Monday, April 29, 2013

A weekend full of Owls and more in Southeastern Arizona

Hi everyone,

Sorry for the late report, but I just now had time to write it up.  On Friday, April 26th, 2013, Laurence Butler and I decided to head down to Southeastern Arizona in primary pursuit of the Crescent-chested Warbler when we saw the reports came in.  We originally planned on having a 24 hour big day in Maricopa County, but how often do you see a Crescent-chested Warbler!?  Our plans were reversed in the snap-of-a-second, and we headed south.  During our trip, we spent the night and owled at Mount Lemmon on the 26th, before continuing to the Huachucas on the 27th.  We joined forces with Mark Ochs and Nathan Williams, and the four of us spent our day birding in Miller and Ash Canyons, as well as the grasslands surrounding Sierra Vista.  We didn't get the Crescent-chested Warbler, but it was one of the funnest birding trips I've had.

Laurence and I arrived at Mount Lemmon around 8:30 P.M., where we spent over three hours owling throughout the many stops within the area.  We first started at Bear Canyon, in pursuit of Mexican Whip-poor-will and Flammulated Owl.  In this stretch, MEXICAN WHIP-POOR-WILLS ended up being numerous and were a pleasure to hear.  This was a lifer for both of us, and is probably the most overdue bird I haven't seen or heard prior to this night in Arizona.  We didn't get Flammulated Owl here, but we did hear a few WHISKERED SCREECH-OWLS.  There were a lot of cars traveling up the highway, and it made the night birding in Bear Canyon a challenge to hear things.  We then headed up to the Bear Wallow Picnic Area.  Almost immediately, we head a FLAMMULATED OWL calling fairly close and up a steep forested slope, one we wouldn't attempt to climb in the dark.  It was counter-calling with a second bird.  Walking further down the road, we had two more Flammulated Owls vocalizing.  None of them were close enough to chase in the dark.  After getting Flam, we headed back up the highway to bird the road that leads to Ski Valley.  Our primary target here was NORTHERN SAW-WHET OWL, who we heard calling once about a half-mile up the road.  This was also a life bird for both of us, and is also one I've been wanting for a long time.  Now I need to work hard on getting a visual.  There were also several GREAT HORNED OWLS in the area where we heard the Saw-whet Owl.  We camped out at the Mt. Bigelow Road, and Laurence heard another FLAMMULATED OWL a few times during the night, making our count 5 birds for the species.

On the 27th, we woke up at 3:30 A.M. and headed for Miller Canyon.  We hoped the Crescent-chested Warbler would find our binoculars as we made our way to the Huachucas.  Once we got there, there were plenty of other birders looking for the warbler, and we joined Mark Ochs and Nathan Williams for the remainder of the day.  Birders walked up and down Miller looking for the warbler without luck.  When I was walking by a birder from California who was familiar with the Crescent-chested Warbler's vocalizations, we both heard what we were almost certain was the bird singing once briefly by Split Rock.  It didn't vocalize again, but it sounded perfect for the bird.  There was a mixed-flock of birds around when this situation happened, and none of the birders found the target bird.  Hopefully the bird is still in the canyon somewhere and will re-surface again.  Other than missing the warbler, Miller Canyon was hopping with incredible birding.  My highlight of the trip came in finally getting to see the SPOTTED OWL.  This was my sixth or seventh attempt at Spotted Owl in the Canyon, and it was a life bird I felt like I've already had.  It sat in it's favorite cherry tree, and provided many birders with awesome views.  This bird is no longer a nemesis of mine!  Another awesome highlight was a NORTHERN PYGMY-OWL that Kurt Radamaker found in a hole.  I've never seen a Pygmy-Owl in a cavity, and it was also an awesome highlight.  Another crowd pleasing bird were three different BUFF-BREASTED FLYCATCHERS in the canyon, with two of them being up from Split Rock.  One of them was cooperative for many and was a lifer for quite a few people in the group, only the second time I've seen this SE AZ specialty.  Miller Canyon also produced highlights of WHITE-THROATED SWIFT, MAGNIFICENT HUMMINGBIRDS, ARIZONA WOODPECKERS, 3-4 GREATER PEWEES singing "Jose Maria", WESTERN WOOD-PEWEE, HAMMOND'S, DUSKY, and CORDILLERAN FLYCATCHERS; DUSKY-CAPPED FLYCATCHERS, PLUMBEOUS, CASSIN'S, HUTTON'S, and WARBLING VIREOS; RED and WHITE-BREASTED NUTHATCHES, ORANGE-CROWNED, NASHVILLE, VIRGINIA'S, YELLOW-RUMPED, GRACE'S, BLACK-THROATED GRAY, TOWNSENDS, WILSON'S, and RED-FACED WARBLERS; PAINTED REDSTART (10 warbler day still), RUFOUS-CROWNED SPARROW, HEPATIC TANAGER, BLACK-HEADED GROSBEAK, LAZULI BUNTING, and SCOTT'S ORIOLE.  The four of us then headed over to the hummingbird feeding station.  We found the female BLUE-THROATED HUMMINGBIRD, which was the main highlight while sitting at the feeders.  A hyped up PHOENICIAN KINGBIRD also made an appearance.  We spent almost five hours at the canyon.

