Wednesday, July 9, 2014

A Much Needed Escape from the Heat

I woke up very early today with two options:  to go birding, or not go birding.  The second option about not going birding seemed to be the higher percentage when I set my alarm clock late last night, but things changed when I got up at 3:15 A.M.  I was in the mood to go birding, kinda.  In these last few weeks, that has what my birding expeditions have been like.  I have made "spur of the moment" decisions when to go birding or not to go birding.  When I have decided to go, I have chosen locations very close to home (within 45 minutes or less).  By 8 A.M. on these days, I had already burned my butt off, and if I were to go birding today, I didn't want that to be the case.  It's not that I haven't wanted to bird, it all comes down to money issues.  I'm trying to save for my upcoming vacation, and of course, for the potential rarity chases that may be coming up.  An El Nino is on it's way, who knows what it might bring in to our lakes and ponds soon.  When 3:15 A.M. came around this morning, I thought I was probably gonna turn off my electronic alarm clocks on my phone and iPod, but the will to go somewhere despite my tiredness carried me out of bed.  I needed to get out and about, and I realized I needed to go to my escape that isn't tooooo far....Mount Ord.  Mount Ord is a common remedy of mine.  It's my escape when I need a day of birding and more importantly mental health.  Mount Ord is good food for the soul, and I feel refreshed whenever I get the chance to explore it.  It's close to Phoenix, and it's crazy to look down on the big city while birding in ponderosa pine forest.  As most know, I come here a lot.  Yeah, the focus is mainly on birds, but this place is also a great place of it's own just for it's beauty and access at such cool elevations close to Phoenix.  I have seen many great birds here.  On quiet days, I don't think I've ever complained about not seeing anything because I love this mountain that much.  I consider Mount Ord to be a great friend of mine, I hope she feels the same....

As usual on Mount Ord, I stuck to the Maricopa County sides of the mountain, although I did do some hiking on the Gila County side too.  I birded on the Transition Zones of the mountain today, nothing else.  I needed to be in the shady pine and oak forests, and the entire 7.5 hours I spent today on Mount Ord were nothing short of awesome!  The weather was mostly cloudy, which gave the day an extra cool effect.  And the birds were everywhere.  Before I get to the birds, this was about my 50th visit to the mountain in the last 5 year.  I like a lot!

The Bewick's Wren is a very common bird on Mount Ord.  They are noisy and numerous, and are very skulky and hard to photograph too.  They have a peaceful song, but they don't look all that peaceful.  These guys are very grumpy, and they just have that mean look to them.  It must be the supercillum...

House Wrens are less common on Mount Ord than the Bewick's Wren.  Before this year, I only found House Wrens breeding near the summit of Mount Ord, but they are now breeding in several areas on the lower Forest Road 1688 well below the summit.  Like the Bewick's Wren, the House Wren also has a nice singing voice, but is more of a curious bird at all times rather than a grouchy bird at all times.  Here is a younger juvenile House Wren from Road 1688.

Like wrens, the Vireos of Mount Ord are consistently loud and vocal too.  I couldn't find a Gray today, but I did have the Hutton's and Plumbeous variety.

While walking on Forest Road 1688, the rolling ball song of the Black-chinned Sparrow was heard.  I love hearing this song and seeing this bird.  As with most Black-chinned Sparrows, this guy sang his lungs out.

I could hear a few Black-headed Grosbeaks singing, but very few of them showed up visually during the day, with the exception of this female.

Mount Ord is also home to some very bright, colorful, and striking birds.  There is one that I have seen plenty of but just haven't had many chances to photograph yet.  Today, these birds helped me out a lot!

Turn around Western Tanager, cause your freaking awesome!!

Western Tanagers were very numerous on Mount Ord today, I probably had 15 individuals.  Here, this Western Tanager is sharing space with another Western, the Wood-Pewee.  

Western Wood-Pewees were cooperative today as well too.  

Pygmy Nuthatches are considered to be uncommon to rare in Maricopa County, especially during winter months.  This year though, they have bred on the mountain, which is very cool.  This Pygmy Nuthatch seems to like Mount Ord's habitat, and that calls for a big wingspan celebration!

Joking aside, I have found one nest hole for the Pygmy Nuthatch near and north of Mount Ord's summit area.  Today, I found a flock of at least ten of these small nuthatches on Road 1688 (the largest flock I've had together in the County!), three at the nest hole, and at least another two further north of the nest hole.  At least 15 of these birds on Ord today, a very good count for this bird in Maricopa County.  When I watched the birds at the nest hole, I realized they are actually quite skittish before bringing their young ones food.  When I stepped back at a good distance, the parents came to feed the young birds.

I've found these Nuthatches at this hole on every visit I've had here since April.

The more common and much larger White-breasted Nuthatch didn't go unnoticed either.

As the Western Tanagers brought in excitement, so did the Hepatic Tanagers.  The Western Tanagers outnumbered the Hepatics.  In recent years at Mount Ord, it has always seemed to be the other way around...

I thought the Western Tanagers were bound to be the bird of the day.  But, there was something that would actually top them.  Before I get to that bird of the day, here are a few other birds I was able to photograph..

Common Raven

 Hermit Thrush

 Grace's Warbler

 Hairy Woodpecker

And now it's that time for the bird of the day!  When it was getting to be that time when I needed to consider to start to head my way back home, I heard an Olive Warbler calling.  I was able to get on the bird, and it was a nice male.  I began to snap away!

The Olive Warbler is one cool bird, and one cool non-warbler too!  Well, the Olive Warbler isn't related to Wood Warblers, and is placed in it's own family.  It's a strange bird, but a very cool one at that.  It is very warbler-like though, in most respects.  With the day being overcast, I had to shoot with that look of a white background for many of the shots as this bird perched in the open.

Olive Warbler, cool bird huh?  

Closing, it was another great day of birding at Mount Ord.  Another fun and productive visit down to this place, and hopefully there are many more to go.  Here are some scenes of Mount Ord to close with.


  1. Awesome work with that Olive Warbler Tommy, and great stuff with the Tanagers and Nuthatches too, both of which are birds that are pretty tough to pin down for a photo shoot.

    Mt. Ord...the throne of Maricopa birding.

    1. Thanks Laurence,

      It really is the throne to Maricopa County birding! I was very happy with the birds yesterday, especially the Olive Warbler. I tried for Northern Pygmy-Owl all day yesterday without luck, which is a sighting that would've made it a much better post. But hey, you can't always find em' all right? I feel lucky to have a place like Mount Ord nearby!

  2. Daaang - you mopped up out there! And you got some amazing shots of the Western Tanager and Olive Warbler. I'm going to have to pay Mt. Ord a visit on one of my future AZ trips. With the exception of the Raven and House Wren, all those would be new. Plus it looks like it would be some fun scenery to enjoy.

    1. Thanks Josh!

      You are very right, I think you definitely need to visit Mount Ord the next time that you come to Arizona. The scenery compliments the birding, and it's just a great place in general to be at and hike at. The Olive Warbler and Western Tanagers were very cooperative and more cooperative than I could've asked for!

  3. Such great photos! I have your blogging and posting to thank for my three lovely trips up on Mt. Ord. I saw my first Olive Warbler there. I really enjoy your reports. Ann H.

    1. Thanks Ann! I appreciate that! I'm glad that you have had three nice outings up to Mount Ord. It is a great place to observe Olive Warblers throughout the year. I'm glad Mount Ord is so close to me, it's definitely a place I'm very blessed to live so close to!