Saturday, June 6, 2015

A Wandering Gypsy

On a rainy day, we decided to travel the magical Gila River circuit. We began our route on Highway 77 and circled around the towns of Winkelman, Globe, Florence and then back down to Tucson. 

Tubing down the Gila River
Some people can float down the river and throw their beer cans in the water without a thought.  Me, on the other hand, needed to clean those beer cans up before they were blown into the river. So with Micheal's help, we grabbed most of them off the beach. 

Note Cliff Swallow nests in background.  Who does this??!!!
One of the cans escaped our grasp as the wind blew it into the river! Once the current grabbed it; it was gone! We are now going to start packing garbage bags in our car to get rid of the fish line, beer cans and other piggish human leftovers. It's their reckless behavior that endangers our wildlife and pollutes our few waterways here in Arizona.  And there's not enough people out there to manage these areas properly so much of it goes unsupervised. 

Cliff Swallows nest.  Note the cute juvenile peaking the head out of the nest.
Glad I got that off my chest.  Now for the write!  I know one thing for certain.  Wherever I go, I will find birds.  They might not always be the "target" bird for the day but there always seems to be a surprise waiting around each rock, hanging out on a tree branch, or soaring high above my head.  You can't put a price on these experiences...well beyond gas, eating out, etc.  Along the verdant Gila River near Winkelman, AZ, we stopped at several sites to check up on some nesting Common Black Hawks, Cliff Swallows(above), Hooded Orioles, Yellow-breasted Chats, etc. It was overcast, breezy and cool! I highly recommend driving from Tucson along Highway 77 to Globe. Once in Globe, let your wanderlust take over and just explore.  Go north into the forests. Go west into some gorgeous canyon country.  Or go east and head to the San Carlos Reservoir. 

Casa Grande Ruins
This past week I bought my National Parks Pass since we are going to need it for several stops this year.  We decided to check up on another nesting favorite of ours, the Great Horned Owls. We used our pass at the Casa Grande Ruins and found our old friends hanging out on the beams above the ancient structure. 

Rock Pigeon
At this point, it began drizzling outside!  If you're not familiar with Southern Arizona, June tends to be our driest month of the year.  Many years we receive little to zero precipitation.  However this year, we started the month out with some hot temps, but they have gone away thanks to rain!  Even as I write this post, it's overcast and drizzling in Tucson!  Anyhow the pics are a bit grainy from it being dark outside. 

Great Horned Owl male
On the way back into Tucson, we stopped at the superstar hotspot known as Coachline yet again for another rare visitor.....the American White Pelican. 

a cloudy Coachline Lake
It was fun watching new birders try to figure out this bird from afar. Their puzzled expressions made me smile. They asked me in their declarative questioning voices, "That's not an egret or heron."  "No." "That's not a gull." "No, but the California Gull is behind it."  "So what is it?"  I never give the answer. Too easy to do.  The teacher in me helps them figure it out on their own. It's much more satisfying to watch them process their answers. Here is what they initially saw. And you can see why they were stumped. 

What do you see?  Three bird species in this photo.  Neotropic Cormorants, CA Gull and American White Pelican
Now for you all familiar with pelicans, this is obviously a pelican.  But if you're from the desert and have just begun birding, this "rare" bird would certainly confuse.  So when the lady spoke with her questionable declarative voice, "Certainly it's not a Pelican?" Ding ding ding!!!  Then I watched them get excited.  A lifer for everyone in the party and a great way to end the day.  

American White Pelican
And "thanks" to several curious boys, the birds moved into the waters. 

American Wigeon(drake) rare for this time of year
 For the rest of my week, I just went to a nearby park to bird.  On this day, it WAS hot and I like to go towards the evening when it cools down. Plus there is adequate shade there for me to count birds. 

Zone-tailed Hawk at Saguaro National Park, Rincon Unit
 Another surprise happened at Saguaro National Park.  Because again, it was VERY hot, I went to get my Parks pass and drive/bird their 9 mile loop.  I know it sounds funny, but this is one of the ways we can logistically bird during our very hot summers in the desert.  Saguaro National Park is a great place to find all your desert critters from the comfort of your a/c run car.  At the end of the loop, I highly recommend stopping at the Javelina Picnic area.  Sit in the shaded ramadas and have lunch or walk around a bit.  This is probably the birdiest area.  You'll have all kinds of critters come to your picnic table.  I know some people don't like reptiles, but this is a great place to find all kinds of snakes and lizards.  Just watch where you step.  And like each time I visit this park, I always discover something new.  Last time it was the Gila Monster.  This time it was a beautiful Zone-tailed Hawk(above).  WOW! 