Spotted Owl (finally!)

Northern Pygmy-Owl

Magnificent Hummingbird

Rock Wren

Buff-breasted Flycatcher

Townsend's Warbler

Phoenician Kingbird (seen by only a few lucky birders)

We then headed to Mary Jo's awesome feeders at Ash Canyon Bed and Breakfast.  We went there hoping for Lucifer Hummingbird, who never came in for an appearance.  There were many birds there at the feeders to entertain us and the other birders present.  Highlights included COOPER'S HAWK, MAGNIFICENT HUMMINGBIRD, ARIZONA WOODPECKER, GREEN-TAILED TOWHEE, LARK SPARROWS, WESTERN TANAGER, abundant BLACK-HEADED GROSBEAKS, abundant LAZULI BUNTINGS with a few INDIGO BUNTINGS in the flock, and BULLOCK'S and SCOTT'S ORIOLES.

Black-headed Grosbeak

 Lark Sparrow

 Lazuli Bunting

 Scott's Oriole

Between a few stops at Mary Jo's, Laurence, Mark, Nathan and I also went to a few grassland areas in Sierra Vista to look for SCALED QUAIL.  This is also a species we haven't seen much of, and Mark quickly found an individual as we started walking through the grass.  It popped up for us at close range, and we had excellent views of this cool quail.  Also in the area was a pair of SWAINSON'S HAWKS, who we had excellent looks at also.  Both birds were perched along the road we were on but on opposite sides of the road before they joined each other.  A PYRRHULOXIA was heard and seen also.   Heading home, a few LESSER NIGHTHAWKS were seen.

Scaled Quail

The Scaled Quail celebration!

Swainson's Hawks

It was another fantastic birding day in Southeastern Arizona.  I would also like to thank Tom Beatty Sr. and Mary Jo for their awesome hospitality, birding knowledge, and birding locations!

Good Birding,


Thursday, April 25, 2013

A Yavapai County Birding Loop....

Hi everyone,

I did more exploring in Yavapai County on April 23rd, 2013, as I covered the areas of Congress, Yarnell, and Prescott.  Sorry for the late report, I just have now had the time to complete this write up.  It was an excellent day of birding, and the Congress and Yarnell areas were new "location lifers" for me.  I decided to complete the loop by heading to Congress from Wickenburg and then north to Yarnell and Prescott, and then I headed back to Phoenix from the I-17.

My first stop was at the town of Congress to explore the desert habitats and surrounding neighborhood communities.  When I was on my way there and was just starting to head north  on Highway 89, I found a HARRIS'S HAWK perched on a roadside telephone pole, only a few miles north of the junction of Highways 93 and 89.  I have heard that Congress is a reliable location to see Pyrrhuloxias, and because I don't see that bird too often, I wanted to see and photograph a few of them.  Well, the Pyrrhuloxias eluded me, and I wasn't able to find any of them.  There were plenty of NORTHERN CARDINALS however.  But the other birds in the area didn't disappoint, and I had quite a few highlights despite missing my main target.  Highlights among 37 species included a few INCA DOVES, COSTA'S HUMMINGBIRDS, GILDED FLICKER, a GRAY FLYCATCHER, my first BROWN-CRESTED FLYCATCHER of the year, WESTERN KINGBIRDS, BELL'S VIREO, a single WARBLING VIREO, LARK SPARROWS, LAZULI BUNTINGS, a single female YELLOW-HEADED BLACKBIRD, 2 BRONZED COWBIRDS, and good numbers of BULLOCK'S and HOODED ORIOLES in one of the neighborhoods.  In Congress the places I birded were:  Several stops off of Ghost Town Road including Tenderfoot Park (Ghost Town road is just west after turning on Highway 71 immediately past the railroad tracks), and the neighborhood streets and desert habitats off of S. Paso Drive, which is a mile or so west of Ghost Town Road and is also found off of Highway 71.  Thank you to Steve Burk for telling me about these birding spots in Congress.

