Today, I chose FUN as my objective -- not driving somewhere to see a specific bird, rewarding as that can be, i.e. Wilson's Phalaropes in breeding plumage over 50 miles west of here.
"So Many Birds, So Little Time" is bird guide, Melody Kehl's well-known bumper sticker and quoted by many of us who want to see rarities at several places at one time. Today, I decided to budget my time and locations to maximize general sightings without wearing myself out.
My intended destination was Boyce Thompson Arboretum (BTA) that maintains winter opening hours of 8:00 a.m. until May when it will be more accommodating to employees and visitors by opening at 6:00 a.m.
Being an early-riser, I chose Lost Dutchman State Park as my first destination; it's within a twenty-minute drive and would be open at 6:00 a.m. for the campground. Because my guided bird walks there are finished for the season, I didn't need to "scout" my usual route for that walk but, instead, spent my time farther uphill on the west side of the park for the 90 minutes I had allocated.
Stepping out of the car to a dawn chorus of birds -- mostly Brewer's and Chipping Sparrows -- made me glad I had chosen to bird instead of waiting for BTA to open. Time flew as I noted 24 species, including Bendire's Thrasher, Ash-throated Flycatcher, Gilded Flicker and my favorite -- Black-tailed Gnatcatcher.
|Bendire's Thrasher; note the straighter bill with a lighter yellowish base from that of Curve-billed.|
|Not a great shot of the Bendire's, but enables you to see that lower mandible close to its face|
|Mourning Dove (left) and White-winged Dove|
|Black-tailed Gnatcatcher totally enthralls me (top and bottom)|
Leaving Lost Dutchman close to 7:00 a.m., I knew I had time to spare to reach BTA, so I stopped at Picketpost Mountain Trailhead road about a quarter of a mile prior to the gate at Boyce Thompson Arboretum. After parking at the corral, I got out and birded, not expecting any special sightings. As it turned out, there were two Western Kingbirds chasing one another around that area and seeing no more during the rest of my birding visits, I added a list to eBird to include them. So this became my unscheduled Stop #2 with 13 species observed.
BTA's gate was open a tad early, so I was able to start birding at 8:05 a.m.
In addition to Route 60 in front of the arboretum being under construction so, too, was the trail within BTA leading down to the hummingbird plaza. The internal detour took me directly to my planned location. I wanted to spend two hours among the trees in the picnic area and demonstration garden and bird them well. Usually, I walk through each area around the full perimeter of the arboretum, noting what I hear or see and continuing on.
Not today. I hung out. If I didn't hear anything, I stood still and then the sounds would come: Yellow Warbler, Lucy's Warbler, Gambel's Quail, Cassin's Vireo, Lesser Goldfinch, Northern Cardinal, plus Gray and Brown-crested Flycatcher. I was beside myself with the sightings but bummed that the trees were beginning to leaf out and each bird seemed to know just how much of itself was exposed -- always too little for a complete identification photo of these very quick or partially hidden migrating wonders!
|Audubon's YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLER with yellow throat unlike the "Myrtle's" white throat (east coast bird)|
|Male LESSER GOLDFINCH|
|INCA DOVE perched on a eucalyptus tree in the picnic area|
|Shade Trellis (with benches beneath) in the Demonstration Garden|
|Columbine - one of my favorite flowers|
Although I saw more birds at Lost Dutchman than I did at BTA, my findings here included several First-of-Year (FOY) sightings (marked on my list attached).
By 9:45 a.m., the sun was warming things up. I neither saw nor heard the pair of Hooded Orioles another birder mentioned they found in the Demonstration Garden area, but was ready to move up the highway beyond BTA, through Superior to Oak Flat Campground, elevation 4,000 feet.
Ahhh. It felt much better up there. A slight breeze was cooling but not a hindrance to birding.
Starting at the rocky southern end of the parking lot, I walked carefully up the hill to a picnic table where I enjoyed my sandwich and tried to pick out the birds that were singing or telling me to get lost. The Bewick's Wren wanted to know what I was doing in its apparent territory (I think its tree cavity is at the parking lot, but if there's a nest, this bird was rightly peeved.) I took my time with lunch, got a good look at the BEWR and then moved on. Actually, I was hearing more birds than voices I knew. The slight elevation change brings different species and I really need to expand my "library of sounds". Several went unnamed because I couldn't retrieve the bird from my "known sounds". I concluded one of them sounded like the Townsend's Solitaire's single whistle but when I discovered the eBird database didn't include it in its default list, I was hesitant to press my "guess" and didn't count it.
At the rock outcrop:
|Two photos of BLACK-THROATED GRAY WARBLER in a manzanita shrub. Note the yellow lore in front of the eye that helps in the identification of this bird, separating it from the Black & White Warbler|
|Two WESTERN SCRUB JAYS dared to fly over the manzanita scrub only to be chased by a tiny Verdin!!|
After the rocky outcropping area, I drove over to the flat and grassy NW side where, when it rains, a lake develops for waterfowl. Today, it was dry. No rain for quite a while. But I saw more and different birds.
|Wasn't quite sure what this was; tried to make it into a female bunting, but it's a FEMALE HOUSE FINCH.|