Lost Dutchman State Park, Pinal County, AZ

Labor Day, September 7, 2015
Overcast sky greeted me early this morning when I stepped outside, so I decided to go to Lost Dutchman State Park to see what birds might be active in its strictly desert habitat areas.  With no shade, clouds overhead are a bonus, both for comfort and for photographs.

Arriving at 6:20, at 82°, I started slowly by standing for 30 minutes in a spot from which I could observe a water drip feature. Couldn't have done better had I planned this Early-Bird Special!  The following birds visited the drip faucet, some of which were photographed there; some on the ground.

Abert's Towhee

Gila Woodpecker (male)
Curve-billed Thrasher

Bendire's Thrasher

Gilded Flicker (Note yellow/gold on edge of wings and under tail)

Northern Mockingbird

Leaving my stationery position, I walked past a saguaro "skeleton", i.e., its ribs were still standing. The saguaro is the largest cactus species in the U.S.A. and can live up to 200 years, i.e. 2 centuries!  A fully grown saguaro can weigh up to six tons. It is my understanding that this very slow-growing cactus also dies very slowly (if healthy). I could find no time-frame reference for this process but I've observed saguaro in various states of vertical decomposition over the years of walking past the same ones. Some never fall over, but storms can knock them askew; others do seem to get very weak at the bottom as if critters have taken over the root system eventually toppling it.

Decomposing saguaro

The remainder of my birding was done in desert habitat with dried out bursage and other plants but also among lush cacti such as this Cholla, also known as the "jumping" Cholla because it seems you need not even touch it to end up with its spines on your socks or pant legs.

Cholla cactus (close-up below) with sun creating a halo around its spines
Birds have no problem perching on these spines

While I didn't see a great number of species, I saw many birds

Black-throated Sparrow

My favorite bird of the day was this Rock Wren that I heard soon after hiking up a bit into Tonto National Forest.  It took a while before I spotted it.  Since I continued to hear its voice for 30 minutes plus, I concluded that it was following me as I crossed the desert. It's a curious bird and perched up while continuing to sing.

Rock Wren singing
With normal temperatures still at 100° and higher, it felt good to spend a pleasant three hours in the desert without breaking much of a sweat.

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