Page Springs, Yavapai County, AZ

Thursday, May 26th:
If you live in Arizona, a visit to Page Springs Preserve may conjure up visions of many vineyards and wine-tasting opportunities. But many birds are hidden in uncultivated sections of the community along Lower Oak Creek at an approximate elevation of 3200'.

Taking Yavapai County Road 30 that exits off of I-17 north, and after it passes through Cornville, there, on the east side of S Page Springs Road, is a nifty place called Bubbling Ponds Fish Hatchery, part of the Page Springs Preserve.

Just after 6:30 a.m. when Julie Clark and I arrived to a chilly 51°F, we heard and saw a SUMMER TANAGER sunning in a nearby snag of a tree.

Summer Tanager (male) 

Quickly, I turned my attention to a Western Kingbird that flew past and briefly settled on an overhead wire before continuing. A handsome bird, too busy to pause for a portrait.

There were Common Yellowthroats singing and Red-winged Blackbirds (both males and females) active in marshy sides of the Bubbling Ponds. Even though we thought we were moving silently toward the ponds, a Green Heron flushed from a distant one.

Not put off by our presence was one of our best sightings of the day.

They aren't "just" ducks; they are WOOD DUCKS!  Look at that special white outline around the female's eye. She's taking her young out to forage for breakfast staying close to the edges of the pond; they don't stop until they've found a protective place in the shade. Why are female birds not highly colorful? For just this reason; they need to blend in to nest and take care of young. The highly colorful male did not show up. An uncommon species, it can sometimes be found on sheltered ponds with trees around. It nests in tree cavities or boxes.

A more familiar bird flew into the next pond.

Great Blue Heron

We would see several more Great Blue's flying overhead this morning. Their tucked-in white heads shown brightly in the morning sun. Bald Eagle? Not hardly with those big draped wings! The birds were doing a "meet-up" thing in the tops of bare trees, moving closer to one another and then flying off again.

Taking the long loop trail away from the ponds to a mesquite bosque brought us to another bunch of much smaller birds. Verdin and Blue-gray Gnatcatchers were active; Northern Cardinals would pop up into view from time to time; Bell's Vireos were calling; and Lucy's Warblers were abundant.  But the songbird of the day was the WESTERN TANAGER. Although I had been slow to find them this spring, I was now surrounded by them -- watching them fly from perch to perch behind willow branches or even landing on a tree trunk.  There was no point in trying to get close for photos, but I managed to pull in a couple of these striking male tanagers. As usual, you may need to look closely!

Even with its head turned, this bird is nothing short of gorgeous!

In this high desert habitat, I came upon a few PHAINOPEPLA that may be working their way northward for the summer much like the residents of my community! We saw one female at Bubbling Springs (below) and a male when we drove to the adjacent fish hatchery and trail.

Ever present during our 2-mile walk was the incessant mimicry sounds of several YELLOW-BREASTED CHATS. They're very difficult to see and I've long wanted to get a decent photo. That happened a couple days ago at Boyce Thompson Arboretum so I'll post it below as the Chats were a no-show today.

The loop birding trail at Bubbling Ponds took us to the edge of Oak Creek where we could look through a fence on the opposite side into the Fish Hatchery property, also part of the Page Springs Preserve.

That was our next stop. Taking the birding trail there produced some of the same and some different species. Instead of so many of the plain gray Lucy's Warblers, we were serenaded by many Yellow Warblers that also sat up for good views - too distant for photos.  

One of our unusual sightings here were the two young Western Bluebirds that weren't yet fully blue! The tail and several of the outer wing feathers were already blue and those wings worked well; they didn't give us enough time for a photo.

A birding visit to Page Springs Preserve doesn't seem complete without seeing a COMMON BLACK HAWK since they are known to nest there. Not far along the Fish Hatchery trail, I spied the hawk perched on a distant tree. Minutes later, it took to the air.

Julie and I wrapped up with a picnic lunch at the Fish Hatchery ramada watching American Robins dig for worms in the grass.

A wonderful day at Page Springs Preserve with Julie.

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