Monday, April 14, 2014

Birding in the Bradshaw Mountains

The Bradshaw Mountains are just south and outside of Prescott, Arizona.  It is a great area to bird in, and there is an abundance of mixed conifer woodlands at high elevations situated at a close range to Phoenix.  This area is often my getaway, and I really enjoy it a lot.  To make matters better, it only takes me 1.5 hours to get to the Bradshaws from Phoenix, which isn't long at all.  These mountains are a great place to see a handful of birds that people usually head straight down to southeastern Arizona to see.  But some of these birds are reliably found in Central Arizona too, and the Bradshaw Mountains are a wonderful location to do such birding.

On April 11th, 2014, Dominic Sherony and I left Phoenix near 8 P.M. after I got off of a long twelve hour work shift.  We headed to a location in the mountains called the Kendall Camp Trail.  This location has been known to be a good one for Flammulated Owl, an hour that Dominic and I have both only heard in our life but have never seen.  The Kendall Camp Trail is a very reliable place for this species, and I saw a handful of reports on eBird of local Prescott birders finding the owls.  And about half of those sightings included visuals of the bird.  For a tiny owl like the Flam, you have to love those odds!  I figured this would be our best shot at this species.  When Dominic and I arrived at the trailhead at 10 P.M., we spent the next three hours searching for the Flams.  Well, we found two of them and one of them we followed around consistently.  It was very vocal all night, and we were right under the bird at least four times.  With owls, since I say we found one doesn't mean we saw one.  The owl sat up at the tall end of the ponderosa pines it perched in, and was easily audio for hearing.  Dominic and I searched and searched with our flashlights, and never got to have a visual of the small dark eyed owl, other than when I saw it fly up out of the pine.  That's really not to great of a sighting at all.  After the three hours, we finally got too tired after being really tired and called it a night.

After a four hour sleep, we went back to the Kendall Camp Trail and other areas in the Bradshaws for a pleasant morning of birding.  The Kendall Camp Trail has been known in recent years to be a reliable location for breeding Greater Pewees.  When we got there in the morning at 7 A.M. after a McDonald's breakfast, the Greater Pewee was the first bird we heard after getting out of the van.  Due to the fact the Greater Pewee loves to scale the highest perches and stick to those high perches, it was hard for us to truely get close to the bird.  But he was loud, and he sang the famous song, "Jose, Maria!".  Dominic and I have decided to name every Greater Pewee male Jose and every female Maria.

The Violet-green Swallow is a beautiful swallow that loves to nest in higher elevations.  In the Bradshaws, these striking birds are plentiful!

The Hairy Woodpecker was also seen in several locations that we birded in the Bradshaws.  This bird is often hard to photograph, as you can see right here.

In Arizona birding, April is a month of enjoyment as the breeders start to arrive.  For me, a lot of those favorites have to do with the higher elevation warblers that breed in our state.  There's nothing quite like hearing those loud and yet very peaceful songs coming from a handful of eye candies that come in small packages.  One of those warbler's is the Virginia's Warbler.  Although this is a poor shot, it does show the bird well.  And it's song was very evident throughout the Bradshaw forests and shrub.

The Black-throated Gray Warbler is a handsome black-and-white, and tends to like more open oak and pine woodlands with manzanita understory.  It's song is buzzy and loud, and you always know when the Black-throated Gray is around.  Dominic and I found this bird in poor lighting, but even with these poor shots, it still shows an awesome bird!

While some warblers forage lower in the forest, others hug the top of the pine trees, and they really don't give birders a lot of grace when it comes to warbler neck.  But every once-in-awhile, the Grace's Warbler will come a little lower for good views if one is patient enough.  Typical views of Grace's Warbler will often look a lot like this....

Patient views will often result in something a little better....

Of the high mountain warblers, one of my favorites is quite the showoff, isn't very shy, and has a lot of personality and isn't too picky about it's perches.  The Painted Redstart is this bird, and it is always super cooperative for birders, forages 100 feet over your head or 5 feet under your face, and it is plain beautiful.  I've seen plenty of Painted Redstarts during my birding time, but I must admit, I never get tired of watching them.  When I hear their high pitched calls and sweet song in the forest, I always stop and look.....

One of my favorite locations in these Bradshaw Mountains are the south and ending sections of Walker Road.  This is where Dominic and I ended our day, and it is always flowing with an abundance of forest birds.  And a lot of them are the awesome and sexy warblers.  Despite hearing several Olive Warblers, they were distant, another one of our favorites.  As we birded Walker Road, we were coming close to our ending point, and we exhausted.  Having four hours of sleep at night after a full day of work and little sleep the night before that, I was exhausted and so was Dominic.  The tiredness had us quite red-faced, but nowhere as close to being as Red-faced as the next small creature we were looking for......

In central and northern Arizona, the Red-faced Warbler arrives in the later part of April for the most part.  Dominic and I knew we were on the early side.  But last year, at a specific mile marker on Walker Road, I found a very early and vocal Red-faced Warbler where Walker Road passes a narrow bridge and turns into a dirt road after being a paved joyride through Lynx Lake Recreation Area and plenty of ponderosa forest.  After the pavement ends, the pine forest turns into a beautiful mixed pine, fir, aspen, and oak forest for the remainder of it's duration.  And were the dirt starts, that's where this vocal male was found, nearly a year ago from the 12th (April 14th, be exact), when we were looking on the 12th.  Well, as we approached closer to the spot, I heard that cherry and familiar song.  And that Red-faced, who wants his mate extra early, was back again, at his spot!  Incredible!  At least...I'm assuming it's the same bird, most likely...since he's the only Red-faced we detected...probably.  Last year, it was the only Red-faced I detected on April 14th, too.

As you can see from the photos, Walker the Red-faced is a very active dude, and he has the brightest and redest face of all of the Red-faced Warbler population.  With the naked eye, it almost looked like a bright red ball bouncing around up in the trees until one looks up and says, "Wow, it's a tiny bird with a bright red face!".

Walker isn't going to stop singing until his mate shows up, it won't be too much longer.  Last year, when I returned to Walker Road a few weeks later, the place was alive with the song of the Red-faced all along the several miles of road after the pavement ended.  I think this place is one of the top places to view this bird in the state of Arizona.

The Bradshaws are one of my favorite mountain birding locations, and is one that is close to home and an awesome day trip or camping trip.  This trip was a nice one, and with me loving to list in Yavapai County now, the Flammulated Owl was a new addition.  Any trip with warbler sightings like the ones Dominic and I had on this trip will make the drive worth it alone.  Hopefully, I'll be back in the Bradshaws again soon before I know it!  Then, the warblers will really be in full force.  If your reading this and haven't birding in these mountains or in the Prescott area, give it a try instead of a trip to southeastern Arizona.  The birding is almost as awesome, and is much closer to Phoenix!  And here is one more Red-faced Warbler shot from April 12th.....

1 comment:

  1. Yup yup...time to get back up there for a Red-faced photo-shoot, and all the other goodies too.
    I haven't seen east-U.S. migration, but it's hard to beat the high-elevation Warblers here.

    Great shots Tommy and sweet finds.
    Those Flamms have to go somewhere during the day...