Thursday, March 31, 2022

Month Recap: March 2022

 March 2022 Highlights from the field:

March 3rd, 2022:  Lower Salt River Recreation Area


March 11th, 2022: Adobe Dam Regional Park and Arrowhead Lake


March 18th, 2022:  Lower Salt River (Phon D. Sutton)

March 24th, 2022: Lower Verde River (south of Box Bar)

Thursday, March 17, 2022

Month Recap: February 2022

 The month of February 2022 featured some awesome birding for me, which included a phenomenal discovery of a Golden-winged Warbler by Ronnie Reed at the Salt River.  It was a great Maricopa County bird (a MEGA!), see one of the previous posts on here for pictures and a full story.  This post will summarize the trips I went on in February, and some of the cool birds I saw on those trips.  

February 3rd-Glendale Recharge Ponds and Lake Pleasant:  This was an odd day for birding.  I woke up to breezy weather after the weather forecast said winds were to be low.  Clearly it is a hard thing to predict, and I hoped the wind would die down by the time I would arrive at my destination to start the day, Lake Pleasant.  I was hoping to explore Morgan City Wash and follow that up by scanning the lake.  The winds got even worse, and I waited outside the park entrance to Pleasant for some time.  It continued to be windy, and I decided to go home.  When I was almost home, I realized much of the wind died down.  I decided to go to Glendale Recharge Ponds, where I would spend most of my time at Basin 3 (Northwest Basin), which is the only basin that had water.  There were plenty of ducks to look through, and it was fun scanning through them.  Things got fun as the Canada Goose flock flew in, and 7-8 different Cackling Geese of 3 different subspecies were with them.  The minima Cackling Goose was among them, and I got to observe these numbers of white-cheeked geese for a second straight week at Glendale.  Following Glendale, I went back to Lake Pleasant and the wind was gone.  I scanned the lake from several spots, and the best I was able to get was a Horned Grebe and California Gull.  And a flock of Ring-billed Gulls is what I photographed.


Ring-billed Gulls

Cackling Geese with Canada Geese

February 4th-Lower Salt River Recreation Area:  On this day, I explored the eastern side of the Lower Salt River Recreation Area.  Recreation sites that I explored was the stretch east of Sheep's Crossing, Pebble Beach Recreation Site, Blue Point Recreation Site, and Butcher Jones Recreation Site.  These eastern spots on the recreation area aren't as productive as the western half and sites, but they are still fun.  I found an assortment of birds, which were highlighted by a pair of Bald Eagles engaging in their courtship flight.  They locked talons and started to fall down to the ground in circular, spiral movements.  The eagles started the display pretty low to the ground, which resulted in a shorter fall.  At Pebble Beach I wore my rubber boots and waded across the Salt River in several spots.  Stands here have attracted rare birds in the past, such as Pine Warbler and Downy Woodpecker.  

Lark Sparrow

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Black Phoebe


Bald Eagles

Spotted Sandpiper

Belted Kingfisher

Black-tailed Gnatcatcher (short-tailed form)

Red-tailed Hawk

Pied-billed Grebe

Ring-necked Ducks



Gray Flycatcher

Ladder-backed Woodpecker


February 5th-Peoria:  It was fun to see a Lewis's Woodpecker at a golf course parking lot that is close to home.

February 10th-Lower Verde River:  The Lower Verde River called my name, and I ventured out to explore the riparian stands and desert adjacent to the river.  I birded at the stretch south of Box Bar and Rio Verde Ranch first, followed by a trek to Box Bar Recreation Site.  Birdlife was rather quiet overall, but it was cool to see nesting Bald Eagles, Hooded Mergansers, and a wintering lowland White-breasted Nuthatch.

Hooded Mergansers

Bald Eagles

Black-throated Gray Warbler

White-breasted Nuthatch

Bald Eagle

February 11th-Ash Flat and Point of Pines Lake area, Graham County:  This was my first hardcore county birding outside of Maricopa County for 2022.  I joined Ronnie Reed and Caleb Strand for a big expedition to the grasslands of Ash Flat in Graham County, followed by the upland and forest habitats north of Ash Flat.  This area is awesome, one of awesome scenery and neat landscapes. The grasslands were epic and were filled with Chestnut-collared Longspurs.  A few Thick-billed Longspurs, several Sprague's Pipits, Chihuahuan Ravens, Ferruginous Hawks, and others highlighted Ash Flat.  Exploring further north took us to pine and oak forest.  Point of Pines Lake was an awesome place to bird.  Caleb spied Graham County's first Barrow's Goldeneye, a female with Common Goldeneye.  We also got lucky and stumbled across a pair of Montezuma Quail, Golden-crowned Kinglets, and as well as a cast of forest birds typical of pine/oak woodland.  Grasslands near the pine association held a dark morph Ferruginous Hawk and Prairie Falcon.  It was a productive day for our trio.  Personally, I added 14 new birds to my Graham County birding list.

