Thursday, December 5, 2019

In The Gila: Warbler Neck to Scoter Scans

Fall is one of my favorite times of year for birding in Arizona.  Songbird migrants that are common to rare can show up in any given habitat, and it's also a great time to scan water bodies for a variety of waterbirds.  The time frame of fall lasts from September through November in the birding world, and the best thing birders can do is get themselves out there to search different habitats.  For my Gila County birding trips, fall was greatly welcomed.

As I wrote in my last post for In The Gila, most of my summer was consumed by birding in high elevation forests and canyons in the Mogollon Rim and Sierra Ancha Mountains areas.  I went to San Carlos Lake with Caleb a few times.  As the early fall rolled in, I found a fun migrant in a Gray Catbird along the East Verde River (see last post), and Gila lifers that I got at San Carlos Lake that I wasn't able to photograph were Cave Swallow, Laughing Gull, and Lesser Yellowlegs.  All three of these San Carlos birds were seen with Caleb, and the Lesser Yellowlegs was my 315th bird for Gila County (It was a bit overdue).
I began my fall searching for warblers and other songbirds in late August.  Riparian habitats right in Payson were a starting point, and it was still hot enough to retreat to higher coniferous forests later in the day.  While one might look upwards for most warblers, I caught sight of a rare Northern Waterthrush as well as a cooperative MacGillivray's Warbler at American Gulch in Payson.  Both of these warblers stay low to the ground on most occasions.

An exploration of the San Carlos River with Caleb also produced another Northern Waterthrush.

Once September hit, I wasn't able to go birding until September 16th in Gila County.  That California trip took place and took four days which would equal my days off of work for two weeks.  When I did get back into things, I searched this awesome riparian area within Rye Creek, which is just north of Jake's Corner.  Rye Creek has thick cottonwood and willow habitat nestled in a valley.  Something that I really like about it is that most of the habitat is right along the creek and it doesn't take very long to cover the area.  The spot is lush and I can see it producing some great birds in the future.  I birded Rye Creek some during the summer, and my first fall visit gave me a variety of over fifty different bird species.  Migrants were abundant, and the rarest bird that I was able to find was a Black-and-White Warbler.

Plumbeous Vireo at Rye Creek

Tonto Creek via the towns of Tonto Basin and Punkin Center is a great place to bird.  On September 21st, I birded the creek via A Cross Road.  It was incredibly birdy, and I had 64 species in just over 4 hours.  I spent a lot of time looking up for warblers and it resulted in the classic sore "Warbler Neck".  A Cross Road at Tonto Creek is a spot I haven't started my day at very often, but this time proved to show how productive it can be.  Here is a link to my eBird checklist:

Mary McSparen found the astounding Long-tailed Jaeger at Lake Pleasant also in late September.  It took up the first of my two days off to begin October, and I ended up with great looks at the Jaeger, which is still my latest life bird to date.  After being content with the Jaeger on October 2nd, that same day resulted in Keith Kamper and Doug Jenness finding four rare Roseate Spoonbills at San Carlos Lake.  Keith and Doug were scanning from the south side of San Carlos Lake, which is in Pinal County.  Even though they were in Pinal County, I knew it wouldn't take much for the Roseate Spoonbills to fly north into Gila County.  Doug and Keith also reported low water levels that would result in the lake being void of water throughout most of the eastern half of the lake.  This aspect makes the birding and bird-finding a bit easier.  On October 3rd, I left early and headed straight for San Carlos Lake.  I headed for the eastern side of where the water was on the lake, in the spot where Keith and Doug told me to look for the Roseate Spoonbills.  Once I started searching, it didn't take me long to find my target birds.  And luckily, they eventually took flight and flew into Gila County and became my 316th county bird!

During mid-October, I took camping trips to Gila County, where I would camp out at Three Bar Road on two Wednesday-Thursday "weekends" of mine.  The first trip took place on October 9th and 10th, and combined a variety of focused riparian birding with a lot of "warbler neck" involvement.  I didn't find any unusual warblers.  There were lots of times I scanned Roosevelt Lake on each trip.  The best bird I had was a Common Tern.  I also went northeast of Payson to bird some of the spots below the Mogollon Rim to try and get some dates for American Dipper and American Three-toed Woodpecker.  The high elevation targets were void, but a Cassin's Finch was kinda cool.

