Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Box Bar Birding

At the end of May and the beginning of June, it starts to get very hot in Arizona.  In the lowlands anyway, which covers most of the state.  Fire season is very dangerous, and most folks aren't out and about.  For the birders, they still go out birding.  This usually lasts from very early to early, a few hours in other words.  For example, I'll use my trek today.  I went to the Box Bar Recreation Site along the Verde River in the Tonto National Forest.  Bird diversity is mainly limited to breeders, but it is also a time for the last wave of migrants to pass through.  It seems like this time frame is one of the best for finding eastern vagrants in Arizona, especially adult male eastern warblers.  Phoenix just had the Magnolia Warbler not too long ago, an adult male, and some lady found an adult Chestnut-sided Warbler male a few days ago.  In Tucson several years ago near this time, an adult male Prairie Warbler was found.  Although it isn't very rare, I found a singing adult male Townsend's Warbler at the Hassayampa River Preserve a few years ago at the beginning of June.  So today, I tried my luck at Box Bar for that particular reason for a few hours.  With lush stands of willow and cottonwood along the north and south flowing Verde River, there's a good bet (although still rare, but still) for their being that possibility of something being good in the trees somewhere.

Spoiler alerts don't usually come this soon, but I'll say now, I didn't find anything particularly rare that I haven't seen in Maricopa County.  It was a fun few hours of birding, and I did have a few neat highlights.  The rarest bird I had was a fly-by Broad-billed Hummingbird.  These hummers are rare but annual throughout Maricopa County annually.  They have a distinctive call note in flight, which sounds similar to that of a Ruby-crowned Kinglet.  Despite that was the only semi-rare or rare bird of the day, the thick riparian area was filled with birds.

During the hike, my first cool highlight came from this adult Peregrine Falcon.  For a second, I was hoping it would be a Mississippi Kite before I lifted my binoculars up.  There was a historical breeding record for Mississippi Kite somewhere along the Verde River, Maricopa County's only breeding record of the species.  On a county scale, I think Box Bar would actually be possible place for a pair to breed if they made it here.  They like cottonwood and willow riparian forests with tamarisk nearby.  There is some sort of insect that is found on tamarisk trees that the kites like to feed on.  And Box Bar has some tall tamarisks throughout it's duration.  But back to the Peregrine, it is always cool to see this incredible predator....

I did have one notable migrant, and a late one at that!  I didn't think I would have Cedar Waxwing today, but there were a few of them chiming up in the cottonwoods.  This bird is always awesome too.  Very elegant looking, one I'd like to get closer too for photographs.

I then started to see Lesser Nighthawks flying around in the sky.  Cool!  Funny thing is, it was close to being 8 A.M. in the morning and had been light for over two hours.  The Lesser Nighthawks didn't want to sleep apparently.  

I then walked along the Verde River and noticed a flock of Lesser Nighthawks feeding low over the water!  I thought it wouldn't last long, but I was wrong with my time estimate.  Here is a view of the Verde close to where I stood for the next 30 minutes.  Actually, do you see the reeds along the shore at the bottom left corner of the screen.  I was actually standing right by them.  If you look closely in the picture, you can see one of the Nighthawks.

There must have been plenty of insects, because the Nighthawks swarmed over this area.  There were probably 6-8 of them I would guess.  They would fly be me on a regular basis at very close distances.  Lesser Nighthawks aren't easy to photograph at close range, but I did try very hard!  I haven't photographed this bird much, so this was quite the treat.

Oooh, the nighthawks are so freaking cool!  Especially up close!

One of the birds that was heard the most today and seen some was the Yellow-breasted Chat.  These large and huge and giant "warblers" are usually pretty shy and skulky.  It's more like watching a thrasher forage in a cottonwood tree up high.  But this Chat was pretty cooperative.

It was a fun morning of birding at Box Bar for two hours.  This is a location I should visit more.  If I did visit more, there is no doubt in my head that I would find rarities from the east......

1 comment:

  1. Dang that Chat came out nicely! That is a tough bird, as are Nighthawks, pretty cool to have them out and acrobatting in the daylight. Sweet!