Granite Reef Rec Area along the Salt River, Maricopa County, AZ

October 12, 2015
A Five-Wren Day!  I didn't intend to blog today's birding. I often skip local trips, but it turned out quite nicely. (Rock, House, Marsh, Bewick's and Cactus)

Getting out from the car quietly, my ears and eyes were already alert to the birds and other sounds: the "pik" of Ladder-backed Woodpecker overhead; horses whinnying as they crossed the river upstream out of sight; Gila Woodpecker's voice as it flew into the picnic area from the south side of the road; and Great-tailed Grackles, noisily active having completed their molt and wearing new tail feathers.

The quiet bird caught my attention at the tippy-top of a mesquite close to the river. It was fly-catching and returning to its same perch so I tried for some photos with the morning sun lighting it up.

Vermilion Flycatcher (male)

Several Great-tailed Grackles were joined by a few Red-winged Blackbirds as they foraged human left-overs around the picnic tables.  The Grackles won the prize: dinner roll.

Because I heard a call of what would be a rare bird there, I headed first to the east-side trail but could not find a Red-breasted Nuthatch. It's not really its habitat or elevation but when I came upon Dale Clark exiting the east trail, he said one had been located at Granite Reef a year or two ago. It had stayed just two days, as he recalled.  Dale continued westward, as I went east where a male Cardinal showed itself and a House Wren called several times.
Out in the river, there were two Great Blue Herons, two Killdeer chasing each other, a female Belted Kingfisher with its rufous belly band, a few American Coots and a single Ruddy Duck.  The first big white "bird" I thought I saw in mid-stream turned out to be a "Big Gulp" - if those plastic cups from gas stations are still called that.

When I saw this paddle-boarder, I began to wonder if I could do that wearing binoculars and my camera. He quietly passed by waterfowl that was beyond my ID range.

After returning to the picnic area again and discovering many more Yellow-rumped Warblers, I took time to re-acquaint myself with their ID marks since they'll be spending some time here. In the process, I also found two Ruby-crowned Kinglets that will also grow in numbers as more arrive.

Over in the "migrant trap" of brushy trees (tamarisk, mesquite and cottonwoods) between the picnic area and west-side trail, I managed to find a Pacific-slope Flycatcher, two Blue-gray Gnatcatchers and lots more Yellow-rumped Warblers.

Up on the very dry berm and parched water retention basin, a Rock Wren perched on a pole and proceeded to act like a flycatcher. That took me by surprise, so I snapped a photo and did ascertain on my computer that it was a Rock Wren. It had also done its "dippy do" thing that confirmed its ID for me in the field.

At the end of the berm, who should I see but Dale climbing up to its top. He had walked all the way to the dam along the river and had seen some neat birds. Together, we'd see a few more including a Sharpie (Sharp-shinned Hawk), Bewick's Wren, Black-throated Sparrows and Anna's Hummingbird. Back at the picnic area, I picked up several calling Marsh Wrens, and he pointed out the chip of the Song Sparrow in the marsh grasses.

As we stood there looking toward the river and listening in the marsh, I heard a POP like a gun going off. I think it's now dove season, but that sounded very close by. Next thing, we see a drone heading downstream about 50 feet above the water. Perhaps the sound was its launching?  Who's doing this?  Hunters?  

After seeing a Red-shafted Northern Flicker fly in quickly and out just as quickly, I headed for the car as Dale continued toward the east trail. 

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