Harris's Hawk

Canyon Towhee

Lark Sparrow


After Congress, I continued up Highway 89 and made the small town of Yarnell my second stop of the day.  This is an awesome area, and has great potential.  I birded Yarnell on Shrine Road and also at Flora May Park (which is accessed easily after turning on Shrine Road from Highway 89).  This area has good habitat of middle elevations with some oaks and junipers in the surrounding area.  Flora May Park is an attractive riparian area with nice willows and cottonwoods.  Highlights at Yarnell among 30 species recorded 2 COOPER'S HAWKS up close, a DUSKY FLYCATCHER, ASH-THROATED FLYCATCHER, a few CASSIN'S KINGBIRDS, WESTERN SCRUB-JAYS, BRIDLED TITMOUSE, BUSHTIT, LINCOLN'S SPARROW, 2 SUMMER TANAGERS, my first few BLACK-HEADED GROSBEAKS of the year, LAZULI BUNTING, BULLOCK'S ORIOLE, and PINE SISKIN.  I think this area is probably productive all year long, I'm sure winter brings in many goodies here.  Thank you to Melanie Herring for telling me about these birding locations in Yarnell.

Cooper's Hawk

Cassin's Kingbird


From Yarnell, I continued on Highway 89 all the way to Prescott.  From this point, it was a very scenic and fun drive all the way up into the transition zones.  The road is very windy with slow driving speeds as the elevation climbs up.  There are many pull offs when the road nears Prescott, which would make a productive birding route.  Shortly outside of Yarnell to the north, I also passed through Peeples Valley.  This area also really impressed me, as there are large open grasslands with nice cottonwood stands alongside the highway that can be birded by pulling off the highway.  This area is probably very good in winter for sparrows and raptors.  Driving through this area and getting out for a few minutes I was happy to find a SWAINSON'S HAWK, and singing HORNED LARKS and WESTERN MEADOWLARKS.  The cottonwood stands are an obvious source for migrants passing overhead, I wish I would've stopped at this location longer.

Once in the awesome Prescott, I decided to bird Willow and Watson Lakes.  I stopped at Willow Lake first, where I had many good highlights.  The best highlight I had here and for the entire day was an adult COMMON LOON in breeding plumage.  It was a big deal for me, because I have never seen a single loon in breeding plumage prior to this individual.  I had great scope looks at the Loon and managed distant but diagnostic pictures.  Waterfowl has decreased dramatically from my first visit here earlier this month, but the diversity of species is still good which numbered 13 species.  New to the list was a drake NORTHERN PINTAIL.  10 EARED GREBES and 5 WESTERN GREBES were on the lake.  8 WHITE-FACED IBIS foraged along the edges of the lake.  A nice surprise came when a VIRGINIA RAIL came out of the marshy lake edges for a few seconds.  I saw the bird and it quickly departed before I could get binocular looks.  One of the better highlights were my first two SEMIPALMATED PLOVERS of the year.  They were also joined by WESTERN and LEAST SANDPIPERS, as well as LONG-BILLED DOWITCHERS.  My second favorite sighting of the day came from a sandbar that held 4 CASPIAN TERNS, 4 FORESTER'S TERNS, and 2 BONAPARTE'S GULLS.  The first and latter were year birds for me and I also haven't seen the latter in Arizona in 2.5 years!  Other highlights among 66 species present at Willow Lake included HAMMOND'S and DUSKY FLYCATCHERS, CASSIN'S and WESTERN KINGBIRDS, YELLOW-HEADED BLACKBIRDS, and BULLOCK'S ORIOLE.

The awesome Common Loon!  Highlight of the day!

Semipalmated Plover

Caspian Terns, Bonaparte's Gulls, Forester's Terns, Ring-billed Gulls

Western Sandpiper

Forester's Tern

Shorebird flock


My last stop of the day was at Lynx Lake.  It was rather quiet here due to the later hours in the day, but highlights included a group of EARED GREBES up close, OSPREY, ACORN and HAIRY WOODPECKERS, PLUMBEOUS VIREO, WHITE-BREASTED and PYGMY NUTHATCHES, a TOWNSEND'S SOLITAIRE, and GRACE'S WARBLER and PAINTED REDSTART.

