Today I went birding in the northeastern section of Maricopa County for a very pleasant day of birding. I covered Saguaro Lake at Saguaro Del Norte Recreation Site, the Butcher Jones arm of Saguaro Lake, Mount Ord, Sunflower, and Mesquite Wash. A duck, wren, woodpecker, and warbler made this an extra special day to be out birding.
My first stop of the day was at Saguaro Lake (Saguaro Del Norte Rec Site) at sunrise to look for the SURF SCOTER that was reported by Troy Corman and Joey Alsadi on November 8th. It didn't take me long to relocate the Surf Scoter, which was hanging out still on the north shoreline of the lake and was just east of the boat launch areas. Thanks Troy and Joey! As Troy mentioned, this scoter is very cooperative. Ironically, I scanned out further onto Saguaro Lake after locating the Scoter and then found a flock of six SURF SCOTERS. The flock contained four very stunning adult males. I was able to obtain very distant and poor photographs that do show the male birds diagnostically. A speed boat scared the birds further east out onto the lake, where I would look for them from the Butcher Jones arm (it appeared they went that direction) Other birds on the waters and lake desert surroundings included AMERICAN WIGEON, LESSER SCAUP, RUDDY DUCK, EARED, WESTERN, CLARK'S, and PIED-BILLED GREBES, BALD EAGLE and CANYON WREN.
I then went to the Butcher Jones Recreation Site in hopes of seeing the Surf Scoter flock up closer, as it looked like they flew into this arm of Saguaro Lake after being spooked by the speed boat. As I started to scan I didn't see them anywhere close by to the beach, so I started to hike the Butcher Jones Trail which is located by the southeast side of the parking area. As I started to walk the beginning reaches of this trail, I heard at WINTER WREN calling a few times and giving it's double note "chimp-chimp" call that sounds similar to that of a Song Sparrow. I tried to get a visual of the Winter Wren, but it ended up being elusive. The wren was near a small "bridge" that is a foot or two wide and barely off the ground. Walking the trail a short distance to Peregrine Point, I scanned Saguaro Lake to the south and relocated the six SURF SCOTERS. I recorded 34 species at Butcher Jones, which also included two GRAY FLYCATCHERS.
I spent way more time at Saguaro Lake than I intended, and I got a late start up the Beeline Highway. Mount Ord was my next choice of destination, which turned out to be a fun visit as usual. I birded the summit area as well as the duration of Forest Road 1688. The top was very quiet other than abundant DARK-EYED JUNCOS that consisted of the Oregon and Gray-headed races. I think Oregon is my favorite race, it is a very good looking bird. Forest Road 1688 was active at the beginning of it's two miles and at the very end of it's two miles. I immediately heard a CASSIN'S FINCH calling when I got out of the vehicle, one I haven't had in Maricopa for awhile. The best bird was a female WILLIAMSON'S SAPSUCKER near the end of 1688. This was by the spot where I had one here in April 2014. After not having a WISA in Maricopa before this year, I've had 3 now this year. Weird. Other highlights on Ord included SHARP-SHINNED HAWK, ACORN WOODPECKER, RED-NAPED SAPSUCKER, 5 PYGMY NUTHATCHES, 3 BROWN CREPERS, CANYON WREN, CRISSAL THRASHER, 3 OLIVE WARBLERS, 3 RED CROSSBILLS, and 6 PINE SISKINS.
Sunflower came after Mount Ord, and I walked up to the Sunflower Work Station on the Old Beeline Highway. It wasn't the best time of day to bird here, but I did get to observe TOWNSEND'S SOLITAIRE and a BLACK-CHINNED SPARROW.
I decided to bird Mesquite Wash for a bit after Sunflower, which is a very awesome area. There is a stand of riparian trees adjacent to where one pulls into Mesquite Wash that have a lot of good potential. When I started birding the stand of willow and cottonwood, I heard a different-than-usual chip note from a warbler and it turned out to be a NORTHERN PARULA. This striking warbler is always awesome to see! In the immediate area of the Northern Parula was a DUSKY FLYCATCHER, BLACK-THROATED GRAY WARBLER, and BROWN CREEPER. An early morning here would probably be very productive!
Before heading home, I made one more stop at Saguaro Lake to enjoy the remainder of the evening. The SURF SCOTER on the north side of the lake was still very cooperative. I didn't see the flock this time.