Something fun about birding is how quickly trips can turn around.  The next around the corner can hold an amazing bird.  That's why we always need to keep birding, and that's why we always need to bird our butts off.  On October 16th, I reminded myself of that when I riparian and warbler-necked Tonto Creek via Gisela and then later at Roosevelt Lake.  I didn't find anything notable outside of expected species, but I had a lot of fun.  Views of Roosevelt Lake from camp were epic.  And then there was the 17th coming up too...

On October 17th, I woke up and went to Tonto Creek via Bar X Crossing Road.  The endless stands of riparian habitat make it one of my favorite places to bird in Gila County, as well as for the practice of Warbler-Neck.  For some reason in my mind, I had a feeling that something awesome was going to happen in the Bar X riparian jungle.  When I started searching through the stands of cottonwoods and willows, it didn't take me long to find an American Redstart.

It was my second American Redstart for Gila County, and right up ahead from the bird came an interesting call note from a warbler that needed immediate attention.  I knew it was from the Black-throated variety, and as I caught sight of the warbler up in a group of tall willows and cottonwoods, a blurry glimpse gave me the impression of a Townsend's and Hermit Warbler hybrid.  The bird flew to the next tree and I worked to get on it again quickly for the next view.  My second look wasn't a glimpse and was a clear glance, and this followup look gave me ideas that it was an Arizona-statewide-rare Black-throated Green Warbler.  I snapped pictures away with the thought of it being that species as documentation was the highest need.  The warbler was fairly cooperative, and it allowed me to get a few pictures over the course of a few minutes.  My heart was pounding and the few minutes felt like an hour.  The call note the warbler gave reminded me of the call note I heard from a Black-throated Green Warbler a few years ago near Phoenix.  It's how we would locate the bird a lot of the time.  Knowing that the species hasn't been documented in Gila County before had me going, and as I reviewed my pictures, I screamed "Yes" out loud at the results.  It was a Black-throated Green Warbler, and it appears to be the first Gila County record.

The dull olive ariculars, greenish back, and yellow across vent are good field marks for this Arizona rarity.  After many times of birding Tonto Creek via Bar X, this was finally the time I found a really good warbler for the location with the understanding that the really good warblers certainly pass through.  That is a fun aspect of birding and one has to keep putting in efforts and time to find the things that are really wanted to be found.  

After enjoying the warbler, I still had a lot of habitat to cover.  The jungle of Bar X can be intimidating, and when I choose to bird it, I know that I have to be prepared to do a lot of bushwhacking.  Sometimes, one focused limb at a time...

It's good to look ahead sometimes too.  In this case, can you see the Great Horned Owl roosting near the ground? 

If I walked a few feet closer without catching sight of the bird near the ground, it would've flown up and surprised me that it was there all along.

After this first Great Horned Owl, I stumbled across several others too.  An owl is an owl, which always equals out to being incredible!

The 17th was full of riparian and scanning Roosevelt Lake, and that week would carry into the next week of October 23 and 24.  It was to be my third consecutive week of camping out in the Roosevelt Lake vicinity as my base for the birding trip.  I was still on a high from finding the Black-throated Green Warbler at Tonto Creek via Bar X, and I decided that it would be my first stop of the trip.  While tremendous luck was on my side six days prior to my last visit to the location, this visit gave me a 180 result.  The location was slow and lacked diversity in bird life.  It was a perfect example of how a location can have a bit of everything one day and then not have much the next day.  You gotta love migration.  After a few more stops, I hit started to bird Roosevelt Lake.  Because I was on a two day trip, I planned on birding the east and south half of Roosevelt Lake the 1st day, and the west and north half on the second day.  The Grapevine Group Site Recreation Area was second in line, and it's a spot where one walks out on a peninsula to get good overviews of the lake.  Things got exciting when I found a few Sagebrush Sparrows along the route out to the lookout.  This sparrow's status in Gila County is one that is quite the mystery, and these birds where my second personal record for Gila County, and I believe they are the third record for Gila County overall via eBird.  For my Roosevelt Lake patch, it was also fun to get these birds.  

