A Spring birding delight in the Pinal Mountains of Globe, Arizona, did not materialize as it has in past years.
Eleven hardy Desert Rivers Audubon members carpooled east from the Greater Phoenix area under dark clouds, cold temperatures and on and off rain. Most of us had checked the forecast and came prepared. Merino wool was closest to my body and layered out from there to my outer raincoat and rain pants.
Dave Pearson, Research professor and Senior Sustainability Scientist at Arizona State University, is a popular bird leader with an excellent ear for bird vocalizations. At 6 a.m., three cars of us slowly, worked our way up the mountain with the temperature staying at 40° for the duration of our birding experience. At several stops in the lowlands, we found Brown-headed Cowbirds, a single Yellow-headed Blackbird (thank you, Veronica, for spotting that one!) and a single perched Bronzed Cowbird, a year bird for several of us.
With us in Susan's car was Mark Ochs, a stellar birder, who has often birded the Pinals with Dr. Pearson. Since we were in the second vehicle, Mark would say, "He'll stop here." . . . "Well, I guess he'll take the next pull-out." It didn't happen. Over and over again, he'd say, "Surely, he'll stop at this corner!" But, no. Dave was riding with the window down and could hear nothing out in the shrubs and trees.
We were in the rain cloud by now (and definitely not in the tropics) as we continued to ascend. He stopped occasionally and would identify many of the birds we were hearing, but seeing them was tough. It was a helpful learning experience for me to have an expert ID the various bird songs, chips and calls. Some of the calls, I recognized from studying; others I hadn't yet learned but corroborated with him when I re-heard ones he had identified.
At one stop higher on the muddy roads, we got out and listened for several minutes. Hearing nothing, he just said, "Phooey!"
Anyone who has been on one of Dave Pearson's bird trips knows that his wife, Nancy, sends along a very large flat container full of freshly-baked chocolate chip cookies. So, out came the cookies for an early snack as we talked about the increasing slickness of the mud on the upgrades.
We continued to work our way up to Sulfide del Rey picnic area where we all turned back. The rain seemed to let up a bit, so we did stop at some of those anticipated spots that Mark was certain would be on the itinerary.
|Both photos taken in the rain with my iPhone|
As the rain let up, Dave asked if any of us wanted to turn around and head back up the mountain. A few wanted to go up; most were ready to call it a day. So, birders who wanted to go back up (including Mark from our car) switched to the car going back up. Dave reported later that the rain and clouds continued at the higher levels with snow likely at the peak.
Strangely, the cold and rain affected the BIRDERS more than the BIRDS! I checked off 69 species in the several hours on the mountain. Dave and his group tallied 90 altogether over many more hours. It was the slippery roads that motivated us to get down the mountain.
On our way west toward Phoenix, the cloud cover remained but the highway was dry so we stopped at Boyce Thompson Arboretum for two more hours of birding. I kept my camera tucked beneath my 'layers' due to dripping trees and occasional showers. So, I missed photos of some colorful orioles (Hooded and Bullock's) but pulled it out at the entrance plaza where a volunteer showed us an Anna's Hummingbird nest.
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View this checklist online at http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist?subID=S23078595
View this checklist online at http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist?subID=S23079072