Hassayampa River Preserve, Maricopa County, AZ

February 25, 2015
My birding adventure today led to Hassayampa River Preserve near Wickenburg, AZ.   This rare spot has been protected by the Nature Conservancy for twenty-five years and its Visitor Center is open with the support of many volunteers. Lore suggests that Hassayampa is an old Indian word that means "river that runs upside down."  Much of the Hassayampa River does flow below surface but at the Preserve, it flows above ground providing a lush riparian habitat of cottonwoods, willows, grasses, and mesquite for birds and animals.

An hour's drive from home got me to the spot for meeting my birding friends.  Steve and Joan Hosmer and Susan Fishburn were coming from different directions but we each arrived early and were soon on our way to Wickenburg in Steve & Joan's car.  Since the Preserve doesn't open until 8:00 a.m., we stopped at the Rest Area, about a mile south of it, to take a look at the nicely flowing Hassayampa River area including its bushes and trees for birds that dared to come out in the cold.  For a February day in Arizona, 37 degrees is very very cold! 

The gate to the Preserve was open when we arrived several minutes early and we were able to start birding as soon as we got out of the car.  A calling hawk in the distance, Steve identified as a Gray Hawk. Yay!  A first for this year!

Our target birds were:  Red-shouldered Hawk and a Varied Thrush, a rare visitor from the Northwest.

We headed for the River Ramble Trail where reports indicated the Varied Thrush had been seen most often.  Before we even reached the trail, we heard the "kee-yurr" call of the Red-shouldered Hawk.  We took a few more steps and heard a response "kee-yurr" from the opposite direction.  The Red-shouldered Hawks called back and forth several times at that point and we would hear them calling again later.

When we reached the tributaries of the Hassayampa River, we broke into two groups to bird the east and west one separately.  The plan was to use a whistle to communicate.  One blow on the whistle meant the bird was in sight.  
Branch of the Hassayampa River 
Sometimes, we just stand and listen for birds.  And, watch the action in every direction.  

Joan and Steve
 When, after two hours, no whistle had been blown, we took a break and followed some other trails. I decided this Vermilion Flycatcher was photo-worthy.

There's a trail that makes a nice circuit around Palm Lake.  Everyone but me saw two Hooded Mergansers there, but after I took the above photo, my birding friends were no where to be seen.  I turned left toward the Lake; they had turned right so we met again later at the far end of Palm Lake.  They had also stopped by the Visitor's Center where they heard that the Varied Thrush had been seen as recently as 45 minutes previously by people in the parking lot!  Can you believe that?  
Steve, Susan and Joan
We checked grassy plots around the outside of the parking area to no avail; then walked again the same route we had covered earlier in the morning.  But the Varied Thrush remained a "no-show". Altogether, 33 species were tallied in the four hours we spent in the small developed area of the Preserve's 600 acres.  By the time we headed home again, the morning cold had given way to a spring-like temperature in the 60s.  It was great to spend the morning with these top-notch birders!

* * *

No comments:

Post a Comment