Pronghorn Antelope herd

Ferruginous Hawk

Chihuahuan Raven

Sprague's Pipit

Western Bluebird

Common Goldeneye

dark morph Ferruginous Hawk

Golden-crowned Kinglet

Barrow's Goldeneye (Graham County record)

Prairie Falcon

February 17th-Rackensack Canyon and Lower Camp Creek:  I woke up and didn't know where to go at first, and decided to go to Rackensack Canyon and Lower Camp Creek.  Rackensack Canyon is filled with sparrow diversity in winter, and is particularly good for having solid numbers of Fox Sparrow and at times, wintering Black-chinned Sparrow.  Lower Camp Creek is always awesome at all times of the year.  "You can't go wrong with that area", I told myself.  A few Fox Sparrows perched up for me, one of which sang a quiet "whisper" song.  The version of the song was similar to the usual song, but it was sang much more quietly.  Black-chinned Sparrows had even started to sing, and they were in good numbers in the canyon.  One male was close to the path, and gave me a fun opportunity for photographs.  A Javelina also crossed my path.  Lower Camp Creek gave Rackensack a good follow-up, and the highlight was a young Golden Eagle cruising lower-than-usual over the canyon.

Fox Sparrow

Black-chinned Sparrow


Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Golden Eagle

Cassin's Vireo

February 18th-Forest Road 1705 and Mt. Ord's Forest Road 1688:  I craved another fun expedition and decided that the goal of the day would be to explore the very underbirded FR 1705.  This road is on the west side of Highway 87, not even a mile south of the Sunflower turnoff.  I hadn't been to this road in about 5 years, and it was my first time exploring it in winter.  In the past, both times were in late summer to look for Cassin's Sparrow during northern movements across Arizona in 2016 and 2017.  This road has habitats of chaparral and juniper, desert scrub, rocky areas, and sections of semi-desert grassland.  I was hoping to find Grasshopper Sparrow in the grassland, which winters in central Arizona in such habitat.  On my return hike from reaching the southern part of FR 1705 (three miles one way), I checked a nice section of grass and found at least six Grasshopper Sparrows.  It was fun to find them, and once I left I realized there were likely many more around.  The area is awesome, and I had 14 species on my list that are in the sparrow family.  It is a location that needs to be birded more!  I concluded the day with a hike on Mt. Ord's Forest Road 1688.  A recent snow had the mountain in all white, and it was awesome.  I walked the entire two miles of the road, and most of the road was covered in snow and much of the slopes below the elevation of 1688 were under snow too.  As I hiked light amounts of snow regularly fell from the pines, creating a neat atmosphere.  I didn't manage to photograph any pine species typical of Mt. Ord, but when I hiked along a section of chaparral and open juniper, I had a cooperative a vocal Crissal Thrasher along the road.  And these guys are usually skulkers....  A fun way to end a great day of birding/exploring.

Brewer's Sparrow

Black-throated Sparrow

Black-chinned Sparrow

Canyon Towhee

Grasshopper Sparrow

Brewer's Sparrow and Grasshopper Sparrow

Crissal Thrasher, Mt. Ord

February 24th-Lower Salt River Recreation Area:  Another adventure to the Lower Salt River, this one was to mainly explore the Phon D. Sutton Recreation Area.  This place is awesome, and I explored much more of it than I have in any of my previous visits.  The riparian is even better now that tamarisk has been removed in places.  Hiking the Lower Salt River Nature Trail is awesome too.  While working riparian I found a Northern Parula, an out-of-season MacGillivray's Warbler, and a Brown Thrasher.  Birds were abundant all morning, and a big non-avian highlight was a Raccoon in the river.  I also birded Granite Reef afterward, and headed back home pretty early to catch a Suns game. 

Raccoon, Great Egret, Pied-billed Grebe size comparisons

Cinnamon Teal pair

Northern Cardinal
American Pipit

Plumbeous Vireo

Black-throated Gray Warbler

Song Sparrow

Northern Parula

MacGillivray's Warbler

Brown Thrasher

Desert landscape with Mt. Ord in background

February 25th-FR 1705, FR 1697, and Mesquite Wash:  After the fun I had at FR 1705 that I had the previous week, I decided that the location deserved another visit.  My objective was to hike another road, FR 1697, which starts and ends (or vice versa) along sections of FR 1705.  It was a fun road to bird and explore also.  I also hoped to find more Grasshopper Sparrows in the grassland habitat.  During this expedition, I came up with 10 in total, and I'll add that there's likely many more.  A Loggerhead Shrike was also particularly fun to see.  On the way home I decided to stop and explore Mesquite Wash, a location I hadn't birded at for some time.  There's been some rarities found here lately, a Red-breasted Sapsucker by Adrian Smith and a Pacific Wren by Dara Vazquez, with the wren wintering here.  It didn't take me long to hear the wren, and it vocalized a lot.  Despite the vocalizations, I couldn't get a glimpse of it.  I wasn't able to find the sapsucker, and later realized I was looking in the wrong spot.  But I did look into a thicket and found a Long-eared Owl, and it was an epic way to conclude my birding "weekend".  

Canyon Towhee

Grasshopper Sparrow and Chipping Sparrow

Loggerhead Shrike

Grasshopper Sparrow

not a bird, but pretty cool

Savannah Sparrow

Grasshopper Sparrow

Long-eared Owl..awesome..