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.
Where a White-winged Scoter meets two Redheads
This Western Kingbird is quite happy with all the insects to catch!
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.
The many views of the Red-faced Warbler
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.