Friday, July 15, 2011

Bushnell Tanks and Mount Ord

Photographic Highlight....a nice male Indigo Bunting!

Hi everyone,

Today on July 15th, 2011, I ventured out to the northeastern part of 
Maricopa County to explore after some of the best areas had been closed 
off because of fire dangers.  I found out they opened the closed areas on 
Wednesday, and I was ready to be back in the area birding again.  More 
than just ready, I was pumped.  I made my inaugural visit to the Bushnell 
Tanks area followed by Mount Ord in my expedition.  

For a first time visit to Bushnell Tanks, I was very impressed with the 
area.  It's across the Highway from Sunflower or better called, the Old 
Beeline Highway.  It's very similiar in ways to Sunflower, only with very 
few willows and cottonwoods, and some mesquite.  Great sycamore habitat is 
the primary habitat here along Sycamore Creek (including old growth 
sycamores).  I enjoyed 40 different species here today, and I certainly 
look forward to birding this spot in the future in what has a lot of 
potential.  Raptor wise this morning, it was similiar to a Sunflower 
morning.  I had two COMMON BLACK-HAWKS here.  One was calling in the 
sycamores while the other was flying around on the hillsides.  ZONE-TAILED 
HAWKS were easily seen, as I found two adult birds as well as a nice and 
close look at a juvenile.  I heard three different COSTA'S HUMMINGBIRDS, 
which this area in general is usually very good for this species.  
Flycatcher wise, BROWN-CRESTED FLYCATCHERS were everywhere, as well as 
CASSIN'S KINGBIRDS with also a single WESTERN KINGBIRD.  Juniper hillsides 
surround this entire area, which is great habitat for GRAY VIREO, in which 
two were singing this morning.  A single BLUE-GRAY GNATCATCHER was also 
present.  Another highlight I had were three INDIGO BUNTINGS singing.  I 
got good looks at two of them, both pure males.  I then found a LAZULI X 
INDIGO BUNTING hybrid, which sang a very odd song.  I headed to Mount Ord 
after birding the Tanks for two hours, forty minutes starting at 5:45 A.M.

I arrived at Mount Ord's side road, 1688 at 8:45 A.M., which is the road 
that runs south into Maricopa County, when one first hits the pines when 
coming up the mountain dirt road.  A CASSIN'S KINGBIRD perched on a fence 
on my way up.  I birded Mount Ord for over four hours all along Road 1688 
as well as the summit area on the Maricopa County side.  Numbers were way 
down today, as a lot of Mount Ord's usual residents were rather quiet.  
Some were still active though to entertain, and maybe I just got here a 
little too late for some of the species.  On Road 1688, I had two ZONE-
TAILED HAWKS soaring overhead throughout the hike.  Woodpeckers today 
consisted of two HAIRY and two ACORN WOODPECKERS, as well as a 
FLYCATCHERS were everywhere, as at the entrance to 1688, I had a family of 
four.  Four WESTERN WOOD-PEWEES were also along the stretch.  In the same 
area, a curious JUNIPER TITMOUSE made a close appearance.  I had more 
WHITE-BREASTED NUTHATCHES this trip, and a heard-only of only one RED-
BREASTED NUTHATCH (I had none on my June trip).  Several PHAINOPEPLAS were 
present along the road, which I never had them this high up on Ord until 
last month.  The usual Warblers were very scarce today, especially on Road 
1688, only singles of GRACE'S, VIRGINIA'S, and BLACK-THROATED GRAY-
present (two singing), as well as at least three singing WESTERN 
TANAGERS.  As I moved to the summit of Mount Ord, I still managed to find 
some of the scarce summer species in Maricopa County.  CHIPPING SPARROWS 
were present, as I had a good amount of probably at least ten, I observed 
adult and juvenile birds.  A single HOUSE WREN was present as well as a 
single male WESTERN BLUEBIRD.  VIOLET-GREEN SWALLOWS flew in the sky 
overhead, and there were great numbers of BLACK-THROATED GRAY WARBLERS up 
here in the early afternoon (compared to only one on 1688).  A very 
unusual sighting for me up here came when I found two RUFOUS-CROWNED 
SPARROWS, an adult with a juvenile bird.  They were near the summit at the 
7000 foot range, in the green understory in midst of the pine and oaks.  
I've never had them this high, and it seems like the completely wrong 
place for them.  I also heard an individual singing near the summit in 
appropriate habitat, where the forests end and the hillside is rocky and 
open.  Perhaps the two forest dwelling birds are sick of the summer.  I 
recorded 35 species at Mount Ord, 63 for the day.