Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The epic Prescott!! My fifth visit.

Hi everyone,

Sorry for the late post.  After nearly a month after my last visit to Prescott, I made it back up to this awesome area again on Tuesday, May 21st, 2013.  It was birdy as usual, and I spent my time at Willow, Watson, and Lynx Lakes, as well as the southern stretch of Walker Road.

My first stop was at Willow Lake for over two hours.  My main target here was a WHITE-TAILED KITE, which an individual has been observed here for nearly the last month on a regular basis.  After 1.5 hours, I spotted my target, who was perched on an island in the reservoir.  The Kite stayed perched here for some time before hunting along the northwestern section of the lake briefly before returning to it's perch.  Based on the reports I have read, this bird has tended to stay more on the southern shore of the lake, where I was scanning from rather than the northwestern section of the lake.  This bird was a treat to see, rare in the Prescott area, and one I don't see too often in general.  Scanning Willow Lake, most of the abundance of waterfowl has departed, although there are still some lingering species, including a few REDHEADS.  Two NEOTROPIC CORMORANTS were found in midst of the DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANTS.  A nice surprise for me was a single AMERICAN WHITE PELICAN lazily floating on the lake.  I was hoping for a few terns and gulls, but the only one present was a single RING-BILLED GULL.  When I was walking to the lake upon my arrival, a male BLUE GROSBEAK was nice to see.  I recorded 40 species in the stop at Willow Lake.

Up next was a 1.2 hour visit to Watson Lake and the Watson Woods Riparian Preserve.  It was a productive visit to this location, which produced 48 different species.  The best highlight was encountering 3 WOOD DUCKS (2 drakes, 1 hen) up close at a pond in the Watson Woods Preserve.  On the lake, a pair of lingering BUFFLEHEADS were also noteworthy.  I didn't have much in the way of migrants, but a GREEN-TAILED TOWHEE was very nice as well as 5 WARBLING VIREOS.  One of the Warbling Vireos was being mobbed by an ANNA'S HUMMINGBIRD and it was very irritated.

Up next I visited Lynx Lake for almost two hours.  The bird activity was rather quiet here overall as it was later in the morning.  30 species of birds included highlights of 2 WESTERN WOOD-PEWEES, a DUSKY FLYCATCHER, numerous LUCY'S WARBLERS (the highest in elevation you'll see this species), PAINTED REDSTARTS, 2 singing BLACK-CHINNED SPARROWS on chaparral hillsides near the lake, and 2 HEPATIC TANAGERS.

Up next I continued driving south on Walker Road past Lynx Lake until the road turned into a dirt road after about 8 miles.  Here I got out of my truck and walked up the dirt road for a few miles starting in the Walker Community.  It is private property on both sides of the road through most of this stretch, so the birding has to be done from the road.  The forest birding here is incredible and it's one of my favorite spots in Prescott.  The habitat here are shady forests with Douglas fir stands, oaks, white fir, some aspen, and ponderosa pine with elevations ranging from 6300' to 7000'.  This location is excellent for seeing our southwestern forest warblers.  After parking along the road at a convenient pull off just after mile 8, I hiked over two miles south down this road (past mile marker 10) which rises gradually in elevation.  RED-FACED WARBLERS were abundant and seemed to be singing everywhere.  I counted at least 10-12 birds singing while I walked the two miles, and I only saw a few of them while searching the dense forest from the road.  PAINTED REDSTARTS were very numerous also, and the count numbered 8 of them.  About 5 of each of GRACE'S and VIRGINIA'S WARBLERS were also singing throughout the hike.  Further down the trail, I found a few OLIVE WARBLERS where a nice stand of ponderosa pines came in touch with the road.  These mountain forest warblers alone are worth a visit to this location.  Other birds along this route included ACORN and HAIRY WOODPECKERS, NORTHERN FLICKER, 4 WESTERN WOOD-PEWEES, 12-15 CORDILLERAN FLYCATCHERS, PLUMBEOUS and WARBLING VIREOS, a single STELLER'S JAY, MOUNTAIN CHICKADEES, all three NUTHATCHES, 3 BROWN CREEPERS, 2 WESTERN BLUEBIRDS, singing HERMIT THRUSHES, 1 HEPATIC TANAGER, and numerous WESTERN TANAGERS and BLACK-HEADED GROSBEAKS.  I also had a brief look at a young ACCIPITER that was rather large that very well could've been a Northern Goshawk.  This route is a very pleasant walk that gives excellent forest birding opportunities and is good exercise as well with the climb in elevation at places.  I highly recommend it!

On another note, after my Walker Road walk, I was reminded of an excellent article about our special Arizona warblers called "Arizona's Super Six" published in the Birdwatching Magazine by Charlie Babbit.  This article is awesome and it highlights 6 warblers that are pretty much only Arizona warblers:  Lucy's, Grace's, Virginia's, Red-faced, and Olive Warblers, and the Painted Redstart.  These 6 warblers are always popular for visitors and the route I did is excellent for seeing all 6 of them with the Lucy's at Lynx Lake and the lower elevations of Watson and Willow Lakes and the other 5 along Walker Road.  The Super Six are awesome to see in one day, and I haven't seen all six in one day very often, that was one of my main highlights from the day.  Check out Charlie's awesome and fun-to-read article at the link below, it's great reading:

After Walker Road, I closed my day out by going for one more quick stop at Willow Lake.  Conditions can change here quick, and I scanned the lake one more time for anything noteworthy, which everything stayed similar for the most part as compared to my first visit.  2 drake WOOD DUCKS perched on an island, and I also added AMERICAN WIGEON and LESSER SCAUP to my daylist.  A PEREGRINE FALCON swooped in quickly and made a pass at the waterfowl before flying off.  The falcon was my 200th bird for Yavapai County, which is only the second county I've reached 200 species or more in.  I finished my day with a total of 95 species.

It was another great day of birding in the Prescott area.  It often takes me less than 1.5 hours to get to Prescott from Phoenix, and it's a very close and convenient way to escape the horrible and long-lasting heat that is approaching us quickly.

Picture Highlights:

The sexy White-tailed Kite...distant and still sexy

Blue Grosbeak

Wood Duck

Yellow Warbler

Black-headed Grosbeak

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