Badger Springs in Agua Fria National Monument, Yavapai County, AZ

Saturday, February 4:

Setting out on an exploratory trek with Marsha, Rosemarie and Hinde to a place none of us had birded before, we arrived around 8:30 a.m. at Badger Springs which lies within an area of the Agua Fria National Monument. [Exit 256 from I-17 North (from Phoenix)] 

Cool temperature (43°F) would eventually give way to the clear sunny sky as we entered the high desert riparian area.


We quickly discovered that the trail was actually a sandy-bottomed wash. Fortunately, water levels were not high and it made for quite comfortable walking; water never rose above the soles of my hiking boots. Our steps were muted on this squishy surface, not drumming out a beat on hard-packed earth to alert birds to our presence.

Hinde on the Badger Springs Wash Trail ahead of me

As you can see, the terrain consisted of rocky-grassy-shrubby hillsides on each side of us.

Although birds were chirping when we arrived, it took them a while to come out in the sunshine. The first ones up and about were BLACK-THROATED SPARROWS. To me, these sparrows are never "just sparrows" - they provide the thrill to bird watching!

Unlike our Abert's Towhee of the lower desert, we saw only CANYON TOWHEEs this morning with its reddish crown and distinct buffy eye ring. Not always easily visible is a further identification mark below its pale throat: a "necklace" of stripes that ends with a dark spot where the breast meets the light belly.

Overhead, Marsha spotted some action: a smaller bird was chasing a RED-TAILED HAWK. From my position in the wash, I caught sight of the hawk flying close to the ridge line but never saw the SHARP-SHINNED HAWK giving chase.

Birds became more active but few were vocalizing. What was that bigger bird moving over there in the Palo Verde?  Ohh, nice. Wish it wasn't behind so many sticks.


Northern Flickers called out from saguaros high on the hillsides while Rock Wrens chirped their welcome song closer to us. Although the Canyon Wren is tops for beauty and song, I've always enjoyed the antics of the ROCK WREN with its "curtsy" or knee-pump while it perches on top of rocks or sticks checking out birders, it seems, as they come calling.

A dash of bright color surprised us. A male NORTHERN CARDINAL flew across the wash in front of us to perch on a rock where we could see it well...through a tangle of shrubs, of course.

MALE NORTHERN CARDINAL hiding next to a jojoba plant

The trail led to the Agua Fria (cold water) River where it was coursing through a narrow passage of rocks in a water fall.

Marsha and Rosemarie taking a break at the river
Resting there after the 0.8 mile walk through the wash, we spotted some CHIPPING SPARROWS.

Working our way back along the trail, we noted muddy footprints of javelina and deer.

Butterflies were now flitting about; I counted five different varieties but have no idea of their identity and was not able to get photos. A nice black one with a white band toward the rear of its wings caught my eye frequently.  Online, I came up with the possibility of its being a "Morning Cloak".

Before returning to the trailhead, we also caught view of a VESPER SPARROW to add to our list, bringing it to a total of 25 species for the day.

Vesper Sparrow
Had the weather been 20° colder, the wind blowing or the water higher, our experience may have been much different than the very special time we enjoyed at Badger Springs.

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1 comment:

  1. What a beautiful area! I bet that water felt good on the feet. Wet shoes/boots are yucky but it looks like a nice place to visit.