White Bridge, Beasley Flat and Clear Creek Campground (Prescott and Coconino National Forests), Yavapai County, AZ

March 23, 2015
To explore a new birding area, I rolled out of bed quite early on Monday morning to join the Maricopa Audubon Society group of eight birders (maximum permitted) for a trip north of Phoenix to Camp Verde.
I met friend, Lois, at our usual shopping center parking lot meeting place at 4:45 a.m. so that we would be on time to depart in Car #1 from North Phoenix at 5:30 a.m. We met Car #2 at the McD's at Carefree Highway and were able to move on up I-17 from there at 6:15 as planned.
Kathe Anderson, Leader, and Duane drove the two cars. Other participants were: Sue, Maria, Barb, Lois, Cathy and myself.

Not by plan, but by a missed turn, we birded White Bridge first [N. 34 deg. 32.976'  W. 14 deg. 51.048']. We had passed over the Verde River and this was a great place to stop right after the bridge. Northern Rough-winged Swallows zipped around overhead - lots of them. My count is definitely conservative. With eight sets of eyes searching the ground, the sky and the trees, we counted twenty species there, including a Lincoln's Sparrow, Ladder-backed Woodpecker, a female and male Mallard up on shore where we walked, Bewick's Wren, Lucy's Warblers that have just recently arrived, two American Robins and an Anna's Hummingbird.

We re-traced our drive a very short distance to Salt Mine Road that would lead to our original destination at Beasley Flat. The word, "flat" (historical) is used interchangeably with the common usage of "flats" (colloquial). [N. 34 deg. 28.860' W. 111 deg. 48.297']  Elevation: 2962'

"From I-17 in Camp Verde, AZ: Go east on Hwy. 260. Turn right on Salt Mine Rd. (County Rd. 163; it’s the first right after Main St, shortly before the bridge over the Verde River). Follow paved road for approximately 9 ½ miles to where it ends at a “T.” Turn left (this is FR 334) and follow gravel road ½ mile to Beasley Flat."

Beasley Flats is just that: a flat expanse of desert scrub land. We birded along the road to the picnic ramada area along the Verde River below us. Aside from two Wood Ducks on the river, two Canada Geese and a Great Blue Heron flying overhead, waterfowl was scarce but sparrows were plentiful. I took photos of the caves in the cliffs across the Verde River from us.

Interpretive Sign about Cliff Dwellings across the Verde River from us

Not by plan, the photos I took of the prehistoric cliff dwellings do not appear here. Read on to discover how I managed to turn a well-planned birding exploration into a personal mishap.

For the group's next stop, we returned to I-17 and turned west to Clear Creek Day Use Area, to explore an area just beyond the campground.  Clear Creek irrigation ditch ran through this section surrounded by gigantic sycamore trees with gleaming white bark trunks and spreading limbs.  Cottonwoods also lined the ditch that was running full tilt with water so clean the well-worn river rocks beneath were shining clearly. I took a photo.

Our best finds at this location were the Zone-tailed Hawk and a Black Hawk, with Bridled Titmouse and a Green-tailed Towhee a close second for me. In the course of our birding, we hiked a single-file trail along the ditch with a few logs to step over and a little mud. I was walking in the middle of the group, when, SPLASH!, I was suddenly in the ditch! Startled I stood up, looked at my dripping wet binoculars and camera, then spied my field notebook floating downstream and called out for someone to catch it.  Scrambling out of the two feet of water to the other side was easy enough, but how did I end up in the water? Sue, who walked behind me, told me later that my right toe clipped an embedded rock and somehow, fortunately, I was propelled toward the ditch rather than forward toward a rock. Since I had gone in face first but only up to my chest, my gear was soaked as were my clothes. I must have caught my balance with my left side, as I have just a dime-sized bruise on my index finger and below the knee on my left side. The cold water actually felt good, but I was a bit shaken and walked along my side of the canal to a lock where Kathe helped me cross back to the group.  

Lois suggested I spread all my electronics (camera, iPhone, Nuvi Garman) on the back ledge on the inside of Kathe's car where the sun would dry it out - perhaps.  And, so the walk continued. When I lifted my "waterproof" binoculars to look at the titmouse, water ran down my cheeks in Clear Creek tears. It came from the eye cups, so I spun them out, drained them and kept on birding until we stopped and ate lunch, sitting on rocks around the parking lot. Duane's homemade cookies were a huge hit with all of us!

By the time I returned home, the field notebook had dried out sufficiently to allow me to enter data into eBird (with some help from another birder who recalled better than I what had been seen, post "swim").  

Also, by then I discovered that my phone worked (thus the photos above) and the Nuvi GPS seemed fine. But the camera was still full of water. The Canon SX50 HS had been purchased within a year from Best Buy and, today, I was able to replace it with the Protection Plan I had purchased. It was filed under "submerged" and approved for full replacement at its new and somewhat lower price. Even with a purchase of a new ScanDisc, I have a credit with Best Buy. The Canon Warranty was also in effect but would not have provided me such instant gratification!  

Many thanks to the birders who checked in with me later to see if I continued to feel well; I did. My right hip was a bit tight this morning but that can happen from sitting for long periods in the car, too. So, all is well and I'm so grateful that I somehow lurched toward the water instead of the rock in the path.  

To view my bird lists, check on each posting below.

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