3-Day Blog: 2 in Pinal County 11/11 & 12/15; 1 in Maricopa County, AZ 11/13/15

Twenty (20) people showed up for my Bird Walk at Lost Dutchman State Park. Most of the participants had never done such a thing but liked and watched birds in their back yards. Two were bird photographers and they stayed to the rear of the group (thank you). I explained the “how” of group birding and encouraged all of them to be alert for birds in the sky, on top of saguaros and snags, in bushes and on the ground. Several participants were not new birders but didn’t know the birds of the desert southwest. 

The Phainopepla, with its crest and red eye, is always a fun bird to find first and it perched at “12:00” on a palo verde tree before we even left the parking lot. As we walked desert trails, everyone cooperated in focusing on birds and called out whenever they saw one. From my point of view, we saw nothing extraordinary but the participants were “ooooing and ahhhing” over the Black-throated Sparrow and an American Kestrel that perched up for us. The Black-throated Sparrow is my favorite because I had the same reaction when I first discovered a sparrow could be so handsome. Since I don't photograph when I lead walks, the photos below are from my files. Black-throated Sparrow's photo is already in several past blogs.

American Kestrel - female

Phainopepla - male 

Phainopepla -female

You may click on the E-bird list at end of blog if you want to see our check list.

Having seen another reported sighting of the Williamson’s Sapsucker at BTA, I decided to return there after a morning commitment. Arriving at 11:20 a.m., I birded just four adjacent spots within its 323 acres: Hummingbird Garden, Demonstration Garden, Picnic Area and Eucalyptus Garden Loop Trail which includes many pine trees. The Williamson’s Sapsucker is one I enjoy seeing each year and got spoiled in the White Mountains by finding a pair each year at a certain place in Greer. The plumage of the male and female are very different unlike most other woodpeckers that have small differences in feather colors on the head or throat to signify sex. The male Williamson’s is predominantly black; the female brownish. Having not yet found them this year, I was hopeful that today would be different.

After checking the first three locations, I scanned up and down the trunk of each pine tree within the eucalyptus loop trail. Eventually, I found and viewed the bird at about 12:15 p.m. high up on one of the pines. It dropped down to eye level so I clicked off some shots. Unfortunately, the photos were blurry, but the Williamson’s was definitely present. 

Between 12:15 and 12:45 p.m., the trees in this loop were the stopping off place for many birds and other woodpeckers. Lunch time! Both the Yellow-bellied and Red-naped Sapsucker showed up as did our desert Gila Woodpecker. While the Yellow-bellied has been an annual visitor to the arboretum, it is not a common sighting in my birding ventures so I was stoked in having found it--as it had been reported seen on Sunday during their bird walk. The Red-naped shows up in a variety of places.

Two other birders walked past and I mentioned the Williamson’s. They happened to be good birders living part-time in Gold Canyon nearby and part-time in Equador. So they joined my search for a second view of the Williamson’s. I mentioned that the bird prefers conifers. Well, guess where we found it — on a eucalyptus tree! Unlike several local woodpeckers that have horizontal bars on their backs, the male Williamson's Sapsucker has a black back, large white wing patches, black head with narrow white stripes, black breast and yellow belly. The only time this sapsucker perched was on a slightly higher horizontal limb with its back toward me. A Red-breasted Sapsucker was on the end of that limb drumming loudly into the hard wood.

Williamson's Sapsucker-male

Mission accomplished with a thrill! 

You can view my eBird checklist #2, below.

Waking up to another beautiful day caused me to head out for some birding along the Salt River. Coon Bluff is the closest to where I live - about 25 miles distant, but I still consider it my personal "patch". Driving the back way takes me through beautiful hilly desert with little automobile traffic but lots of bicycle riders.
Good omen for this Friday, the 13th: two (2) Harris's Hawks perched on a crossbar on Bush Highway just prior to the entrance to Coon Bluff.

Harris's Hawks
Along the entrance road, I stopped again. This time for wild horses.

The place was quiet except for bird sounds when I started out. But my first sighting was making no noise whatsoever; I spotted it only because it moved. Usually, I see this raptor in flight, but here, on the ground, I had a chance for a photo - even though the morning sun threw it into the spot light.

Cooper's Hawk

From over on tribal land across the river, the yelping and howling of two packs of coyotes filled the air for quite some time. They would stop for awhile and then start up again. By the time I reached the river's edge and realized I could record their sounds on my iPhone, they stopped!!

Other bird sounds included the rattle of the Belted Kingfisher which I eventually saw - male chasing female downriver, then returning to its "territory" alone!  There was the quiet low-pitched pwurp of the Phainopepla, the short high-pitched thin plaintive tseew of the Black Phoebe, the pik of the Ladder-backed Woodpecker. I followed the sounds to the bird, including that of the Rock Wren and after a while, the sound of the Lesser Yellowlegs that landed in the middle of the river not far from my perch on the bank.

Lesser Yellowlegs in basic plumage - straighter bill than Greater (slight upturn)
Soon after, a Spotted Sandpiper arrived. They both stayed around foraging for awhile but when they flew off, they went together.

Spotted Sandpiper; basic plumage
When I turned back toward the mesquite grove, I saw three different species on one mesquite.

Phainopepla, House Finch & Gila Woodpecker

While I tell myself that other birds seemed to call out to me to be sure they got on my list - Ha! -- it's their alarm call from my invading their space.

Right before I reached the parking lot to return home, I came upon five more wild horses.

With wild horses, howling packs of coyotes and busy birds, what's not to like??!!

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1 comment:

  1. Another great day out! Congrats on all the cool birds. Glad you are walking and getting out again after those couple months in home. And again, congrats on the rare bird sighting of the Ruddy Ground-dove. That was such a cool find for our area. You made it on the listserv today:) Also, I'm with you on the cell phone bit. I forget sometimes that I can record sound and video of all these amazing things we see out in the field. Keep 'em coming!