Butcher Jones Recreation Area, Lower Salt River, Maricopa County, AZ

Thursday, August 20, 2015
With physical therapy sessions strengthening my surgically repaired big toe/right foot, I ventured out alone (for the first time in a long while)
to Saguaro Lake’s Butcher Jones recreation area to see what birds I might find.

By leisurely observing, standing and meandering, I managed to see 23 species of birds in two hours.

Most unusual to me was seeing Turkey Vultures gathered on the beach of this cove. Usually, I see them roosting in trees or gathered on cliffs waiting for their wings to warm up in the early sunshine so they can lift off into the thermals that they will ride all day long.  Four of them flew off but three stayed on the beach the whole time I was there.

Turkey Vulture spreading its wings to cool off?  to dry them?
Many common birds were present and I actually rejoiced in seeing numerous Great-tailed Grackles and Red-winged Blackbirds, both male and female of both species.  Being cooped up for two months made this first adventure on my own a little bit special.  I was grateful to have healed well enough to be out and about and, more importantly, to be in the company of birds again.  Yes, the grackles squawk a lot and hang out at the dumpsters but when viewed for the color in their blackness, they are beautiful.  Their great tails remind me of a rudder for steering.  The females, very lightly colored, almost tan, walked around with their beaks open in this hot weather.

Birds don’t have sweat glands like we do, but by holding their beak open, they can get rid of heat building up in their body through the membranes lining the mouth and tongue.  Some birds will sit with wings open and mouth open to keep their body temperature from getting too hot. 

When I ambled out toward the short trail toward Peregrine Point, I stopped in a wide green space near the marsh grasses long enough to hear the “churr” call of a Marsh Wren and caught sight of several song birds in a large mesquite: Nashville Warbler, several Verdin (adult and young) and a Yellow Warbler.  A Bell’s Vireo was singing and Gila Woodpeckers calling.

Along the trail, desert birds (Cactus Wren, Black-tailed Gnatcatcher and Black-throated Sparrow) flitted from tree to tree. 

Young Cactus Wren

Black-throated Sparrow

An Abert’s Towhee scratched around on the ground but also kept in touch with the rest of its “family” with its chip call.  The “wheet-wheet” call of a Curve-billed Thrasher let me know where it was located, and the very small Verdin were hopping, flitting and feeding everywhere I looked.  Awesome!

Verdin (bad hair day; after a bath, I'd guess)

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