Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Of Squirrels and Birders

Golden-Mantled Ground Squirrel
We continued our treks into the cooler climates of Northern Arizona.  On this journey, Barb, Ellen, Gordon and myself would investigate the Heber-Overgaard areas. We had to find several common yet sometimes elusive Arizona species. This trip would again prove worthwhile as we'd find new species (and old).  We all had a great time searching for new life around these smaller communities.

Gordon uses his wizard staff to call forth the Yellow-headed Blackbirds
Gordon did a wonderful job investigating the areas around Heber and Overgaard.  We went to places like Woods Canyon and Black Canyon Lakes.  On this weekend, I would again end up with 3 new lifebirds and a decent shot of another lifebird I found several months ago. Sometimes I see lifebirds and am not able to get pics.....and that's frustrating.
Western Tanager(female) eats a bee
Up along the Mogollon Rim, there are rivers, lakes and pine forests.  Over the years, fires have taken their toll on several patches of forest in the area, but overall, it's still very green and quite beautiful.  It is also here that we find a large variety of birds not found around the Phoenix or Tucson areas.
Bald Eagle
Such birds, like the Bald Eagle, are rare finds for the Tucson area.  But along the Salt River outside of Phoenix and in Northern Arizona, they are quite common.  The simple fact is that I don't get to bird much in the northern regions of the state.  So this was an opportunity to find more of those "specialty" birds that are found only in certain areas.
Red-breasted Nuthatch
The first true exciting find happened along Woods Canyon Lake.  This Red-breasted Nuthatch isn't the easiest bird to find in Arizona. More common are the Pygmy and White-breasted Nuthatches.  So when this bird flew into view, I became excited! Everyone in the group was wondering why it was so important for me to get great shots of this bird......until I explained it was a lifebird.  Then they all understood:)
I wasn't embarrassed that the rest of the group had already seen this bird before, but it was one of "those" birds that I think most birders assume people have seen.  One thing was for sure.  The sighting was a "high five" moment with the group.
Townsend's Solitaire with a beak full
Along the way, we really had nice views of Townsend's Solitaires.  There was a nest nearby with several juveniles flying around the trees.  While we were observing these birds, several hikers walked by and made fun of us.  That got a laugh from the group.  I used to be one of those people not so long ago. Barb, a birder of 20 years, took it all with a grain of salt.  I really enjoyed hearing her stories and fun antidotes for remembering bird calls. I wonder what she thinks about all of us "newbies".  All I know is that I have a great amount of respect for our group.  They were the kind of birders you'd want to have on a team.   Generally, Phoenix birders know their spots from Phoenix to Flagstaff.  Tucsonans know the hot birding spots from Picacho Peak to the Mexican border.  There is an imaginary divide between our cities.   And again, I have found that collaborating with the Northerners has been beneficial and worth the time.  As a Southerner, I am at my best in my own territory. It's true of any place I suppose but I would like to mention again how important birding as a team is beneficial to all involved.  We then begin to form friendships and it's so much fun.
Williamson's Sapsucker
Then magic happened.  A bird that I had already seen (but not had good observations of) came into optimal viewing.  Gordon and I were both thrilled.  Our cameras took lots of pics.  Again, more hikers crossed our path and wondered why we were looking at the tree in front of us.  Most continued onward.  A couple people stayed and watched the male Williamson's Sapsucker with us.
Red-faced Warbler
The Red-faced Warblers were really out in full numbers.  They were everywhere!  Several were super close to us on the branches.  Again, we had optimal viewing.
Mountain Bluebird
Then life bird number 2 would happen.  The Mountain Bluebirds were found off the nearby highway.  I got a little mud on my shoes as I trucked through a field to get better views of this bird.
Pinyon Jays
Another elusive bird for both Gordon and myself had been the Pinyon Jays of Northern Arizona.  It has been a real joy to hear the different sounds of Jays from this summer in not only the US but Guatemala. We heard the Jay-like calls and stopped the car. Then 30 of these Jays burst forth out of the trees.
Grace's Warbler
Grace's Warblers flitted in and out of the pines chasing bugs.
The burns from the Rodeo-Chedeski fires from 2002 are still present around Black Canyon Lake.
But life continues.....
Brewer's Blackbird
It's always fun to bird out of town.  But as noted by both Gordon and myself.......

