For the North American Migration Count this past Saturday on May 11th, 2013, I joined Kurt and Cindy Radamaker for an awesome day of birding in the northeastern section of Maricopa County. The area we covered were the higher elevations in Mount Ord and the area of Slate Creek Divide, followed by Sunflower along the Old Beeline Highway. It was an excellent day to be out birding, especially in the higher elevations, which are rather scarce on a Maricopa County scale.
We decided to start our day at Mount Ord, and we arrived very early at 5:15 A.M. We spent over five hours at Mount Ord, covering the entire length of Road 1688's two miles and the hike up to the summit of the mountain. It was very birdy at Mount Ord, and we tallied 50 species at this location. Highlights included 7 BROAD-TAILED, 5 ANNA'S, and 1 BLACK-CHINNED HUMMINGBIRD; 1 ACORN and 2 HAIRY WOODPECKERS, 4 WESTERN WOOD-PEWEES, 2 HAMMOND'S and 6 ASH-THROATED FLYCATCHERS, 1 CASSIN'S KINGBIRD, 3 GRAY VIREOS including a pair together along the first mile of Road 1688, 10 PLUMBEOUS and 4 HUTTON'S VIREOS, 13 VIOLET-GREEN SWALLOWS near the summit (probably more), 7 BRIDLED TITMOUSE and 10 BUSHTIT, 3 RED-BREASTED, 11 WHITE-BREASTED, and a single PYGMY NUTHATCH; 6 HOUSE WRENS and 25 BEWICK'S WRENS, 28 BLUE-GREY GNATCATCHERS, 1 RUBY-CROWNED KINGLET, 2 WESTERN BLUEBIRDS (small numbers breed at the top of Ord annually) and 4 HERMIT THRUSHES, 1 OLIVE, 12 VIRGINIA'S, 6 YELLOW-RUMPED, 12 GRACE'S, 21 BLACK-THROATED GRAY, and 1 WILSON'S WARBLER; 5 PAINTED REDSTARTS, 1 GREEN-TAILED and 27 SPOTTED TOWHEES, 5 RUFOUS-CROWNED, 6 CHIPPING (small numbers breed at the top of Ord annually), 13 BLACK-CHINNED, and 1 WHITE-CROWNED "MOUNTAIN" SPARROWS; 7 HEPATIC and 7 WESTERN TANAGERS, 8 BLACK-HEADED GROSBEAKS, 4 SCOTT'S ORIOLES, and 3 PINE SISKINS. We searched and listened for but weren't able to find any Northern Pygmy-Owls. It figures they decide to shut-up on the important count day.
Up next we headed for the area of Slate Creek Divide. We were all anxious to see Slate Creek for the first time since the devastating Sunflower Fire, which ironically started last year on the date of the 2012 North American Migration Count. Kurt was up on Slate Creek's higher elevations and was evacuated off the mountain as the fire started to grow very fast during the count. While much of the area has sadly burned, the higher elevations luckily are still very productive and much of these high elevation areas dominated by Douglas fir haven't really been touched by the Sunflower fire. Now the Willow Fire here in 2002 (I think 2002?) did a lot of previous damage to this area's higher elevations, but the Sunflower Fire hasn't done a lot of new damage. Luckily, the forested drainages that head south into Maricopa County have been spared for the most part. Some of the slopes above the drainage have burned bad however in places, but there are still hopes for those drainages to still be productive. Hopefully the Dusky-capped Flycatchers are still residing there. The eastern fork of the drainage which holds the best habitat with the greatest potential, looks to be completely untouched! We didn't have time to hike down there on this visit, hopefully I can go back up there soon and check the productivity of the drainage. Kurt, Cindy, and I arrived at Slate Creek close to noon, and it was very birdy even later in the day as we tallied 48 species. Our best highlight at Slate Creek was finding a flock of 5 MEXICAN JAYS. Mexican Jays are a very scarce species in Maricopa County, and Slate Creek has been the most reliable place to find them. It was nice having them after being concerned about their presence after the fire. Other highlights in the Slate Creek area were a pair of ZONE-TAILED HAWKS, 3 ANNA'S and 1 BROAD-TAILED HUMMINGBIRD, 5 ACORN and 5 HAIRY WOODPECKERS, 2 NORTHERN FLICKERS, an OLIVE-SIDED FLYCATCHER hanging out in an area with plenty of dead snags, WESTERN WOOD-PEWEE, 2 ASH-THROATED FLYCATCHERS, 2 PLUMBEOUS and 2 WARBLING VIREOS, 3 WHITE-BREASTED NUTHATCHES, 2 singing BROWN CREEPERS countersinging, a single ROCK WREN on the drive up to the higher elevations (Rock Wrens are difficult to find at this time of year, but luckily, we got one!), 5 HOUSE WRENS and 5 BEWICK'S WRENS, 4 WESTERN BLUEBIRDS, 6 VIRGINIA'S, 1 YELLOW-RUMPED, 6 GRACE'S, 6 BLACK-THROATED GRAY, 1 TOWNSEND'S, and 1 WILSON'S WARBLER, 1 RUFOUS-CROWNED, 2 CHIPPING, 3 BREWER'S, 4 LARK, and 3 "MOUNTAIN" WHITE-CROWNED SPARROWS; 2 HEPATIC and 2 WESTERN TANAGERS, 4 BLACK-HEADED GROSBEAKS, 1 LAZULI BUNTING, and 1 SCOTT'S ORIOLE. Good times thankfully still exist at Slate Creek!
We then stopped at Sunflower to complete our count area. We walked up and down the Old Beeline Highway and car birded some. Highlights from Sunflower in the afternoon among 41 species recorded were 1 COOPER'S HAWK, 1 COMMON BLACK-HAWK, a calling INCA DOVE, an OLIVE-SIDED FLYCATCHER, 2 VERMILION, 2 ASH-THROATED, and 4 BROWN-CRESTED FLYCATCHERS, 5 CASSIN'S KINGBIRDS, 3 BELL'S, 1 GRAY, and 1 PLUMBEOUS VIREO; a SWAINSON'S THRUSH, 5 SUMMER and 3 WESTERN TANAGERS, 4 BLACK-HEADED and 1 BLUE GROSBEAK, and 6 HOODED and 1 BULLOCK'S ORIOLES.
We concluded our area with 84 species recorded. It was an awesome day of birding and a lot of fun participating in the North American Migration Count. It was awesome birding with you Kurt and Cindy, thank you again for everything!
Slate Creek is still a great place!