Birding 3 locations along the Salt River, Mesa, Maricopa County, AZ

Monday, March 7th
In five hours of birding with Lois Lorenz at Granite Reef Recreation Area, its nearby "East Pond" (more fondly called, Moorhen City Marsh) and Coon Bluff we managed to observe 62 species. 

Neither of us had birded at Granite Reef since New Year's Day so were curious as to what we might find. With the picnic area quiet at 6:50 a.m., we scanned the river. Even my naked eye could pick up a Bufflehead three-quarters of the way across the Salt River. Many other ducks were out there so I returned to the car for my spotting scope. 


Ah! A female Common Goldeneye was out there, more or less alone, but hanging loosely with a couple Ring-necked ducks and a Greater Scaup.

Common Goldeneye as first seen

Common Goldeneye (GRSC on left)

One of the Bufflehead decided it was time to preen

Meanwhile, high over Red Mountain (turning red now with the rising sun) we saw what appeared to be Black Vultures flying in wide circles. E-bird's data base filter folks have challenged me in the past for that sighting and we were seeing so many, we thought better of listing unless we got better looks. Later, they dropped down into a tree on tribal land across the river.

Black Vultures in far distance (lots of morning haze)

While we were up on the berm around the water catchment area, Lois spotted a Bald Eagle flying upriver. Yay!  It had been a while since I had spotted one.

Ambling through most, but not all, of the rec area, our best find was the early-arriving LUCY'S WARBLERS. I heard two of them long before we laid eyes on one that enabled me to get a quick photo. Lucy's is one of our smallest warblers, a very plain light gray bird wth a light breast that sings a short sweet little song.

Lucy's Warbler

From Granite Reef, I drove just a short distance to a backwater area of the river that several of us birders named "Moorhen City Marsh" for its abundance of Common Gallinule (the updated name of the moorhen that doesn't have quite the same buzz to it). Surprisingly, the still backwaters had much more than gallinule.

Cinnamon Teal (3 males; 1 female) and a Common Gallinule rear view
Common Gallinule

Distant Canvasbacks

After our brief visit there, we headed for Coon Bluff rec area where we would spend the remainder of our time. Aside from the two people setting up to rappel down the bluff that precluded finding any Bald Eagles in their usual territory, the place was birdy. It is consistently, year after year, full of wintering Phainopepla and in springtime, the Vermilion Flycatchers are quite visible in their courtship.


Vermilion Flycatcher (male)

Coon Bluff is also a likely spot to see wild horses; we spotted three out on a small island in the river and I rather liked this young one.

A Belted Kingfisher was busy working the river (a male); we saw it several times hovering and diving successfully.

Yellowlegs - both Lesser and Greater were out in force. The Lesser are smaller and have a straighter bill than the Greater.

We saw only one cormorant, this Neotropic:

And, one Red-shafted Northern Flicker: 

With Wilson's Snipe, Bewick's Wrens, more Lucy's and Yellow-rumped Warblers, we were seeing birds everywhere we looked. Perhaps, my favorite from Coon Bluff was this handsome female Common Merganser.

It was an awesome day,

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