Once I started scanning the lake, I picked out a Scoter floating and sleeping on the water with it's head down.  I was stoked to have a Scoter species, but it took awhile for it to lift it's head up.  From what I could see, it had a lot of white on it's face.  When it did lift it's head up, I was pumped to see that it was the rare Black Scoter!  It was an adult female plumaged bird, and it gave me solid scope views but was yet too distant to obtain photographs.  In Gila County, this was the first ever sighting that I could find of Black Scoter, and I was looking at it.  I scrambled around for the next few hours trying to find some sort of vantage point that I could walk out to to attempt photographs without luck before it got too dark outside.  Here are some notes that I wrote about my observation, and I hope to write a report to the Arizona Birds Record Committee soon about this statewide Arizona rarity.  It is a review species.

Notes:  Adult female plumaged bird. Spotted west of Grapevine Point and not far, but considerably east of Windy Hill Recreation Site. Bird was resting it's head a majority of the time, but luckily lifted it's head for about five minutes. When resting, what caught my eye was the bulky shape of the bird, the short tail sticking up (not nearly as long as a Ruddy Duck), dark cap and nape to the bird's head, and a considerable amount of white on the face and an obvious short neck to it's resting posture to easily stand out from the Western and Clark's Grebes that were nearby. When the bird lifted it's head, the bill shape immediately caught my eye while my eyes were adjusting to looking at the rest of the bird. The bill was thin compared to other Scoter species, overall concaved shaped, and pointed upwards at the tip. To nail the identification for female Black Scoter, the birds face below the eye and cheeks were a wide and striking white coloration, which contrasted neatly with the birds dark thin looking cap and nape as if viewed from the profile. Aside from the contrasting head pattern, the bird's overall coloration when sitting on the water was dark. Other Scoters wouldn't show this much un-interrupted white on the face. When the Black Scoter flapped it's wings briefly, they were dark without any white on them. This bird was bulkier and longer bodied than a non-breeding adult male Ruddy Duck, and had a longer neck than a Ruddy.

I planned my next day around trying to relocate the Black Scoter, and after some intense searching, I wasn't able to find it.  

During the following week, I initially had plans to bird on October 30th and 31st, again.  Sickness came over me and it kept me down on the 30th.  Even though I still felt a bit on the bad side on Halloween, I still went out to bird at Bar X and Roosevelt Lake.  Bar X was pretty slow for a second straight week.  I spent 2.5 hours there and the bird activity never really got going, kinda like most of Arizona's sports teams nowadays.  Roosevelt Lake was a different story.  In Arizona, late October and early November is prime time for waterfowl migration, and Roosevelt Lake was a perfect example as I started to cover the lake.  Because I had family plans for Halloween, I had to leave the lake by 4 P.M., and when I saw the numbers of waterfowl on the lake, I was stunned.  I regretted my start at Bar X rather than going straight to Roosevelt Lake, because rafts of waterfowl were everywhere.  There were scattered rafts of ducks everywhere, and one raft contained about 400 Gadwall, and about a hundred each of Canvasback and Redhead.  That was just one example.  Schoolhouse Point came up big when I picked out a Scoter among one of the duck rafts adjacent to the boat launch.  At one point, I thought I saw a glimpse of a white patch on the Scoter's secondaries.  As with the Black Scoter, this scoter had it's head down too.  Because I thought I saw a glimpse of a white patch on the bird, I started hoping that it would be the third and last Scoter I would need for Gila County-the White-winged Scoter.  After a patient watch through my scope, the Scoter finally lifted it's head and moved it's body more to show off white panels on it's secondaries.  It was a White-winged Scoter, and my sickness was numb during the two hours that I spent trying to document the Scoter.  I threw my fists up in the air and shouted, "yes!".  Here is the crappy but diagnostic documentation I was able to obtain of the White-winged Scoter, my 319th bird for Gila County.

Because it took me quite an few extra seconds to document the White-winged Scoter, I lost a lot of time I could've scanned elsewhere at Roosevelt Lake.  All I could think was that I wished I would've scanned the lake during my entire trip.  I had never seen it so full of waterbird variety, especially with high numbers of migrating waterfowl.  My last stops were planned out to be at the northern and western side of the lake at Vineyard Canyon Recreation Site and Bermuda Flat Recreation Site.  The planned second-to-last stop was at Vineyard Canyon, and I quickly had a bird of interest there too.  A flock of six white geese were distant and were across the lake from Vineyard Canyon.  From what I could see, there were five Snow Geese and a much smaller adult white goose, which I knew was either a pure Ross's Goose or a Ross's and Snow Goose hybrid.  The views were tremendously distant at first, and heat waves made it difficult to get a real feel on the smaller goose.  But luck would hit me for the second time of the day, and the geese swam much closer.  As they closed in, the smaller goose got more and more Ross's like and when it got within my scope's view, there wasn't any doubt it was a pure Ross's Goose with a steep forehead and small, stubby bill.  It was my 320th bird for Gila County, and an exciting one!  By looking at the picture below, the Ross's Goose is the only bird facing left.  Compare the size and structure with the adult Snow Goose facing right.

