Pinal Mountain, Gila County, AZ

Monday, March 13 2017
A small group of six birding friends started birding Russel Gulch at 7:55 a.m.
From the desert lowlands, to the landfill and on up the mountain, we had a nice variety of active birds.

Female VERMILION FLYCATCHER (Male at top of page)
Male Gambel's Quail [Photo: Glenda Jones]
A lot of truck and equipment activity at the top of Russell Gulch Landfill may have kept bird numbers low. We counted only 75 BREWER'S BLACKBIRDS; and COMMON RAVENS were much more sparse than I've seen there before (52).  But, the raven we were hoping to find DID show up. Take a look at the two photos below - one of the CHIHUAHUAN RAVEN followed by the COMMON RAVEN. Check out the contrast in the tails of the two birds. The Chihuahuan is also smaller and was noted in flight among the Commons -- just two of several other ID markers to tell them apart.

CHIHUAHUAN RAVEN with more fan-tailed or squared off tail than Common Raven below.
[Photo: Glenda Jones]
COMMON RAVEN  [Photo: Glenda Jones]

Kay G., Marsha W. and Hinde S. were riding in Kay's nice red jeep; Linda J. and I were riding in Glenda's SUV as we moseyed up the mountain listening for bird song.

WOODHOUSE'S SCRUB JAYs were vocal when flying from one place to another in the gulch and we spotted PHAINOPEPLA, CURVE-BILLED and CRISSAL THRASHER as we drove upward.

STOP!!!  Back up!  A very yellow and black bird perched maybe 25 feet west from the road caught my eye. Yes! --  A striking male SCOTT'S ORIOLE with its full black head, nape, shoulders and breast set off by its bright yellow belly, vent and under-tail coverts. Its yellow wing bars showed well as it flew off and out of sight. So struck by the sighting, none of us had taken a photo! It was definitely a FOS (First of Season) sighting for me and I hadn't noticed any reports in eBird for it yet this year.

A bit later and farther up into the Ponderosa Pines, we stopped at Sulfide del Rey Campground to snack while birding.

Heading off again toward the top of the mountain, we paused when the road turned a bit sloppy with melting snow and slick mud. Consensus took us back to Sulfide del Rey CG for lunch before continuing to bird our way down the mountain. 

While our species count for the day was only 37, we reported mostly birds we saw....not the ones we thought we knew by voice. 

What better way to start the week than in the coolness of the pines when Phoenix Valley reached into the 90°sF for the first time this year. A good adventure, perhaps especially so for those visiting the mountain for the first time. As usual, good birding with friends = another very good day in the field.

I posted our sightings in eBird; check the links below for more detail.

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