The drive to Arizona’s west coast - the Colorado-River - covers enough miles from where I live in the center of the state that it takes a bit more planning than the spontaneous birding trips that I often do. Thorough planning was done in advance so that early Sunday morning (January 18th) I met my friend, Susan, and was putting my gear in the bigger car while it was still dark. We were halfway to Quartzite with birds starting to appear in the sky when it hit me. My binoculars and camera, in my backpack, might not have been switched to this car. Yikes! I had tucked the black pack on the passenger-side floor of my car by habit since I always like to have my binoculars at hand but didn’t notice it when I glanced in the front and back seat areas before locking the car in the morning darkness. Now, here I was setting off on a two-day birding trip without my bins and camera. Not an easily digestible circumstance for me to swallow, I mulled it over a bit. Susan was quick to remind me that an iPhone takes pictures. And, I did realize that we were headed for water -- my spotting scope would be in constant use. So, I knew I was in for a challenge. [Sharing binoculars worked out well and my scoping ability improved by the end of the trip.]
|Taken on California side of the Colorado River toward Arizona|
After a fuel fill-up in Quartzite, we headed directly to Parker where we crossed over the Colorado to bird what is known as the Parker Strip running north-south along the river up to Parker Dam. Much of the land along the 17-mile strip is federal BLM land (Bureau of Land Management) with access at various points to the river. We explored day-use areas such as Rock House, Bull Frog, Quail Hollow and Cable Car for birds in the river and riparian areas. Bufflehead were foraging at a couple stops, but the best finds were one Canvasback, a truly handsome duck, and many, many Lesser Scaup as well as one Ring-billed gull that flew past. As a desert dweller, it's always a thrill to see these waterfowl that don't necessarily show up in our neighborhood ponds each winter. The desert habitat along the river was full of the sound of Black-tailed Gnatcatchers, Verdin and Yellow-rumped Warblers.
Right about here, I should be showing you photos of the wild burros we saw in the Day Use Areas, but I've posted burro pictures in earlier blogs, so if you need to see what they look like, just scroll down until you find them. I rarely use my smart-phone's camera, so it's going to take a few tries to get it going reasonably well.
After we crossed Parker Dam back into Arizona, we pulled off the highway. With the spotting scope, I zeroed in on a couple Redheads, a Common Loon and a Great Egret way below. This trip is all about finding and enjoying resident birds in this area and whatever other vagrants might show up; there have been no recently posted rarities.
It was at Havasu Springs Resort that we saw an abundance of Clark's Grebes. On our desert lakes, we usually get Western Grebes and need to really sift through them carefully to find a single Clark's. Here, it is just the opposite, but with the scope I picked out two Western Grebes. Our other highlights here were a Horned Grebe, Eared Grebe and three Common Loons. Susan, rarely needs the scope; she has excellent eye sight and used the scope mostly for confirming her sightings of, for instance, the Common Loons.
The photo below was taken from Bill Williams Headquarters where we found a pair of Barrow's Goldeneye. The female's yellowish-bill helped us pick out the couple from the many Common Goldeneye in the cove.
|Bill Williams Headquarters|
|Marsh at Bill Williams NWR|
To avoid a crush of people in Lake Havasu City for the Balloon Festival, we had planned a mid-afternoon arrival. As we approached the city, we noticed many vintage VW Campers heading south, one after the other, so, fortunately, we had missed their "Round Up", too.
At Rotary Park, Susan found a Herring Gull among hundreds of Ring-billed Gulls along the shore. Lots of Rock Pigeons were hanging out there, too, at the picnic ramadas and next to the man on the beach tossing popcorn up in the air.
|Popcorn for the Birds!|
It had been a long day; we slept soundly and waited for daylight before heading out to bird this morning.
|Sunrise on the mountains from our motel in Lake Havasu City|
After birding Site 6 and London Bridge Park for an hour, we headed south to check out Cibola National Wildlife Refuge (NWR). Although located in Arizona, it requires a drive to Blythe, CA, to drive south on Neighbors Blvd. with an eventual re-cross of the Colorado to reach the Refuge. As we had hoped, Sandhill Cranes were abundant. So, too, were Snow Geese!
We had found some very bird-quiet places during the two days, but the overall trip proved to be very worthwhile. Although we returned on a Monday, it was Martin Luther King Holiday, so traffic was flowing for a smooth trip back to the Phoenix Valley in late afternoon.
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Click on photos to enlarge.
Click on photos to enlarge.