Hassayampa River, Maricopa County AND Prospector Park, Pinal County, AZ

Saturday and Sunday, May 21 and 22
After cataract surgery in my right (bad) eye on Monday, I laid low for a few days to allow my body, and especially, the eye, to adjust. 

Eager to get out in the field I had arranged with Lois Lorenz and Julie Clark to do just that. But with winds gusting in the East Valley and predicted at our destination, I contacted them late on Friday and said, "Have you been to Hassayampa recently?" They were definitely on board for a change of plans.

After picking them up along US 60, I showed them a new, quicker and low-stress route to get to the Hassayampa River Preserve near Wickenberg: -- Route 303 north had an Exit for US 60 North, a straight shot toward our destination. Being a Saturday meant traffic on the first leg of our journey (I-10 West) was also light. The Preserve is a Nature Conservancy property managed mostly by volunteers.

Many birders know that the US 60 Rest Area about two miles before the Preserve provides a quick look at some birds along this strange river that runs above ground here but not everywhere. The Apaches referred to it as the "upside-down river" because so much of it flows underground.

In 25 minutes of birding there, over the fence along the river, we saw 16 species of some really neat birds, only one of which I was able to photograph in the morning sunlight.

Summer Tanager
The place had been popping with birds: Brown-crested and Ash-throated Flycatchers, many Lucy's and Yellow Warblers, a Great Blue Heron, a pair of Vermilion Flycatchers and the female for this male Summer Tanager above.

At the parking lot, we came upon top-notch birder,Tommy Debardeleben with two friends, Josh and Garth, also about to leave for the Preserve where the gate would open at 7 a.m.

There, we found Gordon Karre and Dale Clark also on hand to search out the two rare birds for this area: TROPICAL KINGBIRD and THICK-BILLED KINGBIRD. 

With seven pair of eyes and ears, pressure was off me to find these rarities, so off we went.
Lois, Julie and I birded our way to the destination where we discovered the others had just seen both kingbirds. So, we hung around.

It wasn't long before Josh heard the Thick-billed and tracked it down to a "window" in a cottonwood tree.This was better than any view I had of this bird at the Patagonia Rest Area.

Thick-billed Kingbird above and below

Although the Thick-billed's  thickness (look at that neck and belly) makes the bird look really big, and in contrast to Sibley's take on size, it appears close to that of the Tropical Kingbird that also returned soon after I finished taking photos of the Thick-billed gem of a bird.

Tropical Kingbird in the cottonwood above
on open branch below.
Note the white throat, greenish breast, yellow belly and notched tail-- in contrast to the Thick-billed Kingbird.

We continued to see and hear many species, albeit not nearly as many as those top birders in our company. Ones I particularly liked were the Southwestern Willow Flycatcher, a subspecies of the general "Willow Flycatcher"; Western Tanagers, and Bullock's Orioles. Although I missed spotting Tommy's Purple Martin among the swallows over Palm Lake, I hung around later with Lois and Julie until I spotted it.

We came upon Dee (a birder who had found us on the KINGBIRDS) who was now taking photos of a bird high in a tree near the lake. She was on a THICK-BILLED KINGBIRD again -- the same one? Or, a second. We don't know but It played peek-a-boo with my camera, leaving me with the photo below as best shot.

Thick-billed Kingbird

Bullock's Oriole

Saturday hours at the Preserve are 7:00 to 11:00 a.m. during the summer, so the three of us women wrapped up a little before that and found our way into Nana's, a good "locals" restaurant in Wickenburg for a bite to eat. 

We had tallied 46 species along the Upside-down-River in this wonderful spot where it is Topside.

Having taken it easy for a full week, I decided rather than go on another chase today for what would be a Life Bird, I slept in, enjoyed a leisurely morning and then couldn't stay inside any longer! A beautiful day for birding needed to be addressed.

Apache Junction's City Park, Prospector, offers grassy soccer fields and trees surrounded by desert that are full of birds.

Today's specialty was a Gilded Flicker with two young on the same tree with her.

Adult at top; young male low center and young female below him on same palo verde trunk

Female (no red mustache stripe) Gilded Flicker getting grubs for the family

Male and female Vermilion Flycatcher

And, one of my favorite desert species: the Black-tailed Gnatcatcher below.

In the desert this morning, I found myself inspecting distant ironwood trees for owls. That means the new lens and lack of cataract in my right eye are enabling me to see more than the tree in bloom; I could see each and every branch -- definitely good news!

Such wonderful birding in two days!

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1 comment:

  1. FINALLY!!! My first day that I can sit down and READ!!! I'm glad everything went well. I hope you can see brighter and crisper colors now. Although, I imagine brighter this time of year is an understatement:) Great birds for that area. Hope you are having a wonderful Friday!