Granite Reef & Coon Bluff Recreation Areas along the Lower Salt River, Maricopa County, AZ

Friday, June 24th:
Arising early, I was off to “the river” by 5 a.m., where my first stop was Granite Reef Recreation Area. During the summer, birds are especially active at this early hour so I just stood by my car to listen . . . to get a sense of the various species.

Four Peaks where the rising sun seeped through the clouds

Watching the sky as much as the trees and the ground, Mourning Doves were the ones waking up and moving quickly overhead. White-winged Doves could be heard in the distance: “Who Cooks For You?” over and over again. I spotted several at the red fruit on top of the saguaros across the highway.

Anna’s Hummingbirds were buzzing the tree tops and while I watched one, a Lesser Nighthawk with very pointed wingtips flew over showing its white band near the wingtip.  The photos below were taken in 2012 at Red Mountain Park in Mesa.

Lesser Nighthawk

The river was full and running fast. A couple female mallards had found some still water for their almost-adolescent young but American Coots were the dominant bird on the water. 

Following the song of a Northern Cardinal, I caught up with it.

Greeting the morning with constant song.

Although a Brown-crested Flycatcher was a good sighting for me, it was perched in a “backlit” situation making it a bad photo.  

So I walked the east trails, up to the berm which is high enough to give a direct view into the tops of trees.  Guess what I found quietly perched and looking for breakfast? 

Cooper's Hawk

A red-eyed Bronzed Cowbird back at the picnic area rounded out my visit at Granite Reef.

Arriving soon after at Coon Bluff a short distance east on Bush Highway, the birds were singing and calling everywhere.

Ash-throated Flycatcher

If I had not heard the Ash-throated Flycatcher, I might have mistaken the above bird for the Brown-crested which is very similar with a more yellow belly and larger bill.

Enjoying the variety of birds, I didn't always aim for photos because the mesquite are leafed out and it's difficult to get a whole bird in one frame. I solved the leaf problem by walking beside the wide-open running river but birds were scarce out there.  The one I found was on the opposite shore. This bird and I go way back so it somehow gave me a good photo at quite a distance where the river was wide.

Green Heron
What was a revelation to me was that post-cataract surgery with newly implanted distant-focal lenses in each eye, I could pick out a Killdeer from the trash caught up in the reeds at the shallow edges.  YAY!  Previously, I would have missed the Killdeer or thought all the big-gulp plastic cups were the bird.

Coon Bluff is always a good place to find Vermilion Flycatchers in the mesquite bosque. There were a couple males and females and I detected a young one out and about as well.

Vermilion Flycatcher

With cloud cover dissipating, the temperature was rising so I didn't walk as far eastward as I intended but chose to get out of the heat. 

Noting 40 species between the two locations was lots of fun and a great way to start my day!!

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