Butcher Jones Recreation Area, Saguaro Lake, Maricopa County, AZ

Monday, March 14th
When our small group of birders arrived at the cove of Saguaro Lake known as Butcher Jones, the first thing we saw as we stepped out of our cars was a mature Bald Eagle . . . and then another flying behind it.

Mature Bald Eagle
Catching our immediate attention on the ground were two herds of wild horses. One small group was in the water; the other larger group approached from the picnic area and headed to the beach. A large group of hikers also paused to view these controversial wild horses.The number of people standing around deterred the second herd from continuing onto the beach; they turned and trotted back through to the end of the picnic area.

The quiet cove waters of the lake were full of ducks, mostly American Coots (est. 70) but Bufflehead also stood out.

There were six Scaup within easy viewing range but not close enough to see detailed ID markers like the size of the nail on the tip of the bills. In one view, the scaup appeared to have the rounded heads of Greater Scaup; in profile, the head looked like it rose to a point as in Lesser Scaup. I filed the species on eBird as "Greater/Lesser Scaup". 

Three Ring-billed Gulls perched on buoys; a Neotropic Cormorant chased one off to spread its wings to dry.

We walked the trail to Peregrine Point from where we scanned the lake and found Ruddy Ducks, a Great Blue Heron and a number of Western Grebes closer to the marina than to us.

At each different area we birded, Lucy's Warbler was singing its heart out.

In the picnic area, in addition to catching a quick photo of the Lucy's (above), we spotted a female Phainopepla carrying a stick to a nest. This, I understand from Christina Kondrat-Smith (AZ Game and Fish Dept), is an unusual sighting since they usually build nests within mistletoe clumps that they favor. 

Phainopepla (female)

I tried to get a clear photo of the nest with the female sitting in it but it was a clever bird and constructed the nest behind so many limbs and branches that you'll need to really look to find it, below.

It warmed up considerably as we continued, then, to bird our way back to our cars at this cove named for a physician/rancher in the 1890's with the surname, Jones. [Butcher Jones Rec Area] Apparently, this was an affectionate term given to physicians at that time.

Even seeing so many wild horses (18) couldn't trump (for me) the Bald Eagle behavior we witnessed from the hiking trail. When all the coots began running on the water toward the beach, we knew to look upward. The eagle made several dives down to the water but came up empty. Having never seen a Bald Eagle that low to the ground was awesome,

Unsuccessful on this attempt, we were later surprised to see the eagle fly past us from the direction of the beach with a ball of black feathers (and yellow feet) in its talons. 

A delightful day with other birders!

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