Boyce Thompson Arboretum, Pinal County, AZ

Wednesday, November 30th
Four of us were the first to arrive at 8:00 a.m. when Boyce Thompson Arboretum opened on Wednesday. I joined friends, Marsha Wiles, Rosemarie Lueke and Trilby Boone to see what we might find at that higher elevation of 2,431 feet -- 700' higher than where we live in the Phoenix desert.

The Arboretum contains desert plants but many exotic trees like the Chinese Pistachio that birds just love this time of year.

Chilly to us at 45°F, we started slowly in the area around the Hummingbird Garden where we found ANNA'S HUMMINGBIRDs zipping zipping zipping here and there and everywhere. VERDIN in the nearby trees chirped and showed themselves but not long enough for photos. RUBY-CROWNED KINGLETs couldn't be still for more than a second before flitting to another leaf, another limb, another tree.

As we continued past the Smith Center, in the direction of Ayer Lake, we explored off the main trail into places like the Children's Learning Center, Cactus & Succulent Garden, then past the Boojum trees on up to the lake. So far, we had seen CURVE-BILLED THRASHER, VERDIN, NORTHERN MOCKINGBIRD, GILA WOODPECKER, PHAINOPEPLA, and a very nice GILDED FLICKER. A single INCA DOVE huddled on a bare tree limb

The small lake had zero waterfowl. What's going on?  No longer is the lone American Coot hanging out there; no Pied-billed Grebe; we couldn't even find the usual Black Phoebe. But what we did hear was much more exciting to me -- BELTED KINGFISHER. We all heard it, but it took a while for me to find it in a cottonwood tree at the southeast end of the lake.
Belted Kingfisher (female when you see that rust-colored band)  [Photo by Marsha Wiles]
Sun filled the area beneath the gazebo, so we stayed there for a while warming up a bit and listening to the nearby bird sounds. HOUSE FINCH and LESSER GOLDFINCH were in the area but not much more, so we continued on up the hill toward the Picket Post House (opened occasionally for fund raising tours but otherwise closed).

Best birds in that area were ROCK WREN and BLACK-THROATED SPARROW.

Black-throated Sparrow; beautiful bird hiding behind thin twigs
Continuing on down through the Queen Creek Riparian space and along Magma Ridge Trail, I had assured my friends they would see their desired bird, a NORTHERN CARDINAL, in these areas. So much for that. We were closer to the Eucalyptus Forest when Rosemarie spotted the female cardinal and while I expect the male was around from all the chipping we heard, none of us laid eyes on the male.

Rosemarie, Marsha & Trilby
Babs, Rosemarie & Trilby [photo by Marsha]

There were more good birds before we reached the picnic area and Demonstration Garden but we were pushing four hours of birding at this point so the talk had turned to food. Just as we made a plan, I spied a COOPER'S HAWK, still as a statue on an open limb over the water feature. 

Then we were off to Porter's in Superior for some good eats before heading home. 26 species in four hours is no record, but for the time of year and time of day, it was perfectly fine with us.

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1 comment:

  1. Looks like a great day out with friends. That little lake is strange. No Pied-billed Grebe? That's a first:) I love that arboretum though. I wish we lived closer to it.