Monday, October 6, 2014

Discover Gila County!

Parker Creek in the Sierra Ancha Mountains
Exploration.  Study. And new Arizonan ground to cover.  This weekend, I attended an AZFO conference in a very unexplored area of Arizona.....Gila County! 

Brown Trout are found in a stream fed pool
Mountains, like the Pinals(specifically Pinal Peak), had some of the best birding.  Here we were able to observe Band-tailed Pigeons(difficult to get pictures of!), Cassin's Finches, a Lewis's Woodpecker, Sage Thrasher, and a strange covey of Gambel's Quail!

The camera shy Band-tailed Pigeon finally poses on Pinal Peak
While attending the conference in Miami, Arizona, birders from around the state and country had the opportunity to meet each other.  Lectures included Gray Hawk diet and expansion, the differences between the fairly new Sagebrush and Bell's Sparrow split, the Desert Purple Martin, global warming and warbler migration, etc.

White-tailed Deer watch us through the branches as Gordon and I search for elusive birds
While I didn't find any new birds for the year (or life birds), I did gain A LOT of information about the birds found around the state of Arizona.  Our visits marked new areas for ebirders in the state.  Bird populations around Gila County are relatively unknown.  While ornithologists know what birds can be found in the area, there isn't much birding data entered for this Arizona county.  So we explored the rough roads and along the way we discovered wonderful flora and fauna.

Jones Water Campground
On this trek, I went with my birding bud and friend Gordon Karre.  I really appreciate the times we get to bird together as they are few and far between.  Each birder has a mission.  Our mission this weekend wasn't necessarily finding new birds but exploring new and unknown areas.

Empress Leila butterfly
The conference was rather large this year which suggests that this birding addiction is catching on.  There were birders of all ages and that was encouraging!

Ground Beetle-Pasimachus  A special thank you to Doug Taron for helping me ID my bugs better
The participants also came from a wide variety of backgrounds ranging from photographers and artists to professors and wildlife specialists.  So on our outings, we had lots of knowledgeable people who knew their plants, bugs, lizards, birds and what to do when a sick bird was found like this Great Horned Owl below.  

The team came together and secured the owl for transportation. 

If you live around the Phoenix area and find an injured bird or animal, contact Liberty Wildlife at 480-998-5550.  

Check out the talons on this GHOW!
I'm hoping this bird makes a full recovery.  So send out your positive thoughts and well wishes for this poor owl.

Photography was "meh" when it came to the birds this weekend:)  I put together this collage highlighting several of our interesting finds.  From top to bottom and left to right.  
Band-tailed Pigeon, playful Common Ravens
Red-naped Sapsucker, Brewer's Blackbird, Brown Creeper
Turkey Vulture, male Cassin's Finch 

Alligator Lizard
I'll be back on the road again next week searching for new North American year and life birds.  Birding is a science.  It's an art.  It requires quite a bit of dedication.  It can be social. But most of all, birding for me is something quite special. I never take any of my treks for granted. Every moment matters. Many of our common birds face an uphill battle in the years to come.  Extinction will continue as our carbon emissions rise and the world's human population explodes across the globe.  Humans are using up water resources and spreading over land that is utilized by our planet's wildlife. Compound that with poisons used in agricultural fields and traffic deaths for low flying birds/crossing mammals and it doesn't paint a pretty picture. Many of these critters are getting "squeezed" out of their habitats by us.

The artist Narca Moore-Craig gets up close and personal with her amazing discovery of the Alligator Lizard
My mission will be to continue my studies with organizations like Audubon, Ebird and AZFO(Arizona Field Ornithologists)We live in a very complicated world.  With opportunities like the ones presented this past weekend, we can help explore these "new" wild areas and contribute our knowledge for the better protection and conservation of these areas.

Gila Country offers wonderful vistas and lots of great Arizona wildlife viewing!
 For more about birds from around the world, check out Wild Bird Wednesday. 

An agave stalk
Below is an overview of the Workman Creek Falls in the Sierra Ancha mountains.   Our trek into Gila County was fantastic!


  1. The conference sounds like a lot of fun! Lovely photo of the Empress Leila Butterfly, and best wishes for the owl's recovery!

  2. Love reading about your weekend adventures. Remember it's the journey. Wish well for that owl.

  3. What a wonderful opportunity to attend this conference with great people. I loved seeing all you found and photographed and I hope the Owl gets well again and is free once again,

  4. Chris, sounds like a fun time with some great bird sightings.. It is sad to see the owl injured or sick. I hope it survives.. Great post, have a happy day!

