Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Yavapai Birding at the Prescott Lakes

Hi Everyone,

Today on October 28th, 2014, I decided to head north to Prescott for a day of birding.  I had a day planned out with multiple stops, but the birding was great at every stop I made, so I visited the three locations of Granite Basin, Willow, and Watson Lakes.  I spent close to at least two hours at each spot, some of them more than two hours.

My first stop was at Granite Basin Lake and recreation area.  There was abundant bird activity around the lake, and I had a few standout species I was able to detect that made this trip very worthwhile for me.  One of them was a nice count of at least 20 CASSIN'S FINCHES working the pines and willow trees around the lake.  I had excellent views of both males and females up close, and a male gave me a chance to get a few good photographs.  This is a species I haven't been able to enjoy much, but over these last couple days between Prescott and Flagstaff I have gotten to see a better amount of them.  I also heard an EVENING GROSBEAK calling from a picnic area above and east of the small Granite Basin Lake.  For three or four brief moments that came close together, I heard a NORTHERN PYGMY-OWL giving a call that isn't heard very often, which is hard to explain.  It's not the toot that is heard most often, but there is a recording of this call on Zeno Canto and it is labeled as the "agitation trill".  I've heard the owl do this in the field before without knowing it was a Pygmy-Owl until I was watching one on Mount Ord calling away and it gave the different "agitation trill".  Ah, the complex world of bird sounds, there is so much to learn!  Other than those three highlights, Granite Basin was very active within the 37 species recorded.  More highlights included a SORA in the lakeside reeds, numerous ACORN WOODPECKERS, 4 RED-NAPED SAPSUCKERS, 3 HAIRY WOODPECKERS, all three NUTHATCHES, CANYON WREN, abundant "AUDUBON'S" YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLERS that did have a "MYRTLE" YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLER in the mix, 3 DARK-EYED JUNCO subspecies, PINE SISKIN, and two flyover LAWRENCE'S GOLDFINCHES.  It costs 5 dollars for admission to this area, but it is free admission and parking on Wednesdays.

Cassin's Finch.  My first decent photo of this bird I don't see very often.  

Pink-sided Dark-eyed Junco

Granite Basin Lake

My next stop was at Jay's Bird Barn in Prescott.  This is a store for birding and birdfeeding off of Willow Creek Road.  If your in the area, I highly recommend visiting this store, they have a lot of really cool stuff, I was pleasantly surprised.

The next lake I stopped at was Willow Lake, one of my favorite lakes to bird in Arizona.  Today, the rarest bird on the water was a HORNED GREBE.  Also present was a CATTLE EGRET, which is rare in the Prescott area and is probably pretty scarce in Yavapai County as well.  It was also reported by Caleb Strand last week, so it has stuck around for awhile.  The egret was oddly on a rocky area when I first caught sight of it.  Other highlights at Willow Lake among 52 species included waterfowl highlights of GADWALL, AMERICAN WIGEON, N.PINTAIL, RING-NECKED DUCK, LESSER SCAUP, BUFFLEHEAD, COMMON MERGANSER, and many RUDDY DUCKS; abundant EARED GREBES, ~10 WESTERN GREBES, 1 CLARK'S GREBE, NEOTROPIC CORMORANT, GREAT EGRET, 2 WHITE-FACED IBIS, 3 NORTHERN HARRIERS, COOPER'S HAWK, 18 AMERICAN AVOCETS flying around the lake for an hour relentlessly in search for a nice landing place (the water levels of this lake are very high right now), GREAT HORNED OWL in a cottonwood grove, BELTED KINGFISHER, and a lot more.  Full list on eBird.

Great Horned Owl on Cottonwood Peninsula

Great Egret

Willow Lake

Cattle Egret (one of five new birds for Yavapai County for me today)

My final stop was at Watson Lake and Watson Woods Riparian Preserve.  Species on the lake were very similar to what was on Willow Lake, and I recorded 43 species here on the water, along the Peavine Trail, and in the Riparian Preserve.  Standing still at one point of the lake resulted in a BELTED KINGFISHER landing close by at very close range, which is always cool to see.  I closed my day out in the Watson Woods Riparian Preserve at small pond surrounded by dense cover.  Here I had a nice flock of 16 WOOD DUCKS who were very viewable despite their shy and retiring behavior.  I had to lie down on the ground several times to avoid spooking the birds, but it was worth it!  I've seen plenty of wintering Wood Ducks in the Phoenix area as well as birds here, but never like this for an extended amount of time.  This was a real treat, and an hour after I started, I was still sitting there watching and completely losing track of time!

Female Belted Kingfisher after landing close by

Male Wood Duck

Female Wood Duck

I couldn't get enough of these fine looking ducks.  I observed them and photographed them for over an hour.

Watson Lake's Riparian Woods offer good breeding habitat for Wood Ducks.
Watson Lake

Prescott is always a nice place to visit and bird, and it was nice to get some Yavapai County birding in (I added 5 new birds to my Yavapai list)


  1. Dang dude nice shots. Cattle Egret is a pretty solid find and the Cassin's came down low for you!

    Wood Ducks out the ears!

    1. Thanks Laurence, I had a great day yesterday and I got quite lucky on some of those shots, especially with how low the finch came. It was all about strategy with the Wood Ducks!

  2. Your hard work of laying on the ground paid off! Those are some incredible Wood Duck photos! Wood Ducks spook easily and love those hidden, brush-choked bodies of water, so I am impressed with what you accomplished! Wood Ducks are the best.

    1. Thanks Josh! The ground was super dirty and muddy but it was super worth it. They are such shy ducks so I had to do it that way, which is the only way possible. Wood Ducks are the best!