Sunday, March 10, 2013

Birding the Salt River, Mesa, and Gilbert for a Day

Hi everyone,

Today on March 10th, 2013, I ventured out to the Salt River Recreation Area for an awesome day of birding.  I followed the Salt River up with visits to Red Mountain Park in Mesa and Gilbert Water Ranch.  Spring is now here as some of our breeders have arrived, always an awesome sight!  Mount Ord was my desired choice of birding today, but all one has to do is look at the white Mount Ord from the distance to see why I chose differently.

The Snowy Mount Ord

My first stop at the Salt River was at the Coon Bluff Recreation Area.  This area is extremely active in any morning I have started early.  Coon Bluff is probably the best place to see PHAINOPEPLAS in high numbers, who were everywhere.  VERMILION FLYCATCHERS were also everywhere, and this is another great bet for seeing Vermilions everywhere also.  I found several LUCY'S WARBLERS foraging in the mesquite bosque, which I located by hearing and following their callnote.  This was my first of probably many to come Lucy's Warblers for 2013.  Coon Bluff also had a fair number of NEOTROPIC CORMORANTS.  These cormorants have increased dramatically within the last year in the Salt River Area.  A juvenile BALD EAGLE flew through the area, and a flock of COMMON MERGANSERS swam down the river following the current.  A few GRAY FLYCATCHERS were in the mesquite bosque.  Hearing a GREEN-TAILED TOWHEE singing was a nice treat also.  A Coyote also was lurking around in the area.  In a few hours worth of birding at Coon Bluff, I tallied about 40 species.

The studly Vermilion

Common Merganser

Northern Rough-winged Swallow

Gray Flycatcher

The female Vermilion

Curve-billed Thrasher

The Neotrop

The lurking Coyote..

The awesomeness of Coon Bluff...

My next stop was at the Blue Point Recreation Area.  Before I birded Blue Point, I hopped across directly across the Bush Highway to see the continuing RED-BREASTED SAPSUCKER.  This was my 5th time seeing this wonderful bird, and I spent a good amount of time trying to photograph him.  He is relatively easy to find, but is very shy and hard to photograph.  After the Red-breasted Sapsucker, I hiked around Blue Point and enjoyed wintering visitors and resident desert birdlife.  LUCY'S WARBLERS were present here in good numbers, I counted 5-6 individuals.  They had begun singing too, always pleasant to hear and know the spring is now here.  A BROWN CREEPER working it's way from bottom to top in the mesquites was awesome to see.  Several COMMON MERGANSERS flew overhead.  A flock of DARK-EYED JUNCOS was in the mesquite bosque, and in the surrounding desert some of the birds included BLACK-TAILED GNATCATCHER, ANNA'S and COSTA's HUMMINGBIRDS, ROCK WREN, and BLACK-THROATED SPARROW.

The Red-breasted Sapsucker

The Brown Creeper

Black-tailed Gnatcatcher

Lucy's.....Year Bird!

I then drove to the Goldfield Recreation Site to find the gates closed to the area.  This entrance road however is home to an impressive stand of Teddy Bear Cholla, and it is worth looking at.  I parked and walked some of it.  I got lucky and saw 5 young BALD EAGLES flying around together.  Below the eagles were a few VIOLET-GREEN SWALLOWS.  Driving down the Bush Highway after Goldfield, I looked at a HARRIS'S HAWK for a few minutes that was perched on a pole roadside.

Two of the Bald Eagles

Teddy Bear Cholla!

Harris's Hawk

A brief stop at Phon D. Sutton Recreation Site produced two more BALD EAGLES, an adult and younger bird.  They were soaring high and were joined by a HARRIS'S HAWK.  Bald Eagles were very numerous today, I'm sure I saw duplicates as a lot of these recreation sites are not far apart from one another.

Common Merganser in flight

My final Salt River stop came at a birdy Granite Reef Recreation Site.  Highlights here among nearly 40 species included BALD EAGLE, closeup COMMON GOLDENEYES, a nice group of BUFFLEHEAD, and a few more LUCY'S WARBLERS.

Common Goldeneyes

Neotropic Cormorant

Double-crested Cormorant

The Salt River at Granite Reef with Four Peaks in the background

After Granite Reef, I headed over to Red Mountain Park for a few hopeful birds.  This park is an awesome city park that is more like a wildlife viewing area, and it holds excellent birding.  I wanted to visit with the resident and reliable Bendire's Thrashers in the park, and I was also hoping to see a Redhead that Laurence Butler found and photographed well.  This park is very reliable for finding Bendire's Thrashers, and within 10 minutes, I heard the loud song of the BENDIRE'S THRASHER.  I walked up to the bird singing on a light pole in the middle of people walking down the path.  It eventually flew up to a mesquite, where it continued to sing and provide good looks.  As I continued around the lake, I found Laurence's REDHEAD, who was a lone Redhead in midst of a large group of RING-NECKED DUCKS and a few LESSER SCAUP.  Red Mountain Park is very crowded in the middle of the day, I do recommend a morning visit, although the Bendire's could care less about what time of day it is it seems like.  There was also recently an eBird report of a Black-and-White Warbler here.  I didn't find the warbler, but there are plenty of tall trees in this park that would certainly hold this bird.

Bendire's Thrasher

Redhead and Ring-necked Ducks

After Red Mountain, I went to Gilbert Water Ranch.  It was birdy as usual at Gilbert.  My list in less than two hours was highlighted by my first and newly arrived BLACK-CHINNED HUMMINGBIRD of the year.  There was also a big increase in AMERICAN AVOCETS, who have all come into their fantastic breeding plumage.  I wasn't able to locate the recently reported Broad-billed Hummingbird or the wintering Winter Wren.  Another long but yet awesome day of birding!

Black-chinned Hummingbird

Northern Rough-winged Swallow in flight

American Avocet


  1. Wow and woah Tommy! That's a lot of spots! Granted they're close together but still, what a swell series of sites!

    Super shots again. You nailed those Thrashers and Harris's Hawk, along with the Cormorant, and there's lots of other great stuff too.
    *Incidentally, I've noticed lots of bird bloggers/nature photographers using the term 'crushed' when they photograph a bird really well, like, "Tommy totally crushed those Goldeneye." It's a bit violent-sounding for me, but hey if that's what the cool kids are doing these days...

    It's funny. Over at Coon Bluff last weekend I didn't see any Lucy's Warblers, though there were FOY W. Bluebirds. week-by-week in March is so much fun with all the changing birds!

    Love your epic posts! Cheers.

  2. Great post! And great to see some of the FOS birds that you got.