Thursday, December 12, 2013

Birding the Cave Creek, Verde River, and Fountain Hills Areas

Hi everyone,

Today on December 12th, 2013, I spent a pleasant day birding Rackensack Canyon and Lower Camp Creek of the Cave Creek area, both Needle Rock and Box Bar Recreation Sites on the Verde River, and Fountain Hills Lake.

My first stop of the day was at Rackensack Canyon, which was my best and favorite stop of the day.  This rugged and neat looking canyon is very birdy, especially early in the morning.  It's been quiet whenever I've gone in the afternoon.  I had yet to see a Fox Sparrow this year prior to today, and I knew that Rackensack Canyon is the best and most reliable location in Maricopa County to look for Fox Sparrows, so I made that my main target for today.  I've seen them here before, and when I saw on an eBird report from Brian Ison that he detected 7 birds earlier this year, I figured my odds more than very high.  Within 15 minutes of looking, a FOX SPARROW popped up for me and the trip was already a success!  However, from the first Fox Sparrow I found, they seemed to keep coming and coming.  I walked about a mile west from where I parked, and in that distance, I counted a total of 13 Fox Sparrows.  The numbers here are incredible.  I think there were even more, 13 is my safe count.  There were birds that were spread out from each other and in several spots there were birds together.  One spot held three Fox Sparrows.  All of the Fox Sparrows appeared to be of the Slate-colored race.  Folks, if you want to see Fox Sparrows, come to Rackensack!  There were other neat birds to be seen too.  2-3 CRISSAL THRASHERS were present, and a few of them perched up for me.  Both MOUNTAIN and WESTERN BLUEBIRDS could be heard flying high over the Canyon.  SPOTTED and CANYON TOWHEES were both numerous, and a few TOWNSEND'S SOLITAIRES could be heard calling in the distance.  A warning call from a VERDIN alerted me to the presence of a SHARP-SHINNED HAWK.  33 species were in Rackensack Canyon from 7:30 A.M.-9:30 A.M.

Fox Sparrows

Crissal Thrasher

Spotted Towhees

Canyon Towhee

The awesome Rackensack Canyon

My next stop was then at the scenic area of Lower Camp Creek.  It got rather windy by the time I got here, but I still had a few good highlights that included a MOUNTAIN CHICKADEE, several BROWN CREEPERS, and a RED-NAPED SAPSUCKER.

From the Cave Creek Area, I then went to the Box Bar and Needle Rock Recreation areas along the Verde River.  Highlights included a cooperative SWAMP SPARROW, 2 SORAS, BLACK-THROATED GRAY WARBLER, and PLUMBEOUS VIREO.


Swamp Sparrow

My final stop of the day was at Fountain Hills Lake.  Waterfowl watching was great.  13 HOODED MERGANSERS provided the best entertainment, and BUFFLEHEADS, a drake COMMON GOLDENEYE, both WESTERN and EARED GREBES, LESSER SCAUP, and AMERICAN WIGEONS.

The awesome Hooded Merganser

Common Goldeneye (a well named bird!)


Lesser Scaup

American Coot (failed yet another IQ test)

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