Sunday, July 28, 2013

The Final Days of My Greer Vacation 2013

The final two days (July 26th and 27th) of my Greer vacation in the White Mountains went very fast.  I decided to go at a very easy pace and enjoy the birding to make the final days seem longer, but that didn't do the trick.  They still flew by.  Regardless, it was a great time to be birding, and I had many more highlights.

An hour with a family of Olive-sided Flycatchers

One of my main highlights over the last few days was observing a family of Olive-sided Flycatchers.  I told my buddy Laurence Butler while we were birding on Wednesday that I wanted to photograph this species, particularly with eye-level views up close.  Laurence and I were hearing them on our woodpecker hunt in Butler Canyon, but they were on the upper slopes in the areas mountains.  This bird always calls from high snags, which makes that dream photograph hard to accomplish.  But with this Olive-sided Flycatcher location that I visit whenever I come up to Greer, is often productive for seeing Olive-sided Flycatchers up close and personnel.  This area is reached from a small side road off of the ending stretch of Greer's County Road 1126.  There is a side road that climbs up into the mountains, and the Olive-sided Flycatchers are easy to reach.

The Olive-sided Flycatcher has a unique song (one of my favorites actually) that sounds like it is singing, "Quick-three-beers".  It is a dramatic note, especially the "three", which is the highest in pitch of the three notes.  Hopefully an alcoholic will never be able to interpret this song, because they would be in some serious trouble.  The "three" is so much more dramatic and enticing than the other notes, like the Olive-sided is trying to encourage a mass amount of beer.  

I got to this spot in hopes of seeing and hearing the Olive-sided Flycatcher.  As soon as I got out of my truck, I heard "Quick-three-beers!".  I grabbed three water bottles instead and walked up a short distance to the spot.  There was an Olive-sided Flycatcher perched up high, as usual.  Other than it's song, it also gives a high "pip-pip-pip" call note, which may be heard more than the song.  The Olive-sided was calling with another Olive-sided, which the other Olive-sided was on a separate ridge away from me.  The first bird flew across to join the other, and there was no way I was chasing it.  It quickly returned, and I noticed there was a young Olive-sided Flycatcher on the same tree much lower.  The adult flew up to the juvenile, with a huge bug in it's beak, and it fed the young bird.  I was thrilled to see it!

The parent made regular intervals to find food for it's young...

The young Olive-sided Flycatcher was very patient, peaceful, and non-whiny like other juvenile birds.  It hardly ever made noise until the parent was just about to give it a buggy meal.  

After awhile, the second adult flycatcher flew in, and another juvenile Olive-sided also appeared.  This concluded that there was a family of four birds!  They were fun to watch, and both parents took turns feeding goodies to their young ones.  The young ones even sang a couple of times, which was a very weak imitation of their parent's song.

Because Olive-sided Flycatchers prefer settings with high views, here is an example of what their daily typical view probably looks like....

An hour after starting to observe this neat species, I was finally heading down from the mountainside.  It was awesome to see this species up close for an extended amount of time.  If you are in the high county, listen for the "Quick-THREE-beers" of the Olive-sided Flycatcher at a tall dead snag near you!

A new place to bird more in the future.......

On the morning of the July 26th, I joined my Dad, brother Tyler, sister Talia, and dog Honey on a hike to the Poll Knoll Recreation area, which is shortly west of Greer.  There are many trails here, which navigate through mixed conifer and aspen forest, as well as high elevation grasslands.  The trees are very tall here, and birds are harder to photograph, but most of the birds present can be heard.  I was impressed with this area, and hope to bird it on our next trip!

My hiking party!

Vesper Sparrow

Clark's Nutcracker

Red-tailed Hawk

Birds that show up while watching people fishing

Later in the afternoon on the 26th, I joined my sister Tiffany and Brother-in-law Josh as they fished at the Little Colorado River, which was the west fork at the end of Greer.  This is a beautiful area.  I watched Tiffany and Josh catch three fish, one of which I pointed out to Josh that resulted in a successful catch.  Several birds showed up and entertained while I watched the fishing.

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

MacGillivray's Warbler (a hard bird to photograph)

Dark-eyed Junco

Red-naped Sapsucker (check out the holes this guy has drilled!)

The west fork of the Little Colorado River

Tiffany and Josh's Fishing...

Not your average Creeper....

The Brown Creeper is a unique forest bird in North America.  It shows similarities to the nuthatch family, but it climbs up the tree "creeping" rather than climbing down the tree like nuthatches do.  This bird is fun to watch, and I commonly enjoyed seeing them on this trip.

The Fantastic Four

On the last night of the trip, I completed my Williamson's Sapsucker collection as far as the different variations.  I had every variation and plumage seen and photographed except the adult female.  As time was running out, I found an adult female!  I was on Cloud Nine.  In the same area was her family, as there was also the adult male, juvenile male, and juvenile female.  The Williamson's Sapsucker was the primary bird I was looking for and photographing on this trip.  Stay tuned for another post about the Williamson's Sapsucker following this post.  

Adult female Williamson's Sapsucker

Adult male-perhaps this was their nest site?

Juvenile male

Juvenile female

And here is a selection of random birds I photographed around the White Mountains in the last two days...

Dark-eyed Junco-juvenile

 Steller's Jay

 Pygmy Nuthatch

 Western Wood-Pewee

This trip went by extremely fast, but it was an awesome trip with an awesome family and awesome birding!

And an extra special thanks to my family for another fun and amazing trip!


  1. Hey Hey!!

    Great post Tommy. You got those Olive-sided shots at last, nice!
    The Sapsucker photos are stunning, especially with the sap wells there on display too.

    I enjoyed my visit up there tremendously, and I'm enjoying your posts all the more now that I'm familiar with the area and its expected birds, thanks to you.

  2. Great pics of the Olive-sided Flycatcher. That would be a lifer for me. We're currently in Pinetop for a couple months and ventured to Greer one day last week. I was looking for 2 lifer woodpeckers: the Three-toed and the Williamson's Sapsucker. Found neither. We'll definitely have to make a return trip and maybe with your excellent directions, we can find all three. You did indeed have a nice birding vacation. Thanks for sharing all your pictures and information.