Introducing International Birder to Maricopa County, AZ


Wednesday, June 7th   3:00-6:45 p.m.

Through membership in  “Birding Pals”, birders are able to contact birding people in other cities, states and countries to get information about or have a local birder share his/her local patch with you.

Many times, my calendar is full and I can’t meet with inquiring birders, but I used it recently for my trip to Cape May and was given excellent information on places to check out since that birder would be out of town during my visit.

Since Simon and Margaret Bailey from England contacted me in March, I was able to get them on my calender for two days between my own trips. 

Arriving late on Tuesday night, they requested some jet-lag time off on Wednesday morning but were quite sure they wanted to experience our desert heat in the afternoon. Or, as Margaret put it, “Enough rain and fog. Let me see what this is like.”

Starting out on N. Power Road (Mesa), we met and got acquainted over some coffee before I rode with them to some of my favorite places along the Lower Salt River.  When he contacted me, Simon allowed that he wasn’t a “twitcher” i.e., he didn’t keep a Life List and would not be looking for specific birds. He would be happy with whatever came our way….although a Roadrunner would be nice!  (nada)

Commenting on the saguaros and desert habitat, rock formations and mountains, they told me that they would be as pleased to see the “place” as well as the birds. Margaret (artist) is less interested in birds but joins Simon on his hobby. Hearing that, I decided to start out at Butcher Jones Recreation Area, knowing that the wild horses often hang out there in the summer to cool off in its cove of Saguaro Lake.  

The muddy beach of the cove and the lake was filled with people; the horses were at the rear of the picnic area cooling off under the mesquite trees. 

Birds were still at the forefront. While I came up with the identification for the BROWN-HEADED COWBIRDs and GREAT-TAILED GRACKLEs and a VERDIN, Simon spotted TURKEY VULTURE (12), RED-TAILED HAWK and BALD EAGLE!

 As so often happens, the main attraction became the wild horses.

6-day old young colt

Margaret enjoyed the horses; Simon and I found more BROWN-HEADED COWBIRDS at their feet.

Another young one
Mother protecting it
As we headed back along the Salt River, we stopped at Coon Bluff long enough to take a look at the river from that vantage point, check the bluff for eagles and the mesquite for bird activity. Not much happening.

Simon & Margaret Bailey
Wanting to know more about our tall desert cactus, I decided to show them what I call the “Grandmother” saguaro - one with many, many arms. When Simon asked how old I thought it was, I suggested well upwards of 100 years old since it often takes that long to grow its first arm. Maybe this one was 200 years old; I didn't really know. I was glad to see it still standing tall and healthy; it hadn't been caught up in the recent fire along the river.

To finish up, we birded Granite Reef from 6:00 to 6:30 p.m. Margaret commented on how cool it felt!  (101° instead of the 105° of earlier)

The two of them have traveled extensively and have family in Southern California, so they knew some of our birds: GILA WOODPECKER, GAMBEL’S QUAIL (I differentiated ours from the California Quail), COMMON YELLOWTHROAT, PIED-BILLED GREBE and SNOWY EGRET. With the Orioles being a no-show, great views of an ASH-THROATED FLYCATCHER became the best find at Granite Reef. 

Worst find (for me) was hearing young begging for food and discovering a BLACK-TAILED GNATCATCHER going crazy trying to keep fed two good-sized begging BROWN-HEADED COWBIRDs at the base of a mesquite. (cowbirds lay their eggs in other nests indiscrimately letting that bird hatch and raise its young)


The next morning, Simon showed up alone. Margaret chose to lay low and allow him his day at a specifically birding place.

Recording 33 species between 6:15 and 8:00 a.m., we called it a good morning.
Simon had taken the photos he wanted and I had nabbed a few, too.

I'll finish up with this, my spirit bird -- the GREEN HERON that provided the spark to my current birding adventures.

(The bird blending into the reeds above and very focused below) .

It's not every day I bird with folks from England. It was a real pleasure as we enjoyed the thermal temps and good birds together!

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