Saturday, December 26, 2015

To The North

Dark-eyed Junco(Red-backed)

I love the cold.  And I especially love birding in it!  Well, let me define "cold".  It's anywhere between 20 and 50 degrees Fahrenheit. On a trek to the North of Arizona, we journeyed once again to the lands of Heber-Overgaard for a rare visiting Carolina Wren. 

Snow Goose
The week before this exciting trip, I was mired in final exams.  The grading was grueling so I treated myself to some short birding after work finished.  At a park nearby work, I went to observe a friendly Snow Goose in its' blue molt. Normally they are very white, but I wanted better observations of this different molt.  Pretty interesting stuff.  The Snow Goose became quick friends with a fisherman along the lake who was the feeding the bird. 

I also wanted to hang out at the duck ponds near my home and watch the Canvasback swim around the area.  They are regular visitors here during the winter. 

Canvasback Drake
When the work week finished, it was time to play.  And it was time to do some serious birding.  I met up with Gordon, Magill(straight up birder with binos and a scope; no camera; no nonsense:) and Babs as we set our sights on the Carolina Wren.  We found the bird within moments after we arrived at the residential spot.  The sun was rising and we were not able to get any photos of the wren before it flew off.  But we saw it!  The meaningful birding happened for me afterwards. 

American Dipper
I didn't want to bird Heber-Overgaard just for the Carolina Wren.  I wanted to revisit the Tonto Creek Fish Hatchery again.  It's a unique habitat with a gorgeous setting!

The road is only several miles long but it has a different kind of habitat that attracts some amazing birds!  It was quiet.  I was surrounded by friends.  And we were in a snowy "holiday feeling" birder's paradise. For years, I have tried to redefine what "Christmas" is to me.  And I couldn't.  It doesn't have any religious connection for me, but it does have some meaning when it is spent with family and friends.  Walking in the snow with friends reminded me of my childhood as I played outside with the neighborhood gang.  It all made sense.  This year I have found meaning through wildlife in marriage, death, work and in this personal journey.  

Words cannot describe how complete it all felt at the end of the road(literally!).   The American Dipper would become the bird of the year for me.  Seen in Utah, Colorado and in Arizona, this bird completed my 2015 birding journey in the Western States.  And it was always observed with excellent friends. 

The American Dipper is a really fascinating bird that feeds from fast moving creeks, streams and rivers.  It jumped from mossy rock to branch along the only stretch of emerald green left in the snowy covered banks of the river. 

Our group really loved watching these birds and for a couple of them, it was their first time at this location.  Gordon and I both ventured into this area during the past summer.  I wanted to go back in winter and explore this spot again.  Glad we did!  I added the Pacific Wren as my 700th bird to my life list. 

Bald Eagles
Bald Eagles watched over us as we exited the vehicle.  There were at least four flying around the area.  

The magical world of birds keeps all of our inner child alive at any age and it binds us together on this lifelong trek.  It gives meaning and purpose to my life as it does for my birder friends.  I loved this moment below of my friend Gordon as he begins a new chapter of his life.  He is a retired man now and I cannot wait to see where the road will take him!  The most meaningful life adventure lies ahead for him.  

Gordon travels the Beeline Highway
Happy Holidays everyone!  As another year comes to an end; another is about to start.  Thank you for following Las Aventuras this year.  We'll see you back next year with another chapter and many more adventures! Until next time!


  1. Beautiful photos Chris - so look forward to reading of your adventures and wildlife next year. Happy Holidays :)

  2. I was very busy with work, but do not forget about birds. When the time had already So you've been in a beautiful place and seen the bird he wanted. I hope that in 2016 fulfilled all his dreams. Regards.

  3. Birds of a feather really do flock together. Great day with friends. May many more happen next year.

  4. It looks more wintery there, than it is in UK this month, Chris. We're headed for the warmest December on record - we've not had a frost this month!

    Great images of your travels with good companions! You'll soon be starting over with your new year list - I wish you the very best of luck - - - Richard

  5. Happy Holidays and I wish you sweet days ahead Chris!

  6. The Dipper is such an interesting bird. I did see them near Sedona and also in Alaska at their nests. Guess you dipped on the Carolina Wren. Although thety are common here in south Florida, they are very difficult to localize, even when singing and sounding quite nearby. Have a Happy New Year with lots more birds and interesting travels! (And, yes, we do have alligators now and then but never on our back lawn. They do not last long because, sadly, residents report them and a licensed hunter takes them and they bring big $$$ for their meat. People fear for their lives but the only real danger is when someone starts feeding them).

  7. Very nice post - people think I'm mad, but I miss the cold - decent frosts and snow bright mornings.

    Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

  8. Sounds like an eventful year, with the possibilities of holidays providing a stimulus and relaxation with friends. Enjoy it. Dippers are fascinating.

  9. Beautiful the snowy birding images. I hope 2016 will be as rewarding a year! Filled with new joys and lots of amazing birds!

  10. I really enjoyed your post today, Chris. Having lived for a time in the southwest, I really miss the unique birding found there. Folks look at some of the terrain and think nothing could exist in such a harsh environment. And then a walk along an arroyo or a mountain creek flowing with freshly melted snow and suddenly there is life all around.

    All the best to you in this New Year!


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