Eared Grebes!!  How do you get close to an Eared Grebe?  When you see that they are close to shore, wait until they dive.  Once they dive, run close to the shore and sit still.  They won't freak out if you sit still.  This is how I did it.

Acorn Woodpecker

Lynx Lake...a good way to close out a day of birding!

My day of birding in Yavapai County resulted in 122 species tallied.  Another fun birding day.

Gavia immer,

Tommy DeBardeleben

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Birding the Prescott Area for the 3rd recent time..

Hi everyone,

I made another visit to bird the awesome Prescott area yesterday on April 19th, 2013.  This place is addicting to bird, and I keep on wanting to go back the second I have to go back to Glendale.  Yesterday the birding fun continued for me in this awesome area in a full 11 hour day of birding.  The birds were abundant and there was never a dull second in the four stops I made and birded during the day.  Two new stops were made for me on this route, which was the Kendall Camp Trail and Granite Basin Lake.  Those two locations were followed my another visit to both Willow and Watson Lakes.  

My first stop of the day was at the Kendall Camp Trail, which can be accessed by driving south for just over seven miles south on the Senator Highway off a dirt road.  This is a very nice birding area with good potential.  The Hassayampa River runs through this area, and creates a pleasant birding experience.  In the immediate area of the Kendall Camp Trail, the ponderosa pines are joined by both Douglas and white fir, a few aspens, and oaks.  I hiked the trail for about a mile, which was filled with birds and I was able to find my target plus many more goodies.  My target bird here was Greater Pewee, which are found reliably in this location by Prescott birders.  As I hiked up the trail and was coming close to the fences of Kendall Camp, I heard the "Jose-Maria" call of the GREATER PEWEE.  I quickly went in the direction of the song, and I eventually saw the Greater Pewee singing on top of the snag.  It was a big thrill for me, and this is a species I don't ever see often at all.  The Greater Pewee stayed high and had a few perches it flew back and fourth too a considerable distance apart where it sang frequently.  Another Greater Pewee sang below the first on a forested slope.  I have decided to name all Greater Pewee males Jose and the females Maria, at least the ones I encounter in the field!  Certainly a cool bird.  Besides Jose, I encountered plenty of other cool birds on the Kendall Camp Trail.  One was hearing a WILD TURKEY calling, which I didn't expect to hear.  A small flock of BAND-TAILED PIGEONS flew by at close distances.  BLACK-CHINNED and BROAD-TAILED HUMMINGBIRDS were both present.  There were also four DUSKY FLYCATCHERS in song during the course of my hike, most singing on the top of conifers.  4-5 PLUMBEOUS VIREOS were scattered throughout the trail, and a single HUTTON'S VIREO sang it's simple song a few times.  VIOLET-GREEN SWALLOWS flew around above the trees.  All three NUTHATCHES were present: Pygmy, Red and White-breasted.  I also enjoyed hearing a few HERMIT THRUSHES in song.  This is one of my favorite birds to listen to, and it was the first time this year I have been able to do so.  VIRGINIA'S and GRACE'S WARBLERS were common on the trail, and I was able to find a one PAINTED REDSTART.  PINE SISKINS were very common, and a RED CROSSBILL flew over calling.  In over two hours of birding at the pleasant Kendall Camp, I found 34 species.  

Greater Pewee

Kendall Camp Views

Next up was my first visit to the Granite Basin Recreation Area to bird Granite Basin Lake.  I stopped here for almost two hours to explore the area, which I was impressed with.  The habitat here is high chaparral, rocky habitats, and ponderosa pine forests.  The small Granite Basin Lake has nice willow/cottonwood riparian habitat surrounding the lake.  There are many trail options to hike in this area, which makes it a popular destination throughout the year.  When I got out of the truck, the songs of CANYON WRENS and BLACK-CHINNED SPARROWS were the first birds I heard.  They were 2 of the 42 species I recorded in this area.  Other highlights at Granite Basin Lake included an AMERICAN WIGEON on the small lake, BLACK-CHINNED and ANNA'S HUMMINGBIRDS, ACORN and HAIRY WOODPECKERS, a DUSKY FLYCATCHER, BLACK PHOEBE, ASH-THROATED FLYCATCHER, HUTTON'S VIREO, WESTERN SCRUB-JAYS, MOUNTAIN CHICKADEE, BUSHTITS, JUNIPER TITMOUSE, BEWICK'S WRENS, LUCY'S, VIRGINIA'S, YELLOW-RUMPED, GRACE'S, and YELLOW WARBLERS; LINCOLN'S SPARROW, and LAZULI BUNTING.

