Miscellaneous Local Birding, Pinal and Maricopa County, AZ

February 18, 2015
The past three mornings have been scheduled with non-birding activities, but the weather has been so warm and sunny that I couldn’t resist getting out and about later each day.

This evening (2/18/15) around 4:45 p.m., I decided to check out the owl ears visible in last year’s Red-tailed Hawk nest on the exit ramp from Highway 60 to Idaho Road.  
Away from the highway, I walked the desert where I saw the usual species (Abert’s Towhees, House Finches, White-crowned Sparrows, Say’s Phoebe and a Cooper’s Hawk).
When I reached a point well beyond the nest and about 50 yards from the highway, I walked slowly closer.  

Binocular views were better than the photos, both of which confirmed the owl on the nest was a Great Horned.  This location is in Pinal County.

After two morning appointments yesterday (2/17/15), the spring-like temperatures tugged me outside a little before noontime - not the best time of day for birding.  So, I decided to check out a place known as Electric Park in Mesa in Maricopa County.  It’s a special place along a power easement for high-voltage lines that cut through several neighborhoods.  Most houses have desert backyards made attractive to birds.  As I understand it, the neighbors got together and created the desert habitat that exists across the easement between their houses and below the wide power structures.  Well-worn dirt paths wind through these areas that attract many birds not easily seen elsewhere.  

When I opened the car door, I heard the “special” birds I was hoping to find there -- Rosy-faced Lovebirds.  Well-hidden within a dense Palo Verde tree, the Lovebirds played hard-to-get, so I continued east on the trail to get into a better position for photos should they emerge.  
Until the American Birding Association recently recognized them as an existing sustainable population in the Phoenix area, the birds were locally called "Peach-faced" Lovebirds.

Small Inca Doves were also very abundant there. Quite plain with a pale gray scaly feather pattern, the Inca Dove flashes bright rufous underwings when it flies.

Inca Dove 
Feeling very pleased with the birds I had seen and photographed there, I decided to move on to the Lower Salt River to escape the full overhead sunshine and heat in Electric Park.

Instead of parking in the paved area of the Coon Bluff Recreation Area, I pulled off the entrance road at the horse-staging area (for horseback riders to trailer their horses to this wide space).  It was 12:30 when I started birding the mesquite bosque away from the developed picnic and camping area at the end of the entrance road.  After covering the West side of the road, I crossed over to the East and wandered on some of the wild horse trails through those mesquites all the way to the Salt River.  Of the 23 species of birds I spotted, the Vermilion and Ash-throated Flycatchers were the best! 

Female Vermilion Flycatcher
Ash-throated Flycatcher
It’s always a thrill to come upon the wild horses there; I call them the “Coon Bluff Five”.
Today, that band of five were across the river nibbling grass and drinking.

Band of Five Wild Horses at Coon Bluff (Salt River)

Fulfilled by my day’s adventures, I hiked back to the car and home to those avoided chores!

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