Monday, April 15, 2013

Prescott Birding-Once Again!

Hi everyone,

This weekend I spent a fun two days of birding and staying in the Prescott Area.  The trip was based around my friend getting married, but I got a lot of birding time in as well!  Bird highlights were very numerous on this trip, as I spent my birding time at Watson and Willow Lakes, and in the high elevation mountain forests.  From a rare duck to a few flashy mountain warblers, this trip was filled with excitement.

On April 13th, 2013, I arrived in Prescott at 6:30 A.M. and birded the area of Watson Lake for over three hours.  I met up with Laurence Butler and we birded the Watson Woods Riparian Preserve where Granite Creek runs through the Preserve, and along the eastern section of Watson Lake.  The eastern section of the lake can be covered easily from a trail called the Prescott Ravine Trail.  Parking here is two dollars.  Laurence and I then had many highlights throughout the preserve and by searching the lake.  The lake had an impressive 15 species of geese and ducks.  Out of the 15 species, this included our main target, which was a WHITE-WINGED SCOTER who has spent the winter on the lake.  After walking probably just over a mile on the Prescott Ravine Trail, Laurence and I spied the Scoter on the water in a still cove.   We managed to get fairly close to it, and it provided us with good and satisfying views.  We had both only seen this species one time prior to this one.  From what I heard, this Scoter spends most of its time on the northern section of the lake near the dam.  But luckily, it was further south when we found it, just over a mile from the start of the trail where the rock formations start to surround the lake.  With the Scoter was also a nice pair of REDHEADS.  With the two species swimming by each other, it was a sight.  Another great duck sighting we had was a drake WOOD DUCK perched on a log when the riparian woods meet the lake, and we were able to view him with great scope looks for a few minutes.  Other waterfowl on the lake included GADWALL, an AMERICAN WIGEON, CINNAMON and GREEN-WINGED TEAL, high numbers of NORTHERN SHOVELERS, CANVASBACKS, RING-NECKED DUCKS, LESSER SCAUP, BUFFLEHEADS, and plenty of RUDDY DUCKS.  A few CANADA GEESE were also present.  EARED GREBES were also present on the lake, and some were in nice breeding plumage.  Raptors present were singles of SHARP-SHINNED and COOPER'S HAWKS, and two RED-TAILED HAWKS (one of which was a juvenile flying in the Preserve during the morning and perching at close distances).  A single FRANKLIN'S GULL flew south down the lake.  Woodpecker wise, a HAIRY WOODPECKER was present in the Preserve.  Flycatcher highlights were a few WESTERN and CASSIN'S KINGBIRDS, as well as an ASH-THROATED FLYCATCHER.  A nice highlight for me was finding a NASHVILLE WARBLER in the Preserve when I arrived on site.  This bird was singing a lot, and it confused me at first because I haven't heard the species sing much.  A few LAZULI BUNTINGS buzzed in the area.  Also present was a BULLOCK'S ORIOLE and singing WESTERN MEADOWLARKS in the grassy areas surrounding the lake.  A few AMERICAN GOLDFINCHES that were close to being in breeding plumage were also present in the Preserve.  At the end of the stop, Laurence and I tallied about 70 species.

White-winged Scoter


Where a White-winged Scoter meets two Redheads

Red-tailed Hawk

This Western Kingbird is quite happy with all the insects to catch!

Watson Lake

Watson Woods Riparian Preserve meeting Watson Lake

Up next we went a short distance to bird Willow Lake.  The wind had picked up and it was very windy while we birded here.  We ran into Prescott birders Steve Burk and Keith Archibald, and they shared some of their awesome sightings with us.  Willow Lake had abundant numbers of waterfowl also, and was highlighted by a drake BLUE-WINGED TEAL to bring our waterfowl count between the two neighbor lakes to 16 species.  A NEOTROPIC CORMORANT, rare in this area, was present among the common DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANTS.  A ZONE-TAILED HAWK circled around the lake and made a few passes over us at close distance, and we also found a COOPER'S HAWK perched up on a rock.  Shorebirds around the lake were a LESSER YELLOWLEGS and two BLACK-NECKED STILTS.  A nice flock of at least 15 FRANKLIN'S GULLS were present as we scanned the waters, and they were joined by two CALIFORNIA GULLS.  Other highlights at Willow Lake during our time were BLACK-CHINNED HUMMINGBIRD, LADDER-BACKED WOODPECKER, WESTERN KINGBIRD, WESTERN SCRUB-JAY, BUSHTITS, MARSH WREN, BLUE-GRAY GNATCATCHER, and AMERICAN PIPITS.  Between the two stops, over 80 species were tallied before I had to head to the wedding in Skull Valley and Laurence had to head home.