Halloween birding came through big time for me, it's not too often I get double Gila County life birds in one day.  Fall is an epic time of year for birding, and I was satisfied with what I was able to get in the Gila during the time this year in 2019!

Thursday, November 21, 2019

The Bucephala Boys

Today on November 21st, I took care of some things I needed to take of, and I also went to Lake Pleasant for several hours to do some birding.  With it being the second of my usual days off of my Wednesday and Thursday "weekend" my average tendencies would usually take me into the borders of Gila County.  In the life of birding, Mother Nature has the dominant say in things, and she has thrown rain at Arizona for the past two days.  Not just some rain, I'm talking A LOT of rain.  While I wish the rain came on days that I was working, I'm glad that Arizona is getting rain regardless.  I didn't go birding at all on Wednesday, and I made sure that today, Thursday, would be different.  The storms that have come through have brought in some notable rarities.  Caleb found Heerman's Gulls and Surf Scoters in Yuma County's Martinez Lake yesterday, Bill Lisowsky found Red Phalaropes and Surf Scoters at Patagonia Lake, and today Kelly Wright really hit gold as she found 2 Brants and a Pomarine Jaeger at Roper Lake State Park in Graham County!  A lot of birders have checked water bodies over the past 48 hours in hopes of finding something good that has blown in by the storm.  I chose Lake Pleasant for my search today, and I was hoping that the storm brought in some rare birds.  Whether or not the recent weather brought anything additional into Lake Pleasant, I knew that it already had two male Barrow's Goldeneye that were hanging out with a flock of Common Goldeneye.  Barrow's Goldeneye is an awesome duck, and is one that I don't cross paths with very often.  It is worth a trip to Lake Pleasant by itself.

After scanning Lake Pleasant, it was really slow.  The Goldeneye flock was the only highlight, and both male Barrow's Goldeneyes continued.  After I scanned the flock, I realized that it got even more awesome.  It wasn't just a Goldeneye flock, but it was a solid Bucephala flock!

Bucephala is a genus of ducks, and there are three species of them in North America.  They are represented by the very closely related Common and Barrow's Goldeneyes, and also by the similar but much smaller Bufflehead.  These ducks favor cold waters, and nest in tree cavities in forests of the North.  Barrow's is the only Buce that doesn't solely use cavities, and the Bufflehead is small enough to use old Northern Flicker cavities.  The males of each species are incredibly striking, and in my opinion, the females are pretty good looking too.  Here at Lake Pleasant, in one small cove, it was really fun to observe all three species in a flock that totaled 21 birds, where the males of each bird stuck out from the numerous Common Goldeneye females.  There was an adult male Bufflehead, two adult male Barrow's Goldeneyes, and eighteen Common Goldeneyes represented by a male who was almost full adult and seventeen females.  These birds weren't all that close to my camera for me to get the best shots, and they were pretty shy when I went down to the water.  I love seeing examples of something like this-all in one solid pure flock of one genus.  I'll close this short post with a selection of pictures.  This was an observation that I really enjoyed.

Male Bufflehead on far left, two male Barrow's Goldeneye on far right, male Common Goldeneye left of Barrow's.  The rest of the birds are Common Goldeneye females.

Bufflehead male with Common Goldeneye females.  This picture shows how small of a duck the Bufflehead is.

All three species in close proximity of each other

Probably my favorite picture of the outing

Actually this is probably my favorite picture

Flight time.  Bufflehead on left, Barrow's Goldeneye in middle, Common Goldeneye on right

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

In The Gila: Back To The High Country

I am really behind in this blog.  Writing a post the way I really like to write a post is time consuming.  As of late, I haven't had a lot of time.  Bear with me ;)

A lot of my summer was dedicated to exploring the avifauna in Gila County's high elevation canyons and forests.  Time has gone by since the summer and the Gila County birding has been spectacular, and this post will recap more of my summer.  Tracing back to archives, I did write a post for In The Gila called High Country.  While that was the first half of my summertime explorations, this will be the second half conclusion to that write up.  Come along with me and turn the good ol' mind's eye on, because these high elevation treks in Gila County are worth stepping into.  I'll try my best to describe the locations well and perhaps I'll sell it to the point you readers will go to some of these spots next summer yourself.

