Departing home before daylight to meet several Audubon birding friends, I was comfortably dressed in a t-shirt with a long-sleeved sun-protective shirt for my “jacket.” When we reached Catalina State Park, about 1,000 feet higher than the desert floor of Phoenix’s East Valley, the temperature was a brisk 37ᴼ F.
In the warmer clothes we had carried along, the four of us started out for the main Birding Trail only to discover that Sutherland Wash had WATER flowing through it! This was the first time I’d ever seen more than a trickle winding its way through what is usually a dry sandy wash and we all balked at getting our feet soaked in such cold weather at the beginning of what we hoped would be a great day.
|Water flowing in Sutherland Wash|
Instead, we walked the shore line until it disappeared, then picked up an alternative Birding Trail, finding a variety of birds everywhere we looked. My first thrill was finding two Western Bluebirds at water’s edge. They flew from a mesquite limb down to the stream for a drink, and back, several times before flying off.
|Male Western Bluebird|
Rufous-winged Sparrows were singing throughout the mesquite trees along the trail, but it took each of us awhile to put the song to the bird. Although it’s a resident of Arizona’s Sonoran Desert and Northern Mexico, this location is about as far north as I’ve ever found it. It’s reliable here at the State Park but it’s not a sparrow we’ll generally find in the Greater Phoenix area. Today, they stayed hidden but I had found one here last year that allowed a photo.
|L-R: Western Scrub-Jay; Pyrrhuloxia; Northern Cardinal|
The next stop, several miles north of Catalina State Park, was a new location for each of us. Reservations were required in order to visit Wild Outdoor World of Arizona (WOW). We went, not intending to utilize its function as a Bed and Breakfast, but to explore the acreage that has slowly been converted into knowledgeable wildlife habitat. Christopher met us at the gate and guided us to the terrace lined with numerous hummingbird feeders. Hummers buzzed all around us; we watched an Anna's Hummingbird soar so high we lost sight of it - then just as suddenly we heard, "SNAP", at the end of its dive to impress the female perched nearby.
Even that high-in-the-sky drama wasn't enough to top the thrill of my seeing the Northern Beardless Tyrannulet for the first time this year. That bird has some sort of hold on me that I can't quite figure out. It's solitary and very small and plain. It's a drab little flycatcher, with a bushy crest, that sings and catches flies. It's song and call are both very clear and its long name seems bigger than the bird itself - maybe that's the attraction for me. I know that I'm still thinking about that bird! Would I have even seen the Tyrannulet if Christopher had not spent years converting his land to good bird habitat? A wonderful visit and another great day of birding with super friends.
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