Seven Springs Recreation Area, including Rackensack Cyn. & Cave Creek Group CG; Maricopa County, AZ

Wednesday, February 1
With a welcome forecast of sunny clear weather, birder friends Jeanne Burns and Glenda Jones joined me for a visit to one of my favorite quiet birding locations north of Cave Creek.

While we didn't hike the washes that still carried a decent amount of water, we drove through them on the road three or four times.

The variety of bird species at slightly higher elevations than that here in the desert, added to our fun as we brushed off our identification skills for titmice and scrub jays as well as for different sparrows and wrens.

We birded three (3) specific locations: Seven Springs Recreation Area; Cave Creek Group Campground; and Rackensack Canyon.

Birds were delightful:
WOODHOUSE'S SCRUB JAY - Note white eyebrow (supercilium)
[formerly known as "Western" Scrub Jay]
WESTERN BLUEBIRDS - very abundant and foraging heavily in juniper trees
TOWNSEND'S SOLITAIRE (Thrush family) - Note white eyeing and uniformly gray body.
Winters in pinyon-juniper-mixed forests.
In addition to Western Bluebirds, Jeanne found this MOUNTAIN BLUEBIRD with two females.
Female Mountain Bluebirds [Photo: Glenda Jones]

Sounds odd to get excited about an AMERICAN ROBIN but so it goes when you live in the desert.
This juniper tree seemed full of them.

We birded 6.5 hours in the area, eating as we drove or walking around one area or the other.  At the group camp site, juncoes and sparrows were our challenge.

Rare photo by me of a RUBY-CROWNED KINGLET that stayed still for a full second!
CHIPPING SPARROW  [Photo: Glenda Jones]
It was when we explored Rackensack Canyon that we enjoyed some bird drama. Our birding there began around 1:00 p.m. when it had warmed up considerably from our 36°F start of the day. We had shed many layers by then. Tiptoeing or just slogging through streams of water that crossed our trail, we set out to see if the Fox Sparrows, reported here last month, might be present still. If they were, we didn't find them.

But we had hawks.

COOPER'S HAWK (above and below)

I posted two photos of the COOPER'S HAWK above to show how much difference lighting can make in how we view a bird. A juvenile shows a lot of brown; an adult more gray with a distinctly black cap. These two photos, however, are of the same bird!

With more desert vegetation at this lower elevation, we also had one male PHAINOPEPLA calling and perching high.

The species below gave us quite a show:

Three Red-tailed Hawks showed their flight and diving skills in the canyon...sometimes vocal, mostly quiet acrobatics.

This and photo below are by Glenda Jones

Located within about a 1.5 hour drive from the east valley of Phoenix, it was definitely a change of pace in every which way. With skilled birders and pleasant company, fair weather and higher elevation birds, it was an awesome day to enjoy high desert country.

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  1. That is such a nice area to bird, 7 Springs. Gordon just introduced me to that place in October. Very beautiful area.

  2. Was a wonderful day - thanks for introducing me to that area. Will keep it in mind for another trip next year!