The setting of a computer at a table inside an apartment living room is a shelter for me and thousands of others during a Phoenix summer.  Call it a cage too-it's not fun to go outside in the heat.  My computer would be lightened up daily by maps of one remote area to another in those higher elevations of Gila County.  Satellite imagery can be as heroic as Hercules, and it highlighted the places worth investigating while stabbing other locations that weren't time worthy.

One road that I really love is Colcord Road in the northern tip of Gila County.  It is just below the Mogollon Rim and it has it's sections of habitats that are both fun and productive for my bird surveys.  By looking at maps I realized how long Colcord Road (also known as Forest Road 291) is.  The eastern half of the road looked awesome, and I figured that it would give the western half a run for it's money.  When I explored the eastern side of things, I think I liked it a little bitter than it's counterpart.  While the west side has had American Three-toed Woodpeckers, the east side has thick and dense forests filled with Douglas fir, pine, and oak.  One particular drainage system I explored in the afternoon of a day surely has loads of Red-faced Warblers as well as Saw-whet, Flammulated, and Spotted Owls by night.  One fun bird that I encountered though in the owl department in this area was the small but a yet soon-to-be-ferocious immature Northern Pygmy-Owl.  Two of these owls gave themselves away by their insect-like trilling calls.

Songbirds can be challenging to photograph in the forests.  My times on Colcord Road had overcast and cloudy conditions as well as scattered thunderstorms with the monsoon season in session.  Pishing can bring birds in close at times.  This Hutton's Vireo was an awesome exception!

This Brown Creeper cooperated well too.  He was in a drainage where I found myself looking for Spotted Owls.

My worst encounter of the summer was this odd guy on one of Colcord's side roads.  He was one of those who thought he knew everything about my life based on a few things I said and he basically proclaimed to me, "I am all knowing and what I have to say is more important than what you have to say".  All I could detect was constipation because he was full of crap.  When he said, "There was a reason you ran into me today, it's for me to point you to the direction you need to go", I started to walk away and quickly cut off the conversation.  Luckily I had a giant herd of elk to point him to down the road.

An area I really enjoyed fell on the northern flank of the Sierra Ancha Mountains.  On the west side of Road 288, I took a rather rough road called Forest Road 609 for about six miles.  Along the way I encountered lots of pine and oak woodland as well as chaparral habitat.  This area was really awesome.  From Road 609, I hiked deep into the area along FR 486.  Pine and oak habitat filled this area, and landmarks that I explored included Salt Log Canyon, East Lacy Fork, and Indian Camp Reservoir.  Common birds typical of pine and oak woodlands were encountered for the most part, and the highlight bird was a single Downy Woodpecker.  This area is one I wish to return to.  There's a lot of wilderness, as well as some historic cabin that is nearby to where I explored.

After exploring the remote area of Forest Road 609, I continued north on 288 to camp.  I settled down just south of the town of Young, and when I woke up in the morning, I scouted out areas by driving slowly north up Road 288 through Young and north.  The town of Young is small, but it hosts a lot of grassland habitat.  Sadly, most of the habitat is on private property and any birding has to be done from the road.  As I entered Young there was a pond along the road that I decided to check out.  It was private of course, and I stood and scanned things from the road.  Things got fun when I heard and eventually saw a Yellow-billed Cuckoo in the habitats around the pond.  It was pretty cooperative for photographs.

A family of Wild Turkey slowly moved along the meadows and open clearings of Lower Canyon Creek.  The area of Canyon Creek is a fun one, and other locations to visit there are Upper Canyon Creek Fish Hatchery, Airplane Flats Campground, Valentine Ridge Campground, and Colcord Ridge Campground.  In a half day I managed to cover all of those locations.  However, my favorite spot in this area is Forest Road 188 south of Valentine Ridge Campground.  It has an assortment of birds, including Red-faced Warbler and Greater Pewee, and without doubt fun owling chances at night in spring and summer.

