Coon Bluff Rec Area along Lower Salt River, Maricopa County, AZ

Monday, December 5th
At 33°F when I arrived at Coon Bluff this morning, I was surprised to see any birds at all even though it was already 7:45 a.m.

First bird to catch my eye made me grimace: a ROCK WREN foraging at debris spilled over from the dumpster in the parking lot.

Then, I heard a bird that has been scarce for me this season so I tried to track it down in the mesquites right beside the parking lot.  Hoped it wasn't a Phainopepla doing an actual flycatcher sound which it sometimes does but so far I had heard only its soft  "pe-oop" call.

Ah!  Movement. Found the flycatcher behind so many branches with its rear facing me, I was still going to "take it". I had seen enough. Then, it turned totally around, its light belly feathers looking very yellow in the morning light as it faced me. Totally dark bill, rusty (or chestnut) tail and tertials. (those photos washed out)

Ash-throated Flycatcher - photo taken when I re-found it about 30 minutes later

Then, I was ready to enter the area as I usually do, past some campers huddling around their fire, to the bluff.

There, I was delighted to see two ROCK WRENs chasing each other up, down and around the soft rock of the bluff....hoping that one of them was the one not now foraging at the dumpster.

Rock Wren on pourous side of Coon Bluff

The Rock Wrens were chasing one another, stopping long enough only to give me the eye.

As I had walked toward the bluff on the gated dirt road, I also spotted a male Northern Cardinal, not always out and about to be observed at this location.

A GRAY FLYCATCHER was moving through the mesquite to the tamarisk jungle beside the river, but I got a good look at it, long enough to see the white eye-ring and wing stripes, but, especially the downward dip of the tail. I would see another one farther east, too.

A male BELTED KINGFISHER eluded the camera as it flew downstream (westward) at full throttle. Love that sound! There were two of them calling to one another later from separate locations; the only one I saw well was a male.

Woodpeckers were making themselves known: GILA WOODPECKER and NORTHERN FLICKER.  The Gila seemed to be sounding off everywhere I went in the mesquite grove.

Then, it was time for shorebirds:  GREEN HERON - next three photos (two across the Salt River; one tucked in under the bank below where I walked).

The GREAT BLUE HERON was not far from where the Green Heron was fishing.

A female NORTHERN HARRIER made a reconnaissance flight upstream (eastward) but apparently gave up on the lack of small birds, turning southward and out of sight not to be seen again.  A couple days ago when I birded Granite Reef Recreation Area, several miles west of here, the Northern Harrier patrolled the river during my entire visit -- a new sight for me. It's usually over agricultural fields, grasslands, or open desert.

Today, I walked eastward only far enough to hear and see the AUDUBON'S YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLER. Along that trail were other small birds, posted on the list below.

Beyond the warblers, I saw Yellowlegs in the river, so I walked closer to them to be sure they were, and they were, GREATER YELLOWLEGS.

From that point, I photographed the remaining river that I could see.

Lower Salt River, east of picnic area at Coon Bluff Rec Area

Instead of continuing east as I often do, I turned south, aways from the river, to stay in the mesquite bosque. I like sparrows and hadn't yet seen any when, in past years, they seemed always present; sometimes Lark or just White-crowneds.  But today, with no ground cover, just sand surface at the campground and throughout the developed part of the park, sparrows had been absent.  

Thus my venture away from the river.  In twenty minutes of birding in that direction, the only birds I found on the ground were HOUSE FINCHes who were foraging at the horse dung.

I did hear and see a BLACK-TAILED GNATCATCHER, one of my favs, but it was disappointing to not find any sparrows. I need to go into eBird and search other lists to see what is being reported. It's possible they just weren't here this time.

With moving along, I kept warm enough; there was no breeze off the river. My hands were reluctant to function well with the camera, but I managed some clear ones, above. This morning, I had actually questioned whether I wanted to go out there birding. Once there, the question resolves itself. A new day with new birds - Great!

* * *

No comments:

Post a Comment