Pinal Mountains, Globe, Gila County, AZ

Saturday, January 16th:
On a recent field trip with Dr. Dave Pearson, (, I mentioned my intention to bird the Pinal Mountains more regularly since I live nearby.  (Nearby, in birding terms means less than an hour’s drive.)
He quickly invited me to join him and two of his birding companions on a visit to the Pinals today. 

Thus, Glenda Jones, a wintering birding friend in my community from the Toronto area, joined in and drove her 4-wheel drive vehicle. With Dave, Darrell Wilder and John Ray we began birding the lower area of the Pinal Mountains at 8:15 a.m. @ 31°F. This lower elevation (3500’) Russell Gulch area is accessed from Russell Road.

With some good sightings of desert birds like Cactus Wren, Vermilion Flycatcher, Northern Cardinal and Abert’s Towhee to get us started, we then drove up the mountain to Russell Gulch Landfill - a new location to me. Apparently, John recently found it on one of his birding visits there.

What a sight! Hundreds of European Starlings and Brewer’s Blackbirds! Ravens, too, were plentiful.

A few Brewer's Blackbirds
One Brewer's Blackbird
Chihuahuan Ravens outnumbered Common Ravens, a rare moment in my experience in Arizona, let alone so close to home. Usually, I find the Chihuahuans (by ones or twos) much farther south in the state not in the number Dave counted here: 44 Chihuahuan Ravens; 10 Common Ravens.

Chihauhaun Raven on left; Common Raven on right.  Photo by Dave Pearson
Although the staff at the landfill told Dave about gulls and eagles visiting, we saw neither at our first stop in the morning nor at our later stop three hours later as we wrapped up for the day.

Other sights from our trip up the mountain:

Red-Naped Sapsucker - photo by Glenda Jones
Sapsucker holes in a pine tree
Williamson's Sapsucker was a NO SHOW even though we hung around its favorite tree. Photo by Dr. Pearson
As we continued into the 6,000-foot area, I was glad Glenda's car had 4-wheel drive. We needed it to get up the snow-filled incline.

Rare flowing stream of snow melt below the road (FR 651)
Just prior to reaching the campground area, the snow deepened. 

Parked beside the road and walked from here.
From this spot, Glenda spotted her first Yellow-eyed Junco while I picked up the Dark-eyed Juncos also down below on the snow-covered forest floor.

Walking through a snow-melt stream and on up gave us some more good birds.

From left: Glenda, Dave, Darrell
Glenda executing ballerina-move stream crossing
I've learned to walk right through streams without trying to balance on stones!

We didn't walk to the campground but birded as long as there were birds near us along the road before heading down again over the snow-covered dirt road.

Having seen 52 species (not quite as many as the top birders) was an awesome day of birding Pinal Mountain in January.  The snow and the landfill provided almost as much excitement for me today as the birds!

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