Yesterday on April 4th, 2013, Dominic Sherony and I explored the area of Wickenburg, the Hassayampa River Preserve, and Lake Pleasant. It was a good day of birding and we saw an increase in migrants.
We started off our day by birding off of Jack Burden Road, which is accessed in Wickenburg right by the McDonald's in town. We traveled north up this road for a few miles, where birding was good. There is a ranch you drive by and then along the west side of the road are nice mesquite bosques and several willow stands. This road starts off in Maricopa County and then continues into Yavapai County. Raptors were the main highlight here. Most unexpected was a perched SWAINSON'S HAWK along the road, which was a young light-morph bird. We also encountered two GRAY HAWKS in one of the willow groves. One of the willow groves also held a COOPER'S HAWK sitting on a nest. A SHARP-SHINNED HAWK also flew by. The mesquite bosques were filled with abundant VERMILION FLYCATCHERS, LUCY'S WARBLERS, and BELL'S VIREOS. ASH-THROATED FLYCATCHERS were also numerous along this stretch, and a single SUMMER TANAGER was heard calling.
Nesting Cooper's Hawk
The pleasant habitat along Jack Burden
We then went to the Hassayampa River Preserve and birded for 3.5 hours. The Preserve was birdy as usual, and we recorded 44 species in our time spent there. Raptors here were a good highlight also. The GRAY HAWKS could be heard calling throughout the morning, and we caught a glimpse of one of them along the Lion Trail. Also present was a COMMON BLACK-HAWK along the River Ramble Trail. We also oddly had the continuing immature DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANT on Palm Lake, who has frequented the Hassayampa River for several weeks now. A nice surprise also came in a WHITE-THROATED SWIFT who rather low overhead. Vireos were numerous throughout Hassayampa, which included common numbers of BELL'S VIREOS, three different HUTTON'S VIREOS, three WARBLING VIREOS, and four singing "Solitary" Vireos with only one visual of what ended up being a PLUMBEOUS VIREO. Most of the Solitary Vireos were well off the trail. The CANYON WREN sang in it's usual spot by the visitor center. Five or more HERMIT THRUSHES and a nice flock of CEDAR WAXWINGS were along the Palm Lake Loop. Other good highlights included our year's first BULLOCK'S and HOODED ORIOLES, as well as the LAWRENCE'S GOLDFINCHES along the Mesquite Meander in midst of the tall cottonwoods.
From Hassayampa we went to Lake Pleasant and birding as much of the lake as we possible could, which is in both Maricopa and Yavapai Counties. We had several good highlights here, although the bird numbers on the lake were down. Our favorite sighting was finding a FRANKLIN'S GULL by scanning at the staff headquarters, which is east of Scorpion Bay. This gull took off shortly after it was spotted, and flew to the northern part of the lake. We kept our optics on the bird as it flew north. Another highlight we had were 5 HORNED GREBES off of Scorpion Bay. Several of them have come into their amazing breeding plumage, which I have never seen before! It was quite the treat for me to be able to see it. About 10 RING-BILLED GULLS were scattered throughout the lake. At the north side of the lake in Yavapai County, we found two NEOTROPIC CORMORANTS and a WESTERN GREBE. Other than these highlights there wasn't much else on the water at Lake Pleasant. The day was overall a success and was a good one to be out birding!
Horned Grebes (distant shot!)