Sunday, October 26, 2014

The Northern Birding of Arizona

Hi everyone,

On October 25th, 2014, Gordon Karre, Laurence Butler, Mark Ochs and I birded in the Flagstaff area.  The four of us haven't explored and birded this area as much as we like to, so we figured that today would be a fun day to do so.

These guys are freaking awesome.

We were intrigued by Steve and Joan Hosmer's recent outings at Rio De Flag, so we made that our first stop of the morning and we accessed Rio De Flag by the Museum of Northern Arizona.  Our main targets were Cassin's Finches and Evening Grosbeaks.  We quickly found several CASSIN'S FINCHES working high in pine trees shortly after we started birding.  Our number ended up being around 7 individuals.  Like Steve, I also missed Cassin's Finch last year when I was working on an Arizona year list, and it felt good to see this species for the first time since 2012.  The EVENING GROSBEAKS moved into the area after we took a loop around the place, but they came in good numbers.  A clumpy flock of 15 birds crammed together near the top of a pine tree and while we watched those, three more sat and called in a dead tree above us.  In midst of the Evening Grosbeaks were several very nice males.  Two neat raptors moved through the area which were a SHARP-SHINNED HAWK and a MERLIN.  A LEWIS'S WOODPECKER was also nearby, as were 6-7 BROWN CREEPERS and 2 CEDAR WAXWINGS.

Cassin's Finches

Evening Grosbeaks

How many Evening Grosbeaks can you find in this tree?  I found 16.

After birding Rio De Flag we headed over to Ashurst Lake for all of our first ever visit to this reservoir that is commonly productive.  Today we didn't find anything here that was out of the ordinary, but water bird numbers were very high.  Several thousand AMERICAN COOT filled the waters, and there were also good numbers of RUDDY DUCKS and EARED GREBE.  AMERICAN WIGEON, NORTHERN SHOVELER, NORTHERN PINTAIL, ~25 REDHEAD, 10 LESSER SCAUP, and 4 BUFFLEHEAD were present.  4-5 WESTERN GREBES and 1 CLARK'S GREBE were also present.  The one shorebird detected on the lake was a single GREATER YELLOWLEGS.  Raptor wise, we had 2 BALD EAGLES, NORTHERN HARRIER, and 2 AMERICAN KESTRELS.  Songbird highlights included many WESTERN BLUEBIRDS, several nice male MOUNTAIN BLUEBIRDS, AMERICAN PIPIT, and 2 CASSIN'S FINCHES.

Mountain Bluebird

Ashurst Lake

The majestic Bald Eagle scanning Ashurst

Our final stop in the Flagstaff area came from the Mormon Lake area, mostly in the area of Mormon Lake Village.

The dry Mormon and an ecstatic Butler

The main highlight here came from a stunning amount of LEWIS'S WOODPECKERS in the area, especially by the Mormon Lake Lodge cabin areas.  Throughout the area, these striking woodpeckers were seemingly everywhere, and they were gathering acorns from oak trees and were then storing them on pine trees for the upcoming winter.  We counted close to 25 birds at least in this area, they were everywhere.  This woodpecker was one we weren't expecting to be one of our most common birds by the end of the day, it was great!  Other highlights in the area of Mormon Lake and Mormon Lake Village included 2 BALD EAGLES, ~10 ACORN WOODPECKERS, 2 HAIRY WOODPECKERS, 1 PEREGRINE FALCON, all three NUTHATCHES, 2 RED CROSSBILLS heard overhead, and several more EVENING GROSBEAKS, these ones heard only.

After Laurence headed home, Mark, Gordon, and I continued south to Lake Pleasant instead of checking other Flag areas with the limited time we had remaining.  At Lake Pleasant our one highlight was the continuing HERRING GULL on the Yavapai County side of the lake.  We were surprised to see that it was joined by a second HERRING GULL.  Both of these birds are in first-cycle plumage.

Thanks Gordon, Laurence, and Mark for a fun birding day!


  1. Great day and great birds! The entire North American population of Lewis's Woodpeckers has descended on the Flagstaff area. Good thing we were there to warn people ahead of time.

    1. Thanks Laurence, it was awesome as always birding with you! The Lewis's Woodpeckers are beyond intense up there right now. We should've called 9-1-1. It's tempting to go back and really cover that entire road and see how many there really are!

  2. Such good birds! I never get tired of the Evening Grosbeaks. Long before I was a birder we would have them and the Pine Grosbeaks just thick on our bird feeders in northern MN in the winter. It was no big deal at the time. Then after becoming a birder I learned what a prize bird they were. Since then I have never taken my EVGR sightings for granted. Now you have me eager for the cold winter so I can see more!

    That is crazy about those Lewis's Woodpeckers! That's awesome that you got to see them.

    1. Thanks Josh!

      It was awesome to go birding up in Flag and see those fun birds. I never get tired of Evening Grosbeaks either. I'm looking forward to seeing your posts from this winter with pictures and sightings of those two awesome species. I've never seen so many Lewis's Woodpeckers in my life, I probably never will again!

  3. Don't know how I can even complete a post on my blog after this post and the one that Laurence also submitted. Going to have a lot of very similar photos, but I really do not mind as this was a great day of birding. The LEWOs were the highlight for me as I had never seen so many in one spot. Great post!

    1. Thanks Gordon! I look forward to seeing your post when you write it, it will be awesome!

      The Lewis's were indeed extremely awesome, I'm still shocked by the amount of them that were present.