Friday, November 21, 2014

What is being seen around Maricopa County lately?

I've been birding around Maricopa County a lot during this month.  On a lot of trips, I haven't been able to write blogs and stuff like that due to busyness.  After all, what's more important:  One, field time, or two, blog time.  I would have to say field time.  Anyways I've been birding throughout Maricopa County a lot lately in pursuit of hopeful avian treasure.  I've missed several birds that would be Maricopa County life birds (Blue-throated Hummingbird, Crested Caracara, Varied Thrush), but that is the way it goes.  You get up and bird hard no matter what, because you can't win unless you try.  Fall is usually my lucky time of year.  One of my last expeditions resulted in me finding several rarities in one day.  It was a fun day, but I haven't found that really nice rarity that brings jaw dropping excitement to my eyes.  I hope it's around the corner, either that or a new Maricopa County lifer, which my last one dated back to June 5th, 2014: a Flammulated Owl at Slate Creek Divide.  The higher a list gets, the harder it gets to find new birds.  I honestly like the challenge, a lot actually and I care about my Maricopa County list more than I care about my actual life list.  Is that saying a lot, or am I just a complete idiot?  The highlights of these last expeditions have come from long trips as I've been searching for my next Maricoper (what I often call a Maricopa County life bird), as I am on my quest for # 364.

Before this year, I had never seen a Williamson's Sapsucker in Maricopa County until a female bird appeared in front of me at Mount Ord in April.  Since then I've seen two more, another female at Mount Ord and this nice adult male at the Hassayampa River Preserve.  The adult male was extra special, it was the first lowland Williamson's Sapsucker I have seen in Arizona.

I've seen quite a few Black-throated Gray Warblers recently also, especially when visiting riparian woodlands in the lowlands.  This warbler is always cool to see.

No true birder could ever outgrow the awesomeness of the Vermilion Flycatcher!  I saw this bird at the Granite Reef Recreation Area on the Lower Salt River.

 Also at the Lower Salt River Recreation Area, I had some up close looks at this family of Harris's Hawks.  This area is one of the best locations to find this neat raptor in Maricopa County.

Also during my Salt River time I found a Pyrrhuloxia, which is quite the rare sight in Maricopa County.  I found this female bird at the Butcher Jones Recreation Site, and it was a pleasant surprise and a new bird for my Salt River list.  The Salt River is one of my favorite Maricopa County patch areas.

Sharp-shinned Hawks are now hear in the county for the winter in decent numbers.  I had a chance to really get a great photo of the second bird down, but I didn't prepare myself well enough, which happens often.

I recently had a two day span where I saw an Eastern Phoebe on consecutive days: one that I found at Tres Rios and the other that I kinda chased and refound that was discovered by Troy Corman at the Verde River.  The Verde River bird is below, and it was at the Needle Rock Recreation Area.

When I went to Tres Rios, I detected 94 species in 6 hours worth of birding.  It's an awesome place to bird, and two years ago I tallied 102 species at the location in an all day effort.  At all months of the year, Tres Rios holds diverse bird life.  I was surprised to find a rare-in-Maricopa lowlands Golden-crowned Kinglet.

I also found a cooperative Sora..

And enjoyed views of a Merlin and Osprey..

On the day I birded at Tres Rios, I got a call from Caleb as I finished.  Caleb found a Crested Caracara, which is a new Maricoper for me.  I decided to chase it and I picked up Caleb on the way.  We ended up missing the bird, but hopefully I'll see the Caracara soon in Maricopa.  Caleb and I still saw a lot of other cool birds, such as Sandhill Cranes!

Northern Harriers are now present in common numbers in appropriate habitat.  They may indeed help me on one of my next major goals.

Short-eared Owl has been found in Maricopa County in the agricultural and farm areas southwest of Phoenix in the past.  The habitat out there is great for them, they have to be around somewhere.  Birders often say that where many Northern Harriers fly in the day, Short-eared Owls will take over at night.  My next goal has been activated, and after Caleb and I came up Caracara-less, we drove around at dusk and early night to search for Short-eared Owls.  No luck yet, but the searching is fun.  Will Short-eared Owl be my next Maricoper?  We'll have to see!  After all, three out of my five Maricopa County additions this year have been owls.  Another would be nice!


  1. You rock Maricopa County - it's pretty cool that you bird your home area so intensely. You are adding layers and layers of data and finding many great avian treasures for other birders besides just for yourself.

    That's exciting that Caleb located a potential Maricoper for you with the Caracara - I hope you get it! Good luck in the Short-eared Owl quest; that is one I'll be hunting for real hard around here in April.

    Brilliant Vermilion Flycatcher photos - tops.

    1. Thanks Josh! I love my home county, I'm grateful for all of the awesome locations that I have so close to home!

      Caleb is awesome and I think he'll locate more Maricopers for me! I hope the Short-eared Owl quest doesn't turn out to be a pain the butt...