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

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