Woodhouse's Scrub-Jay

Granite Basin Lake

After Granite Basin, my third stop of the day was at a very birdy Willow Lake, where birded at for over three hours.  This lake birding wise is almost like the Gilbert Water Ranch or Sweetwater Wetlands of Prescott.  Things constantly change here by the day.  Right off the bat on this visit, I had a very nice highlight when I started at the north end of the lake by the boat ramp.  A flock of FRANKLIN'S GULLS floated on the water at very close distances at times.  They were a treat to see, and at one time I counted 25 Franklin's Gulls in the group at once.  From here I started to work my way around the lake.  A good diversity of waterfowl is still present, but the numbers are decreasing dramatically.  13 species of geese/ducks were represented best by two pairs of BLUE-WINGED TEAL, a few CANVASBACKS and REDHEADS, and BUFFLEHEADS.  About ten EARED GREBES were on the lake, as was a single WESTERN GREBE.  One NEOTROPIC CORMORANT (possibly two) was at the lake in midst of the common DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANT.  A few GREAT and SNOWY EGRETS were on the lake, and a few birders also saw a rare-in-Prescott Cattle Egret.  Raptors were represented by OSPREY, COOPERS, SHARP-SHINNED, RED-TAILED, and ZONE-TAILED HAWKS.  Shorebird highlights included three WILSON'S PHALAROPES, three LONG-BILLED DOWITCHERS, 4 BLACK-NECKED STILTS, and 4-5 LESSER YELLOWLEGS.  Both WESTERN and CASSIN'S KINGBIRDS were present.  A PLUMBEOUS VIREO foraged in a big stand of cottonwoods located at the western end of the lake, where a few CEDAR WAXWINGS were heard calling.  A CANYON TOWHEE was present near the north parking area.  Sparrows were found in SAVANNAH, LARK, BREWERS, CHIPPING, LINCOLN'S, and WHITE-CROWNED SPARROWS.  7-8 YELLOW-HEADED BLACKBIRDS in reeds around the lake was nice to see, and a male BULLOCK'S ORIOLE was present in the cottonwoods.  A very productive visit at Willow Lake once again produced 77 species in the 3.5 hours.

Franklin's Gulls

Wilson's Phalarope

Blue-winged Teals

Bullock's Oriole

Yellow-headed Blackbird

My final stop of the day was at Watson Lake, which is just east of Willow Lake.  It was a very productive visit here birding wise as well.  11 ducks/geese were present here through my eyes, and I wasn't able to find the recent White-winged Scoter.  2 WESTERN GREBES found the lake.  When I walked down the Prescott Peavine Trail (which travels along the east side of Watson Lake), I came up upon a cove that held 10 more FRANKLIN'S GULLS.  Between here and Willow Lake, I had at least 35 birds.  Swallows put on a good show here, which included my first BANK SWALLOW of the year, and a single BARN SWALLOW among the 6 species.  BRIDLED and JUNIPER TITMICE were present along the trail.  A CRISSAL THRASHER also called from a nearby hill.  A sparrow highlight for me was a single RUFOUS-CROWNED SPARROW along the trail.  An EASTERN "LILLIAN'S" MEADOWLARK flew by and gave it's "zeet" call on my way back.  I had a total of 67 species at Willow Lake, which had a similar bird list overall to that of Willow Lake with a few differences.  Between these two neighbor lakes, I had 97 species.  Certainly an extremely productive area right in the heart of the town of Prescott.

Rufous-crowned Sparrow

Watson Lake

I ended the day in Prescott with a total of 119 species recorded in the four stops made, all within a rather short distance of each other.  It was a great day to be out birding in a great area.  The Prescott Audubon Society has an excellent website, which has a guide to the area's birding hotspots on it.  This guide covers the areas I have covered in my last three visits here, and it gives great directions and information about the birds and hotspots.  I have included a link to this guide from the Prescott Audubon Society at the link below:

Jose Maria,

Tommy DeBardeleben (Glendale, Arizona)