Thursday, April 4, 2013

Birding Mount Ord and Sunflower (A day of Warblers, Hawks, and Nuthatches)

Hi everyone,

Yesterday I headed up to the northeastern corner of Maricopa County to explore Mount Ord and Sunflower.  As usual, these two locations in this amazing area always hold  a great day of birding.  By the end of the day, I was happy with the results.

I started the day off at Mount Ord at 7:15 A.M., where I spent close to seven hours birding the mountain in the higher elevations.  This included Forest Road 1688, the area near the summit, and some of the forest on the eastern side of the mountain in Gila County.  The entire time was filled with birds, and there was rarely a dull moment.  Raptor highlights included a GOLDEN EAGLE perched in the distance along it's favorite ridge, and a ZONE-TAILED HAWK also cruised by.  A NORTHERN PYGMY-OWL called on one of the slopes, but this time I just decided to listen to it rather than give it a steep chase.  I also had a WHITE-THROATED SWIFT while walking up to the summit, a species I believe I've never had on Mount Ord.  BROAD-TAILED HUMMINGBIRDS have returned to the mountain, as I counted at least 5 birds.  A male RUFOUS HUMMINGBIRD also put in an appearance.  Woodpeckers were best represented by 5 ACORN and 8 HAIRY WOODPECKERS.  2 HUTTON'S VIREOS were singing near the start of Road 1688 during the time that I spent there.  Near the summit of Ord, VIOLET-GREEN SWALLOWS are in abundance and moving into their nesting holes.  BRIDLED TITMOUSE was also plentiful, as well as a few JUNIPER TITMOUSE.  All three NUTHATCHES: Red-breasted, Pygmy, and White-breasted were once again present on the mountain a gave me a good nuthatch show.  These three species all gave me awesome and close up views throughout the day.  BEWICK'S WRENS and BLACK-TAILED GNATCATCHERS are of course in abundance right now on the mountain, as well as SPOTTED TOWHEES.  Near the summit of Ord were a few WESTERN BLUEBIRDS, in which a small number of these cool birds breed here annually.  Warblers were probably the main highlight from the adventure at Mount Ord.  Returning warblers to the mountain came in high numbers of BLACK-THROATED GRAY WARBLERS, at least five GRACE'S WARBLERS, and four VIRGINIA'S WARBLERS.  The latter two were year firsts for me, and Mount Ord is always an excellent place to see them.  There were also at least four OLIVE WARBLERS on the mountain, including good views of two females near the summit.  They were giving a series of quiet callnotes I have never heard an Olive Warbler give before while they were foraging.  PAINTED REDSTARTS were also showy and pleasing, which is one of my favorite warblers.  Sparrow highlights included BLACK-CHINNED and RUFOUS-CROWNED SPARROWS in the chaparral habitats, and a few singing CHIPPING SPARROWS near the summit.  I left Mount Ord with almost 40 species recorded.

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

Olive Warbler (female)

Grace's Warbler

Painted Redstart

Virginia's Warbler

Black-throated Gray Warbler

Bridled Titmouse

Western Bluebird

Violet-green Swallow

And how about a three Nuthatch day in Maricopa County!

Here is the White-breasted Nuthatch, the most common

Here are two Pygmy Nuthatches, which are pretty rare and scarce in Maricopa County

And here is my favorite of the trio, the Red-breasted Nuthatch, who sounds like a small trumpet..

Mount Ord is my favorite birding location.  I take it all in every visit.

I still miss it even when I get down to Sunflower.

The next stop was at a birdy Sunflower, which also always has great birds to see.  The best bird I had at this location was a COMMON BLACK-HAWK perched right alongside the road.  This was probably the best I've seen of a Black-Hawk, and it gave me an awesome chance to see it.  Further north, I had a different Black-Hawk soaring in the distance, prior to the awesome roadside sighting to put this one to shame.  Walking up the Old Beeline Highway, I also had great looks at a perched COOPER'S HAWK up close and in the open.  A ZONE-TAILED HAWK flew high overhead, none were close to the road.  Getting my first CASSIN'S KINGBIRD of the year as I was driving out was also a good sighting.  Also of interest was a single TOWNSEND'S SOLITAIRE.  I spent about two hours at Sunflower before calling it a day.

Common Black-Hawk

Cooper's Hawk

Luckily I wasn't under this Cooper's when he decided to poop.

Yellow Warbler

Cassin's Kingbird

Lucy's Warbler

Sunflower is a nice looking place too.

Good birding,

Tommy D


  1. You got some awesome photos on this trip! And nice to see photos of the Virginia and Olive Warblers! Guess I need another trip back up there. The Black Hawk was absent both days last weekend, so do not know where it was, but really glad to see you find it again! Nice post!

  2. Great post Tommy.
    It looks like you got up and close to these birds on Mt. Ord for some sweet photos, especially of the little guys. I guess they must all be used to you up there by now? : )

    Heck, you just mentioned another half-dozen year birds; maybe I should hang all the other possibilities for this weekend and practice Ording.

    Thanks for sharing.

  3. A really nice post and nice timing for me. I'm from Boston visiting my daughter in New River and plan to make my first visit to Ord on Saturday. I did Jewel of the Creek yesterday and Lake Pleasant the day before.