California Gull

Cooper's Hawk

Zone-tailed Hawk

On April 14th, 2013, I started my day birding in the amazing forest and southern stretch of Walker Road.  My family kindly invited me to stay in a cabin with them in this area overnight, and when I drove through the area it really impressed me after I got done with the lakes.  I made my birding plans to bird this area on the morning of the 14th once I saw how nice the habitat was.  The habitat here that I covered was 6400-7100' in elevation, and was a very beautiful forest with a mix of ponderosa pine, Douglas fir, white fir, birch, and oak.  Several active streams and creeks were in the area, often along Walker Road.  The birds were very active and their weren't many dull moments.  My favorite highlight along this road in the 3.5 hours I birded it was my first RED-FACED WARBLER of the year.  I heard it singing and it eventually came out in the open and gave me amazingly stunning views.  This warbler was very cooperative for my binoculars and camera and it was probably the best sighting I've had of this southwestern warbler.  Another great warbler highlight came from another one of my favorites, the PAINTED REDSTARTS.  These birds were numerous along this road, and often showed off in front of me roadside, perching anywhere from 30 feet up in the trees to in the middle of Walker Road on the ground.  I also came upon a stretch of the road where OLIVE WARBLERS were numerous, as I probably had 6-7 individuals.  Several nice males put in good showings and were very vocal.  Both GRACE'S and VIRGINIA'S WARBLERS sang in the area also, especially close to the cabin where I was staying at.  I also had a migrant MACGILLIVRAY'S WARBLER along the road to join the warbler mix.  Warblers were the main highlight along Walker Road, but plenty of other forest birds were also present.  A male BROAD-TAILED HUMMINGBIRD trilled overhead.  ACORN and HAIRY WOODPECKERS were present in good numbers, as well as a few NORTHERN FLICKERS.  VIOLET-GREEN SWALLOWS flew overhead and into their nest cavities.  MOUNTAIN CHICKADEES were present in high numbers, and were easily viewed during the hike.  All three NUTHATCHES were present: PYGMY, RED-BREASTED, and WHITE-BREASTED.  Three BROWN CREEPERS were found in a nice shady stand of Douglas fir.  HOUSE WRENS were singing throughout the road also in high numbers, with some males perching high to sing.  PINE SISKINS were also abundant and often came down to drink in the creeks.  I found 32 species in this forest setting on Walker Road.  To reach this area, head south on Walker Road (same road where Lynx Lake Recreation Area is) for over seven miles until the pavement ends.  For four miles (miles 7 to 11), follow Walker Road south through through these forested habitats.  This is a dirt road, but it is in very good condition and is easy to drive on.  The only downside is that there is a lot of private property throughout the road on both sides.  If birding this stretch of the road, stay on the main Walker Road, which is what I did.  Birding is pleasant and great right alongside the road.  I found the Red-faced Warbler right after the pavement ends. I also think this road would probably be productive at night for Spotted, Saw-whet,and Flammulated Owls.  I'm still on a high from the birding on this awesome road!

The many views of the Red-faced Warbler

Red-faced's lunch

Painted Redstart

Olive Warbler

Red-breasted Nuthatch

Mountain Chickadee

Scenes from Walker Road

After birding Walker Road, I headed back to Willow and Watson Lakes to conclude my trip.  I stopped at Willow Lake first, where I spent about an hour scanning the south shore of the lake.  I quickly had a good highlight, as I spied two FORSTER'S TERNS sitting with a flock of FRANKLIN'S GULLS on a floating log in the water.  A ZONE-TAILED HAWK (probably the same one from yesterday) flew over the lake.  A WILSON'S SNIPE sprung out from the dense grass I was walking through to scan the lake, and scared the daylights out of me.  A VESPER SPARROW also flew out from the grass, and a few SAVANNAH SPARROWS were also present.  

Forster's Terns and Franklin's Gulls

My final stop of was finally once again at Watson Lake, where I began the trip.  This time, I was hoping to find a Common Black-Hawk at the Watson Lake Woods that birders have been seeing.  I saw a raptor soaring up high that I thought for sure was the Black-Hawk, but as I scanned the bird I saw that it was a young HARRIS'S HAWK.  Steve Burk informed me that Harris's Hawks are very rare in the Prescott area, so I am quite happy with the sighting!  Then a few minutes later, I did find the COMMON BLACK-HAWK that I was hoping for perched up in a cottonwood.  Waterfowl was numerous as usual as I walking along Watson Lake during this visit, but I didn't find the White-winged Scoter on this go-around.  Perhaps it went back up to the northern part of the lake.  New for the trip on this visit I added a calling SUMMER TANAGER in the Preserve.  

Harris's Hawk

Common Black-Hawk

Northern Shoveler

I once again enjoyed birding in the wonderful area of Prescott, which is now a birding patch I think I can do often with it being a very decent drive from home.  My trip list resulted in 107 species seen in the two days of birding.  Certainly a fun a memorable trip, and a highly recommended visit for those who haven't birded it!


  1. DUDE!

    Those Warblers are awesome. You nailed that Red-faced Warbler!
    The Hawk shots are tops too, and that Western Kingbird with the bugs is pretty great, but it is a rare thing indeed to see the Red-faced photographed so well!

    Nice work Tommy. It was fun to meet up in Prescott. I'm bummed I missed the Warbler fest on Sunday!

  2. Great shots! You had some great finds and the pics of the Red-faced Warbler are fantastic! It seems that the warblers are beginning to make their way through the area. I've been noticing lots of new characters in the trees:)

  3. Nice report. Explored Coon Bluff based on your blog last Saturday. What a nice place. Home in Massachusetts now where we had 68 species on our bird census at Great Meadows yesterday. It's nice to be back where I know the bird songs, but learning new birds in the Phoenix area was great. Back next year.