  5. Amazing Arizona vista. And interesting alligator lizard. They do look like one. That conference sounds like a great opportunity for a birder.

  6. The creek and the deer are beautiful. I hope the owl will make a full recovery.

  7. beautiful area and lovely critters. hope the owl makes it!

  8. What a beautiful part of Arizona! A terrific series. I'm glad the owl was rescued, and hope it recovers.

  9. Hope the owl makes it! How great to find another wildlife area teeming with photo opportunities!

  10. Great shot of the pigeon and hope the owl recovers. Let us know how he does.

  11. I really hope the owl recovers. Your pictures were so interesting. From Findlay

  12. Obviously a very interesting Conference. Always fun to explore new areas. Enjoyed the post very much Chris.

    Best wishes for the GHOW's speedy recovery.

  13. If you have any contact with updates of the outcome of this sick/injured owl...PLEASE keep us posted.

    All your photo shares are great, but the white tailed dear is EXTRAORDINARY!!!

  14. Chris, we had actually planned to stay at Jones Water Campground when we returned from our summer trip, but either it was booked for cabins, or there were no cabins, I can't remember. So, we decided on another idea (stayed in Holbrook at the Wigwam Motel...really fun!) I'd love to go there some time. I had never even seen that area before trying to make the reservation, and now I see how beautiful it is! We will have to make a point to go, for sure. Beautiful photos and video. Glad you had a really rewarding conference!

  15. Best wishes for everything which can help with the conservation!

  16. What a wonderful weekend Chris - the Conference sounds so much fun and full of interest. Stunning photos - particularly love the butterfly :) I do hope the owl makes a full recovery.

  17. I'm glad we get to enjoy the wildlife while we can. Hope the winds of change blow soon and that habitat protection becomes a priority.

  18. What a beautiful area, I love the trout, deer and alligator lizard. Best wishes for the owl, I heard two owls this morning when I was trying to view the lunar eclipse through the clouds.

  19. The owl does not look at its best!

    There seems to be a lot to see in AZ!

    Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

  20. What a beautiful area with lots of wildlife. The poor owl - I hope he recovers. It just so happens that I heard one hooting in the middle of the night.

  21. Looks like a beautiful area to explore. I hope the poor owl will be ok. Have a great weekend!

  22. What a brilliant post. Thanks for sharing.

  23. Love the shot of the deer....

    Please get well, beautiful owl....

  24. I hope they can help the owl. Just read an article in our paper about a game warden finding an owl that had been shot. It didn't make it. So sad.
    Love the deer with such big ears!!!

  25. Excellent photos! I love that big-eared deer!

  26. You left me wondering what happened to the owl Chris - I hope such a magnificent bird wasn't poisoned. As usual your enthusiasm for birding and now for the birding conference scene shines through your words.

    Yes, it's great to meet new birders and share their various skills,

    How interesting that Arizona is so relatively untouched by birders. Sounds like a whole lifetime's work is there for the taking.

  27. Very VERY Nice and so glad that you were able to find the sick GHO and also get help for it. Would love to hear how things went for the beauty!

  28. It absolutely appalls me a. what we're doing to the planet and b. the wildlife that is suffering as a result, you are so right Chris we are our own worst enemies! Thank heavens I say for people like yourself that dedicate their time to finding ways to save the remaining population of endangered species. I can totally see why birding is gaining in popularity, I would not call myself a birder but I do get very excited when I manage to catch a good shot of different birds.. good to know younger people are getting interested too, our hope for the future oui!

  29. What a great trip Chris. Did you happen to get a print out from the Purple Martin lecture? I would love to read it if you did.
    Do you know how the owl got injured? Lucky for it that you guys were around.
    Love the deer shot :)

  30. Hi all,

    The owl is doing well. It had a fractured humerus which appears to be healing. It's also eating mice which is a good sign. The Purple Martin lecture didn't have any printouts but Audubon will be continuing the work next year. I'll let you know if I get anymore info on the Purple Martin study.

  31. Great stuff, Chris. Wonderful habitat quite uncharacteristic of our stereotypical image of the desert. We all hoe that the injured Great Horned owl makes it.

  32. Poor owl! I'm so glad he was rescued and will be okay. Nice post with a wealth of information. Great job!

  33. Wonderful, Chris! Nice to see the band-tails!


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