The life birds are getting harder:) Barb just smiled as Gordon, Ellen and myself move forward into new territory.  At this point in my story, I have seen 385 species worldwide for the year which is only 4 percent of the 8,000 birds seen so far this year as reported by Ebird.   Recently, several fellow birders have hit the 2000 bird milestone.  That is an incredible accomplishment.  I'm now working on reaching 500 for the year.....and it may just happen.  Not bad for 2 years of birding.  It's not about the numbers, but it is about feeding that insane curiosity from within.  I don't care if I find a life bird in the US or Mexico.  Life birds are still life birds.  No matter where you see them.  It's about the experience behind finding each bird.
However, birding is now much more challenging. It keeps pushing us into new areas:)  We learn to team up with others to accomplish our own life goals.  We will walk the forests, in rivers, the deserts, mountain tops and the snowy tundra for years to come. If that doesn't sound like a grand adventure, I don't know what does.  Wherever we go, there will be a story to tell.
Hairy Woodpecker
More from Guatemala next week......
I'm linking up with Stewart M's Wild Bird Wednesday.


  1. Congrats for seeing and photo graphing the red-breasted nuthatch. While I have seen many (they nest in my yard) I can understand you excitement of seeing a lifer! Plus most of the birds you see all the time would be lifers for me. ;))

  2. Might have to go back to this area again next summer. Great place to get away, but I have also decided I need to add a trip to the White Mountains every year, just because!
    Great post and some nice photos.

  3. First of all, I adore your new header photo!

    The Red Faced Warbler is adorable! He just stole my heart!

  4. awesome warbler shots! the 'tumbler' is too cute. love your ground squirrel, too and the sapsucker.

  5. Well, you know I'm going to pick the cute little bird with the red face. That's my fav.
    Interesting picture of the burn. As you know in Wisc. there are quite a few spots that have burned in the last 20 years. It's amazing how it comes back, even though you can see the signs of fire for a long time.

  6. Beautiful scenery and certainly great places to bird. Congrats on your life birds - and your birding totals as well. Now how about birding from the water in a canoe or kayak - or even some pelagic birds! There are lots more horizons out there to explore!!

  7. The RB Nuthatch is one of my favorite birds, they are so darn cute. The Red-faced Warbler is my favorite, awesome shot. Awesome post and a wonderful collection of birds from your outing.

  8. What a great variety of birds! That squirrel is sweet too!

  9. I actually recognize a few of these from the NR.

    When you visit I'm asking our birder Ranger to take us out.

    1. Oh my God Gaelyn I love you! That would be an absolute thrill :-)

  10. Chris, those are all wonderful birds that you saw! I am so happy for you and wish I could have been there!

  11. Congratulations on the splendid captures!

  12. what a great adventure and wonderful location; great achievements and photographs Chris

  13. You are for sure an achiever!
    Communication is key in all life areas.

  14. Wonderful birds and the squirrel is cute too.

  15. Well done on the sightings especially the new species and getting so many great pictures :) I love the first photo of the Ground Squirrel.

  16. Everything looks nice and wet and fresh. Ever notice how every living thing just comes alive during Monsoon Season ? Even inanimate things like colours

  17. Your birding adventures are fascinating and what an amazing variety of birds you were able to photograph. I love them all - so very different from the birds we see here.

  18. What a wonderful birding day. Love the group squirrel as well and that red-faced warbler is a stunner.
    Thanks for following my blog again. Blogger does the oddest things sometimes.

  19. Great series!! Boom & Gary of the Vermilon River, Canbada.

  20. Interesting trip! We enjoyed the cool nights on the Mongollan Rim during our recent RV trip in Arizona. Would love to have seen those Red-faced Warblers!

  21. What a lovely series of images, very pretty!

  22. Looks a great place to bird - I think my life list would tick along nicely if I was there!!

    Cheers and thanks for linking to WBW - Stewart M - Melbourne

  23. Hi Fantastic shots on a great day out. Loved the squirrel.

  24. That is a lot of sightings! Glad to see so many birds getting captured by your camera and your enthusiasm :)

  25. The Red-faced Warblers are my favorite from this post.

  26. You seem to be having lots of wonderful sightings Chris - exotic names and beautiful birds. I wonder why those hikers made fun of your group? What is more strange than just walking without observing or appreciating and noting the world's spectacular wildlife?

  27. Your ground squirrel looks a lot like a chipmunk. :o) I'm rotten at IDing birds so your posts are really helpful to me. That red faced warbler is beautiful!

  28. Chris at long last I've managed to reinstate you on my reading list without having to join the dreaded Google+.

  29. Hi Adrian! I know what you mean. I don't get the whole google plus thing yet......it's driving me nuts.

  30. Fabulous shots of a great birding trip. Love the red-faced warbler and the (osprey?) I had hoped you would give me a call this past week, before my eye surgery. I hope you got the email I sent with my phone number. We will get together some time or other! :-) Anyway, thanks for your kind words about my f-in-law's passing, and also about my trouble with the MRI....have a new one scheduled for next week that is a newer more open machine. That I feel I can do! :-)

  31. Hi Marie:) We'll get together one of these days. School started up and then it happened.....and those darn birds!!! I start chasing them and forget the time:) I actually used the open machine at one of the clinics and felt not so trapped:) Hope that it goes well.


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