The Northern Goshawk is a bird that is without doubt in the Gila County high country.  I hoped for it all summer long without any luck.  My recent post about the Goshawk nest wasn't in Gila County.  Goshawks are elusive "gray ghosts" of high elevation forests and canyons, and it was the last regularly occurring Gila bird I would need for high country.  I also hoped to stumble across some sort of a miraculous Mexican vagrant during these journeys.  Hey hey, Eared Quetzal has shown up in Gila County several times now, and an Elegant Trogon has shown up once.  Despite not finding anything quite elusive as a Goshawk or something nearly as rare as an Eared Quetzal, hiking through miles and miles of terrain I had never been to before was incredibly fun.  There were plenty of Hepatic Tanagers to go along with it.  This bird was in the Whispering Pines area near a location called Bray Creek.

The Whispering Pines and Washington Park area became one of my favorite areas to explore in the summer in Gila.  There is a lot of forest to cover there with many jeep and ATV side roads to explore.  There are drainages with thickly wooded terrain.  There are beautiful creeks full of running water.  There are also plenty of birds.  One morning I had rare company and Caleb Strand joined me.  In the Whispering Pines area we hiked up a drainage called Dude Creek.  The name of the creek was fitting for two guys exploring, and we tallied close to 60 species of birds.  A tally of seven Greater Pewee was incredible along Dude.  There were also some mini waterfalls, Elk, and a cooperative Band-tailed Pigeon.  The creek also held good Spotted Owl habitat.

The wilderness takes people to greatness.  If it weren't for wilderness, I'd be lost in life.  While this post has been a basic summary of my summer adventure, there was a lot more to it.  I contributed a few hundred checklists to eBird from the many hikes I did.  Some days I hiked from anywhere in between 15 and 20 miles.  The more I went, the more I craved to keep going.

Colcord Road is not only awesome in itself, but it is also the access point for several different roads that go further south into the Tonto National Forest.  Once such road is Forest Road 200, that is also known as Chamberlain Road.  One day I took Colcord Road to the east to access FR 200, and I took 200 south to an area that looked awesome on Google Maps.  This spot is called Haigler Creek, and I hiked down a side road labeled as FR 848 to the east from FR 200.  FR 848 was rough for my truck to trust, and I didn't mind a hike down into a canyon that the road led down into.  This canyon harbors Haigler Creek, and from the start I could tell it was scenic.  The creek was nestled down in between two steep slopes for it's duration, and the slopes held stands of thick Douglas fir and ponderosa pine.  I was impressed, and FR 848 continued to go further and eventually parallel both sides of Haigler Creek.  Crossing the creek was a must to explore the area, and it quickly became my favorite location that I birded all summer long due to it's scenic beauty, it's wonder and remoteness, and it's potential for the mountain forest birds that I love.  At this point it was in early August, and a lot of birds were quiet and weren't singing.  The canyon was creepy at times due to it's remoteness too.  There were many twists and turns, and who knows how many Mountain Lions live up on the steep ridges.  A noise above me turned out to be a memorable family of White-nosed Coati-an adult and four young troopers!

The Haigler Creek hike still has me.  I can't wait for next spring and summer when I can go back and fully detect breeding birds such as Red-faced Warbler, Painted Redstart, Spotted Owl, and Flammulated Owl in full numbers.

The best part of the Haigler Creek hike was this epic waterfall where the creek reached it's limit of running water.  Another creek flowed into Haigler Creek from a spot called Colcord Canyon (another spot to explore next summer).  The water flowed into Haigler in the form of this waterfall that was simple but yet astoundingly beautiful.  It was the best scene of my summer in birding in this high country, here is a video:

Once again, I really look forward to going back to Haigler Creek!  Other than my summer adventures, I enjoyed hearing and vicariously seeing adventures of others too.  My sister Talia was a perfect example, and she went on an awesome adventure herself.  She and her husband Tom journeyed across the United States and she got to see lots of amazing states, cities, and wilderness areas.  One place that she went for a few days was Yellowstone National Park.  She was hoping to see a lot of wildlife, especially bears.  Quite surprisingly, she didn't see any bears.  But she did cross paths with a Wolf!

Towards mid-August, I combined my forest birding with some lower elevation riparian birding.  The East Verde River north of Payson was a fun location to bird.  It holds potential for a variety of breeding, migratory, and wintering birdlife.  What got me stoked was a new Gila County lifebird in a Gray Catbird!  It popped out along the trail, gave it's namesake call several times, and sat up for a few pictures.  It was my 314th bird for Gila County.  

In The Gila has a few more posts that I plan to write soon with some exciting birds to be involved-I have to get this blog all caught up!