shot. Too bad because they are beautiful and look entirely different from the female. That was my first sighting of a male.

Western Tanagers, female and male

Common Raven

Yellow-rumped Warbler, Audubon’s, female

These warblers are plentiful in the Phoenix area in the winter and now I know where some of them go to breed. This girl was working on a nest.

I got 2 other lifers here. One was a Plumbeous Vireo but the shot I got is very mediocre. The other was a bird I really didn’t think I would ever see…because they’re almost impossible to see!

See it? They’re so tiny and blend in so well with the bark of trees that it’s very hard to spot one. I was pretty excited to add it to my list.

Brown Creeper (lifer)

There was a forest fire on the other side of the lake that was lightning-caused but they were letting it burn to clear out the area. Unfortunately, another fire, the Highline Fire, has started in the area since then but is now 92% contained, with acreage burned posted at 6,854. Always so sad this time of year…

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Spring Fling

Anna’s Hummingbird, male

Giant Swallowtail

Aloe

Black-chinned Hummingbird, male

It is definitely spring here in Phoenix. Sorry if it isn’t where you are. Soon enough, we will be trying not to be miserable while you are basking in lovely weather. We had a lot of rain (for us) this winter so it’s extra vibrant this year. These photos are mostly from my yard but a few are from Scottsdale Xeriscape Garden (the first one and the last 3).

Hibiscus

Geranium

Painted Lady

Lantana

Palo Verde Sap

I noticed this colorful Yellow-rumped Warbler, below, feeding off the aloe and thought he looked unusual. He seems to have the characteristics of two different subspecies, the Myrtle and the Audubon’s. When I got home, I checked with my bird experts and they agreed that he is what is known as an “intergrade.” I think that’s a fancy word for “hybrid.” Anyway, these 2 subspecies only breed in a small area of Alberta, B.C., so he had a long trip down here. They are somewhat uncommon but not really “rare” in Arizona. Nevertheless, I was excited.

Yellow-rumped Warbler Myrtle x Audubon’s Intergrade, male

Winter’s Over Here

Even though some of you may be buried in snow, winter has definitely left Phoenix: it’s been in the 90s. That is unseasonably warm and most of us hope it cools off again before it’s supposed to be that hot. But before winter is officially over, I wanted to post some of the birds that wintered in our yard.

Orange-crowned Warbler

Without a doubt I enjoyed this little guy, above (“Yellow Bird”), the most. He was here last winter, too, and I hope he comes back next year. It’s a drag getting attached to a wild animal, not knowing if you’ll ever see them again. The above photo was taken a couple days ago and I haven’t seen him since so maybe he has begun migration. Safe travels, little dude.

Yellow-rumped Warbler, Audubon’s

This warbler, above, was the first time I’ve seen this species in our yard. It and the Orange-crowned Warbler were chasing each other around the mesquite tree the other day.

White-crowned Sparrow

I only saw this bird, above, for one day. Last year we had several come in the spring when our mulberry trees got berries…that will happen in the next couple of weeks so maybe they will be back. Hoping for some other berry-eaters, too.

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Rosy-faced Lovebirds

House Finches, male and female

Anna’s Hummingbirds, male and female

Gila Woodpecker, male

Northern Mockingbird

House Sparrow, female

Verdins

Curve-billed Thrasher

Migration will be in full swing soon so I hope to see some new and exciting birds.

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