Young Common Ravens hanging out at Reid Park
 So for the books, I added three new bird species this week to the year list.  I found a Blue Grosbeak and Common Black Hawk along the Gila River and the American White Pelican at Coachline lake. This brings my species list up to 321 birds for North America.   In other news, I submitted my writing and photography to Bird Watcher's Digest.  That felt good!  Note to self.  Need to buy another external file.  Next week we will be traveling somewhere completely new:) Until then, have a great week and happy birding! 

Drake Wood Duck is yet another rare duck for Tucson in the summer


  1. Oh Chris I am so with you on the littering thing it is my pet hate! I just don't get it, why people think it's OK to treat the world as their own personal trash can, drives me crazy! It's a good thing you have such super photos and info to calm me down :) :)

  2. Chris, it is sad how many piggie people are out there polluting the waters and land. I wonder what their houses look like, awful. I love the cliff swallow shots, cool sighting. And the owl is neat.. Congrats on your new birds. Have a happy weekend!

  3. Nice post. It is beyond me that people still think its OK to trash places like this - well, I suppose the truth is that they don't think!

    Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne (airport)

  4. Hola Chris.. Que tal estas???.. Muy chulas las fotos.. Precioso el búho.. Yo quiero uno.. ja. Saluditos..

  5. Litter dropping one of my pet hates too :( Great photos as always Chris :)

  6. Love the Horned Owl, and the Cliff Swallows that I've never seen before.

  7. i like your two hanger-on drakes! the cliff swallows are cool!

  8. Love the Cliff Swallow nests. Can't understand people trashing such lovely natural settings.

  9. I too get very angy about litter, Chris. It's amazing just how much litter just a few lazy selfish morons can make! Sadly it's a problem that's been around ever since man invented packaging. However, in one respect it's getting worse over here in UK. With so many household goods having a built-in obsolescence, people are taking their life-expired items and disposing of them in very quiet country lanes - ruining some of the finest places for others.

    Much enjoyed the rest of your post (particularly the owl!).

    Best wishes to you both - - - - Richard

  10. What a wonderful collection of birds. Loved the hawk and the baby swallow peeking out of the nest!

  11. People droppig litter makes me so angry. Well one for pickling it up. Love the Owl adn the wood duck

  12. These are some great shots. I really like the swallows.

  13. Great post Chris with fantastic commentary. Its a pity that people like you have to go round picking up litter, unbelievably I had to pick up a Coke can in the Colombian Amazon recently...... Could have been McDonalds eh.


  14. My husband is the trouper who picks up garbage. Good for you. Great birding adventure this week. As always.

  15. Love your wonderful post! Gotta hit some of your "hot" spots! I didn't get my post connected in yesterday like I have been doing...had a project that I HAD to get done before evening and then somewhere to be. Last night when I got in, I was really sick. Still a bit under the weather. I hate it when I post this late (as you know WE have problems if we wait because we're three hours behind the East Coast, and I don't know how much different from the European members of this meme! :-) ) But my post was already up, anyway, because I've started connecting with Anni first. Anyway, loved your great photos as always! Yes, isn't this weather weird!!! :-)

  16. Meant to mention, the drive up 77 is one of my favorite drives. You've seen photos of the Globe area I have posted before. We want to get back up that way soon and check out the area on the San Pedro. A drive up there, then over through Reddington Pass yielded an area I just fell in love with and I wanted to do some further exploration (just not through the pass again). Loved seeing the Gila R picture! And I wanted to tell you too that I have seen pelicans (the brown variety) fly by my house, as well as geese. It IS a shock if you aren't expecting it, but there is that little lake just N of us on the golf course, and then further N the Coachline Lake. For them, I suppose, water is water. :-) Would love to see that white pelican...sounds like a drive for today! :-)

  17. I love how you find birds wherever you go.

  18. Great post both environmentally and for bird varieties.

  19. New places I haven't seen. As always, thanks for taking us along.

  20. Interesting post and I love the pictures. I've only been to Arizona once and I didn't think of it as birding territory, but now I know, so thanks!

  21. Chris, your theme song this summer should be, "I get around!" What great birds you saw! and I just know that you are not done yet! I am so far behind you, as usual, but maybe I can catch up? Probably not! Nice to see the casa Grand Ruins, even if it is only in a photo! I am so glad you got your NP pass!


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