Friday, February 15, 2013

A trek to a snowy Mount Ord..

Hi everyone,

Yesterday on February 15th, 2013, I ventured out to the northeast part of Maricopa County primarily to explore Mount Ord.  On the way back I made stops at Sunflower and the Lower Salt River Recreation Area.  It turned out to be another good day of birding.

As I was approaching Mount Ord, I noticed there was a good amount of snow, even in the lower elevations when I was passing through Sunflower.  I figured I'd be in for an interesting outing.  Once I got on the road up to Mount Ord I realized the higher elevations were completely covered in high snow.  Luckily, the first three miles of the main road up the mountain were snow free.  Once I hit where side road 1688 is adjacent to the main road, the snow increased on the road and I didn't go any further.  Because I usually spend most of my time on Road 1688 anyways, this wasn't a problem.  I got out to rather windy conditions and the birds were rather hard to hear much of the time.  Most of 6-6200' Road 1688 was covered in snow and slippery ice, and I had to carefully stay on the soft snow to avoid an injury during the two mile duration of the road.  Despite the windy conditions, I was able to hear and see a few good birds on the mountain.  Shortly into starting on the walk, I got lucky and heard WHITE-BREASTED, a single RED-BREASTED, and a single PYGMY NUTHATCH.  The latter is pretty rare in Maricopa County but can usually be found throughout the year in the higher transition zones of the Mazatzal Mountains.  One HAIRY WOODPECKER was heard, and surprisingly I wasn't able to find any Acorn Woodpeckers which are usually seen along this road.  3 different OLIVE WARBLERS were heard giving their distinct and high pitched call note.  Olive Warblers have been very reliable on this mountain for the last three winters in solid numbers.  The best find of the hike came when I heard a few RED CROSSBILLS calling in different spots of the mountain.  If it hadn't been so windy, I'm sure more could've been heard.  A few years ago on Mount Ord, there were very high numbers of Red Crossbills, in which they were even breeding on this mountain.  Other good birds included JUNIPER and BRIDLED TITMICE, a flock of BUSHTITS, numerous DARK-EYED JUNCOS, 2 TOWNSEND'S SOLITAIRES, a small flock of WESTERN BLUEBIRDS, and a pair of CRISSAL THRASHERS at an elevation of over 6000'.  If anyone decides to come up to Mount Ord right now, remember the road is in good condition up to F.R. 1688, but do please be extremely careful if you walk on Road 1688.

Scenes from Mount Ord:

After Ord I stopped at Sunflower which was pretty quiet and an off-time for good bird activity.  I did get extremely lucky and I relocated Magill's WHITE-THROATED SPARROW just south of where I parked.  This bird was just sitting out in the open and ironically I didn't see any White-crowned Sparrows.  A BROWN CREEPER was also present nearby.

After making a few stops at the Salt River, my first good highlight came from the area came from Pebble Beach as I got good looks at the continuing RED-BREASTED SAPSUCKER.

Coon Bluff Recreation Site was next, where I heard a WINTER WREN calling from an "island" adjacent north from the parking lot.  This location can't be reached unless swimming across the Salt River.  Also present at Coon Bluff were a few NEOTROPIC CORMORANTS, CRISSAL THRASHER, WESTERN BLUEBIRD, and GRAY FLYCATCHER.

Granite Reef was my last stop.  Watching a pair of BALD EAGLES was thrilling, and a GREEN-TAILED TOWHEE came out of the thick brush and gave me a good look.  Granite Reef also had good numbers of COMMON MERGANSERS.  It was a full day of birding and a fun one!

Good Birding,

Tommy DeBardeleben (Glendale, Arizona)

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